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A bit of light physics fun
on January 31, 2015
After having it on a wishlist of one form or another for almost ten years, I decided to give The Physics of Star Trek a try as some light reading. Krauss' book lived up to this expectation, though for a reader unfamiliar with modern physics, this will not be the case. Using some of Star Trek's most memorable concepts—warp drive, the holodeck, and the transporter to name a few—as motivation, Krauss gives the reader quite an introductory-level overview of modern physics and how these technologies could theoretically—though often incredibly impractically—work. A particularly good chapter was that on the transporter, in which Krauss does some back-of-the-envelope calculations to show the absurd amounts of data storage and bandwidth that would be required to copy and then transport the data of the atoms in a single human being, then raises the more philosophical questions about the notion of immaterial souls that accompany any discussion about rebuilding a human from the atomic level. This also tangentially relates to the concept of mind-uploading, which I'm planning to read more about above just the popular level.
On a side note, if you do decide to read Krauss' book, be sure to get the revised and updated edition. My second-hand, first-edition copy from 1995 wonders at the absence of the cosmological constant (shown to exist in 1998) and at the solar neutrino puzzle (solved in 2002).
As mentioned, The Physics of Star Trek was a good light read, so I'll give it three stars for its interesting concept, but no more, since I had to wade through several chapters of the almost boilerplate physics that accompanies almost any popular-level physics book. On that note, I have also decided to adopt (or realized I have been using) some tentative guidelines for these star ratings: a three-star book such as this was overall enjoyable but I wouldn't recommend it to most friends; a four (five)-star book I would (enthusiastically) recommend; a two-star book (I think Neuromancer is my only example) I did not enjoy but would not actively recommend against; a one-star book should be avoided except to bash it thoroughly with friends.