37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on 23 April 2008
Got this book and finished it the day after it arrived. Captivating stuff ! As a high level introduction to the current state of a variety of scientific areas it's fantastic.
Kaku tends to spend a little more time on the areas close to him, but everthing gets good coverage. As a springboard to understand current progress it allows the reader to go off and find more information on the particular subject areas that interest them.
I read it in the same week as Ray Kurzweil's 'The Singularity is Near' and it's interesting to see both the overlap, and how things have moved on in 5 years.
All in all a great book for the layman and those with a scientific background. Oh, and a great price for a hardback book right now :)
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I didn't like Physics at school. It's 15 years since I took my GCSE and what I basically remember is a few classes on momentum and velocity, a circuit board that made a mini lightbulb light up, and basically bricking it that I was going to fail and poring over past papers in the library. I actually got a B, but God knows how. My point is though, thrilling it wasn't.
Wishing to have more concrete knowledge than half hearted bits and bobs, I went on the hunt for accessible physics books and liked the look of this one "A rich compendium of jaw dropping reality checks" says The Times.
This book discusses Force Fields, Invisibility, Phasers, The Death Star, Teleportation, Telepathy, Psychokinesis, Robots, Extraterrestrials, Starships, Antimatter, Time Travel, Parallel Universe and Precognition. Not only that but Kaku discusses these things within a frame of popular culture references, so you get what each particular science looks like. He references Star Trek, Star Wars, and many science fiction films and novels to illustrate his points.
A classic example is the Hover Board from Back To Future 2, the future toy we all thought we would see when we grew up. Currently impossible, the Hover Board is actually technically possible within the laws of physics, it's just that practical reality, discovery and invention haven't caught up to the theoretical science. But one day it might....... :-D
Kaku breaks down all these exciting but currently impossible things from the realms of science fiction into three classes.
Class I impossibilities are currently impossible technologies but which do not violate the laws of physics and may become possible within this century.
Class II impossibilities are technologies which sit on the very edge of understanding, if they become possible it will be in the scale of future millenia.
Class III impossibilities are those which violate the laws of physics, if they ever became possible they would fundamentally alter physics principles as we know them.
Somewhat surprisingly a lot of the topics up for discussion are either Class I or Class II, currently impossible but not necessarily impossible forever. He quotes the physicist Lord Kelvin, one of the most famous and respected physicists of his era as having said in 1899 "Radio has no future. Heavier than air flying machines are impossible. X Rays will prove to be a hoax"
That which we call impossible now, our future generations may look back on us and laugh about how quaint we were once.
One of the things people assume to be impossible but actually technically isn't, is telekinesis the ability to move things with ones mind. Successful attempts at biofeedback experiments have meant that quadriplegic patients have learned to move things with a computer chip installed in the brain enabling them to give a computer basic commands. Further and greater developments in this sort of technology are not far off. Something which hasn't taken off as hoped is Artificial Intelligence, mainly because emotional intelligence, common sense and evolutionary based instincts cannot be programmed, again here's that word again...yet.
In the seemingly impossible sciences : Are there parallel universes in which other versions of ourselves who made different choices exist? How will humans survive when the Sun begins to die? What WOULD happen if you travelled back in time and killed your grandfather? Would you negate your own existence?
At one point Stephen Hawking attempted to find a law of physics which would ban Time Travel, he was unsuccessful. His point was that if time travel became possible in the future, where were the time tourists now? Perhaps the time tourists are already around us...they just have the good sense not to make themselves known!!
Now that I'm older I kind of wish I'd paid more attention to Physics, but if my lessons had been about the sort of Physics Kaku talks about, I totally would have. This is the good physics, the sexy physics, the physics that gets you talking and thinking and dreaming of the future. How many kilowatts does it take?...this book is not.
I'm a geeky girl, I like Donnie Darko, LOST, the new JJ Abrams' Star Trek, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind and things like that. Things which ask questions of not just what could be one day, but what would it do to our humanity if it could?
Kaku closes the book with the sentence "We are not at the end but at the beginning of new physics, but whatever we find there will always be new horizons continually awaiting us"
If you too are a geek, you'll love this, but if you aren't interested...this is the world around you and its future...maybe you should be...
I'm going to deduct a point because sometimes it did fly a little over my head, but not for the most part, and that is probably mainly due to my sheer lack of any ground level knowledge. I really enjoyed this book and all the topics covered were interesting. I am definitely going to read more books by Kaku to expand my physics knowledge and, I'm going to lend this book to my sister so she can expand hers! 9/10
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 9 July 2009
Agree with all the comments above, and I very much enjoyed the book. My one issue was the surprising number of errors that I really would have expected to be caught by someone before it got to a printing press. Some examples - "transatlantic flights from LA to NY", "kiwi - the flightless Australian bird". The trivial errors in easily checked facts made me wonder a little about the stuff that I couldn't verify.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 4 January 2010
A great book focused on the next generation of thinking beyond the traditional view of science as incremental and often historical.
I particularly liked the type 1,2,3 models of civilizations and the way science fiction was used to illustrate how to think big and beyond the current constraints of technology.
I see the core approach to focus on the parameters of what needs to get done and how to design towards these outcomes even if they are way beyond today's technology is essential for innovation to be more that just disruptive and truly transformational. I hope the triumph of the first few decades of the 20th Century will be seen again in the 21st. The main achievement of this book was it its unabashed language to say it as it is and to go out and question everything even with popular science fiction anecdotes. This is much closer to real science and what we need in this age of rapidly diminishing resources and escalating challenges. I have lost count the number of times I have thought "who is fixing the propulsion speed problem" as most all conversations keep looking at today's performance only.
With so much of today's focus on reducing energy consumption and "combating" climate change and growth I found it positive and uplifting to say that energy consumption is relative and to debunk what I see as media fads and miss use of common science. I genuinely felt for the misdirection Hawkins caused over the Godels incompleteness theorems and your point about moving beyond this by avoiding self-referential statements; the damage caused by Comte to French Science; the Conan Doyle tragedy and the persecution of Turin. I see this all the time in my field of Information Technology and is a warning to anyone who gets hooked on single idea to fix all. Things will pass.
Many thank Michio, it has restored my faith in next stage science. More of this please. I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who sees science as a way forward to the betterment of our lives and our children.
(I bought the kindle 2 version)
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
The premise of this book is fabulous. Take all the things which we've read about and seen in science fiction books, TV shows and films, and examine how possible, or impossible they are.
So we have phasers, death stars, time travel, warp engines, telepathy and many many more. Yes, it's a geek heaven, but hopefully the book is accessible enough to attrect a wider audience. It certainly deserves it.
Kaku's approach is to look at the fictional invention, explain why it is impossible as it stands, but then go on to see how real physics could create something similar in the future. He classes inventions into type 1,2 and 3 impossibilities, possible in some form within the next century, possible in the distant future, and impossible given the laws of physics as they are currently understood. This is a framework which gives the author the opportunity to potter around on some of the more exciting playing fields of modern physics.
The most surprising thing about the book is the number of things he tags as type 1 impossibilities (starships, forcefields and teleportation amongst them) and the very small number of type three (perpetual motion, precognition).
The strength of the book is simply its source material. The whacky world of theoretical physics is one that should have interest to many beyond a purely scientific audience, especially when described in the largely layperson's terms used here.
My one slight niggle is that while Kaku is relatively easy to read, he isn't the most inspiring author in the world. His material is the inspiring part, and he puts it across well, but in the end I found the structure of the book rather repetitive.
Minor quibble though. Rcommended.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 27 December 2008
After reading Michio Kaku's Hyperspace some ten years ago, It's good to see his ability to turn vast, cosmological theories into palatable prose for ordinary humans remains undiminished.
Most of the common tropes of science fiction are looked at and discussed with relation to modern real-world physics and experiments that may lead us towards such inventions. There are very few examples which Kaku labels as genuinely impossible, and there is a sense of optimism in his writing that is almost contagious.
If you have seen his television work then this will not come as a surprise, but it is, for a book on high-end physics - easy going and hard to put down.
If you enjoy science fiction and want to know more of the science then this is a great place to start.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 30 May 2009
I have to admit that i am a fan of michio kaku, so i might be biased.
His books are beyong popular science. He has the ability to take your imagination on a journey. Its like a fairytale of physics. This book lefts you wondering what the future might be, and makes you sad that you weren't born some millenia after our era! I ended the book having the impression that we're still primitive!
Its a fun and easy to read book, I cannnot think of any drawback. It doesnt get into details a lot, but that is to be expected. I'd personally like some more details in the book (some formulas, some mathematics, some drawings) but that would propably just make the book less popular.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 5 June 2008
Michio Kaku takes a pleasant verbal stroll along science fiction classics like force fields, time travel, parallel universes, telepathy, artificial intelligence and the like, while explaining the physics that would be involved in making these come true. Quite a lot more is physically possible than one would think.
Mr Kaku does a fine job of systematically exploring the boundaries of science and fiction. Unfortunately, his prose is rather bland and the anekdotes - the icing on the cake in books like this - lack the liveliness that is needed for a really gripping read. For readers who prefer content over style this should be no deterrent.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 11 June 2009
This is another brilliant offering from Michio Kaku, a fascinating insight into the technologies and inventions which may shape mankind's future. It discusses the science behind everything from force fields to invisibility cloaks, teleportation to artificial intelligence, time travel and intergalactic travel. For each topic we are introduced to a brief historical overview, learn the current scientific abilities and then shown future potential developments.
Future predictions are classified either as "type 1", "type 2" or "type 3" impossibilities. The first of these are within the known laws of physics and could well be achievable within the next few decades to centuries. The second are still within the known laws of physics but so far removed from current capabilities that it may be millennia if not hundreds of thousands of years before we are capable of achieving them. The third type are those which violate the known laws of physics and so must be regarded as truly "impossible" unless our understanding of the laws of physics is incomplete.
I would say that this book is a must read for anyone interested in physics, interested in future projections for society, or indeed interested in the science behind the science fiction we read and watch at the movies.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 June 2011
I wasn't really sure what to expect when I bought this book. On the one hand I was hoping that it wouldn't be too complicated to understand, but I was also concerned that it might veer into the kind of sensationalist, populist theorising that subjects like time travel and starships tend to attract.
Both of these concerns were unfounded. Although each chapter is based around an element of science fiction (invisibility, force fields, etc.) it's taken as the basis for discussing a wide variety of developments in modern day physics. As a result you don't just come out of the book with an understanding of the plausibility of science fiction, but with a broad knowledge of many other aspects of physics as well. Overall, this principle works really well: draw people in with a fantastical topic, pique their interest and then use the opportunity to explain something (e.g. room temperature superconductors) that many people might never have read about in isolation.
The only negative for me was the style of writing. It's not difficult to understand, but there are a few sloppy, badly structured sections that will probably annoy some readers. I don't think this is enough to take anything away from the book as a whole, though, so I think it's definitely worthy of five stars.