9780307278821

Physics of the Impossible

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780307278821

  • ISBN10:

    0307278824

  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 4/7/2009
  • Publisher: Anchor
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Summary

Teleportation, time machines, force fields, and interstellar space ships---the stuff of science fiction or potentially attainable future technologies? Inspired by the fantastic worlds of Star Trek, Star Wars, and Back to the Future, renowned theoretical physicist and bestselling author Michio Kaku takes an informed, serious, and often surprising look at what our current understanding of the universe's physical laws may permit in the near and distant future. Entertaining, informative, and imaginative, Physics of the Impossible probes the very limits of human ingenuity and scientific possibility.

Author Biography

MICHIO KAKU is the Henry Semat Professor of Theoretical Physics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is the cofounder of string field theory. He has written several books, including Parallel Worlds and Beyond Einstein, and his bestseller, Hyperspace, was voted one of the best science books of the year by the New York Times and the Washington Post. He is a frequent guest on national TV, and his nationally syndicated radio program is heard in 130 cities. He lives in New York City.

Excerpts

1: FORCE FIELDS



I. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

II. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

III. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

-ARTHUR C. CLARKE'S THREE LAWS



"Shields up!"

In countless Star Trek episodes this is the first order that Captain Kirk barks out to the crew, raising the force fields to protect the starship Enterprise against enemy fire.

So vital are force fields in Star Trek that the tide of the battle can be measured by how the force field is holding up. Whenever power is drained from the force fields, the Enterprise suffers more and more damaging blows to its hull, until finally surrender is inevitable.

So what is a force field? In science fiction it's deceptively simple: a thin, invisible yet impenetrable barrier able to deflect lasers and rockets alike. At first glance a force field looks so easy that its creation as a battlefield shield seems imminent. One expects that any day some enterprising inventor will announce the discovery of a defensive force field. But the truth is far more complicated.

In the same way that Edison's lightbulb revolutionized modern civilization, a force field could profoundly affect every aspect of our lives. The military could use force fields to become invulnerable, creating an impenetrable shield against enemy missiles and bullets. Bridges, superhighways, and roads could in theory be built by simply pressing a button. Entire cities could sprout instantly in the desert, with skyscrapers made entirely of force fields. Force fields erected over cities could enable their inhabitants to modify the effects of their weather-high winds, blizzards, tornados-at will. Cities could be built under the oceans within the safe canopy of a force field. Glass, steel, and mortar could be entirely replaced.

Yet oddly enough a force field is perhaps one of the most difficult devices to create in the laboratory. In fact, some physicists believe it might actually be impossible, without modifying its properties.


Michael Faraday

The concept of force fields originates from the work of the great nineteenth-century British scientist Michael Faraday.

Faraday was born to working-class parents (his father was a blacksmith) and eked out a meager existence as an apprentice bookbinder in the early 1800s. The young Faraday was fascinated by the enormous breakthroughs in uncovering the mysterious properties of two new forces: electricity and magnetism. Faraday devoured all he could concerning these topics and attended lectures by Professor Humphrey Davy of the Royal Institution in London.

One day Professor Davy severely damaged his eyes in a chemical accident and hired Faraday to be his secretary. Faraday slowly began to win the confidence of the scientists at the Royal Institution and was allowed to conduct important experiments of his own, although he was often slighted. Over the years Professor Davy grew increasingly jealous of the brilliance shown by his young assistant, who was a rising star in experimental circles, eventually eclipsing Davy's own fame. After Davy died in 1829 Faraday was free to make a series of stunning breakthroughs that led to the creation of generators that would energize entire cities and change the course of world civilization.

The key to Faraday's greatest discoveries was his "force fields." If one places iron filings over a magnet, one finds that the iron filings create a spiderweb-like pattern that fills up all of space. These are Faraday's lines of force, which graphically describe how the force fields of electricity and magnetism permeate space. If one graphs the magneti

Excerpted from Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel by Michio Kaku
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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