Physics of the Impossible – Book Review

physics of the impossible cover


IN SHORT: A wonderfully optimistic glimpse of the future, viewed through the prism of advanced modern sciences and the creations of many beloved sci-fi franchises.

WHAT IT IS: A delightful thought experiment. Take a sci-fi trope and ask the question “Is there anything in our current understanding of physics that says we can’t do this?” If the answer is no, then explore how we could theoretically do that. Chapter 1 covers building force fields.

WHAT IT IS NOT: Don’t expect complex equations, mathematical proofs, graphs of hard data, or engineering diagrams, but also don’t let that dissuade you. Michio Kaku is a thoroughly talented communicator of Big Ideas. Throughout the book, he skillfully keeps the discussion understandable (most of the time, anyway), even when talking about string theory or positrons traveling backwards through time.

WHAT I THOUGHT: This book is awesome! Seriously, I’m struggling to remember the last time I enjoyed a book this much. Here’s a snippet of a recent conversation I had while reading Physics of the Impossible.

Jacob Holo: I think I just figured out a way to destroy a planet with a flashlight.
H.P. Holo: How?
Jacob Holo: First I need a sum of negative matter the size of Jupiter.
H.P. Holo: I don’t have that in my purse.

Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed every last chapter, even when it started to get really out there with time travel craziness.

Michio Kaku takes a lot of familiar ideas from science fiction, such as parallel universes and cloaking devices, then guides the reader on a journey of what may be in the centuries and millennia to come. Along the way, he draws upon a wide sampling of science fiction tales both popular and obscure, old and new. Together with well written stories about famous scientists and their theories, he weaves a memorable base from which to explore Big Questions.

Is that impossible?

Could we someday do that?


Take teleportation, for example. Most of us are familiar with beaming from the Star Trek franchise, but did you know that physicists are already tackling real teleportation experiments? Granted, we’re talking about an atom of cesium here or a clump of rubidium there. But still. Teleportation. It could happen, probably not like we see it in Star Trek, but it could happen because nothing in our current understanding of physics says we can’t.

Plus any book that references Xenosaga and Invader Zim in the same breath gets bonus points from me. From metamaterials for invisibility cloaks to negative matter throats for stable wormholes, Michio Kaku tackles a wide range of topics. Seriously people, Chapter 1 explains how to build a force field. A force field! Chapter 12 covers time travel.

For anyone who loves both science fiction and the science of what may be, this book comes with my strongest possible recommendations. Go ahead. Dive in. I loved it, and I think you will too.

VERDICT: Strongly recommended.


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2 replies

  1. Im not big on Hard Science. Especially when it seem to be more of a discourse than entertainment, but you have peaked my interest.

  2. Is a good read. Some of the other Michio Kaku books contain content differentiated to different tastes, but this one seems pretty universally acceptable. Personally enjoyed the bit about invisibility, but I didn’t see that in your review. (pun intended)

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