Monday, April 26, 2010

Michio Kaku and Physics of the Impossible

Science requires facts.  Fiction requires speculation.  To write science fiction, you need an elegant merger of the two.

Kaku's Physics of the Impossible provides exactly the kind of reference a science fiction writer needs.  In careful scientific detail, he lays out what we know about the universe and how we might eventually build the tools and weapons that litter science fiction like so many shiny toys...

Fittingly, he subtitles the book "A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel."  And it lives up to this promise.  First he divides technologies into three categories of "impossibilities" - those that "are impossible today but do not violate the known laws of physics" (Class I), "technologies that sit at the very edge of our understanding of the physical world" (Class II), and finally those that "would represent a fundamental shift in our understanding of physics" (Class III).

By examining technologies in terms of the impossible, Kaku provides a great deal of insight into some of the questions that remain unanswered in science.  Further, he gives a great deal of good perspective on the kinds of energy that would be required to build some of the dreams we read about in science fiction.  And you want that kind of information in your stories - somehow, teleportation devices become more real if they suck so much juice from the power grid that your black hole begins to deenergize...

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