Not Your Grandfather's Physics

Science changes, a lot, and constantly. It is the very nature of the beast, and the thing that makes it so fascinating to many of us. To think that our understanding of the universe progresses on a near-daily basis is the driving force behind the X PRIZE Foundation, and the countless people who put their hearts and souls into redefining that understanding.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves here. Science is fun, too! Who hasn't given some thought to the idea of time travel? Who wouldn't want to teleport to work in the morning? So I've been digging up a few books on these various topics.

The first is a new book - which I haven't yet read - called Physics of the Impossible. Author Michio Kaku delves into a variety of strange topics, including everything from telekinesis to time travel to perpetual motion machines and precognition. Wild stuff. Here's the Publisher's Weekly review:

In this latest effort to popularize the sciences, City University of New York professor and media star Kaku (Hyperspace) ponders topics that many people regard as impossible, ranging from psychokinesis and telepathy to time travel and teleportation. His Class I impossibilities include force fields, telepathy and antiuniverses, which don't violate the known laws of science and may become realities in the next century. Those in Class II await realization farther in the future and include faster-than-light travel and discovery of parallel universes. Kaku discusses only perpetual motion machines and precognition in Class III, things that aren't possible according to our current understanding of science. He explains how what many consider to be flights of fancy are being made tangible by recent scientific discoveries ranging from rudimentary advances in teleportation to the creation of small quantities of antimatter and transmissions faster than the speed of light. Science and science fiction buffs can easily follow Kaku's explanations as he shows that in the wonderful worlds of science, impossible things are happening every day. (Mar. 11)

A while back I also picked up this little gem about the science of comic books. The Physics of Superheroes, by James Kakalios, examines the mythology of a variety of beloved comic characters like Superman, The Atom, Iron Man and more to discover the hidden science behind their super powers. Using some pretty simple mathematical deduction, we find that, for example, planet Krypton must have had 15 times the gravity of Earth. It is, of course, all in good fun, but it's a neat way to do real scientific deduction using fictional premises.

Comic fans may also enjoy the similar titles The Science of Superheroes and The Science of Supervillains by Lois H Gresh and Robert Weinberg. I haven't yet dug into these either, but can't wait to get my hands on them.

There are, of course, an endless array of books discussing the fine line between science and science fiction. I'd love to hear about your favorites. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

blog comments powered by Disqus