Physics of the Impossible | Michio Kaku

Summary of: Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel
By: Michio Kaku


Embark on a fascinating journey through the world of seemingly impossible phenomena with Michio Kaku’s book ‘Physics of the Impossible’. This captivating summary will unravel the scientific theories and advancements behind science fiction concepts like force fields, invisibility, laser guns, teleportation, mind-reading, artificial intelligence, space travel, and time travel. Explore how groundbreaking developments in areas such as quantum theory, nanotechnology, and space exploration are taking us closer to understanding and harnessing these mystifying concepts. Delve into the realm of possibilities as the book examines the science behind these thrilling ideas, guiding the reader through the fundamental principles that govern them, and contemplating the future implications of achieving the ‘impossible’ in our everyday lives.

Creating Force Fields and Invisibility Cloaks

Classical physics states that force fields are real. Scientists could use plasma and carbon nanotubes to create deflector shields, whilst metamaterials could create invisibility cloaks.

Do you remember the force fields used in Star Trek? Did you know that those energy barriers are not just a product of fiction, but of classical physics? In the 19th century, the concept of force fields was introduced by Michael Faraday as invisible areas or lines that envelop a magnet. This idea expanded to include other forces such as the earth’s gravitational field. Though these force fields are not as exciting as science fiction ones, they could pave the way in creating them. For instance, scientists could use plasma, an electrically charged mass that’s neither solid nor liquid nor gas, to deflect rockets by molding it with magnetic and electrical fields. This plasma could then take on the form of an invisible sheet or plasma window, which could be further strengthened by a lattice of carbon nanotubes. Carbon nanotubes are thin, rolled-up sheets of carbon and are stronger than steel.

But force fields aren’t the only application of plasma and carbon nanotubes. An invisibility cloak could be created using a composite material called metamaterials. Duke University scientists developed these materials in 2006, which contain small particles that deflect, rather than reflect, light waves. When objects are concealed in this material, they become virtually invisible. The principle behind this lies in the amount of light a material reflects. If less light reflects, and more passes through, the material becomes less visible – just like what happens with liquids and gases.

In conclusion, classical physics is more than just a branch of science. It paves the way for envisioning technology that may have originated in science fiction. The force fields and invisibility cloaks mentioned earlier are just a few ways physicists are turning fantasies into reality.

The Reality of Handheld Laser Guns

The idea of using handheld lasers or rays of light as weapons has fascinated humans from ancient times to the Star Wars movies. This book excerpt explores the potential of using nanotechnology to create a compact laser gun that could fire multiple times, and the need for a stable material that could withstand the energy. The military already uses lasers in their missile defense systems, but we would need a portable power source to create a functioning handheld laser gun, and we’re not quite there yet. While the possibility of a handheld laser gun is not too far off, creating planet-demolishing super-lasers is currently beyond our reach. Gamma ray bursters are currently the most powerful beams known, and while it’s theoretically possible to predict and aim them, it’s millions of years away.

Teleportation: Is it Possible?

According to quantum theory, teleportation is a common occurrence that happens spontaneously. Electrons are in a constant state of motion, taking quantum jumps, meaning they can suddenly vanish and reappear elsewhere within the atom or appear in many different locations simultaneously. Scientists have already succeeded in teleporting trillions of atoms entangled with a beam of light over long distances by harnessing quantum entanglement. However, it’s the information about the object’s state that is really teleported, not the object itself. Although it is theoretically possible to teleport an object from one point to another, reconstructing it at the destination using the teleported information, teleporting humans could take a little longer as it can only take place under extreme conditions and could require the calculations of a quantum computer, which is still in a rudimentary phase.

Mind-Reading and Biofeedback: Technological Feats

Have you ever wondered whether mind-reading is possible? While there is not enough evidence to prove that psychics can read minds, technological advancements have inched closer to unlocking the ability to read brain activity and interpret patterns into human emotions. MRI technology is aiding scientists in conducting deeper studies in this area, paving the way for developing handheld gadgets capable of reading human brain activity. However, the complexity of interpreting human thoughts still poses a hurdle, considering the brain emits weak electrical signals. Biofeedback is the closest recreation of the phenomenon of psychokinesis, where the electronic transmission of brainwaves communicates directly with computers. With implanted chips that can read brainwaves to perform complex tasks or control devices, modern technology presents boundless possibilities. In the future, nanotechnology can be controlled through biofeedback, creating a future that was hitherto considered impossible.

Robots Lack Common Sense

Robots can form grammatically correct sentences but fail to understand the meaning behind words and lack common sense. Despite attempts to program common sense into machines and pattern recognition, computer scientists have seen little success. However, MIT professor Rodney Brooks developed bug-like robots that learned to walk through experience, a new approach to creating artificial intelligence like animals and humans.

The Search for Extraterrestrial Life

Are we alone in the universe? While the evidence is scarce, scientists have made significant strides towards discovering extraterrestrial life.

For centuries, humans have pondered the existence of other intelligent beings in the universe. Thankfully, scientific advancements have brought us closer to discovering the answer. With technological enhancements like improved telescopes and satellite capacity, we have the ability to uncover promising locations for extraplanetary life.

Organizations like the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project are actively searching for interstellar signals, while also expanding their search criteria for habitable planets. We know that for life to exist, water is crucial, making it a reliable indicator for discovering habitable planets. Additionally, the presence of a large moon and a Jupiter-like planet in a planet’s galaxy are factors that contribute to a planet’s habitability.

Despite these advancements, conclusive evidence of extraterrestrial life remains elusive. The majority of UFO sightings can be attributed to natural phenomena, hoaxes, or secret aircraft projects, with only a small percentage left unexplained.

In conclusion, the search for extraterrestrial life continues to be an area of great interest and extensive research. While conclusive evidence has yet to surface, scientists remain optimistic and continue to expand their search criteria.

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