Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Physics of the Impossible, by Michio Kaku

(click to enlarge the image)

Today's "Shoe" cartoon shows the wizard owl in a bookstore. In the first two panels he's thinking, "Because I'm a wizard, people think I have the answers to all the riddles of the cosmos" and "But, no matter how hard I look, there's one thing that still has me stumped." So in the last panel, he asks the bird behind the counter, "Is there parallel parking in a parallel universe?"

What made you want to read this book?
If you understood the joke, this may be a book you'd enjoy. The subtitle caught my attention back in November when I was drafting my novel about time travel. And the subtitle is...?

Title, author, date of book, and genre?
Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration Into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel, by Michio Kaku, 2008, physics

Share a quote from the book.
I got the book specifically to find out what a major physicist thinks about time travel, but I really enjoyed most of the rest of the book as well, especially all the "impossible" things that now seem possible, at least eventually.
In our ordinary world we sometimes joke that it's impossible to be "a little bit pregnant." But in the quantum world, it's even worse. We exist simultaneously as the sum of all possible bodily states: unpregnant, pregnant, a child, an elderly woman, a teenager, a career woman, etc. (p. 242)
I have told people that, now that I'm elderly, I have come to see that I am still all those other ages in my life -- which in my case would include pregnant and unpregnant, career woman and retiree. Some days I am twelve and hanging upside down from the swinging bar on the swing set -- and I can feel it, that rush of blood to my head hanging down and my weight on the backs of my knees as the bar swings back and forth. Not that I would ever try to do such a thing at my age. I couldn't, and not because of its lack of dignity, either. I just plain can't do what used to seem so simple and easy. (And sometimes I think I'm 112, but that's another story!)
One minority point of view is that there must be a "cosmic consciousness" pervading the universe. Objects spring into being when measurements are made, and measurements are made by conscious beings. Hence there must be cosmic consciousness that pervades the universe determining which state we are in. Some, like Nobel laureate Eugene Wigner, have argued that this proves the existence of God or some cosmic consciousness. (Wigner wrote, "It is not possible to formulate the laws [of the quantum theory] in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness." In fact, he even expressed an interest in the Vedanta philosophy of Hinduism, in which the universe is pervaded by an all-embracing consciousness.) (pp. 243-244)
I took note of this quote because of the reference to Hinduism -- some of you know I taught Religions of the World as an adjunct at Chattanooga State for about a decade -- and I noticed an error in the book where Shiva, one of Hinduism's trinity of gods, was a "goddess" (p. 44). Nope, the dancing god may seem feminine, but he's a he.

What did you like most about the book?
I discovered something I didn't know (or at least don't remember hearing or reading before) -- that the moon stabilizes Earth's spin (p. 134). That fascinates me, though I can't really explain why. What if we didn't have the moon?

How would you rate this book?
Because it was slightly more difficult than I expected (Hey, it was written by a quantum physicist!), I give it a 9 out of 10.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

What I've been reading

I woke up this morning thinking, "January 10th. It's the Day to Read." Oh, no! The Day to Read was on January 10th of 2008. Last year I was psyched up on January 9th and wrote a report of my reading on January 11th.

I took note when SMID (Soccer Mom in Denial) challenged us to do it again in 2009. I even posted about it on my blog.

But then something came along and got in the way of my thinking ~
I moved.

Yep, I haven't been thinking. Correction: I haven't been thinking in my normal channels. I've been moving, but I've been reading. Here's a list of the books I completed in the last half of December, during the time from signing the lease to getting moved into my new place:

Dec. 15 ~ Catherine Called Birdy, by Karen Cushman, young adult historical fiction, 1994
Dec. 16 ~ One True Thing, by Anna Quindlen, fiction, 1994
Dec. 17 ~ The Secret School, by Avi, young adult fiction, 2001
Dec. 19 ~ Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration Into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel, by Michio Kaku, physics, 2008
Dec. 21 ~ Eats, Shoots & Leaves: Why, Commas Really DO Make a Difference, by Lynne Truss, punctuation, 2006
Dec. 24 ~ The Alpine Christmas, by Mary Daheim, mystery, 1993
Dec. 25 ~ Maxine: Yelling It Like It Is, by John M. Wagner, humor, 2001
Dec. 26 ~ Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, by Richard Bach, fiction, 1977
Dec. 27 ~ We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy, by Maurice Sendak, children's (sort of), 1993
Dec. 28 ~ Too Bad, Ahab, by Marilyn Lashbrook, children's Bible story, 1990
Dec. 29 ~ The Reincarnationist, by M. J. Rose, fiction, 2007

I was reading a lot, as you can see. Eleven books in fourteen days. It was a good way to relax when I was tired from packing and lifting and transporting and lifting and unpacking at the new place. But it made me forget the correct 2009 Day to Read. Dang!

Nevertheless, I can write a report on what I read. Even if I failed to notify the world I'd be reading more than blogs. And even though I didn't take notes during the actual Day of Reading.

Report on my Day of Reading

While moving, I've been loading and unloading boxes. That means I found stacks of old newspapers and magazines. I seem to have the idea that I can't throw things away unread. Think about it -- "unread" is one of the worst words in the English language for readers. So I skimmed the old newspapers and read parts of old magazines. And at my new place (a gated community for seniors) we have a "library" of sorts -- people contribute books and magazines and others are welcome to borrow whatever they want to read. It's small, but I looked it over and found Avi's The Secret School (see above) that I completed it overnight on December 17th. So on Thursday, January 8th, I happen to know I was reading two copies of AARP: The Magazine that I borrowed from "the library" here.

I picked up the January/February issues of 2008 and 2009. Last year's issue had Caroline Kennedy on it, and this year's has Glenn Close -- because AARP begins the year by presenting ten people who make a difference. I read about those twenty people (ten twice) and all the other articles in each magazine.

What else did I read? The menu when I went out to eat with my two daughters and my youngest granddaughter that evening, and the signs all over the Creative Discovery Museum when I took my granddaughter there after we ate. (You remember Cady, don't you? Now you know we do more than swim together and review books.)