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.


Stephanie said...

Hey Bonnie!! Good to see you back online!! How are the new digs??

Unknown said...

It sounds fascinating but quite tough to digest.
Hmm, and what if we didn't have a moon, would we wobble around the sun?

Hope you are all settled into your new home and doing well?

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Yes, Vanilla, we would wobble. The moon stabilizes the earth.

Overwhelmed! said...

Hi Bonnie!

I'm stoppy by to let you know that I’ve got books up for grabs in my March Pay It Forward Book Exchange. Stop by if you'd like to enter to win.

Katt said...

Bonnie, you've got me hooked on this one, even though I have sworn off physics for the next several books!

Bonnie Jacobs said...

A friend just posted this video about Michio Kaku discussing teleportation:

Bonnie Jacobs said...

And here's another video of Michio Kaku explaining what we now know about teleportation: