Synopses & Reviews
A fascinating exploration of the science of the impossible (from death rays and force fields to invisibility cloaks) revealing to what extent such technologies might be achievable decades or millennia into the future.
One hundred years ago, scientists would have said that lasers, televisions, and the atomic bomb were beyond the realm of physical possibility. In Physics of the Impossible, the renowned physicist Michio Kaku explores to what extent the technologies and devices of science fiction that are deemed equally impossible today might well become commonplace in the future.
From teleportation to telekinesis, Kaku uses the world of science fiction to explore the fundamentals, and the limits, of the laws of physics as we know them today. He ranks the impossible technologies by categories: Class I, II, and III, depending on when they might be achieved, within the next century, millennia, or perhaps never. In a compelling and thought-provoking narrative, he explains:
- How the science of optics and electromagnetism may one day enable us to bend light around an object, like a stream flowing around a boulder, making the object invisible to observers "downstream"
- How ramjet rockets, laser sails, antimatter engines, and nanorockets may one day take us to the nearby stars
- How telepathy and psychokinesis, once considered pseudoscience, may one day be possible using advances in MRI, computers, superconductivity, and nanotechnology
- Why a time machine is apparently consistent with the known laws of quantum physics, although it would take an unbelievably advanced civilization to actually build one
Kaku uses his discussion of each technology as a jumping-off point to explain the science behind it. An extraordinary scientific adventure, Physics of the Impossible
takes readers on an unforgettable, mesmerizing journey into the world of science that both enlightens and entertains.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"In these discussions, Kaku not only explores impossibilities but, in doing so, elucidates some basic physics, so this book both teaches and challenges." Library Journal
"A physics professor at City University of New York, Kaku is also a respected popularizer of scientific theory, and he does a great job here of making concrete the heady abstractions necessary to our grasp of the physics behind these ideas." Seattle Times
"Mighty few theoretical physicists would bother expounding some of these possible impossibilities, and Kaku is to be congratulated for doing so, even if what he accomplishes here is only to get the juices of future physicists flowing." Los Angeles Times
The bold and thrilling quest to finally understand the brainandmdash;and along with it our mental afflictions, from depression to autismandmdash;by a rising star in neuroscience
Sebastian Seung, a dynamic young professor at MIT, is at the forefront of a revolution in neuroscience. He believes that our identity lies not in our genes, but in the connections between our brain cellsandmdash;our own particular wiring. Seung and a dedicated group of researchers are leading the effort to map these connections, neuron by neuron, synapse by synapse. It is a monumental effortandmdash;the scientific equivalent of climbing Mount Everestandmdash;but if they succeed, they will uncover the basis of personality, identity, intelligence, memory, and perhaps disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. Seung explains how this new map of a human andldquo;connectomeandrdquo; might even enable us to andldquo;uploadandrdquo; our brains into a computer, making us effectively immortal.
Connectomeis a mind-bending adventure story, told with great passion and authority. It presents a daring scientific and technological vision for at last understanding what makes us who we are, both as individuals and as a species.
The audacious effort to map the brainand#8212;and along with it our mental afflictions, from autism to schizophreniaand#8212;by a rising star in neuroscience.
We know that each of us is unique, but science has struggled to pinpoint where, precisely, our uniqueness resides. Is it in our genes? The structure of our brains? Our genome may determine our eye color and even aspects of our personality. But our friendships, failures, and passions also shape who we are. The question is: how? Sebastian Seung, a dynamic professor at MIT, is on a quest to discover the biological basis of identity. He believes it lies in the pattern of connections between the brainand#8217;s neurons, which change slowly over time as we learn and grow. The connectome, as itand#8217;s called, is where our genetic inheritance intersects with our life experience. Itand#8217;s where nature meets nurture. Seung introduces us to the dedicated researchers who are mapping the brainand#8217;s connections, neuron by neuron, synapse by synapse. It is a monumental undertakingand#8212;the scientific equivalent of climbing Mount Everestand#8212;but if they succeed, it could reveal the basis of personality, intelligence, memory, and perhaps even mental disorders. Many scientists speculate that people with anorexia, autism, and schizophrenia are "wired differently," but nobody knows for sure. The brainand#8217;s wiring has never been clearly seen. In sparklingly clear prose, Seung reveals the amazing technological advances that will soon help us map connectomes. He also examines the evidence that these maps will someday allow humans to "upload" their minds into computers, achieving a kind of immortality. Connectome is a mind-bending adventure story, told with great passion and authority. It presents a daring scientific and technological vision for at last understanding what makes us who we are. Welcome to the future of neuroscience.
About the Author
Michio Kaku is the Henry Semat Professor of Theoretical Physics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is the cofounder of string field theory. He has written several books, including Parallel Worlds and Beyond Einstein, and his bestseller, Hyperspace, was voted one of the best science books of the year by the New York Times and the Washington Post. He is a frequent guest on national TV, and his nationally syndicated radio program is heard in 130 cities. He lives in New York City.
Table of Contents
Part I: Does Size Matter?
and#160;1and#160;Genius and Madnessand#8194;and#8226;and#8194;3
Part II: Connectionism
and#160;3and#160;No Neuron Is an Islandand#8194;and#8226;and#8194;39
and#160;4and#160;Neurons All the Way Downand#8194;and#8226;and#8194;60
and#160;5and#160;The Assembly of Memoriesand#8194;and#8226;and#8194;76
Part III: Nature and Nurture
and#160;6and#160;The Forestry of the Genesand#8194;and#8226;and#8194;99
and#160;7and#160;Renewing Our Potentialand#8194;and#8226;and#8194;116
Part IV: Connectomics
and#160;8and#160;Seeing Is Believingand#8194;and#8226;and#8194;137
and#160;9and#160;Following the Trailand#8194;and#8226;and#8194;155
Part V: Beyond Humanity
and#160;14and#160;To Freeze or to Pickle?and#8194;and#8226;and#8194;233
and#160;15and#160;Save As . . .and#8194;and#8226;and#8194;254