“Physics of the Impossible”

Michio Kaku

I feel like I’ve been reading a lot of these “explain the whole field in broad strokes” books lately. I do enjoy the twist in this of focusing specifically on impossible things, particularly science fiction tropes; it provides a bit more of a narrative through line, a nice organizational structure to hang the various facts on.

Two caveats to this book:

Firstly, it’s somewhat dated; just from reading, you can narrow down the publishing date to sometime in the mid-aughts. The downside to writing about something as inherently contemporary as “the latest scientific discoveries.”

Secondly, the use of the definite article when referring to theories. It’s never “quantum theory”, always “the quantum theory.” Which I’ve listed as a caveat, but really it falls somewhere between being overly tied to semantics and doing a good job of reminding us that all theories are theories—sure, the theory of gravity is pretty well understood, but it remains a part of the scientific process; it remains a theory.

All told, I found this a pretty good read. The chapters are about the right size for chunks of reading time, and it’s a nice overview of the various impossibilities. (It also feels like it’d be a great reference book for a science fiction writer—it provides enough terminology and understanding to get the realistically-wrong physics you want for good sci-fi.) Give it a go.1

  1. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.

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