Physics of the impossible

"Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine. "
Sir Arthur Eddington, English astronomer (1882 - 1944)

Dr. Michio Kaku - Image from Wikipedia Commons

I recently finished listening to the audiobook version of Dr. Michio Kaku's fantastic "Physics of the impossible" and I was fascinated by Dr. Kaku's lucid embrace of possibilities. Practically anything we have seen in our beloved science fiction universe may be possible.

Dr. Kaku's book is an excelent reminder that skeptics should not be dogmatic. Although many of the things discussed in the book seem extremely far-fetched (teleportation and time travel come to mind), Dr. Kaku actually shows how, given the right knowledge, technology and access to the right quantity of energy we could achieve these feats.

Dr. Kaku classifies all these current impossible dreams into a three level hierarchy (please note I am paraphrasing the author and I hope I get it right):
  • Class I Impossibilities: Technologies that may become possible in the near future, meaning some decades to a century. We understand the physics involved but further technological development and experimentation are required before these achievements are practical. Examples are invisibility, anti-matter engines (Star Trek anyone?) and even some forms of telepathy or mind reading.
  • Class II Impossibilites: These are technologies that may take some centuries to millenia to achieve. They are perceived by physicists as possible but require additional knowledge/breakthroughs in fundamental physics or vast amounts of energy, the kind we currently do not have access to or really know how to harness. Examples of this category are faster-than-light travel, time travel and entering parallel universes.
  • Class III Impossibilities: These are the "true impossibilities": the things that violate currently known laws of physics. As per Dr. Kaku's thinking, they either are really impossible or we have to fully re-write our textbooks with new discoveries in order to make them possible. Amazingly enough, Dr. Kaku only finds two of these "impossibilities": perpetual motion and precognition.

Michio Kaku is a brilliant and amazing man: he built an atom smasher in his garage as a teenager for a high school science project. I fully respect his opinions and all this discussion convinces me that a dogmatic stance is not proper for a skeptic.

As I mentioned in my other blog (spanish required) being a skeptic does not mean complete disbelief in everything or just being stubborn. Being skeptic means that critical thinking is being applied to the evidence on hand. No evidence, no acceptance. A skeptic does not accept "faith" as evidence, since "faith" only really means someone else told us to believe something. And, not being dogmatic, a skeptic is perfectly willing to change his/her mind if new evidence surfaces which may corroborate, enhance or contradict previous knowledge.

Reading "Physics of the impossible" was a powerful reminder that the universe is a much stranger place than we usually perceive and that there is still much to learn. I highly recommend you read the book and check Dr. Kaku's work, especially the article referenced above.


Edwin Méndez said...

Interesting post, and remarkable:

"excellent reminder that skeptics should not be dogmatic"

rachel said...

Once again, this is an excellent reminder that skeptics should not be dogmatic.