Monday, May 05, 2008

On the Physics of the Impossible

Friday night, C. and I took in a talk by the theoretical physicist Michio Kaku. It was held at the Community Church of New York under the auspices of the Open Center, and it was basically a book signing you paid to go to. Tickets cost $20. The book cost extra.

Kaku, cofounder of string field theory, has a new book out that looks at the scientific underpinnings of concepts like invisibility, teleportation, ray guns, telepathy and mind reading, starships, robots, and time travel.

The talk was heavy on the jokes and use of video -- Kaku hosted a BBC TV show scheduled to hit the states next year -- and light on the science, but there were still some interesting bits. Not only did Kaku hold up some solid examples stemming from actual scientific research, but he walked through various levels of impossibility and types of civilizations that might or might not be more or less likely to embrace potential possibiities.

Part of me wants to think that Kaku has moved from representing a pop scientist to being a new age geek, which possesses a different degree of credulity. But another part of me wants to see the talks behind the talk to better understand the science behind the speculation.

This is popsci, not scifi, and that's an important difference.

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