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Harry Potter’s cloak needs eyeholes

Physicist Michio Kaku explores the possibilities of invisibility cloaks, time travel, and other sci-fi wonders.

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Michio Kaku is a physicist specializing in string theory at the City College of New York; it would seem he’s also a major Star Trek fan. The show, along with other science fiction classics, is a constant touchstone in “Physics of the Impossible,” his latest book, which invites readers to take a romp through the barely possible.

Kaku even uses Star Trek’s chief engineer, Scotty, to state the book’s starting point: “I canna’ change the laws of physics, Captain!”

Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel is a popularization of physics and it reads like nothing so much as a thought-provoking manual for science fiction writers who want to get it right. Kaku takes 15 sci-fi staples, from invisibility cloaks to robots to parallel universes, and divides them up into Class I, II, and III impossibilities. Class I impossibilities are impossible at present, but could be just around the corner. No laws of physics forbid them. Class II impossibilities might be realized if humanity lives long enough and becomes advanced enough to take on such minor public works projects as particle accelerators 10 light-years long or “laser beams as large as a solar system or star cluster.”

Class III impossibilities are just plain impossible. Sorry.

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