Favorite Non-Fiction Books, #46: Physics of the Future
As a science fiction writer, I'm a lousy scientist. I struggled through chemistry and physics in high school despite the best efforts of Captain Kilner and Trudy May. At UNH I managed to scrape through my science requirements with a heavy dose of forestry, Foods and Dudes, and environmental conservation. I'm a scientist, sure - a social scientist. A political scientist. I can do statistics and evaluate qualitative research and make sweeping conclusions from murky data with the best of them. But when it comes to the nuts and bolts of cellular division or space travel or anything that might have an equation at its core, well, I'm mostly just making it up. I picture Gene Roddenberry in the 1960s throwing a dart at the periodic table and saying "Silicone! Let's have the alien beast made of silicone!" and then doing a little rudimentary research and gluing the rest of the narrative together with baling wire and technobabble. My science fiction writing is character driven, thematic, not "hard" sci-fi rooted in string theory. Hey, Star Wars was better when The Force was new age mysticism rather than goofy midichlorians. You can try to explain too much.
Still, it's got to hold together at some basic level. And since my basic level is very basic, I turn to smarter people whenever I can. When I found Michio Kaku's book, I gobbled it up. The man is a certified genius (and maybe a certified looney, like so many brilliant futurists), and in this book he lets his freak flag fly, waxing theoretical on subjects from evolving brain chemistry to the eroding biological-digital divide to potential sources of energy. It's accessibly written (thank goodness) while still very much wearing it's science club t-shirt. It's become a valuable idea book, a volume I can thumb through and pluck concepts from to play with in my own writing. Thanks, Dr. Kaku.