Did you know that many of the world's best physicists like to watch Star Trek, and then discuss what's right and wrong about the science displayed? Well, apparently they do.
Drawing on contacts within the scientific community and on-line bulletin boards, Professor Krauss has written a sprightly review of what physicists think about when they see these shows. He translates these observations into simple concepts that the average reader should be able to follow, assuming an interest in Star Trek or science.
As a non-scientist, I had always assumed that 70 percent of the "science" on a Star Trek show was just so much imagination. The reason I thought that was because I could see so many obvious errors (seeing phaser light in space, hearing sounds in space, effects occurring too soon on the space ship, holograms acting like they were made of matter, and permanent worm holes) based on what little I knew. Was I ever surprised to find out that these obvious errors were the bulk of all the errors in the shows!
Apparently the writers have been working closely with scientifically knowledgeable people to keep what is covered reasonably possible . . . along with some poetic license.
The physics of cosmology are fascinating, but I can quickly get lost in matching quantum mechanics to general relativity and so forth. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that I could follow the arguments much better when they used a familiar Star Trek episode as a reference. Like the child who learns math when it involves counting his or her own money, I can learn physics more easily when it relates to Star Trek. Very nice!
The book takes a look at the common Star Trek features like warp drive, transporters, replicators, phasers, sensors, subspace communications, and tractor beams. You also get special looks at less common features like multiple universes and special forms of radiation.
You can read this book from several perspectives as a result: (1) to appreciate what's happening in an episode; (2) to learn some science; (3) to think about where Star Trek could become real and where it is less likely to become so; and (4) what problems have to be solved in order for Star Trek technology to develop. I found the last perspective to be the most interesting. Professor Krauss's speculations about how rapidly technology might develop and what could be done with it were most fascinating.
Where the book fell down a little was in being quite strong in stating that certain "laws" of physics would never be changed. If we go back in 100 year increments, we find that a lot of earlier "laws" are later somewhat amended if not totally changed. That may happen in the future as well, as we learn more. Professor Krauss is a little too confident in many places that there is nothing else to learn. Most modern technology would look like Star Trek science fiction to someone living in 1700, despite being based on sound scientific principles not understood then.
After you finish enjoying this interesting book, think about what questions no one is trying to solve. Why not? What benefits would occur if they were solved? How could curiosity be stimulated about these questions?
Ask and answer important questions in interesting ways to make faster progress!