As I am sure you are aware Iove talking about physics for some reason, that I have never figured out, I think it is very fascinating. What is also kind of neat is that today because of TV and the internet some physicists are as well-known as movie stars. Names like Stephen Hawking, Brian Greene, Neil DeGrass Tyson, Lisa Randall, and Michio Kaku are more or less house hold names, which just a few years ago if I mentioned any of them most people would have no idea who they were. I have read books by Hawking and Greene, but had never read anything by Kaku. I had seen him on a few television shows and after a quick internet search I saw where he had quite a few books out there to choose from. Me being me, I read what each one was about and the reviews and was sold on Parallel Worlds.
Michio Kaku was born in California and later graduated from Harvard. After that he attended UC Berkley and graduated with his Ph.D. and went on to teach at Princeton. As far as I can tell he now works for New York University. Kaku has also written a few books including three that have ended up on the NYT’s Best Seller List, which I think is pretty amazing considering the complicated nature of the subject matter. Trying to put Professor Kaku’s life in a short paragraph is near impossible, much like trying to find the theory of everything. I totally feel your pain Professor Kaku, there are far too many accomplishments to discuss throughout his career. To me Kaku along with the names mentioned above are responsible for what I feel is the resurgence of science. For the first time in a long time, it is considered cool to be a scientist, and that is testament to these individuals. I also saw where Kaku was actually drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War. Luckily he was not deployed as the war ended before his training.
Let me start by saying that I thought this book was AWESOME. As I have said this is the third physics book I have read (A Brief History of Time and The Fabric of the Cosmos) and this one is my new favorite. I still think that ABHOT is still my all-time favorite simply because that was the first book I read and honestly ignited my passion for learning more about this subject, so that has a special place in my heart. But from a simply just ease of understanding and being an overall well written book, Parallel Worlds is one of the best. Even though I have only read three physics books they all seem to follow the same outline. The begin talking about the origins of theories then slowly the author discusses how they were disproved or proved through the years as well as the major players involved and their contributions to the cause. There is nothing wrong with this but again if you have already read the background on a theory in another book it can get a little monotonous. One point in particular was the story of how Einstein proved that stars bend light because of their massive gravity. In doing this Einstein said that you could see what was directly behind a star and sure enough he was right. This story was detailed in The Fabric of the Cosmos as well as Parallel Worlds, so again sometimes you get a double dose, but I am sure Greene and Kaku assume that you have not read any other physics books.
I think one of the reasons that I loved this book so much, is the fact that it was so easy to understand. I read a lot of articles about theoretical physics so I am not sure if that helped while reading. I also do not claim to be overtly smart, but I feel I grasped about 70% of this book as opposed to about 25%-40% of The Fabric of the Cosmos, that one was pretty hard to comprehend. I also read that one about five or six years ago so perhaps all my other readings has helped me understand certain concepts. Still I feel that for the most part everything is explained in a way that was very easy to understand even for someone who had never heard of Quantum Theory or The Theory of Relativity.
The one thing that I felt was extremely hard to follow as when Kaku explains how M Theory works. That 50 or so pages was a real, well it was extremely hard to follow. I cannot grasp the ideas and concepts that were presented and found myself just trying to get through this part of the book. While in most books I would not care or worry about this, the issue for me is that M Theory is the leading theory to explain our reality. So in some small, somewhat joking manor I am silently rooting against M Theory as I do not understand it. My hope is that whatever comes next I can comprehend better. (By the way I am totally joking. I would rather physicists be certain M Theory is the one true theory, than me understand it.)
What I also loved about this book is that after Kaku goes through many of the other theories out there that he then spends quite a few pages discussing other speculations, and that is something I really love. He talks about time travel and how we might achieve it, leaving the universe as I have discussed in a recent posts, religion and its place in our technological society, as well as the future of our species. He had so many interesting things to say on these topics that I really wish this part of the book had been longer. Yes, I actually wanted a book to be longer if you can believe that. As I am sure you are aware I love speculating, and when someone who is considered an expert, or at the very least smarter than me, talks about such things that I am interested in, I will certainly listen to them and get their point of view. To me this was one of the most fascinating parts of the book.
The ending of the book was quite fascinating as Kaku transitioned from physics to more of real life scenarios and the future of humanity. I loved how he made this transition and thought what he had to say was very interesting. Kaku seems like that guy that you, or at least I could, just sit and talk to for hours, or just listen to him. I would love to get a beer with him and Ray Kurzweil, I think that would be an awesome conversation. Maybe one day when I get rich and famous I can make that happen.
There are so many truly spectacular ideas explored in this book and the best part is that they are fairly easy to understand. I think that is one of the most important aspects of a book like this. When Einstein first released his Theory of Relativity, one physicist said something to the effect of well there are only about 5 people in the world who can truly understand the theory. While at the time he was probably right, I think that is a very bad thing. Science has done a better job of being inclusive rather than exclusive as it has in the past. Now with Einstein’s theory that was more due to the fact that it was so revolutionary, that was the reason no one understood it. Still I think Hawking, Greene, and Kaku have all done great jobs at making extremely difficult concepts easy to understand and comprehend, which also makes it more fun. It is always more fun when you know what is going on. I loved this book and it one of my new favorites. This will not be the last book I read by Professor Kaku.