Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Book Review: Parallel worlds

'Parallel worlds : a journey through creation, higher dimensions, and the future of the cosmos' by Michio Kaku begins with a picture of our universe, and the main themes related to it. Like the two types of cosmologies in religion, the one based on a single moment when God created the universe, and the
other one based on the idea that the universe always was and always will be. Tracing the myths of Buddhism, Hinduism, and other mythologies, the author observes that these mythologies stand in marked contradiction to each other, needing the help of modern science for a possible resolution.
The book begins with a discussion about the theories in vogue. That the universe is made of atoms, each of those is made of tiny strings, which in turn, vibrates at different frequencies and resonances. If we were to pluck this vibrating string, it would change mode and become another subatomic particle, such as a quark. Pluck it again, and it turns into a neutrino. In this way, we can explain the blizzard of subatomic particles as nothing but different musical notes of the string. We can now replace the hundreds of subatomic particles seen in the laboratory with a single object, the string.
Next chapter is about the universe and its riddles. A discussion about Einstein and his brilliance, the birth of a new science, cosmology, and an insight into the theories about the future of the universe, then follow. Future scenarios are rather frightening. "At some point trillions upon trillions of years from now, the stars will cease to shine, their nuclear fires extinguished as they exhaust their fuels, forever darkening the night sky."
The discussion then goes on to the big bang, Hubble and his constant. A good description of rather esoteric topics like phases of the universe, like inflation and phases of the universe takes us to the next part of this book, multiverse.
Discussion about general relativity, black holes, time travel and its converse, chronology protection, negative energy, and a flurry of paradoxes, then follow. (I specially liked here, the grandfather paradox. "You alter the past in a way that makes the present impossible. For example, by going back into the distant past to meet the dinosaurs, you accidentally step on a small, furry mammal that is the original ancestor of humanity. By destroying your ancestor, you cannot logically exist.") More challenging ideas, then follow, like electrons existing simultaneously at many places and making the impnoderables of the world possible, parallel universes, quantum teleportation, and what not.
The book then introduce more such topics, like string theory, m-theory, ten and eleven dimensions, hyperspace, and symmetry. The efforts we are taking to investigate into these abstruse topics are narrated in the final chapters.
The third part of this book, escape into hyperspace, discusses even more complex topics like atom smashers, warp energy and the future possibilities of physics.

This is much more than a science book. Enchanting descriptions, like the one about the secret escape of Bohr to prevent his work on quantum theory from falling into the hands of Nazis, can be seen through out the book. Or the philosophical 'excuse' to the limitations of science, that "we ourselves are part of the mystery we are trying to solve". The book reminds us in the end, "Perhaps the purpose and meaning of the current generation are to make sure that the transition to a type I civilization is a smooth one."