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Viewings: 6951Will we learn someday walk through walls? Build starships, capable of flying faster than light? To read minds? To become invisible? To move objects with their mind? To instantly overcome space?
I was tormented by such questions. Like many physicists, I grew up with dreams of traveling in time, ray guns, force fields, parallel universes etc., Magic, fantasy and science fiction were for my imagination giant Playground. They began my everlasting love and interest for the impossible.
I remember I was watching a rerun of the old TV series "Flash Gordon". Every Saturday I was glued to the screen watching the adventures of Flash, Dr. Zarkov and Dale Arden. Even more astonishment caused the teenager appeared in the film the wonderful technology for the future: rocket ships, shields invisible beam gun, and the city in the sky. I never missed one week. This program introduced me to a whole new world. With a sinking heart I thought that someday I will fly on rocket on another planet and will explore uncharted territory. I was drawn into the orbit of these fantastic ideas and knew that my own fate, too, will be associated with the wonders of science, described the series.
As it turned out I was not alone. Many successful scientists recognized that the first step towards science was the fascination with science fiction. For example, the great astronomer Edwin Hubble was in childhood fascinated by books by Jules Verne. Having read French science-fiction writer, he gave up a promising professional career and against the will of the father began to pursue science. Over time, Hubble was the greatest astronomer of the XX century Imagination Carl Sagan, a prominent astronomer and the author of the bestselling kindle novels by Edgar rice Burroughs about the Martian adventures of John Carter. Like the character of these novels. Sagan had dreamed of one day exploring the red Sands of Mars.
I was a child, when he died albert Einstein, but I remember people quietly spoke about his life and death. The next day I saw in a newspaper photograph of his table with unfinished manuscript greatest work, which he never finished. I asked myself: "What kind of problem can be so important to the greatest scientist of our time was unable to solve it?"
The article said that Einstein was an impossible dream, was the task to completely solve not no mortal. Only many years later I found out what the issue was dedicated to the unfinished manuscript: the majestic and all-encompassing theory of everything". The dream of Einstein, which were devoted the last three decades of his life, helped me focus your imagination and effort. I wanted little to participate in the completion of the works of Einstein - the Union of all the laws of physics in a single theory.
I became older I began to understand that Flash Gordon, of course, the hero and the girl always gets him, but the main person, without which this series simply could not exist, is a scientist. Without doctor Zarkova would not be a rocket ship, nor travel on Mongo, nor saving the Earth. The heroism of heroism, but without science is not and science fiction.
In the end I realized that all these stories are just a flight of fancy that science is nothing like admits. Growing up, he refuses such fantasies. I have repeatedly said that in real life you have to refuse impossible to settle for real.
However, I decided that the key to my passion for the impossible has become physics. Without a strong and reliable physical database can endlessly talk about futuristic technologies - not understanding even possible in principle or not. I realized that I need to dive into the world of mathematics and to study theoretical physics. So I did.
In high school, working on a project for youth scientific exhibition, I've put together in my mother's garage accelerator. First I went on a firm Westinghouse and obtained a 400 pounds scraps of transformer steel. Over the Christmas holidays I walked on the school stadium 22 miles of copper wire. In the end I built a particle accelerator (betatron) 2.3 MeV; he ate 6 kWh of electricity (i.e. all that is possible was to get in our house) and created magnetic field in 20 000 times the power of the magnetic field of the Earth. My goal was to get a beam of gamma-rays, rather moshny to create antimatter. This school project led me to the National science exhibition and in the end helped to fulfill the dream is to get a scholarship to Harvard. I was able to achieve its goal: to become a theoretical physicist and to follow in the footsteps of his idol, albert Einstein.
Today I get e-mails from writers and science fiction writers, they are asked to help them clarify, does not contradict their invention to the laws of physics.
"Impossible" is relatively
As a physicist I learnt that "impossible" very often relative. Since childhood I remember the teacher once approached hanging on the wall map of the Earth and pointed at coast of South America and Africa. "Is it not strange, " she said, " that two of the coastline are the same, almost as parts of a child's puzzle?" She also said that some scientists are arguing that once these continents were probably part of one huge continent. But this is stupid. No force can break in and steal one of two giant continent. "It is impossible, and even thinking about it is not necessary", - concluded the teacher.
Later in the same year we studied the dinosaurs. "Is it not strange, " said the teacher that millions of years ago, dinosaurs dominated the Earth, and then suddenly disappeared? No one knows why they died out. Some paleontologists believe that they have killed a large meteorite from outer space, but this is impossible, this is from the realm of science fiction".
Today we know that the tectonic plates, and with them and continents are actually moving, and 65 million years ago a giant meteorite 10 km in diameter, most likely, really killed the dinosaurs, and in many other forms of life on Earth. During his short life I had to see what was previously considered impossible becomes established scientific fact. So does it make sense to say that to teleport from one place to another is impossible? Or that it is impossible to build a space ship that can carry us on many light years from the Earth to the stars?
Today's physics is mostly saying that such miracles are impossible. But maybe they will become possible through several centuries? Or ten thousand years when our technology will get a new development? Maybe in a million years? In other words, if we find a civilization, which is ahead of us for a million years to see us familiar technique "miracle"? This is one of the Central questions of this book: if something is "impossible" today, will it be still impossible and a hundred, and in a million years?
Given the amazing progress of science in the last hundred years - first of all it is about the creation of the quantum theory and General relativity, " today we can estimate when can be implemented some of these fantastic technology - if indeed it ever happens. With the introduction of more advanced theories such as string theory, physicists begin to revise their attitude even so fantastic, it would seem, ideas, like time travel and parallel universes.
Think, just 150 years ago, much of what seems to us today are natural and ordinary, scientists announced "impossible". In 1863 Jules Bern wrote a novel called "Paris in the XX century"; this novel was put in a drawer and forgotten for more than 100 years, until he accidentally discovered the great-grandson of the writer. Thus, this novel was first published in 1994, it Bern tried to imagine how it will look like Paris in 1960; the novel abounds in the description of devices and technologies, which in the XIX century was considered impossible, including faxes, the world communication network, glass skyscrapers, cars on gas and high-speed trains on special racks.
Not surprisingly, Jules Bern was able to predict with much so amazing accuracy. All his life the writer was close to the world of science and knew what I think many scientists. Deep understanding of the fundamentals of science allowed him to do amazing predictions.
Sadly, many of the greatest scientists of the XIX century, chose the opposite position and hastened to declare almost any unknown technology is fundamentally impossible. Lord Kelvin, arguably the greatest physicist of the Victorian era (he was buried in Westminster Abbey next to Isaac Newton), confidently stated that aircraft "heavier than air", such as airplanes, will never fly. He considered x-rays deception and was sure that the radio has no future. Lord Rutherford, who discovered the atomic nucleus, denied the possibility of creating a nuclear bomb and compare any attempts of this kind with the "pursuit of solar Bunny". Chemists XIX century announced the search for the philosopher's stone - the legendary substance that can turn lead into gold, and research deadlock. Chemistry of the XIX century was based on the fundamental principle of the immutability of chemical elements, including lead. But today we can in principle to turn the atoms of lead in the gold atoms with powerful accelerator. Performancegive yourself fiction would have seemed on the verge of the XIX and XX centuries our television, computers and Internet!
Closer to our times, one can cite other examples. So, the black holes has long been considered science fiction. Einstein in 1939, wrote an article in which "proved"that black holes cannot occur under natural conditions. But the space telescope named Hubble and x-ray telescope Chandra has already managed to discover in outer space, thousands of black holes.
These and other technologies were considered "impossible" because, in XIX and early XX century, scientists do not yet know many fundamental laws of physics and science. Given the huge gaps in the knowledge of that time, especially at the atomic level, it is not surprising that scientists examined such achievements as possible.
Why learn impossible?
Strangely enough it sounds, but a serious study of the impossible often led scientists to the discovery of new, very promising and totally unexpected areas of science.
For example, vain and fruitless attempts to create a "perpetual motion" lasted for centuries. In the physics concluded that such a device can not exist; they had to postulate the law of conservation of energy and the three laws of thermodynamics. Thus, barren themselves the search of the eternal engine helped to open a new field of science - thermodynamics, which was the basis, in particular, to create a steam engine, machine beginning of an era and the modern industrial society.
At the end of the XIX century, scientists believed that the age of the Earth can never be several billion years; that's impossible. Lord Kelvin has stated categorically that the modern Earth cooled would just 20 to 40 million years, contrary to the data of Geology and Darwinian biology, arguing that the Earth may be several billion years old. In the end, it was proved that the impossible is possible; it turned out that nuclear forces, open Madame Curie and other scientists, it is able to hold the Earth's core is molten state billions of years due to radioactive decay.
If scientists ignore impossible, then, as a rule, do lose in the end. In the 1920s and 1930s, the founder of modern rocketry Robert Goddard was criticised; many believed that the missiles will never be able to climb to space. His classes even called sarcastically, "eccentricity Goddard". In 1921, the editors of the New York Times widely ridiculed the work of doctor Goddard: "Professor Goddard't know the relationship between action and counteraction and does not understand that to get the reaction you want something better than a vacuum. It seems that it lacks elementary knowledge that every day operate students". Missiles impossible raged editor, because in space there is no air, and therefore not anything to push off from. Sad, but only one head of state realized perspective is goddardsky "impossible" launch - and it was Adolf Hitler. In the result during the Second world war, the German impossible advanced rocket V-2" sow death and destruction in London and nearly put England on his knees.
And that is not all. The study of the impossible could change the course of world history. In the 1930s, scientists - including Einstein believed that to build a nuclear bomb "impossible". Physics knew in the depths of the atomic nucleus, according to Einstein's equation E = mc2, signed an enormous amount of energy, but the energy that would be released in the decay of a single core, was too small to about it was worth to talk seriously. But physicist-nuclear scientist Leo Szilard remembered read once Roman H.G. wells ' Liberated the world" (1914), where the writer predicted the creation of a nuclear bomb. In the novel it was argued that a physicist would reveal the secret of the atomic bomb in 1933 Occasion decreed that Szilard came across this book in 1932 novel fueled his imagination, and in 1933, just as was predicted by wells nearly two decades before that, he figured out how to increase the energy of a single atom using a chain reaction; this energy fission of one atom of uranium can be increased in many trillions of times. After that Szilard launched several fundamental experiments and organized secret correspondence between Einstein and President Franklin Roosevelt. The result of these negotiations was the Manhattan project and the development of the atomic bomb.
Again and again we see how the study of impossible discovered a completely new horizons, expands the bounds of human knowledge in the field of physics and chemistry and is forcing scientists to rethink the concept of "impossible". Sir William Osler once said: "the Philosophy of one century to another became absurd, and yesterday's stupidity-tomorrow's wisdom".
Many physicists are ready to subscribe under the famous dictum TH white, who wrote in his story "the once and future King": "Everything that is not prohibited, be sure!" In physics we are constantly faced with clear evidence of this. If there is no physical law that explicitly prohibits certain phenomenon, it, most likely, will eventually be detected. (This was done several times in search of new subatomic particles, Trying to penetrate beyond the boundaries of the forbidden, physicists were often opened new physical laws.) From a statement TH white possible to make an even stronger conclusion: "Everything that is not impossible, of course!"
For example, a cosmologist Stephen Hawking tried to find a new law of physics that would prohibit the travel time, he called it "hypothesis keep". However, many years of hard work in what have not resulted: he could not prove nominated principle. On the contrary, not so long ago, physics was able to demonstrate that the law, which would prohibit time travel is beyond today's mathematics. Now, because of the law, which would not allow to build a time machine, does not exist, physicists have to seriously consider this possibility.
The purpose of this book is to consider those technologies that are now considered "impossible", but after a few dozen or hundred years can be ordinary.
One of the "impossible" technology begins this transformation now: we are talking about teleportation (at least at the level of atoms). Only a few years ago physicists would say that instant moving an object from one point of space to another violates the laws of quantum physics. Script writers of the first part of the TV series "Star trek" were so hurt by criticism from scientists that have added to the plot of some "Heisenberg compensators", which were to provide the work of the teleport device and to reconcile them with the laws of physics. But today, thanks to the recent revolutionary discoveries of physics can teleport atoms from one end of the room to the other, and photons from one Bank of the Danube river on the other.
Why predict the future?
To predict the future is always a little dangerous, especially if we are talking about the time, separated from us by hundreds or thousands of years. Physicist Niels Bohr was fond of saying: "it is very difficult to Predict. Especially about the future". But between the time Jules Verne and today there is a basic difference. Today the fundamental laws of physics are basically clear. Physics today aware of the laws that govern the world of the most different objects, which vary in size 43-order - striking range, which includes the internal structure of the proton, and the expanding universe. In the physics can be judged with reasonable confidence that approximately will be a technology of the future, and it is better to distinguish the technology is just unthinkable from really impossible.
Therefore, in this book I have divided "impossible" in three categories.
In the first category that I call the impossibility of the first class. It technology, today is impossible, but not violating the known laws of nature. Thus, they can become possible in this century, or maybe in the next in a modified form. This category includes teleportation, the antimatter engines, some forms of telepathy, telekinesis, and invisibility.
The second category is that I have identified as the impossibility of II class. This technology has only recently seriously emerged at the forefront of our ideas about the physical world. If at all possible, that their implementation may take thousands and even millions of years. This includes time machine, possibility of hyperspatial travel and travel through wormholes.
The latter category is what I call the impossibility of class III. This is technology that violate the known physical laws. Surprisingly, impossible technologies of this type were very few. And if you ever find that they, too, it would mean a fundamental shift in our understanding of physics.
It seems that such a classification makes sense - after all, scientists are on the move reject many technologies that are constantly present in the science fiction works as impossible, but actually mean merely that they are impossible to primitive civilization like ours. For example, a visit of the Earth by aliens generally considered impossible because of the vast distances between stars. But if we journey to the stars obviously impossible for a civilization, which is ahead of us in the development of hundreds, thousands or millions of years, it can be quite affordable. It is therefore very important to classify such "impossible". Technology is not available in our civilization in its present state, does not necessarily equally impossible for a civilization of some type. Any statements about the possible and the impossible must be taken into account that for thousands and millions of years thehnica any civilization will go far ahead.
Carl Sagan once wrote: "What civilization age of, say, a million years? Radio telescopes and spacecraft has appeared at us a few decades ago; our technological civilization nascita AET only a few hundred years... advanced civilization, behind which is millions of years of development, as is ahead of us, as far as we are ahead of some lemur or macaco".
The main thing in my own research and professional activities, I think the attempt to finally fulfill the dream of Einstein and complete the work on the "theory of everything". Personally I like to work on a "final theory", which will give, perhaps one answer to some of the most difficult issues of the "impossibility" in modern science, for example, is it possible to travel in time, which is located in the center of a black hole or what happened before the Big Bang. I remain devoted to their dream of the impossible and often think about when some things cease - and will ever? - to be impossible and will enter into everyday life.
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