Even the most outlandish science fiction could become fact, says professor

By James Randerson

April 2, The Guardian

Einstein gave hope to scientists chasing the most outlandish theories when he famously declared: "If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it."

He then proved the existence of black holes and the notion that time passes more slowly the faster you travel.

Now one of the world's most distinguished physicists has scrutinised some of science fiction's other concepts, such as teleportation and forcefields, and is convinced that they too can become reality.

Professor Michio Kaku, of City University in New York, has ruled out time travel for at least a few millennia, but believes invisibility cloaks and telepathy could be possible this century.

"So many times predictions are made that certain things are impossible only to find them becoming possible a decade or a few decades later," he said. In his new book, The Physics of the Impossible, published in the UK today, Kaku rates seemingly impossible phenomena according to how likely they are to happen.


When Gene Roddenberry was planning the early episodes of the cult sci-fi series Star Trek Paramount studios, who financed the project, said the special effects necessary to recreate ships taking off and landing were too expensive. Roddenberry needed another way to get his characters down onto the surface of the uncharted worlds they were visiting. "He said, 'we'll just beam them onto the planet and save a tonne of money'," said Kaku.

That money-saving decision did much to cement teleportation as the epitome of the sci-fi way to get around, but teleportation is actually already being done by physicists.

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photo: Scientists currently have the best chance in history of making contact with aliens. Photograph: Graham Turner