Enthusiastic scientific speculation on the future of space travel.
Acclaimed science popularizer Kaku (The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind, 2014, etc.), the co-founder of string field theory, confines his expertise to physics, but the 226 experts listed in the acknowledgements have plenty to offer on a variety of scientific disciplines. Alert readers will notice that the stirring words “we are entering a new golden age of space travel when exploring the universe will once again become an exciting part of the national agenda after decades of neglect” are not the author’s. That statement applies to China, the single nation with an active national manned space program and leaders eager to mortify the United States, its superpower rival. Having accomplished the feat of the Apollo moon landing in 1969, the U.S. government, it seems, feels no pressure to keep up with the Chinese. National rivalries aside, our current technology, writes the author, will get us to Mars. However, making Mars as habitable as Earth (“terraforming”), traveling to far planets and their moons, mining precious metals from asteroids, and voyaging to the stars will require technical advances that are well underway and a revolution in energy that, sadly, is not. Computer efficiency has increased astronomically since World War II, and rocket motor efficiency has perhaps tripled. Always optimistic and undaunted, Kaku delivers a fascinating and scattershot series of scenarios in which humans overcome current obstacles without violating natural laws to travel the universe. The author digresses regularly into related areas of study, including extrasolar planets, radical life extension, intelligent robots, and the details of settling other worlds.
An exhilarating look at the future, although American readers may yearn for a Chinese bombshell (à la Russia’s launch of Sputnik in 1957) to stimulate the U.S. government to achieve at least one marvel during their lifetimes.