The following is a collection of what I consider to be examples of the best, or most interesting, use of physics laws or theories. Use these quotations as a guide for choosing which novels you would most like to read. Most of them come from science-fiction novels, but others (most notably Umberto Eco's ``Foucault's Pendulum'') have nothing to do with science fiction. I am looking for more quotations to expand my collection, so if you have some suggested addition, please let me know. All of the following come highly recommended.
This novel of a journey through arcane medieval history begins with a most sublime description of the Foucault's pendulum hanging in the science museum in Paris.
The main characters of this novel are the unfortunate victims of mistaken identity and must run for their lives. This excerpt describes their escape in a rented Volvo skycar from the space colony named ``Golden Rule'', in orbit 300 km above the moon, to the Hong Kong Luna settlement on the lunar surface, including some of the physics involved in setting their orbit..
This novel is written by a gifted physicist who helped construct and operate the world's first gravitational wave bar antenna as his Ph.D. project. In this novel, a unique form of negative matter (not anti-matter) is discovered. This excerpt explains the implications this negmatter has on Newton's Laws of motion, and how it could be used to power interstellar travel.
This fictional account of a joint human-alien expedition into the chromosphere of the Sun describes a unique lifeform that feeds via Faraday's Law. Too bad it violates conservation of energy!
This novel, and its sequel Starquake, describe the first manned mission to a neutron star, and the surprising discovery of intelligent life on its surface. This segment describes the how monopoles are used to create the dense masses required to shield the expedition occupants from the intense gravitational tidal forces generated by the neutron star.
The author of this novel is a noted astrophysicist at UC-Irvine. The premise of this book is that the world is in the midst of ecological collapse, and physicists at Cambridge attempt to send a warning message back to 1962 via a tachyon beam. In this excerpt, the advanced and retarded solutions of relativistic electrodynamics are used as an analogy to how the time communication experiment will work. A fascinating book!
This is a very clever novel, about a perpetual energy machine created by exchanging matter between two parallel universes which differ only in that the nuclear force is slightly stronger in the one than the other. This excerpt is near the beginning, where the swapped isotope from the parallel universe is discovered in Frederick Hallam's lab.
This novel takes place a millenium in the future, where a race called the Ousters have adapted their formerly-human bodies to the harsh environment of space via genetic engineering. One of their adaptations is to develop large butterfly-like wings, which make use of the solar wind, photon pressure and magnetic braking to navigate within the inner solar system. Here, the Ousters give a group of humans a short taste of what it feels like to navigate in this manner.
This book describes an experiment gone awfully wrong, in which an artificial black hole is accidentally allowed to bore itself to the center of the Earth. The researchers are startled to find a larger artificial black hole already there, which they call Beta. This segment describes a few cute analogies with particle physics concepts. This novel also features a prescient description of what the internet is likely to become in the not-too-distant future.
Set only slightly in the future, in this book they have discovered that certain pairs of identical twins can communicate telepathically with each other, which makes them incredibly useful as communication beacons for interstellar star ships. This segment describes an experiment, where identical twins pass metronome ticks back-and-forth to each other across distant space, in order to better understand the nature of time.
The `Galactic Center' series of novels take place many millenia in the future, as the last carbon-based lifeforms fight against extermination by the dominant computer/mechanical-based culture. This quote describes some interesting effects to be found near the black hole believed to be at the center of the Milky Way galaxy.
In this, the final of the `Giants' novels, humans travel to Thurien, the home planet of the alien Ganymean civilization. This quote explains the idea behind some of their advanced gravitational engineering. Pretty clever.
In this final novel of the `New Uplift Trilogy', a spacecraft crewed by humans, neo-Dolphins, and a sarcastic Tymbrini-designed computer, find themselves in close orbit with a white dwarf about to supernova. This quote describes some of the stellar physics involved as they realize that the impending explosion was designed by an advanced race called the Transcendents.
This novel discusses the exploits of the mischievious Wan-To, the oldest and most powerful intelligence in the universe, who spends most of his time in the cores of stars, and plays with star systems as a child plays with marbles.
In this book, physics has three spatial dimensions and three time dimensions. The four main characters travel to alternate four dimensional universes which are offset from ours by either rotations or translations of the various time axes. The basic concept of the different time dimensions is described briefly in this quotation.
This author, an employee of Digital, has apparently studied much physics. The book is about a scientist who has come up with a grand unified theory, and the significant technological implications that result from it. Dr. Marvin Minsky, of MIT, is quoted as saying: ``Most theories in science fiction are mere wishful thinking. Hogan invents a theory that might really work.'' Discoveries made since the book was written indicate that the author's approach is not the right one, but it nonetheless makes an interesting read.
This is a very interesting novel, where Russian scientists have learned how to locally reduce the value of Planck's constant, making miniaturization possible. This excerpt is an exchange between a Russian and an American scientist as they are regaining their normal size after being shrunk to about half normal size. They are discussing why their eyes are still able to register light waves in the normal manner when being miniaturized, with possible implications to a future grand unified theory..
97.09.19 / Garth Huber / modified 15.01.04