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Wizards, Aliens, and Starships:
Physics and Math in Fantasy and Science Fiction
Charles L. Adler

Co-Winner of the 2015 AIP Science Writing Award for Books, American Institute of Physics
One of Physics World's Top Ten Books of the Year for 2014
One of The Guardian’s Best Popular Physical Science Books of 2014, chosen by GrrlScientist

Hardcover | 2014 | $29.95 | ($17.97) / £19.95 | (£11.97) | ISBN: 9780691147154
392 pp. | 6 x 9 | 23 line illus. 9 tables.
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400848362 |
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Charles L. Adler's Blog

From teleportation and space elevators to alien contact and interstellar travel, science fiction and fantasy writers have come up with some brilliant and innovative ideas. Yet how plausible are these ideas--for instance, could Mr. Weasley’s flying car in the Harry Potter books really exist? Which concepts might actually happen, and which ones wouldn’t work at all? Wizards, Aliens, and Starships delves into the most extraordinary details in science fiction and fantasy--such as time warps, shape changing, rocket launches, and illumination by floating candle--and shows readers the physics and math behind the phenomena.

With simple mathematical models, and in most cases using no more than high school algebra, Charles Adler ranges across a plethora of remarkable imaginings, from the works of Ursula K. Le Guin to Star Trek and Avatar, to explore what might become reality. Adler explains why fantasy in the Harry Potter and Dresden Files novels cannot adhere strictly to scientific laws, and when magic might make scientific sense in the muggle world. He examines space travel and wonders why it isn’t cheaper and more common today. Adler also discusses exoplanets and how the search for alien life has shifted from radio communications to space-based telescopes. He concludes by investigating the future survival of humanity and other intelligent races. Throughout, he cites an abundance of science fiction and fantasy authors, and includes concise descriptions of stories as well as an appendix on Newton's laws of motion.

Wizards, Aliens, and Starships will speak to anyone wanting to know about the correct--and incorrect--science of science fiction and fantasy.

Charles L. Adler is professor of physics at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.


"Whether as a text for a course or as a vehicle for self-study, this book makes for interesting, educational and thought-provoking reading."--Mark Hunacek, MAA Reviews

"Adler does a grand job of showing just how powerful even basic maths and physics can be. If you're a budding back-of-the-envelope boffin not afraid of a bit of algebra, you'll love this book."--Robert Matthews, BBC Focus Magazine

"I can't work out whether I love or hate this book. I love it because its analysis of the physics behind numerous accounts of magic and space exploration in fantasy and science fiction writing is fascinating. I hate it because it reveals why I will never be able to realise my dream of saying 'Beam me up, Scotty' before being teleported; or so Charles Adler has convinced me. . . . The physics is well explained and Adler offers entertaining examples."--Noel-Ann Bradshaw, Times Higher Education

"Wizards, Aliens, and Starships is a great book by itself or as a starting point for exploring the physics of space exploration as well as the classics in science fiction."--Robert Schaefer, New York Journal of Books

"For those who want to learn the hard facts about the realities of space travel or the chances for alien life, and as an engaging supplemental text for physics and astronomy courses, Wizards, Aliens, and Starships would be an admirable choice."--Sidney Perkowitz, Scientists' Bookshelf

"[A] rewarding and thought-provoking read."--Paul Sutherland, BBC Sky at Night

"[T]his book offers a lot, not only to SF authors but to any of you who want to see the real science in operation because this supplies most of the answers you need. Make sure your copy gets a serious read and well-thumbed."--G.F. Willmetts, SFCrowsnest

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