Michio Kaku


American Futurist, Theoretical Physicist, Popularizer of Science, Author, Henry Semat Chair and Professor of Theoretical Physics at the City College of New York

Author Quotes

Will we no longer be the most intelligent being on earth.

There's no reason why we cannot become smarter, more perfect, and maybe even live longer.

To understand the difficulty of predicting the next 100 years, we have to appreciate the difficulty that the people of 1900 had in predicting the world of 2000.

We don?t want the human race to split into different genetic factions, the enhanced and the unenhanced, but society will have to democratically decide how far to push this technology.

When Einstein later complained that God does not play dice with the world, Bohr reportedly fired back, Stop telling God what to do.

Within the past two decades, more has been learned about the brain than in all of human history, largely due to advances in physics. An avalanche of brain scanners, such as EEG, fMRI, PET, CAT, DBS, TES, TCM, etc. have, for the first time in history, revealed the intimate details of our thoughts. So physicists have created the instruments that have allowed neuroscientists to probe the thoughts of the living brain. Moreover, advances in physics can blaze entirely new trails for the next generation of neuroscientists to follow. For example, MRI machines were invented by physicists, and hence they know how to make them even more powerful. Physicists can now make MRI machines the size of a briefcase. The smallest MRI possible, using the laws of physics, is the size of a cell phone, which is like the ?tricorder? in Star Trek. Pocket-size brain scanners could revolutionize the field. Also, physicists have a different way of viewing the question of ?consciousness,? one of the most difficult questions in science.

These computer simulations try only to duplicate the interactions between the cortex and the thalamus. Huge chunks of the brain are therefore missing. Dr. [Dharmendra] Modha understands the enormity of his project. His ambitious research has allowed him to estimate what it would take to create a working model of the entire human brain, and not just a portion or a pale version of it, complete with all parts of the neocortex and connections to the senses. He envisions using not just a single Blue Gene computer [with over a hundred thousand processors and terabytes of RAM] but thousands of them, which would fill up not just a room but an entire city block. The energy consumption would be so great that you would need a thousand-megawatt nuclear power plant to generate all the electricity. And then, to cool off this monstrous computer so it wouldn't melt, you would need to divert a river and send it through the computer circuits. It is remarkable that a gigantic, city-size computer is required to simulate a piece of human tissue that weighs three pounds, fits inside your skull, raises your body temperature by only a few degrees, uses twenty watts of power, and needs only a few hamburgers to keep it going.

To understand the precise point when the possible becomes the impossible, you have to appreciate and understand the laws of physics.

We have learned more about the brain in the last fifteen years than in all prior human history, and the mind, once considered out of reach, is finally assuming center stage.

When I get bored, or get stuck on an equation, I like to go ice skating, but it makes you forget your problem. Then you can tackle the problem with a fresh new insight. Einstein liked to play the violin to relax. Every physicist likes to have a past time. Mine is ice skating.

Wormholes were first introduced to the public over a century ago in a book written by an Oxford mathematician. Perhaps realizing that adults might frown on the idea of multiply connected spaces, he wrote the book under a pseudonym and wrote it for children. His name was Charles Dodgson, his pseudonym was Lewis Carroll, and the book was ?Through The Looking Glass.?

They [science and religion] can be in harmony, but only if rational people on both sides engage in honest debate. Einstein believed in two types of Gods, for example. He did not believe in a personal God, or a God of intervention. He did not believe that God answered our prayers. But he did believe that there was a God of Spinoza. This is the God of Harmony. He said we are like children entering a huge library for the first time, not knowing how to read the thousands of books that are beyond our understanding. Many scientists, therefore, might say that they believe in a God of harmony. For example, scientists believe in a Big Bang that started the universe. But then we have to ask what happened before the Big Bang (more on that later). Then we have to ask where the laws of physics came from. Personally, I think that the laws of physics are the only ones possible, that all other laws are mathematically inconsistent. Thus, God probably had no choice in creating the universe, as Einstein believed.

Today biologists believe that during the Cambrian explosion, about half a billion years ago, nature experimented with a vast array of shapes and forms for tiny, emerging multicellular creatures. Some had spinal cords shaped like an X, Y, or Z. Some had radial symmetry like a starfish. By accident one had a spinal cord shaped like an I, with bilateral symmetry, and it was the ancestor of most mammals on Earth. So in principle the humanoid shape with bilateral symmetry, the same shape that Hollywood uses to depict aliens in space, does not necessarily have to apply to all intelligent life.

We have to realize that science is a double-edged sword. One edge of the sword can cut against poverty, illness, disease and give us more democracies, and democracies never war with other democracies, but the other side of the sword could give us nuclear proliferation, biogerms and even forces of darkness.

When I was 16 years old, I assembled a 2.3 million electron volt beta particle accelerator. I went to Westinghouse, I got 400 pounds of translator steel, 22 miles of copper wire, and I assembled a 6-kilowatt, 2.3 million electron accelerator in the garage.

Years ago, I picked up figure skating. How hard could spins and jumps be, I thought? It's just applied Newtonian physics. After repeatedly falling on my rear end, I realized it was harder than I thought. But it had an upside. That is how I met my wife, who was ice dancing at the Rockefeller Center ice rink.

They basically ask their engineers to volunteer some probability figures, then they take the average. This is not science. This is voodoo.

Today the leading (and only) candidate for a theory of everything is string theory. But, again, a backlash has arisen. Opponents claim that to get a tenured position at a top university you have to work on string theory. If you don?t you will be unemployed. It?s the fad of the moment, and it?s not good for physics. I smile when I hear this criticism, because physics, like all human endeavors, is subject to fads and fashions. The fortunes of great theories, especially on the cutting edge of human knowledge, can rise and fall like hemlines. In fact, years ago the tables were turned; string theory was historically an outcast, a renegade theory, the victim of the bandwagon effect.

We need a theory that goes before the Big Bang, and that's String Theory. String Theory says that perhaps two universes collided to create our universe, or maybe our universe is butted from another universe leaving an umbilical cord. Well, that umbilical cord is called a wormhole.

When I was a child, it was cool to be a scientist.

You can always spot the scientist at a strip club, because he is the only one examining the audience.

They found that temperature and carbon dioxide levels have oscillated in parallel, like two roller coasters moving together, in synchronization over many thousands of years. When one curve rises or falls, so does the other. Most important, they found a sudden spike in temperature and carbon dioxide content happening just within the last century. This is highly unusual, since most fluctuations occur slowly over millennia. This unusual spike is not part of this natural heating process, scientists claim, but is a direct indicator of human activity.

Today, we have become choreographers of the dance of nature, able to tweak the laws of nature here and there. But by 2100, we will make the transition to being masters of nature.

We physicists don't like to admit it, but some of us are closet science fiction fans. We hate to admit it because it sounds undignified. But when we were children, that's when we got interested in science, for a lot of us.

When I was a kid, I had two role models. The first was Einstein, whose futile search for a theory of everything fascinated me. But I also watched the old Flash Gordon series on TV. I was hooked by all that I saw, e.g. starships, aliens, ray guns, etc. Eventually, I realized that what was driving the entire series was physics. So I saw that my two loves as a child were really the same thing.

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American Futurist, Theoretical Physicist, Popularizer of Science, Author, Henry Semat Chair and Professor of Theoretical Physics at the City College of New York