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

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.?

A force field is basically an invisible shield. You push a button and all of a sudden a bubble forms around you which is impenetrable. It can stop bullets, it can stop ray gun blasts and we realized force fields are actually a little bit difficult to create.

Although consciousness is a patchwork of competing and often contradictory tendencies, the left brain ignores inconsistencies and papers over obvious gaps in order to give us a smooth sense of a single I. In other words, the left brain is constantly making excuses, some of them harebrained and preposterous, to make sense of the world. It is constantly asking Why? And dreaming up excuses even if the question has no answer.

Cassini will probably execute a flawless mission around the Earth if it can make the last hurdle through 8,000 pieces of 'space junk' surrounding the Earth,

Entire cities could sprout instantly in the desert, with skyscrapers made entirely of force fields.

For relaxation, I like to figure skate. Being on the ice and spinning and jumping, I feel very close to nature. In particular, I feel very close to Newton's laws of motion. On the ice, you can experience Newton's laws of motion in their purest, most elegant form.

Humans are natural-born scientists. When we're born, we want to know why the stars shine. We want to know why the sun rises.

I realized very early in life what my abilities and limitations were, and foreign languages was definitely one of my limitations. With strenuous effort, I just barely passed my French class at Harvard so I could graduate.

If you want to see a black hole tonight, tonight just look in the direction of Sagittarius, the constellation. That's the center of the Milky Way Galaxy and there's a raging black hole at the very center of that constellation that holds the galaxy together.

In science fiction, telepaths often communicate across language barriers, since thoughts are considered to be universal. However, this might not be true. Emotions and feelings may well be nonverbal and universal, so that one could telepathically send them to anyone, but rational thinking is so closely tied to language that it is very unlikely that complex thoughts could be sent across language barriers. Words will still be sent telepathically in their original language.

Ironically, the serious study of the impossible has frequently opened up rich and entirely unexpected domains of science. For example, over the centuries the frustrating and futile search for a perpetual motion machine led physicists to conclude that such a machine was impossible, forcing them to postulate the conservation of energy and the three laws of thermodynamics. Thus the futile search to build perpetual motion machines helped to open up the entirely new field of thermodynamics, which in part laid the foundation of the steam engine, the machine age, and modern industrial society.

Leaders in China and India realize that science and technology lead to success and wealth. But many countries in the West graduate students into the unemployment line by teaching skills that were necessary to live in 1950.

No matter how beautiful the theory, one irritating fact can dismiss the entire formulism, so it has to be proven.

One problem with politics is that it is a zero sum game, i.e. politicians argue how to cut the pie smaller and smaller, by reshuffling pieces of the pie. I think this is destructive. Instead, we should be creating a bigger pie, i.e. funding the science that is the source of all our prosperity. Science is not a zero sum game.

Saturn is not going away, ... Neither are the planets. What's the rush? Why not delay our space probes a bit, make them smaller and more sophisticated and use solar power?

Some critics also claim that a true lie detector, as a true telepath, could make ordinary social relations prove very uncomfortable, since a certain amount of lying is a social lubricant that greases the wheels of society moving.

The beauty of string theory is that it can be likened to music. Music provides the metaphor by which we can understand the nature of the universe, both at the subatomic level and at the cosmic level.

The moral that Plato wished to draw out is that no man can resist the temptation of being able to steal and kill at will. All men are corruptible. Morality is a social construct imposed from the outside. A man may appear to be moral in public to maintain his reputation for integrity and honesty, but once he possesses the power of invisibility, the use of such power would be irresistible. (Some believe that this morality tale was the inspiration for J. R. R. Tolkien?s Lord of the Rings trilogy, in which a ring that grants the wearer invisibility is also a source of evil.)

The strength and weakness of physicists is that we believe in what we can measure. And if we can't measure it, then we say it probably doesn't exist. And that closes us off to an enormous amount of phenomena that we may not be able to measure because they only happened once. For example, the Big Bang... That's one reason why they scoffed at higher dimensions for so many years. Now we realize that there's no alternative.

A human body can think thoughts, play a piano, kill germs, remove toxins, make a baby all at once. Once it's doing that your biological rhythms are actually mirroring the symphony of the universe because you have circadian rhythms, seasonal rhythms, tidal rhythms you know they mirror everything that is happening in the whole universe.

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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