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

Cosmology is the study of the universe as a whole, including its birth and perhaps its ultimate fate.

For bedtime reading, I usually curl up with a good monograph on quantum physics or string theory, my specialty. But since I was a child, I have been fascinated by science fiction. My all-time favorite is 'The Foundation Trilogy,' by Isaac Asimov.

Gossiping is essential for survival because the complex mechanics of social interactions are constantly changing, so we have to make sense of this ever-shifting social terrain. This is Level II consciousness at work. But once we hear a piece of gossip, we immediately run simulations to determine how this will affect our own standing in the community, which moves us to Level III consciousness. Thousands of years ago, in fact, gossip was the only way to obtain vital information about the tribe. One?s very life often depended on knowing the latest gossip.

I guess my view of life is that you live your life and it?s short. The thing is to have as rich an experience as you possibly can.

I vowed to myself that when I grew up and became a theoretical physicist, in addition to doing research, I would write books that I would have liked to have read as a child. So whenever I write, I imagine myself, as a youth, reading my books, being thrilled by the incredible advances being made in physics and science.

In fact, the architecture of digital computers is quite different from that of the brain, which is a learning machine of some sort, a collection of neurons that constantly rewires itself every time it learns a task. (A PC, however, does not learn at all. Your computer is just as dumb today as it was yesterday.)

In the future, you'll simply jump into your car, turn on the Internet, turn on a movie and sit back and relax and turn on the automatic pilot, and the car will drive itself.

It?s humbling to realize that the developmental gulf between a miniscule ant colony and our modern human civilization is only a tiny fraction of the distance between a Type 0 and a Type III civilization ? a factor of 100 billion billion, in fact. Yet we have such a highly regarded view of ourselves, we believe a Type III civilization would find us irresistible and would rush to make contact with us. The truth is, however, they may be as interested in communicating with humans as we are keen to communicate with ants.

More recently, these electrodes have targeted a new area of the brain (called Brodmann?s area number 25) that is often overactive in depressed patients who do not respond to psychotherapy or drugs. Deep brain stimulation has given almost miraculous relief after decades of torment and agony for these long-suffering patients.

Of course, any theory with this power and majesty has a problem. This theory, because it is a theory of everything, is really a theory of Creation. Thus, to fully test the theory requires re-creating Creation! At first, this might seem hopelessly impossible. We can barely leave the earth?s puny gravity, let alone create universes in the laboratory. But there is a way out to this seemingly intractable problem. A theory of everything is also a theory of the everyday. Thus, this theory, when fully completed, will be able to explain the existence of protons, atoms, molecules, even DNA. Thus, the key is to fully solve the theory and test the theory against the known properties of the universe. At present, no one on earth is smart enough to complete the theory. The theory is perfectly well-defined, but you see, superstring theory is 21st Century physics that fell accidentally into the 20th century. It was discovered purely by accident, when two young physicists were thumbing through a mathematics book. The theory is so elegant and powerful, we were never ?destined? to see it in the 20th century. The problem is that 21st century mathematics has not yet been invented yet. But since physicists are genetically predisposed to be opti- mists, I am confident that we will solve the theory someday soon. Perhaps a young person reading this article will be so inspired by this story that he or she will finish the theory. I can?t wait!

Physicists often quote from T. H. White?s epic novel The Once and Future King, where a society of ants declares, ?Everything not forbidden is compulsory.? In other words, if there isn't a basic principle of physics forbidding time travel, then time travel is necessarily a physical possibility. (The reason for this is the uncertainty principle. Unless something is forbidden, quantum effects and fluctuations will eventually make it possible if we wait long enough. Thus, unless there is a law forbidding it, it will eventually occur.)

Scientists willing to risk their reputations on higher dimensions soon found themselves ridiculed by the scientific community. Higher-dimensional space became the last refuge for mystics, cranks, and charlatans.

Studies have shown that retaining memories can be improved by getting sufficient sleep between the time of activity and a test. Neuroimaging shows that the areas of the brain that are activated during sleep are the same as those involved in learning a new task. Dreaming is perhaps useful in consolidating this new information.

The intuitive feeling we have that there?s an executive ?I? that sits in a control room of our brain, scanning the screens of the senses and pushing the buttons of our muscles, is an illusion. Consciousness turns out to consist of a maelstrom of events distributed across the brain. These events compete for attention, and as one process outshouts the others, the brain rationalizes the outcome after the fact and concocts the impression that a single self was in charge all along.

The quantum theory has only one thing going for it: it is correct. Its accuracy has been measured to one part in ten billion, making it the most successful physical theory of all time.

All of a sudden we had super symmetric theories coming out of physics that then revolutionized mathematics, and so the goal of physics we believe is to find an equation perhaps no more than one inch long which will allow us to unify all the forces of nature and allow us to read the mind of God.

Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (or BRAIN) project announced by President Obama, and the Human Brain Project of the European Union, which will potentially allocate billions of dollars to decode the pathways of the brain, all the way down to the neural level.

David Eagleman describes how you can take a male stickleback fish and have a female fish trespass on its territory. The male gets confused, because it wants to mate with the female, but it also wants to defend its territory. As a result, the male stickleback fish will simultaneously attack the female while initiating courtship behavior. The male is driven into a frenzy, trying to woo and kill the female at the same time. This works for mice as well. Put an electrode in front of a piece of cheese. If the mouse gets too close, the electrode will shock it. One feedback loop tells the mouse to eat the cheese, but another one tells the mouse to stay away and avoid being shocked. By adjusting the location of the electrode, you can get the mouse to oscillate, torn between two conflicting feedback loops.

For example, it takes the entire planet Earth to attract a feather to the floor, but we can counteract Earth?s gravity by lifting the feather with a finger. The action of our finger can counteract the gravity of an entire planet that weighs over six trillion trillion kilograms.

Growing new organs of the body as they wear out, extending the human lifespan? What's not to like?

I have not seen the movie, but I think it's only a matter of time. Today, it is still easy to tell if you are talking to a computer. Computers have no sense of self-awareness, and cannot master common sense very well. But this is a technical question, so I think that, in the coming decades, we will have something like Her.

I want to see us to explore outer space. But I want to do it safely, without the loss of human life, and democratically: where is the free-wheeling debate on this question? Only one force can stop this mission: the will of the American people. They have not been asked. Do they want to endanger their loved ones, their industry with this launch? One force is more powerful than plutonium, the spirit of the American people united.

In general, the larger the breeding population, the slower the rate of evolution.

In the history of our intellectual development this will represent the crowning achievement of 2,000 years of investigation into the nature of matter -- space and time.

It's pointless to have a nice clean desk, because it means you're not doing anything.

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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