Is it me, or is Michio Kaku a total buffoon?

  1. I hear him speak and I can't help but think this man is full of nonsense, almost a crackpot, I might say. What surprises me is how deep he can go into his strange, absurd world - a real comedian. Does anyone in the scientific community give him any sort of real credence, anyways? I'm curious.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. I don't know, but he's a real sell-out. What's the last physics documentary he hasn't appeared in?
     
  4. I think it must just be you. He is a THEORETICAL physicist, you can't say that THEORETICAL physics is correct or incorrect because it is THEORETICAL.
     
  5. Yeah, it's just a theory.
     
  6. Personally I like him. He explains theories and non-theories alike very well.
     
  7. It's not so much for the physics as it is for his quasi-sci-fi approach to subject like extraterrestrial life. Have you heard him babble about his dichotomy of civilizations? A load of gibberish. Here's to what I'm alluding: http://youtube.com/watch?v=V7FVjATcqvc
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2008
  8. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,535
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    Do you mean the type I-IV stuff? Kaku didn't invent the idea. That is merely a way to assign levels of technology based on the energy that a civilization can capture and use.

    Originally, this idea was the subject of a panel discussion [that included Sagan] that was the opening sequence for the movie 2001. It explained the basis of the movie, but at the last minute Kubrick deleted the scene.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2008
  9. G01

    G01 2,698
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    Perfect timing! I just saw him interviewed in "The Universe" on the History channel!
     
  10. Kaku is a futurist and a theoretical physicist. The two can go together. I think he definitely helps people get interested and inspired about physics and scientific development.
     
  11. Some historian or philosopher of science could try to do some research about how we got ourselves into this popular science situation. It is a very strange popular science culture we have. The theoretical physicists somehow seem to think, that they are supposed to be very vague with the greatest theories. I'm probably not wrong when I think that Hawking was the one who was starting this?

    It could be these scientists think, that they are supposed to talk about big questions in very vague way, in order to keep attracting young people into physics?

    Considering the crackpot claim. There's not many cranks writing books like this http://www.amazon.com/Quantum-Field-Theory-Modern-Introduction/dp/0195076524
     
  12. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,535
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    I had a chem professor who believed that pop sci is the result of the decentralization of higher education. In the past the academic community was somewhat isolated and centered around the relatively few large universities. In this setting the people of science could gather for fireside chats over brandy and cigars to discuss fanciful theories and ideas. But as academia diversified, these once private discussions took the form of books as a mode of communication among scholars. It became a place to explore and discuss new ideas outside of the rigors of university life. It also provides an additional source of income.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2008
  13. Interesting theory. I mean, certainly, there are scientists who wish some things were true, so that their life would be easier and the world generally cooler, so it's possible they decided to write some books about their "what if" thoughts just to have an outlet for all of it.

    These days, it seems anybody besides a scientist can write science fiction. Meh, that's how it goes I guess.
     
  14. I don't think much of his book on QFT.
     
  15. ZapperZ

    ZapperZ 30,167
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    I once wrote an e-mail to Kaku based on something he wrote that others have been asking me about. Now I wrote this using my work address, which means that it had my credentials, etc., so it wasn't an anonymous e-mail from a crazed fan.

    What I got back was not only a form letter, but it contained an advertisement for one of his books! Ever since then, I haven't been a big fan of him. His books continue to spur many crackpots into thinking that they can invent anything they like.

    Zz.
     
  16. Moonbear

    Moonbear 12,265
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    When I've seen him on TV shows, he's never talking about anything he could realistically have answers for...it's a lot of sci fi speculating about where technology might be 20 or 100 years into the future type things. The problem I see is that he wears his physicist hat when doing these interviews/shows, which I'm sure the people creating the shows do to lend his views more credibility, but the problem is they don't have any more credibility than if you grabbed any random person off the street and asked the same questions.
     
  17. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,535
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    I would give him more credit than I would the average person. He stays informed about the cutting edge of technology and tries to make logical extrapolations about where this will lead based on social, political, and economic trends. He is probably pretty accurate if we look twenty years into the future, but of course we have no way to know with certainty what tomorrow will bring. And the farther out we go, the more variables we have that can't be anticipated.

    When Kaku says that we will have smart toilets, smart dust, clothing that calls 911 etc, and when he extrapolates from there on how these technolgies will impact society, I think he is on pretty safe ground. And really, even when he talks about type I-IV civilizations he is invoking the definitions of these concepts and then speculating on what such a civilization might be like, so technically he is still on safe ground.

    http://www.mkaku.org/articles/physics_of_et.php
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2008
  18. Claude Bile

    Claude Bile 1,479
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    When you are selling science to the public, you have to be a bit "pie in the sky" to capture the attention of the people. Essentially, you can't talk like a scientist when selling science, because to be perfectly frank, it bores the crap out of people.

    Science "purists" sometimes scoff at people like Kaku and their ilk, but the reality is, is that they are far more effective at communicating science to the public, than most respected professors. The importance of keeping people "in-touch" and interested in science cannot be underestimated when it comes to recruiting the next generation of scientists and gaining ground on pseudoscience in the public eye.

    Claude.
     
  19. OmCheeto

    OmCheeto 2,143
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    I agree. If Kaku were a dead man like Sagan, he'd be considered a scientific saint. The first time I heard of Professor Kaku was when he was a guest on Coast to Coast. He sounded a lot like me when I talk about the future. He seemed confident that what he was saying was the truth, as if it should be obvious to the most casual observer.

    And that tells me you were not a fan of Star Trek. Here we are 40 years later, and all those goofy things are now reality. Ok, no transporters or warp drive. But everything else seems to have shown up.

    Most TV star theoretical physicists probably get a lot of email.
    Wait a minute. I guess he's the only one.

    Actually, I know that he has a secretary, and you probably got a response from him.


    Umm..... me too.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2008
  20. ZapperZ

    ZapperZ 30,167
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    Try writing to Robert Laughlin. And Laughlin has a Nobel Prize as well!

    Zz.
     
  21. ZapperZ

    ZapperZ 30,167
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    I don't scoff at "their ilk". I would seriously recommend Sagan's "Cosmos", and I recommend Gribbin's books. So just because I don't like Kaku's shows or books doesn't mean I dislike all of pop science. So you should also not "scoff" at someone for opposing Pop Science just because they don't think Kaku is the most effective at what he's doing.

    Zz.
     
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