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

  • Thread starter Werg22
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  • #1
Werg22
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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.
 

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  • #2
Poop-Loops
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I don't know, but he's a real sell-out. What's the last physics documentary he hasn't appeared in?
 
  • #3
binzing
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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.
 
  • #4
Poop-Loops
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Yeah, it's just a theory.
 
  • #5
binzing
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Personally I like him. He explains theories and non-theories alike very well.
 
  • #6
Werg22
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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.

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"
 
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  • #7
Ivan Seeking
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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.
 
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  • #8
G01
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I don't know, but he's a real sell-out. What's the last physics documentary he hasn't appeared in?

Perfect timing! I just saw him interviewed in "The Universe" on the History channel!
 
  • #9
Mk
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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.
 
  • #10
jostpuur
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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?

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.

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 https://www.amazon.com/dp/0195076524/?tag=pfamazon01-20
 
  • #11
Ivan Seeking
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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.
 
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  • #12
Poop-Loops
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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.
 
  • #13
Jimmy Snyder
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I don't think much of his book on QFT.
 
  • #14
ZapperZ
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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.
 
  • #15
Moonbear
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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.
 
  • #16
Ivan Seeking
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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.

... Physics of Type I, II, and III Civilizations
Specifically, we can rank civilizations by their energy consumption, using the following principles:

1) The laws of thermodynamics. Even an advanced civilization is bound by the laws of thermodynamics, especially the Second Law, and can hence be ranked by the energy at their disposal.

2) The laws of stable matter. Baryonic matter (e.g. based on protons and neutrons) tends to clump into three large groupings: planets, stars and galaxies. (This is a well-defined by product of stellar and galactic evolution, thermonuclear fusion, etc.) Thus, their energy will also be based on three distinct types, and this places upper limits on their rate of energy consumption.

3) The laws of planetary evolution. Any advanced civilization must grow in energy consumption faster than the frequency of life-threatening catastrophes (e.g. meteor impacts, ice ages, supernovas, etc.). If they grow any slower, they are doomed to extinction. This places mathematical lower limits on the rate of growth of these civilizations.

In a seminal paper published in 1964 in the Journal of Soviet Astronomy, Russian astrophysicist Nicolai Kardashev theorized that advanced civilizations must therefore be grouped according to three types: Type I, II, and III, which have mastered planetary, stellar and galactic forms of energy, respectively. He calculated that the energy consumption of these three types of civilization would be separated by a factor of many billions. But how long will it take to reach Type II and III status? [continued]
http://www.mkaku.org/articles/physics_of_et.php [Broken]
 
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  • #17
Claude Bile
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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.
 
  • #18
OmCheeto
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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.

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.

Moonbear said:
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.

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.

ZapperZ said:
I once wrote an e-mail to Kaku...

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.


binzing said:
Personally I like him. He explains theories and non-theories alike very well.

Umm... me too.
 
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  • #19
ZapperZ
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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.

Try writing to Robert Laughlin. And Laughlin has a Nobel Prize as well!

Zz.
 
  • #20
ZapperZ
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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.

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.
 
  • #21
binzing
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Kaku is also a prof at CUNY.
 
  • #22
OmCheeto
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Try writing to Robert Laughlin. And Laughlin has a Nobel Prize as well!

Zz.

I've never seen Dr Laughlin on TV. Does he inspire anyone other than his friends, students and the Nobel crowd?

Sorry. I've corresponded with other infamous people and gotten responses.
I should not be so insolent.

But I'll be sure and pester professor Laughlin in the morning.
:devil:
 
  • #23
binzing
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OmCheeto, who have you corresponded with? This interests me, as I would like to do the same.

Ha ha, this thread is getting too big, there are now "Michio Kaku" ads in the banner ad area.
 
  • #24
mikelepore
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When people discuss some of the things Dr. Kaku discusses, my reaction is that they arrange their "futurism" to avoid controversy. IMO, before anyone speculates that someday we may enjoy the benefits of wormholes and interstellar journeys, first I want to hear that person say that someday we won't have any more poverty on Earth because we will no longer have a very small percentage of the people own the lion's share of the wealth. After that person is on record as having mentioned improvements to reality that are within reach by means of administrative adjustments, now it's fair to turn one's attention to wormholes and additional dimensions. A futurist should be a futurist in the proper sequence.
 
  • #25
Ivan Seeking
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I don't think that's fair really. Kaku thinks we're completely screwed and he says so. :biggrin:

I have heard him say that he thinks we are over the edge on global warming - beyond the point of no return. He still believes in taking action, but in his heart of hearts he is very doubtful that we will avoid catastrophe.
 
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  • #26
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There is little doubt Kaku knows his stuff, but obviously does sellout to make some money. But can you blame him. Overall positive for the industry.
 
  • #27
Ivan Seeking
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re mikelepore: On the other hand, companies like mine were predicted by Alvin Toffler in his book "The Third Wave", thirty years ago. In fact there is little doubt that he played a role in my realization that I could do what I'm doing - running a high tech business from the middle of a cow pasture!
 
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  • #28
Schrodinger's Dog
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Yeah, it's just a theory.

No it isn't, it's just a hypothesis.

String "theory" may be total guff, maybe the next greatest evolution in physics (doubt it though) But Mich Kaiko is a good role model for those thinking of going into science, and as an ambassador he's pretty good. A bit like Feynman or Dawkins (without the philosophy/theology) Before he went religion bating.
 
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  • #29
OmCheeto
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OmCheeto, who have you corresponded with? This interests me, as I would like to do the same.
Evo, Moonbear, Ivan Seeking, Astronuc, ZapperZ, Gokul, et al.
:smile:

Ha ha, this thread is getting too big, there are now "Michio Kaku" ads in the banner ad area.

Banner ad area?
 
  • #30
Schrodinger's Dog
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Banner ad area?

I don't think PF contributers can see the ads, one of the perks of ponying up some doe.
 
  • #31
jim mcnamara
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poop-loops -

You got to watch the use of the word 'theory' around here before somebody gives you a nasty time about it.

Scientists use theory to mean something that has been investigated and repeatedly tested and found to be correct. As a sort of poor man's guide:
hypotheses -> theory -> law -- in ascending order of, um, "quality"

You are using theory the way it is used outside science:
Theory = a hare-brained idea that I just pulled out of my a** to fit what I see in front of me.
 
  • #32
RetardedBastard
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poop-loops -

You got to watch the use of the word 'theory' around here before somebody gives you a nasty time about it.

Scientists use theory to mean something that has been investigated and repeatedly tested and found to be correct. As a sort of poor man's guide:
hypotheses -> theory -> law -- in ascending order of, um, "quality"

I don't know if the "ascending order" concept is really that useful because I don't think science works like that. I mean, when was the last time a scientist pushed for a name change from "Special theory of relativity" to the "Special LAW of relativity?" Despite the fact that SR has been widely validated, it's still "just a theory" (and probably forever will be). And there are other widely verified theories, that despite decades worth of experiments, continue to be called theories, instead of laws.
 
  • #33
Cyrus
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Science does work that way RetardedBastard.
 
  • #34
binzing
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Dough? You mean good info. Which I try to as often as possible. Either way, real banner ads don't bother me...(cough) AdsOff
 
  • #35
tribdog
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I don't know if the "ascending order" concept is really that useful because I don't think science works like that. I mean, when was the last time a scientist pushed for a name change from "Special theory of relativity" to the "Special LAW of relativity?" Despite the fact that SR has been widely validated, it's still "just a theory" (and probably forever will be). And there are other widely verified theories, that despite decades worth of experiments, continue to be called theories, instead of laws.

As opposed to Newton's Law of Gravity. Which isn't quite as accurate as Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity
 

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