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Looking for good intro science books. I'm thinking Kaku?

  1. Jun 3, 2015 #1
    So, I've been inspired by shows like Fringe, games like Deus Ex and Halo, and movies like Robo Cop, The Machine, Eva, and Blade Runner.

    My interests would fall into the categories of things like neuroscience, biological engineering, nanotechnology, bionics, AI, body-computer interfaces, etc.-- all more future-centric areas of science.

    A book I've been reading as sort of a starting point is "Visions" by Michio Kaku, the purpose of which is to give the reader a basic education on the significance of the computer, molecular, and quantum revolutions. A good deal of the book is stuff that's already happened or probably already happened, some of it stuff I already know. There's also a lot of good information that I didn't know about till now.

    It seems that Kaku is the only scientist I know of that talks about things in science that I actually care about/ want to see, while making them just barely tangible enough for a toddler scientist to understand. (I wish he went more in-depth with various topics, but I guess I'll just have to do other research...and I will admit that a few of his explanations leave me with a bit more questions than answers)

    Thus, I'm trying to decide which of his books to buy next.

    Based on reviews I've read, the books "Physics of the Future" is good, "Future of the Mind" is good, and "The Physics of the Impossible" is good. I've also heard good things about "Hyperspace".

    However, none of the reviewers seem to have a scientific background (I have no way of knowing). Thus I google more authoritative websites, and come here.

    What I've read so far is that few people on this website like Michio Kaku's methods, and that's kind of something to make note of. There's also a subtly scathing letter written by a supposed "experimental nuclear physicist" PHD.

    Well, I'm not sure who to believe. I just want someone who can clearly explain to me what I need to know.

    PF users, could you give me a hand?

    Last edited: Jun 3, 2015
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 3, 2015 #2
    The books you listed are not actual science books, they're pop sci. There is nothing wrong with that, if you know the difference, that is: the books you read now will not give you much knowledge of science (and in case of Kaku's books, the knowledge you do get can be quite dubious).

    My advice to you is to try out the actual science texts. Yes, it's a struggle and it's difficult, but it will make you far more knowledgeable than what you're doing now. On the other hand, if you're just doing this for your enjoyment, then carry on!
  4. Jun 3, 2015 #3
    Thanks for your response!
    I could do with a science text, but I'd prefer something themed if possible. As I said, Kaku is the only guy with credibility who talks about science applied in a way I care about.
  5. Jun 3, 2015 #4


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    Uh ... I STRONGLY suggest that you do a forum search of Kaku on this forum before you proceed under that highly dubious assumption. Most of what he has to say these days is terrible science.
  6. Jun 3, 2015 #5
    When I say credibility, I mean his credentials, and the fact he built an atom smasher in his garage in high school.
  7. Jun 3, 2015 #6


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    None of which has an impact on the fact that his output these days is pure pop science, much of it garbage. Again, do a forum search to see that this is not just my opinion.
  8. Jun 3, 2015 #7
    Well yes, he has credentials. And he has written a very decent and credible textbook in string theory. But that doesn't make his popsci books not really less overspeculative.
  9. Jun 3, 2015 #8
    Assuming you read my post, you know I'm well aware of his reputation here
  10. Jun 3, 2015 #9
    Added to that, he certainly has his credentials as a theoretical physicists and a string theorist. But I don't see why that would make him qualified to talk about neuroscience?
  11. Jun 3, 2015 #10


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    Sorry. I missed that. I got as far as "Kaku" and red flags popped up :smile:
  12. Jun 3, 2015 #11


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    Oh, he doesn't limit his spouting to string theory or neuroscience, he spouts on geology, exobiology, anything that at TV show needs someone to spout about.
  13. Jun 3, 2015 #12
    Anyway, the main danger with pop-sci books is to take them too seriously. If you realize it is just entertainment and not everything in it is actual proven science, then it's fine. But I've seen many people who use it as a serious source of knowledge. That would be bad. The actual science is always more subtle, deeper and more interesting.
    It is a bit like describing a painting to a blind person. You might be able to give some details, but he will never get the full picture until he experiences it. The same is true with popsci versus actual science.
  14. Jun 3, 2015 #13
    Yeah, that's basically it, somehow Michio Kaku has become the foremost authority on everything..
  15. Jun 3, 2015 #14
    Just because his specialty is theoretical physics doesn't mean he can't know stuff about other things. If I remember correctly, Isaac Asimov specialty was biochemistry (and he was part of the Manhattan Project, right?), yet his book "iRobot" (the three laws) is one of the most referenced things for the world of AI (to my knowledge).
    A teacher of mine last year specialized in geophysical fluid dynamics. She knows enough about the rest to teach Bio, Chem, and environmental science.

    I'm not saying he's the right guy or not-- I wouldn't know.
  16. Jun 3, 2015 #15


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    He's a very smart man, but I think he's probably hit a wall in his professional career.
  17. Jun 3, 2015 #16
    It's entertaining because it talks about science in a context that I care about. If it really isn't actually teaching me anything, then it's utterly useless. I'm not looking to read for pure entertainment--I have "Neuromancer" for that. I want background.
  18. Jun 3, 2015 #17
    It's fine :)

    But I'm gonna be honest with you-- trashing Kaku isn't in anyway shape or form helping me move forward
  19. Jun 3, 2015 #18
    I don't think he's hit a wall at all. And to be fair, I don't think he's selling out for money or fame. I think he really wants to inspire interest and excitement in physics/cosmology and futurism, but in my opinion he takes it too far, to the point where he perverts the science by giving unrealistic expectations of what is actually possible.
  20. Jun 3, 2015 #19


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    So, you prefer getting recommendations for pop-science books, that's ok. Not too many here read pop-science, but maybe there are some people here that can recommend a few, just understand, you will be giving up real science for the entertainment value.
  21. Jun 3, 2015 #20
    Right, but you yourself started talking about credentials. So I assume they are important to you. I was just pointing out then that Kaku does not have any credentials in the fields you're interested in.
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