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Popularizer of Science: Michio Kaku

by Louise May 21st, 2012 Authors, Nonfiction

When you talk about a theoretical physicist, you know you’re talking about a smart guy. When you talk about a theoretical physicist who knows how to share his thoughts in a way that intrigues millions of readers, you know you’re talking about a genius, and that genius is Michio Kaku.

Michio Kaku built an atom smasher in his parents’ garage for a science fair project when he was in high school, graduated summa cum laude from Harvard where he was first in his physics class in 1968, and is considered a co-founder of string field theory. So yes, I think he qualifies as a genius. But like I said, his real genius comes out in the way he is able to share his knowledge: through books.

Kaku has written a number of “popular science” books which include two New York Times bestsellers. His first major published book was Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the Tenth Dimension (1994). Want to learn about higher dimensions of the universe and how the idea of the four forces of the universe (the strong force, the weak force, electromagnetism and gravity) can become “simpler” in high dimensions? This is the book for you. Or does is just seem like a confusing mouthful? The book still might be for you, but Kaku has some better options for you.

If you have any curiosity about what the future may have in store for us (who doesn’t?), look no further than Kaku’s New York Times bestsellers Physics of the Impossible (2008) and Physics of the Future (2011). In Physics of the Impossible, he redefines the meaning of “impossible” to realistically evaluate the future of science and technology, and I mean that literally. In Kaku’s description, there are three classes of impossibilities: Class I, which are technologies that are impossible today, but might become available in a century or two; Class II, which are “at the very edge of our understanding of the physical world” and might take thousands (of thousands) of years to come into existence; and Class III, which are impossibilities that would completely change our understanding of physics if they existed (e.g. perpetual motion machines). By the way, Kaku considers time travel to be a Class II Impossibility.

If you’re interested in advancements that might happen in our lifetime, Physics of the Impossible is your winner. Each chapter, which describes a particular technology of the future (e.g. space travel), is clearly divided into three sections: Near future (2000-2030), Mid-century (2030-2070), and Far future (2070-2100).

You don’t need to worry about getting a pessimistic view of the future from Kaku; the view he presents is quite optimistic, and I like it!

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