I’m a physicist and my primary vocation is doing theoretical physics, on paper, by hand. I also have a passion for explaining science, so I’ve written a number of popular science books—about hyperspace, the physics of the impossible, the future of the mind, and more. My newest is about The Future of Humanity: on Earth, across space, throughout time, all the way to our destiny among the stars.

Read more about The Future of Humanity here!

Proof: https://twitter.com/michiokaku/status/966262886883459072

Fire away! I’m ready for your best!

UPDATE: I have to go for an interview right now, but I'm really enjoying this. I hope to come back and answer more questions later tonight. Thank you everyone!

Comments: 3381 • Responses: 19  • Date: 

JazzFanForLife2170 karma

Hello Dr. Kaku,

I don’t hear as much about String Theory as I used to. Are people giving up on it? Are we closer to developing experiments that could prove or further the research? What is the state of String Theory?

michiokakuauthor3477 karma

Any theory has its ebbs and flows. String theory is so advanced and sophisticated mathematically that we physicists are still trying to find its ultimate form. So string theory continued to dominate the agenda of physics conferences and physics publications, but there are no sensational results that can generate popular headlines. The problem is that the theory is not in its final form, so it has many, many solutions, each one a universe, giving us a multiverse of universes. Which one is our universe? String theory can predict our universes, but it also predicts parallel universes as well. But I personally feel that once string theory is in its final form, we will understand whether or not there is a multiverse of universes.

fish-973 karma

Hi Michio Kaku, long time fan.

  1. Who are your favorite scientists today and why?

  2. What do you use to keep up to date with local, global, and technical news?


michiokakuauthor1388 karma

My short list of the worlds greatest scientists are: 1) Isaac Newton, because he created calculus and found the laws of motion all by himself, without using the great achievements of his predecessors (which were extremely few) 2) Albert Einstein, who created Special and General Relativity all by himself, and was the God father of the quantum theory 3) Charles Darwin, because he found the basic principles which go era all living things. As far as living scientists go, of course Stephen Hawking has done path breaking research on black holes. As far as string theory is concerned, Ed Witten of Princeton has been a path breaker and pioneer. Today, its much easier to keep track of science because of great web sites dedicated to brining the best research to the public.

MalachiNorris953 karma

Dr Kaku,

If we make contact with alien civilizations, then what? And how will we talk to them?

michiokakuauthor2535 karma

Let me stick my neck out. I personally feel is that within this century, we will make contact with an alien civilization, by listening in on their radio communications. But talking to them will be difficult, since they could be tens of light years away. So, in the meantime, we must decipher their language to understand their level of technology. Are they Type I, II, or III??? And what are their intentions. Are they expansive and aggressive, or peaceful. Another possibility is that they land on the White House lawn and announce their existence. But I think that is unlikely, since we would be like forest animals to them, i.e. not worth communicating with.

Mercutio01845 karma

How do you address critics in the skeptical community who have accused you of toeing too close to the line separating woo from legitimate science?

michiokakuauthor1933 karma

It used to be that research scientists who interacted with the public were criticized. Carl Sagan, in a very embarrassing episode, was actually denied entry into the National Academy of Science by scientists who declared that he was "a mere popularizer," not a real scientist. But times have changed for several reasons. First, the Supercollider, the $10 billion machine that was to be America's premier scientific laboratory, was cancelled because the public did not understand the machine. At that point, it was humiliating to know that scientists had no one who could tell the public what the SSC was all about. After that, scientists realized that they had to engage the public, or else the public would cut their budget to zero. Second, the rise of Stephen Hawking showed that it was possible to engage the public without dumbing down the science.

Usmanajmal44674 karma

My question is do you think SpaceX will achieve the feat of getting humans to Mars by 2024 or you are skeptical about this timeframe?

michiokakuauthor2339 karma

I think Elon Musk has made a great contribution in creating a genuine moon rocket, the Falcon Heavy, and doing it with private funds, so now we have 2 (not one) moon rockets, the SLS and Falcon Heavy. That is what is important. Time tables, of course, come and go. So personally I think his time frame may be a bit optimistic, but that is not the point. The point is that he is making it possible to enter a new Golden Age of space exploration, almost free of charge to the tax payer.

Amylia80472 karma

After watching 2010: Space Odyssey; what WOULD happen to Earth if Jupiter became a second, tiny, sun?

michiokakuauthor1012 karma

Actually, Jupiter would have to be many times larger than it is in order to become a star. You have to reach what is called Lawson's Criterion in order to create a thermonuclear explosion capable of creating a star. But if we assume that Jupiter were more massive than it is, and attained Lawson's Criterion, then, depending on where it is locate and how big it would be, there is a change that it might (a) disturb the orbit of the earth around the sun (b) light up the sky with two stars, like in the movie Star Wars (c) raise the temperature of the earth and change our climate.

abaybektursun469 karma

What are you thoughts on Deep Learning and recent AI trends? Any plans to write an updated version of "Future of The Mind" that would include all the success field of AI has achieved?

michiokakuauthor1204 karma

In The Future of the Mind, I wrote that, about 50 years ago, we scientists made a big mistake. We assumed that the brain was a digital computer. Big mistake, because the brain has no programming, no pentium chip, no CPU, no subroutines, etc. In fact, you can remove half the brain and it can still function, yet if you remove one tiny transistor a computer fails. Why? Because, as I wrote, the brain is a learning machine, some sort of neural network. Your laptop today is just as stupid as it was yesterday. But I wrote in my book that eventually scientists will begin to explore learning machines. Guess what. A few years later, now Deep Learning is all the rage. But it is, in some sense, 50 years late. This should have happened 50 years ago.

okaybody373 karma

As we're developing smarter and more effective machine learning algorithms, it seems inevitable that AI will start to replace human intelligence for more precision and efficiency. Professor Michio Kaku, my question to you is will Artifical Intelligence eventually render human labor and intelligence obsolete? If so, in what areas can humans excel at that machine learning algorithms can not?

michiokakuauthor1049 karma

Right now, robots have the intelligence of a bug. They can barely walk across a room. Simple tasks done by humans (picking up garbage, fixing a toilet, building a house, solving a crime) are way beyond what a robot can do. But, as the decades go by, they will become as smart as a mouse, then rat, then a cat, dog, and monkey. By that point ,they might become dangerous and even replace humans, near the end of the century. So I think we should a chip in their brain to shut them off if they have murderous thoughts. But what happens centuries from now, when robots and evade even our most sophisticated fail safe system?? At that point, I think we should merge with them. This may sound strange to some people, but remember that it is the people of the far future (not us) who will decide how far they want to modify themselves to deal with supersmart robots

powerrangeryellow69358 karma

Hi Michio, if I were to travel to the boundary of our universe right now, what do you think will be there? Is it possible to "fall off" this universe the same way we fall out of our bed? Thanks in advance!

michiokakuauthor1470 karma

No one knows. But one possibility is that the universe is a bubble of some sort. We live on the skin of the bubble. If you travel in one direction far enough, you come back to where you started. So the farthest object is the back of your head. In this way, this bubble universe is infinite in two dimensions, since you never hit the end, but finite in three dimensions, since its just a bubble. Likewise, our universe might be infinite in 3D, without boundaries, but finite in 4D, because it is a hypersphere. Sadly, our data is not developed enough to determine if our universe is finite or infinite. But the leading theories (e.g. inflation) seem to indicate that the universe is infinite. But in inflation, our bubble universe can have big bangs all the time, so baby universes can peel off our universe. In other words, we live in a bubble bath of universes, the multiverse.

berkeakay249 karma

Do you think EVERYTHING that exists could be explained through mathematics and physics?

michiokakuauthor726 karma

There are things which science and math may have difficulty explaining. As Galileo once said, the purpose of science is to determine how the heavens go. The purpose of religion is to determine how to go to heaven, i.e. the purpose of science is to explain natural law, while the purpose of religion is ethics, to determine what is right and wrong, to be nice to each other, how to behave, etc. So science by itself cannot dictate what is absolutely right or wrong. There is no law of physics that tells us what is proper behavior and what is right or wrong. It all depends on the society you are talking about.

Chrome67239 karma

Hi Doc! do you believe there is a God?

michiokakuauthor537 karma

Einstein was asked this question many times. He said there was actually two kinds of Gods. The first was the personal God (that answers prayers, consoles people, and smites the Philistines). He did not believe in that personal God. But he did believe in the God of Spinoza, i.e. the God of harmony, beauty, simplicity, because the universe was too gorgeous to purely an accident. He pictured himself as a young child entering a gigantic library, with millions of books, and he could only read the first page of the first book. So the universe could have been ugly, random, but its not.

michiokakuauthor505 karma

Einstein was asked this question. He replied there are two kinds of Gods. The first is the personal God (that answers prayers and smites the Philistines). He did not believe in that God. But he did believe in the Old One, i.e. the God of Spinoza, the God of beauty, harmony, and order . The universe could have been ugly, random, lifeless, but its not. So he believed in the God of order.

Sorry for the two answers...just getting the hang of it.

WaltherHanson62 karma

Dr. Kaku, may I expand on that question:

  • Which relatively "godlike" beings/civilizations would you deem possible? (e.g. "we're in a simulation", "super-aliens watching us" [& fermi-paradox], "beings of higher dimensions", type 3++ civilizations, classical religion [our existence is a divine test], etc.)

  • If we eventually (want to?) make contact, could they have "higher" ethics or will universal "Good vs Evil" continue?

michiokakuauthor265 karma

I get asked if the aliens are evil and want to destroy us. Maybe, but I think in the main they will be peaceful because they have had thousands of years to resolve sectarian, fundamentalist, nationalist questions. However, they still might be dangerous if they simply don't care about us and we get in the way. In War of the Worlds, the aliens did not hate us. We were simply in the way. In the same way that a developer is a threat to forest animals because he can pave the first, the danger there is from someone who sees that we are just in the way. But for the most part, I think they will be peaceful, but view us like we view forest animals.

Usmanajmal44238 karma

Hi Dr Kaku how long do you think it took for humans to terraform planet like Mars? Are there any physical constraints regarding this? Thanks.

michiokakuauthor520 karma

Terraforming, in my book The Future of Humanity, will proceed in slow steps. 1. using lava tubes to form underground bases to protect against radiation 2. mining ice to get drinking water, and oxygen for breathing, and hydrogen for rocket field. 3. using genetically modified plans to thrive on Mars 4. using methane to create a green house effect 5. using solar mirrors to beam sunlight down to the ice caps to melt them.

jesuslep201 karma

1 - Telepathy? 2 - Uploading minds to computers?

michiokakuauthor885 karma

A simple form of telepathy is possible today. In The Future of the Mind, I write that (in epileptics, for example) one can put a patch of sensors directly on the surface of the brain, connect it to a computer, and have software decipher the messages. Then it is possible for this person to type and communicate mentally. In fact, my colleague, Stephen Hawking, using this. He has lost control over his fingers and vocal cords. So in this glasses ,there is a chip which picks up radio signals from this brain, and feeds this into a computer, which then deciphers the message and types out what he is thinking. (This is, however, a very slow process). Also, it is now possible to upload and record memories in mice. Also primates. Next: Alzheimers patients. So they will wear a brain pacemaker that reminds them who they are and where they live.

LDSchobotnice195 karma

Hello Dr. Kaku. I'm a fan of your work and have two questions for you.

  1. What design of spacecraft do you think is the best for long-term space flight?

  2. How do we balance the need to pursue long-term goals and projects for humanity while also dealing current societal problems that people face?

michiokakuauthor429 karma

For sub-light speed rockets, I think a. fusion rockets b. antimatter rockets c. ramjet fusion rockets hold the most promise within 100 years. The ramjet, for example, is like an ice-cream cone that scoops hydrogen in space and then fuses it, so that it can run forever without any refueling. For greater than light speed, the details are much less clear, but it might be possible to warp space in 2 ways. One way is via a wormhole that can rip the fabric of space time, which were first introduced by Einstein himself in 1935 with his student Nathan Rosen (so these are called Einstein Rosen Bridges) and also the Alcubierre drive, which compresses the space in front of you, so you hop across vast distances. Also, I think the urgent questions on the earth (e.g. global warming, nuclear weapons) have to be addressed first. No rush in reaching for the stars.

Terrencemoore162 karma

Dr. You study string theory. For someone who is scientific illiterate can you explain this study?

michiokakuauthor612 karma

Briefly, each sub atomic particle we see (and there are hundreds of them) are nothing but tiny vibrations of a string, a rubble band. So each particle is just a musical note. That explains why we have so many particles. Then physics is the laws of harmony of these strings. Chemistry is the melodies we can play on these strings. The universe is a symphony of strings. And the Mind of God, that Einstein searched for for the last 30 years of his life, is Cosmic Music resonating through 11 dimensional hyperspace.

OrbitalPete138 karma

How do you respond to criticism that your comments are sometimes over reaching?

What impact do you feel that has on science communication?

michiokakuauthor527 karma

I am a futurist, in that I have interviewed over 300 of the worlds top scientists (many Nobel Laureates) who are inventing the future in their labs. So my predictions are based on the latest scientific research. But some people come up to me and ask "where is my flying car?" But the prediction of a flying car did not come from a scientist. It came from a cartoon show. Unfortunately, most people's understanding of the future comes from cartoon shows and science fiction movies, which have no obligation to be scientifically correct. So I personally feel that we need more scientists to engage the public concerning future technologies which will affect their lives in the future (e.g. AI, biotech, nanotech).

Shnazzyone8 karma

What have you found to be the most effective method to help to change the minds of individuals who are firmly anti-science?

michiokakuauthor8 karma

Sometimes it is futile to argue with someone who, for deeply ideological and personal reasons, is against science. But one way to win some of them over is to explain how the wonders of modern technology, which have more than doubled our life span and lifted us from poverty and disease, have benefited us. Modern medicine, for example, would be impossible without evolution. The space program and telecommunications would be impossible without understanding basic astronomy. Then explain what our world would look like without science, when we lived to only 30 years of age on average, when most of us died of starvation and plagues.