Science Fantastic

Michio Kaku has joined the Talk Radio Network, where he will have a new radio show called “Science Fantastic” that will appear on 90 radio stations around the country. Topics that will be covered include “black holes, higher dimensions, string theory, wormholes, search for extra-terrestial life, dark matter and dark energy, the future of space travel, genetic engineering, the aging process, the future of medicine, the human body shop, artificial intelligence, the future of computers and robots, as well as topics from science fiction.”

The blurb at Talk Radio Network describes Kaku as “one of the world’s leading experts in theoretical physics, and according to New York Magazine, one of the ‘100 Smartest People in New York.'” It goes on:

Dr. Kaku is the co-founder of string field theory, one of the main branches of string theory, the leading candidate for the unified field theory. Many in the scientific field call this “The new Copernican revolution.”

Kaku’s appearance on Talk Radio Network is rather remarkable, given that many of the other talk show hosts there are extremist purveyors of right-wing sewage like Michael Savage and Laura Ingraham. In the past, Kaku has been known for his left-wing politics, hosting a radio show entitled Explorations on New York lefty radio station WBAI, rebroadcast on other Pacifica stations such as KPFA in Berkeley.

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30 Responses to Science Fantastic

  1. Not a Nobel Laureate says:

    I’ve always found it interesting that academic physicists tend to be doctrinaire leftists, while engineers tend to be far more conservative in their socio-political views.

    Is it because the main source of funding for academic physicists is the State?

  2. Not a Nobel Laureate says:

    “Science Fantastic” seems somewhat tangential to the topic of string theory and it’s problems.

  3. Lurker says:

    Michael Savage is nuts, but right half the time. I’ve never heard Laura Ingraham say anything I disagree with but I seldom listen to her. I’m not apologizing for off-topic because you brought it up. 🙂

    BTW FIRST!!!1li!!

  4. Lurker says:

    third, whatever

  5. woit says:

    I know extremely few “doctrinaire leftist” academic physicists, and I don’t think they’re any more numerous than doctrinaire rightists in physics departments. Most academics I know are more liberal than the general US population, but with politics about average for a Western European country. On the whole, they tend to not be “doctrinaire”, but think for themselves. There was a long tedious discussion about why this is over at Cosmic Variance, with one explanation being that academics are just smarter than the average American. But this is off-topic. this posting is about a new radio show, one of the main topics of which will be “the new Copernican revolution”….

  6. woit says:

    Please, I just don’t want to know it if my readers are Michael Savage and Laura Ingraham fans, it will make me too depressed. No more about them, please, I’ve had a long day…

  7. Hech Baan says:

    String/M-theory isn’t “the new Copernican revolution”. It’s not even a revolution. It’s just our next logical step to understand the nature.

  8. fishfry says:

    As Lurker says, Savage is nuts but right half the time. He can be really hateful at times … other times he’s surprisingly ahead of the curve.

    Peter, if you don’t want to know your friends’ politics … don’t ask.

  9. Troublemaker says:

    Peter, if you don’t want to know your friends’ politics … don’t ask.

    He didn’t.

  10. Jimbo says:

    I know nothing of these right-wing nuts. I do know, that Michio Kaku, like Carl Sagan, has charisma to burn, and that in this country he is an intellectual beacon, in a sea of idiot worship. Lets hope he gets the word out, & fans the flames of curiosity about Nature’s frontiers.

  11. Chris Oakley says:

    By the by, I am guessing that the title “Science Fantastic” derives from “Light Fantastic”. The latter name was applied to a TV series about physics recently here in the UK, but it is based on a misunderstanding. The original was a poem (L’Allegro) by John Milton, apparently written in 1632, which contains the lines

    Haste thee, Nymph, and bring with thee
    Jest, and youthful Jollity,
    Quips and cranks and wanton wiles,
    Nods and becks and wreathed smiles
    Such as hang on Hebe’s cheek,
    And love to live in dimple sleek;
    Sport that wrinkled Care derides,
    And Laughter holding both his sides.
    Come, and trip it, as you go,
    On the light fantastick toe;
    And in thy right hand lead with thee
    The mountain-nymph, sweet Liberty;
    And, if I give thee honour due,
    Mirth, admit me of thy crew,
    To live with her, and live with thee,
    In unreproved pleasures free

    “Tripping” the “light fantastick toe” here means “dancing”, “light” being used in the sense of “not heavy” and “fantastick” being used in the sense of “fanciful”.

    So the “light” has nothing to do with electromagnetic radiation.

  12. Simon says:

    The title of Kaku’s show, ‘science fantastic’ is in reference to the Terry Pratchett book of ‘the light fantasic’.
    Kaku chose this because it is the sequal to ‘the color of magic’.
    This makes sense because Kaku is looking for a fantastic new science that will be a sequal to the color of magic (QCD). 🙂

  13. Chris Oakley says:

    OK – so Kaku is exonerated on one count. However he is guilty on the count of liking Terry Pratchett (or Douglas Adams for the undiscerning as I like to think of him).

  14. knotted string says:

    Because Kaku is the world’s leading physicist, expert on string theory and also on biological stuff, I’m uneasy with the use of string theory in horror stories: http://www.marklaflamme.com/

    “The world’s leading physicist, in a delirium of genius, attempts to use the science that has consumed his life to bring his 8-year-old daughter back from the dead. … With toys to entice, gravity to tug at unseen dimensions, and string theory to unravel the world’s most ancient secret, a grieving father awaits the return of his child from a place eternally unreachable. The little girl that comes to him is a child no father could want.”

  15. MathPhys says:

    The rise and rise of Michio Kaku never ceases to amaze me. I hope he does a good job on the radio talk show circuit. We need all the scientists that we can get on such circuits. I understand the public’s fascination by black holes, extra dimensions, etc.

    Popularizing science is a good thing. I thought Brian Greene did a very good job with his book on strings. I was always very pleased to see people reading it on commuter trains, etc. I also know of one teenager who read it and was very inspired by it.

    I hope Kaku will be equally positively influential.

  16. knotted string says:

    MathPhys, I agree! I hope he interviews Lubos Motl. Also, Jacques Distler would be interesting. I hope Kaku interviews him:

    ‘These are exciting times to be a theorist. It is fair to say that we really don’t yet know what string theory is about, but we are learning.’ – Jacques, http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/~distler/

  17. sunderpeeche says:

    Good for Kaku. One doesn’t have to agree with all that he says (for example he opposed the Cassini mission because it carried plutonium and needed a flyby of Earth for a gravity assist), but if he can get kids interested in science, then that’s good. Not all of them will necessarily become string theorists, and perhaps one of them will really discover the Next Great Breakthrough.

  18. andy says:

    ‘Science Fantastic’ sounds like it will cover the very same information that is covered on the ‘Art Bell Show’ (along with space aliens and bigfoot. )

  19. Who says:

    sunderpeeche
    ** but if he can get kids interested in science, then that’s good.**
    my experience of young people whose imaginations have been infected by Kaku is that he does not get them interested in science,
    he gets them interested in pseudoscience.

    Kaku brand Gee Whiz may enrich the fantasy life of some but contribute to a public misconception of what science is and ultimately, I suspect, undermines legitimate scientists’ credibility. I do not believe that it adds to the ranks of young people who are actually motivated and able to do hard science.

    One can ask in whose interest is it to degrade the integrity of the enterprise and promote public misunderstanding of what it’s about.
    I believe a rightwing talk radio slot is consistent with what Kaku does.

  20. Knotted String, you have nothing to worry about. No one will confuse my main character with Mr. Kaku. In fact, when I do interviews, I quickly admit that I’m nothing near an expert in quantum mechanics. I’m merely one of those laymen who are fascinated by the science. I advise those who ask me about it to read Kaku or Brian Greene. Presently, I’m reading Kaku’s “Einstein’s Cosmos,” which serves as a great biographical piece but also a smooth introduction into quantum theory for those without scientific backgrounds.
    If it’s any consolation, this work of fiction has generated interest about string theory among groups who might never have given the science a second look.

  21. adam says:

    Whoa, wait a minute. Bill Nye is a populizer of science. Michio Kaku is a populizer of science fiction. Every time I hear him talk, my head spins with all of his promises of how string theory is going to solve world hunger.

  22. lmot says:

    I think that any young person with the intellectual gifts to contribute to physics, would likely be smart enough to see through Kaku’s act, and would conclude that if this charlatan is the public face of theoretical physics, then maybe there is something wrong with the discipline.

  23. Billy says:

    Looks like they’ve finally found experimental evidence to support string theory:
    here

    “Cosmologists claim to have found evidence that yet another fundamental constant of nature, called mu, may have changed over the last 12 billion years. If confirmed, the result could force some physicists to radically rethink their theories. It would also provide support for string theory, which predicts extra spatial dimensions.”

    Has the successful PR of string theory had the consequence that you can
    get some free press attention by claiming that your experiment provides
    the missing proof of string theory? Will we hear
    “Experimental support found for string theory!” more or less times than
    we heard that Iraq supported Al Qaeda and was building nuclear
    weapons?

  24. Nick says:

    Savage is not even wrong

  25. steve says:

    I first encountered Kaku when he was acting as an anti-nuclear-power nut (OK, activist). His shocking dishonesty about the risks of nuclear power and glib self-promotion pretty much made me figure that anything he wrote on physics could not be trusted by a layman like myself. I had him binned with Sternglass and that crowd. The Cassini farce simply confirmed this opinion. Is there some legitimate achievement of his that explains his stature?

  26. Nick – Nope. Savage is wrong.

    Michio Kaku certainly seems to have a lot of enemies! I liked his popular book on strings, though it wasn’t nearly as informative as Brian Greene’s books. I found his QFT book amusing to browse but impossible to learn much from. I’ve got his string books too, but there again I found the presentation hard to follow.

  27. MathPhys says:

    Kaku’s first physics book (first edition appeared in the mid 80’s) was strange. He talks about things that I believe that (in the mid 80’s) he didn’t understand. I believe I’m right because when I met him and talked to him at that time, and it was clear to me that he’s unfamiliar with the technical details.

    His more recent physics book on strings is even stranger. It’s written as if he downloaded lots and lots of papers from the archive, then sat there summarizing them. There are hardly any explanations of any depth in these books.

    On the other hand, I commend him for the effort. He surely covers a lot of ground, and the books can serve as a very starting point for learning these things. At least he tells you what’s in these papers.

    I wouldn’t have bought these books, if it weren’t for the fact (implied in the acknowledgements) that Luis Alvarez-Gaume (someone I respect and trust) proof read them for mistakes.

    I’m sure he’s a very smart guy, but I don’t think he has the time or the interest to put his nose to the grind and really learn the technical details of the topics he discusses in these books.

  28. Billy says:

    Michio Kaku is a fun guy. He’s responsible for a significant chunk of the “technobabble” on Star Trek and he was a significant pre-Elegant Universe factor in the string theory PR campaign. His futurology science has been entertaining in recent years but is, like most science fiction, overly focussed on traditional ideas of technology rather than the biotechnology (and direct brain-computer interfaces) which will dominate 21st century technology.

  29. pl@nk says:

    “my experience of young people whose imaginations have been infected by Kaku is that he does not get them interested in science,
    he gets them interested in pseudoscience.”

    Totally agree.
    I’ve seen Kaku talk about many thing but never Science in general or Physics in particular.

  30. Peter Woit says:

    Please stop it with the personal attacks on Kaku, I’ve just deleted one. If you want to criticize his activities, or what he has to say, that’s fine, but there’s no need to go on like Lubos Motl.

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