Monday, 8 April 2013

scientist Michio kaku on TV (Deccan Herald, Jan 2012)

Science, meet media...

Juanita Kakoty
Can television and other popular media augment the cause of scientists just as it has promoted that of movie stars and politicians? Pushing the case is eminent scientist and co-founder of the string field theory, Michio Kaku, who can be regarded as a crusader popularising science through television, radio and books. 

In his latest attempt, he can be seen hosting Discovery Science’s new series, Sci Fi Science, every Wednesday at 10 pm. 

“Some of the biggest movies of all times have been science fiction. We have Back to the Future, the Terminator series and Star Wars. But nowhere do we find anyone talking about the science or lack of science behind what is shown, because only a research physicist can 
answer these questions,” proffers Dr Kaku.

Thus, the idea of a sci-fi science series emerged to engage with numerous science fiction themes like alien invasion, discovery of a new solar system, travelling through black holes, etc, besides showcasing path-breaking research and technologies that provide plausible solutions to the most challenging of scientific obstacles. “With a film crew, I went to all of the leading universities,” says Dr Kaku.

“We went to MIT, Princeton, Berkeley and all the major research institutes. We went to NASA and interviewed the world’s top scientists. These are the people who are building the future in their laboratories. They are not science-fiction writers, but the ones who are actually designing teleportation machines, force fields, robots and dreaming about time machines and warp drives.”

Dr Kaku pins high hopes on programmes like Sci Fi Science. “When I was a child, I used to watch science-fiction stories. I used to love spending the afternoons at the theatre watching these movies. But I realised that if I was to understand this technology, I would have to learn the most advanced science and mathematics available. And that’s what I did.” Learning was the only way to know how the things he saw in films worked. “When I was young, I used to go to the library and look up books about these things. But there was nothing. I could find no good book or magazine to explain what I wanted to learn. Now I hope that young people today are inspired by what physicists are doing, by watching TV shows that offer a glimpse of where the cutting edge of science is. That is where the Sci-Fi Science series comes in, and I hope that it would not only excite, but also inspire.”

Born in San Jose, California to an immigrant Japanese couple, Dr Kaku’s tryst with science began at a very young age. “When I was eight years old, everybody was talking about a great scientist who had just died — Einstein. They said that he couldn’t finish something. They showed a picture of his desk with the unfinished manuscript of his greatest unfinished work.

I thought to myself, what could be so hard that the greatest mind of our time could not finish? Here is the man who unravelled the secret of the stars and gave us the atomic bomb, the Big Bang, the black holes, and E=MC². Yet, he could not finish something!”
“And what he could not finish, I realised, was the theory of everything. It was to be an equation, one inch long, just like E=MC² that would summarise the entire universe. Today, we think it might be the string theory — the fabled equation that summarises all laws of nature into just one equation. And this is what has motivated my career. The string theory can be looked upon as that which actually solves all the road blocks that Einstein had encountered.”

It is this string theory that Dr Kaku regards as his greatest achievement in life, both professionally and personally. “We are beginning to test the theory with the Large Hadron Collider outside Geneva, Switzerland; an experiment that will cost us ten million euros!”
As one listens to Dr Kaku talk about the mysteries and the unravelling of mysteries through science, one wishes that such matters accrued more bandwidth in popular media. After all, Dr Kaku’s words ring true when he says, “Science is the engine of prosperity. It is the future, the source of wealth. But, if you look at the newspaper or television, science is invisible. You don’t see scientists doing things in the media. They are creating inventions, cities, factories, technologies and jobs; but are invisible. What you see are movie stars and politicians.” When such is the scenario, then perhaps, series like Sci Fi Science appear as answered prayers.

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