Sunday, September 23, 2007

Loueyville SE: IdeaFestival 2007-- Michio Kaku

Apparently, Dr. Michio Kaku is everywhere and somehow I've missed it. Or at least that's what the presenter led me to believe. He's on the Science Channel and the Discovery Channel... and here I was thinking that I was somehow tuned into those sort of pop-science things. After all, once upon a lifetime ago, I led the charge to compel Columbus, Indiana to erect a "Home Of" sign celebrating hometown hero Jamie Hyneman. To, of course, no avail.

In the introduction, it's mentioned that Kaku has been recently named one of the 100 smartest people in NYC. When he starts to speak, he says that Madonna is also on the list, so we shouldn't be too impressed.

When Kaku, who looks like a cross between Mr. Miyagi and a lion, took the stage for his sold-out speech, called "Parallel Worlds, Higher Dimensions, Time Warps, and More," Kaku, a theoretical physicist from the City University of New York, was greeted like a rock star. And he handled the crowd like a seasoned politician, preceding his remarks with a joke and sprinkling jokes and one-liners throughout. To paraphrase his first joke:

A theoretical physicist, a priest, and a lawyer are set to be executed by
guillotine. The priest is first. He's asked for his last words and he says that
faith will save him, and sure enough the guillotine falls and it stops just
inches from his neck. The crowd is amazed and he is set free. The lawyer is next
and his last words are "Justice will have Her way!" And again, the guillotine
stops just inches from his neck, and he's set free. The theoretical physicist
takes his place on the guillotine and says, "You know, the rope is hung up on
that pulley over there..."

When Kaku was a teenager, he built an atom-smasher in his garage whose magnetic pull was strong enough to pull out the fillings of anyone nearby. I have no idea what that means, but it's frigging impressive. Next year, an atom smasher with a 27km circumference will be activated just outside of Geneva. According to Kaku, this atom smasher will be so powerful that it will give us further insight into the Big Bang, and be able to, somehow create what he calls "tiny universes."

Kaku is a devotee of string theory and the idea that there are many more dimensions than we perceive in our lives on earth. He compared our lives to the lives of carp in a pond. They perceive forward and backward and left and right, but they only understand "up" to a certain point-- pull a carp UP out of the water and he is seeing the world from a dimension that was unimaginable to him while he was IN the water.

Picasso and Dali painted using the fourth dimension as a mode. Picasso's portraits relayed all dimensions of a person at once-- which is why said portraits look hopelessly messy to us; he tried to convey the idea of seeing all dimensions simultaneously. Dali, an endlessly more "realistic" painter than Picasso, still allowed for the dimension of "time" to be present in his artwork. The melting clocks. His hyper-cube Crucifixions.

He talked about Civilizations and how we are a type 0 civilization that is moving toward being a type I. Type 0 refers to a civilization that controls the power of particular geo-political regions. Type I controls the power of an entire planet. Type II controls the power of an entire star (solar system, I guess?). Type III controls the power of an entire galaxy. We are moving from 0 to I though the ubiquitousness of the internet, the burgeoning prevalence of English as a language, and the sway that Western culture has over the world. (I'm not sure I buy that... but whatever). Kaku says that earth will be a type I civilization in 100 years.

Kaku also discussed how all this science parlays quite nicely into spirituality. String theory suggests a beginning-- as in Genesis-- but also a timelessness-- as in the Buddhist belief in Nirvana.

Our civilization is threatened by both global warming and the death of the sun-- both problems could be solved by finding a wormhole that would allow us to pass from one plane to another. Like Alice in Wonderland, he said, a novel that dealt with bendy time and space.

For more information visit his website.

1 comment:

Brad said...

reading a bit about this guy and came across your blog. nice write up. never been to louisville though, what makes it so underated?