During one of my television interviews last year, I was asked who some famous people I would like to meet are. I listed off several scientists and novelists I admire including J. K. Rowling, Brian Greene, Michio Kaku, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Diane Duane. If I ever got the chance to see any of these people in person, I would be thrilled.
When I heard that Michio Kaku was going to give a talk in Berkeley, which is relatively near where I am currently, I knew I had to go. Last Thursday, February 23rd, I drove to Berkeley with my dad to hear about the Physics of the Future.
According to his website, “Dr. Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist, best-selling author, and popularizer of science. He’s the co-founder of string field theory (a branch of string theory), and continues Einstein’s search to unite the four fundamental forces of nature into one unified theory.”
After a somewhat lengthy introduction along those lines, Michio Kaku took the stage with a joke. “That was a great introduction. I’d love to hear the speaker!” He kept up the humor for the entire talk, which I found very entertaining and impressive.
I’ve been learning a lot about what makes a good speaker lately as I improve my own speaking skills. Repeating important points, using humor, customizing for your audience, using visual aids and avoiding filler words are all important for a speaker. Michio Kaku demonstrated all of this and more.
Following the theme of his latest book, Physics of the Future, he discussed technology which may become commonplace in the near future. What will the world be like in the year 2100? A few of the many subjects discussed include: nuclear power, computers in contact lenses, biotechnology, and Moore’s Law.
In the near future, we could have computers as thin and as cheap as paper. We could talk to our wallpaper computers and access the Internet at literally the blink of an eye.
While answering questions from the audience, he mentioned types of civilizations—planet-hopping Type I civilizations, Type II civilizations capable of building Dyson spheres, and the galactic scale Type III civilizations—and how a kid had once told him he was wrong. “No, mister,” the kid had said, “there are four types! What about the power of the continuum?”
He asked the audience, “If there are any Star Trek fans out there, can you think of a Type IV civilization who uses the power of the continuum?”
There were a few mutters and some laughter, and being a Trekkie, I knew the answer. I shouted, “Q!”
A few audience members looked back to see who had shouted, but I wasn’t paying much attention. I was giddy from having correctly answered a question asked by a brilliant scientist I happen to be a huge fan of.
I stayed afterwards for the book signing. I had brought Hyperspace with me to be signed, plus a camera and my business cards. I was both excited and nervous as I waited in line.
Finally, it was my turn. I handed over my book to be signed and luckily remembered everything I wanted to say. I asked for a picture, explained that I have a website about science and wrote a book, and gave business cards for both of those. It’s not often that you give your business card to one of your heroes!
Physics of the Future was for sale nearby, so I bought it and got right back in line to have it signed. My dad and I were two of the very last people to stick around and we had time to ask a couple questions. I asked about how much say he had in the material on his television show, Sci Fi Science. The answer was that the first twelve episodes basically followed the table of contents of Physics of the Impossible, while the second dozen episodes were about the science behind various science fiction movies.
Overall, this was a great experience for me. I learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed the presentation, I came home with two signed books, and I interacted with one of the top people I’ve wanted to meet.
Who would you most like to meet, and what would you ask them?