Saturday, September 15, 2012

Michio Kaku: physicists invented everything

This 42-minute Big Think video by the string field theory pioneer called "The Universe in the Nutshell" (yes, Stephen Hawking should feel plagiarized) is exactly one month old right now and while it is of a somewhat lighter genre, I found its slightly over-the-edge claims amusing:

Physicists invented microwave ovens and everything else. Schoolkid Kaku. Physicists will invent everything.

Why couldn't Einstein complete the homework exercise, the theory of everything? Couldn't he asked his mother for help? We would look like magicians to the ancestors. And our descendants will have powers of God.

Regular TRF readers won't learn much but I hope that Kaku's childish physics-centered version of the history of the mankind will entertain them. You will be shown the industrial revolution and many other things and at around 30:00, you will also get to the Higgs boson and string theory. Maybe the video is older but it was posted by Big Think one month ago.

Which Europeans ignore science and technology

Incidentally, the EU Barometer just revealed that among all the European nations, the Czechs are least interested in new scientific and technological advances. Only 9% of Czechs have a strong interest in those things; the figure is 43% in Malta. 32% of Czechs aren't interested at all; that's well above the 22% EU average.

This sad observation should lead certain people to think about their prejudices – especially the people who identify science and atheism. They're not the same thing. We, the Czechs, may be least interested in religion but we're the least interested ones in science, too. Well, I didn't participate in the poll. ;-)

Your humble correspondent just sent a copy of his translation of "The Hidden Reality" to Jiří Grygar, a well-known Czech astrophysicist and popularizer of science. It is annoying to see that there's no physics or astronomy on Czech TV these days. When I was 7, despite the communism (and perhaps because of the communism), the public TV could broadcast 30 episodes of "Windows to the Universe are Wide Open" featuring Grygar. All of them may be found on YouTube today. I am afraid that TV stations wouldn't allow 25 hours of astronomy, astrophysics, and fundamental physics to be inserted in a pretty good time slot around 2012...

The program was masterminded by Dr Vladimír Železný, later the founder and director of TV NOVA, post-socialist Europe's most successful commercial TV station (still active, owned mostly by Ronald Lauder after some dirty tricks). You may want to check a 1/3 of an episode, e.g. this one on general relativity. Lots of Vangelis' music, Saudek's cartoons, Chaplin, Einstein, etc. – it was a great program, especially for the late 1970s.

Needless to say, the Czechs who are mostly uninterested in science were partly forced to watch things like Grygar's program. Profits didn't matter. In the competition today, the TV stations must focus on the generic – i.e. pretty damn stupid – citizens. Just to be sure, I am not blaming capitalism; I am blaming the stupid people for their being stupid!


  1. The Micho Kaku video I will watch as a nice funny bed time story :-D.

    Lumo, if you had taken part in the poll you would have been such a far lying outlier that it would have spoiled the whole thing ... :-P

    Concerning science on TV I used to be sad and disappointed too that they do not broadcast more physics etc.
    But today I'm grateful if they just skip talking about such things.
    In Germany the only thing they do is hype the confusions of certain people about QM, spit and spat on fundamental physics by promoting Unzicker, etc :-(.

  2. Dear Lubos,

    is it true, what Kaku says, that string theory implies the multiverse??? I know that there are many ( 10^500 or so ) Calabi-Yau manifolds, which are all Ricci flat and we don't know how to select the correct one from them. But why does anyone think that all of these solutions exist physically? Why don't they simply say that they don't know how to select the correct vacuum?

  3. The Wikipedia article on Nova TV is very interesting:

    "It gained minor notoriety for attracting massive audiences to its late-night
    weather reports ("Počasíčko"),[1] in which an
    attractive woman (later a man as well) would appear, naked, to present the
    weather. A kind of reverse striptease would ensue, with the presenter putting
    on clothes appropriate to the weather."

    So there you have it, nude TV presenting was pioneered by the Czechs before Canadians pioneered Naked News!

  4. Little weather was surely older than Naked News but I have some doubts that they were the first presenters on TV. If it's true, it's Dr Zelezny's invention.

    Unfortunately, only the 1998 jingle

    and parodies can be found on YouTube.

  5. This hermaphrodite parody made me LOL,

  6. Nah, I think serious physicists see it as you say and some people just overdue it in public with the physical existence of the solutions for commercial reasons, to make things more interesting or exciting or what else.

    But in my opinion they should not do this, it does not help fundamental physics to get better accepted. On the contrary, it makes some people angry, incites the trolls and sourballs, etc ... :-(

    Michio Kaku is certainly a cool physicist, but what I've heard or read about him he probably should hold himself a little bit back when explaining things to a non expert publicum ... :-/

    Anyway, I will see what he says in this one later :-)

  7. I think TV has dumbed down in most countries, not simply because of capitalism. In the 70s and early 80s there were just 3 tv channels in the UK, and the Open University used to broadcast "lectures" on one of them (BBC2) even during the day and evening (but mostly at night). In fact I very clearly remember watching one about Quantum Mechanics on a week day afternoon before supper, with simple animations showing things like electrons changing energy levels in an atom. (My mum was ridiculing my nerdiness). In fact I learnt about conic sections from an open university maths lecture, long before I studied them at school.

  8. Darn James,

    I am so jalous about this ! I want to see such cool TV lectures too :-D

  9. In France apart from Temps X with the Bogdanov brothers we didn't have much to excite our scientific curiosity as kids. However we did have cool series like The Invaders, remember David Vincent ? (doesn't he look like Brian Greene a little ?) :^)

  10. In Czechia one of the problems is that most women have no interest in anything, especially science & technology. Chemistry is the only discipline where you can find some. My whole life I'm around techies (school, job, free time) and the ratio of women is 1:50 at best. That's almost 50% of the population that is clueless. Add people with IQ below 100 and you get to 75%. Add old people who are mostly completely cut off from the outside world (and there is a lot of them, 20%) and you get to 80%. Noone asks children so I won't count them. The rest I can't quantify. There is very little about science and technology in the mainstream media. Also science is very mathematical in schools so most people create an aversion towards it and they learn pretty much nothing about it. It's worthless for most people because they don't get it and they're also not forced to get it like in the past (which was effective only for a few percent with some intelect). If you look at most people after they leave school they can barely add and substract. It's a complete waste of effort. I think schools should have a science for dummies subject. Incidentally Richard Muller teaches one such subject - Physics for Future Presidents. :)

  11. I am thinking about Czech women as unusually emancipated ones, relatively to foreign women, but at the same moment, I feel you must be right in all your dark appraisals.

    The only silver lining is that Physics for Future President wouldn't be sufficiently quantitative for the candidate to become the Czech president - look at Klaus', Fischer's, and Zeman's background, among others - although it is perfectly and more than enough to become the U.S. president. ;-)

  12. That's good, such imported programs were on decades ago, too, but there was also a home production.

  13. Rezso, I agree with you, we don't know whether all the solutions are realized "somewhere" physically, but some people disagree and think it's settled - it's of course a big controversy of the last decade.

  14. Well, there is Gell-Mann's Totalitarian Principle which states: "Everything not forbidden is compulsory."

    I think this has had a major influence on the multi-universe crowd and it is quite compelling. :-)

  15. The world needs a control group and why not Czechia?

    Not everyone believes that the path to human happiness, contentment and intellectual progress is scientifically or technologically bound. There are many fundamental human foci outside of that.

  16. Ha ha, the animations and sounds are so funny, they made me LOL :-D

    Does he have some equally amusing physics lectures somewhere in the internet ... ?

  17. I am confident that the only correct interpretation of Gell-Mann's totalitarian principle is anti-multiverse.

    The principle says that the coefficient determining the strength of any effect is, in some natural/dimensionless units, comparable to one unless its generically high value is prohibited by a symmetry or something else.

    The multiverse is, on the contrary, an excuse for these values *not* to be sizable, not to be of order one, and to be arbitrarily small. So it's really the opposite of Gell-Mann's principle. I am sure that in the way he originally quoted it, the multiverse is prohibited.

  18. What do you think of this new evidence for dark energy?

  19. lanvin Made within a trademark materials seeing that tasteful the way it is usually sturdy, in addition to complete having some sort of effortless external jean pocket together with a changeable crossbody secure, that silhouette is usually a favourite intended for weekends, errands in addition to traveling. lanvin bag case Purses interior in addition to available hold particular objects sorted in addition to safeguarded. Interior multifunction purses.

  20. This might be a dumb example of the dumbing down of TV, since I haven't had cable TV since the 1980s (I seldom watch TV), but I'll take a chance and tell it.

    Because I don't have cable, and despite my conservative misgivings, I tend to think of CNN as something special. I've always thought that with news and commentary 24 hours a day, there must be some pretty good stuff in there somewhere - and sure there may be, but:

    I was away on a trip this past weekend - stayed in a hotel. After my wife went to sleep, I was reading the Wall Street Journal. I love the Wall Street Journal. Some things in it are so good that I want to save them and study them more closely.

    I finished reading, turned on the TV, and selected CNN. What I saw was a 1-hour interview of three billionaires about what enabled them to become billionaires, and what they thought of current affairs, especially the upcoming presidential election. The interviewer was jabbering, and the billionaires were more or less raving, speaking in little more than metaphors. The contrast between this and the Journal just blew me away.

  21. As Albert Einstein said "This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism.
    Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated
    competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to
    worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career".

    So as long as education revolves around materialistic gains it suffers. And the famous Euclid story:

    . someone who had begun to learn geometry with Euclid, when he had
    learnt the first theorem, asked Euclid "What shall I get by learning
    these things?" Euclid called his slave and said "Give him threepence
    since he must make gain out of what he learns".

    No wonder public stations consistently have the best shows worldwide. BBC,ABC,PBS..