Physics of the Future

Michio Kaku

Michio Kaku (1947--) is a Japanese-American, theoretical physicist, having been a professor at Princeton and City College of NY, a co-founder of string field theory, and author of a half dozen books, including two NY Times’ Best Sellers, Physics of the Impossible (2008) and Physics of the Future (2011); he also hosts a weekly radio show that popularizes science for the masses. In Physics of the Future (Physics), MK speculates on the possibilities of future technological developments over the next 100 years, giving us a peak at some of the mind-boggling changes that society may expect in the next 30, 50 and 100 years.. MK’s key point: “Technology is making skills and knowledge the only sources of sustained strategic advantage,” quoting Lester Thurow, economist and MIT professor.

What will technology bring us in 10, 20, 50 or 100 years? His reasoned and educated speculations include: The Internet will be in our contact lenses; we will control computers and appliances via tiny sensors that read our brain scans; we will be able to rearrange the shape of objects, repair them and recreate them with software; radical new spaceships, tiny nanoships, propelled by lasers, may replace the gas-driven ones of today. We learn that the four forces that rule the universe are: (1) Gravity, which anchors us to the earth, keeps the sun from exploding and holds the solar system together. (2) Electromagnetic Force, which lights our planet, runs our machines and powers our computers and lasers. (3) and (4) The weak and the strong nuclear forces, which hold the nucleus of the atom together, light the stars and create the fire at the center of the sun. Understanding the power stored within the atom can ultimately determine the fate of humanity. Will it prosper by harnessing the unlimited power of fusion or die in a nuclear inferno? (Fusion is the process of joining two or more atomic nuclei to form a single heavier nucleus, thus releasing large quantities of energy; fusion is the process that powers the stars, hydrogen bombs and some experimental devices for electrical generation. Nuclear fission refers to the splitting of the atoms to create energy.)

Examples of his interesting insights and observations include: Moon: It only takes three days to travel to the moon (240K miles), but it is an airless satellite with constant meteors of all sizes; radiation causes premature aging and cancer; weightlessness makes muscles atrophy and bones ossify and cancer; astronauts returning from the moon were so weak that they could barely crawl for months. Mercury: Too sun-scorched and too hostile to support life. Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune: Gas giants which are too cold to support life. Mars: It takes six to twelve months to reach Mars, which is the only one in our solar system that seems to resemble earth enough to harbor some form of life, but it has no air, soil, water, plants or animals; the air is mainly carbon dioxide; so, the tiniest rip in a space suit would cause depressurization and death; and the temperature never goes above 35 degrees, and the dust storms are ferocious. Venus: While a twin of the earth in some respects, it suffers a greenhouse effect has created temperatures to 900 degrees Farenheight; the air is mainly carbon dioxide, and it rains sulfuric acid; a human would suffocate, be crushed, incinerated and then dissolved by sulfuric acid.

In his Physics, the author presents fasinating if mind-boggling speculations on the potential advances in science and medicine and their impact on life spans. The cloning of men from their genomes and the creation of genes themselves may be only a few decades away, and the possibilities for gene-manipulation of living organisms has few bounds, although nothing seems likely to irradicate diseases, because, no matter how many we cure, new ones will appear; for example, there are thousands of strains of HIV, and a vacine that kills one inititiates a mutation of a new strain for which there is no cure. Further, AIDS and other diseases may be weaponized, as the data to do so is readily available on the Internet, and germ warfare is now impossible to monitor or control.

He notes that, based on fossil and DNA studies, we formed a new branch on the tree of life and separated from the apes about 6M years ago. Like Gould's Wonderful Life, it further makes clear that "All life is one", interconnected and steaming from common biological sources.

Nanotechnology seems to be a central theme of Physics; as nanotech appears destined to provide the greatest scientific advances ever, including: mastery of the atom and using it as our building block, by 2030-50, as atoms and all matter are basically empty and simply appear solid. Nanomachines should be able to do virtually everything, especially in medicine; and what he calls “The Replicator” should be able to remake any matter into almost anything else, making the old new, reusing everything via software (2100); he even envisions rocket ships the size of your finger nail that can travel to distant planets and recreate themselves and make all manner of things on that planet. Nanotechnology stands to create a new world that is truly limited only by our imagination.

If you want a glimpse into the future of our world, you will be fascinated by Kaku’s Future of Physics.