“Can you feel it? We are in the presence of greatness,” said Dan Hart, Chair of the Davidson Distinguished Lecture Series as he introduced Michio Kaku, theoretical physicist and author of the book The Future of the Mind.
Kaku earned his Ph.D from the University of California at Berkeley in 1972. He holds the Henry Semat Chair in Theoretical Physics at the City University of New York where he has worked for the past 30 years.
Kaku has spoken on numerous TV and radio shows, and he airs his own weekly radio show.
Kaku was named one of the 100 smartest people by the New York Time, he said. He’s not sure how much of an honor that is since Madonna also made that list.
One of Kaku’s areas of expertise is Albert Einstein’s unified field theory which he is trying to complete.
Kaku’s topic for the lecture was his new book The Future of the Mind. Last month his new book was the best non-fiction on the New York Times best sellers list.
This has been the second time a book with the word physics in the title has been in the best sellers list, Kaku said.
Kaku said the two greatest mysteries for physicists are outer space, due to the big bang, and the rest of the universe and inner space, because the mind is the “most complex process known to man.”
The U.S. government is joining in a multi-national brain-mapping project that is estimated to cost $1 billion. The project will work to map and understand the human brain and work to find a cure for mental illness.
Kaku said that movies give people ideas of what could be possible. He used the examples of Iron Man and how that has sparked interest in exoskeletons, and Star Trek and other science fiction series which featured telepathy. Scientific research allows people to see what is actually possible.
Kaku said many of these futuristic technologies have already been tested in the laboratory.
By using MRI machines to track the blood in the brain, scientists can see what part of the brain is active while doing different actions. Knowing which area of the brain controls which functions allows scientists to create control systems for advanced technologies.
“It is true when people say that men get stupider when they talk to a pretty girl— the blood drains out of their brain,” Kaku said.
Kaku used cosmologist Steven Hawkins, who is completely paralyzed, as an example. Hawkins has an antenna on his glasses that is connected to a microchip which allows him to communicate through a laptop computer.
Advancements have been made in making robotic limbs for people who have lost theirs. The U.S. military has taken an interest in this for veterans who have been injured during their service, Kaku said.
Kaku said that humans could be put in control of robotic bodies for performing dangerous jobs such as fighting fires to limit the risk of injury. He said this could be used in the space program as well.
Kaku talked about the ability to upload and download memories. He said there is a concept for a “brain pacemaker” which could be used for Alzheimer’s patients to implant the memories that they cannot remember.
Kaku said there are three levels of consciousness. Humans are at the top, with animals and everything else below them.
He said that animals have no idea of the future. Only humans have a concept of the past and future, this is why people laugh at jokes, he said.
When the human brain hears a joke, it tries to fill in the punch line, but when the joke ends different than expected, that is what makes it funny.
The world’s smartest robot is only capable of level-one consciousness, which is equivalent to a cockroach, Kaku said. Companies are working on building level-two consciousness robots, but they are not ready yet, Kaku said.
The next thing Kaku talked about was why some people have extraordinary abilities.
He said that people who have received an injury to the left lobe of the brain sometimes become more analytical.
However, “Don’t go home and pick up a hammer,” Kaku said.
MC associate professor of mathematics Joseph Severino attended the lecture.
“I enjoyed the talk immensely. While I might prefer a more technical discussion of his research, I appreciate how Professor Kaku tailored hislecture in a way that allowed him to share some pretty advanced concepts with a broad audience,” Severino said.
Prior to the lecture, Kaku spoke with a select group of MC engineering and physics students about how he became interested in physics. The students were also given time to ask Kaku questions.Kaku started by telling the students that science is the engine of prosperity, and that they are all winners for choosing science.