Credited with helping to popularize physics and other fields of science for millions of students worldwide with his futuristic way of presenting these frontiers, Michio Kaku says his explorations into such realms began in childhood when his hero Albert Einstein died. He was eight when he learned of Einstein’s death, and he remembers that the public’s reaction to the great physicist’s passing “was as big as Whitney Houston dying.” Michio, who grew up in Palo Alto, CA, soon learned that Einstein had failed to finish his greatest work: a single, inch-long equation that would summarize the laws of physics. Einstein hoped this theory would explain how the universe worked. Fascinated by the idea, young Michio decided to help resume Einstein’s work by becoming a theoretical physicist, and in the process excite others about the wonders of science.
He wasted little time getting his dream underway. During high school, for example, he assembled a rudimentary atom smasher in his parents’ garage for a science fair project. And at the National Science Fair in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he attracted the attention of physicist Edward Teller, who took Michio as a protégé, awarding him the Hertz Engineering Scholarship.
Why He’s Important: In addition to helping popularize science through his role as a futuristic thinker, Michio is a leading theoretical physicist. He is known in the world of physics as the co-creator of string field theory, a branch of string theory, and for his research on Einstein’s “Theory of Everything.” The theory seeks to unify the four fundamental forces of the universe: the strong force, the weak force, gravity and electromagnetism.
While his forays into science predictions are sometimes viewed as controversial, they are nonetheless thought-provoking, giving us insight into the power of science to turn sci-fi into reality. Some of his predictions (taken from his latest book “Physics of the Future”) include: Driverless cars will be common by 2020, and synthetic organs by 2030. Also, during this period, he says, early detection of tumors will be made amazingly possible: “We will have DNA chips inside our toilet, which will sample some of our blood and urine and tell us if we have cancer maybe 10 years before a tumor forms.” In addition, he says, the typical computer will be no more by 2020, being replaced by ubiquitous and powerful individual microchips.
Other Achievements: In addition to being the author of numerous scholarly works in physics, he has also written several popular books on science for the lay public — two of which have landed on the New York Times best-seller list. Michio currently appears on the Discovery Channel’s series “How the Universe Works”.
Education: He received a Bachelor’s of Science degree in physics (summa cum laude) from Harvard University, and his Ph.D. from the Berkeley Radiation Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley.
Current Activities: He holds the Henry Semat Chair and Professorship in theoretical physics at the City College of New York where he has taught for 25 years.
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