Kaku, Michio 1947-
KAKU, Michio 1947-
Born January 24, 1947, in San Jose, CA; son of Toshio (a gardener) and Hideko (a maid; maiden name, Maruyama) Kaku. Education: Harvard University, B.A. (summa cum laude), 1968; University of California, Berkeley, Ph.D., 1972.
Office—City University of New York, Department of Physics, 138th St. at Convent Ave., New York, NY 10031. E-mail—[email protected]
Physicist, educator, and author. Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, research associate and lecturer in physics, 1972-73; City University of New York, Graduate Center, New York, NY, associate professor, 1973-83, professor of physics, beginning 1983. Visiting professor, New York University, New York, NY, 1988, and Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, 1990. Host of Explorations in Science, a nationally syndicated radio science program; guest on national television shows, including Nightline, Nova, 60 Minutes, Good Morning America, and Larry King Live. Featured commentator in documentaries, including Me and Isaac Newton, Einstein Revealed, Stephen Hawking's Universe, and Science Odyssey. Sane-Freeze national board member.
American Physics Society (fellow), Asian Americans for Equality (founder).
Best Science Book of the Year citations from New York Times and Washington Post; honorary Ph.D. from Hofstra University, 1997, and State University of New York, Old Westbury, 1997.
(Editor, with Jennifer Trainer Thompson) Nuclear Power, Both Sides: The Best Arguments for and against the Most Controversial Technology, W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 1982.
(With Daniel Axelrod) To Win a Nuclear War: The Pentagon's Secret War Plans, South End Press (Boston, MA), 1987.
(With Jennifer Trainer Thompson) Beyond Einstein: The Cosmic Quest for the Theory of the Universe, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1987, revised edition, Anchor Books (New York, NY), 1995.
Introduction to Superstrings and M-Theory, Springer-Verlag (New York, NY), 1988, 2nd edition, 2003.
Strings, Conformal Fields, and M-Theory, Springer-Verlag (New York, NY), 1991, 2nd edition, 2000.
Quantum Field Theory: A Modern Introduction, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1993.
Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the Tenth Dimension, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1994.
Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize the Twenty-first Century, Anchor Books (New York, NY), 1997.
Einstein's Cosmos: How Albert Einstein's Vision Transformed Our Understanding of Space and Time, W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 2004.
Parallel Worlds: Creation, Superstrings, and a Journey through Higher Dimensions, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2004.
Also contributor of articles to periodicals and scholarly journals.
Michio Kaku is a prominent theoretical physicist who also popularizes science and physics by writing for a general audience. Kaku has followed in the footsteps of many twentieth-century physicists by attempting to find a unified field theory that will incorporate all functions of the universe in a single equation, and he explains his work in language that makes the objectives of that search accessible to a broad audience. "My goal," the scientist told International Examiner interviewer Chizu Omori, "is to form an equation that will be a unified theory of all creation which will allow us to read the mind of God." "The universe," Kaku concluded, "is so beautiful, so simple, it is too gorgeous to be an accident." Kaku models his own career in some ways after that of famous of twentieth-century physicist Albert Einstein. He recalled a story about an elementary-school-aged girl who wrote Einstein with a geometry problem she could not solve, and Einstein took the time to solve the problem and send the solution back to the student. "Here was one of the world's great scientists, and he took the time to work on a stranger's homework," Kaku explained to Chicago Tribune writer Jeremy Manier. "To me, that represents theoretical physics. That we're humble. When you see the enormous complexity of the universe and how it can be reduced to these gorgeous, simple laws, it has to be humbling."
Kaku was born in San Jose, California, to parents who were kibei—Japanese immigrants who had returned to Japan to receive their education before World War II. Their kibei status was part of the reason the U.S. government confined them in a concentration camp during the war. Following the war Kaku's father and mother went to work as a gardener and a maid. After their son was born, however, they worked to provide him with the best education possible. When he was in high school, for instance, they helped Kaku construct a huge electron volt accelerator. "We were on the football field at Palo Alto," the physicist told Asian Week reporter Jon Matsumoto, "winding twenty-two miles of copper wire! The magnetic field it finally created was so powerful that if you put DC into it and you had fillings in your teeth, it would literally rip the metal out of your mouth." The magnet project brought Kaku to the attention of prominent scientist Edward Teller, who helped him land a scholarship to Harvard University. Kaku received his undergraduate degree in 1968 and went on to complete a doctoral degree at the University of California at Berkeley in 1972. Shortly afterward he joined the physics department at the City University of New York, where he has remained ever since.
Kaku's books fall into two broad categories: works for the general public and works for the scientific community. The former, in particular, have earned him widespread critical attention. Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the Tenth Dimension, Kaku's examination of one theory that helps explain Einstein's concepts of space and time, is Kaku's attempt to take scientific thought one step closer toward Einstein's goal of a general unified theory. "The subjects that Kaku … [writes] about are compelling," according to Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service contributor Jim Detjen, "because they deal with such basic human issues as the birth and death of the universe, the concept of time and the role of humans in the cosmos—the sort of questions that philosophers and theologians have been wrestling with for years." The book, commented a Publishers Weekly contributor, is "occasionally facile," but it nonetheless "remains on solid ground up to the point of [Kaku's] untestable hypotheses." Frederic B. Jueneman, writing for R&D, called Hyperspace "a beautifully written presentation of the chrysalislike unfolding of theoretical physics along with the simultaneous development of all the necessary supporting dimensional mathematics."
Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize the Twenty-first Century is Kaku's look at the probable future of technology over the next hundred years, including developments in quantum physics, biotechnology, and computer science. The physicist sees a coming convergence between the three different disciplines, leading to a "world of seamless human-computer interactions, where damaged, cancer-causing genes are repaired by molecular machines and where cyborgs will grow their own chips," a Publishers Weekly reviewer explained. Kaku, remarked Reason contributor Kenneth Silber, "has written an absorbing book, filled with thoughtful speculations about the twenty-first century and beyond." Kauku "brings a welcome note of reason to popular futures writing," stated a Futurist critic. "The book," Norman Metzger concluded in Issues in Science and Technology, "is a good read for those seeking a knowledgeable guide to the inchoate frontiers of science and technology."
In Einstein's Cosmos: How Albert Einstein's Vision Transformed Our Understanding of Space and Time Kaku examines the career of the most famous physicist of the twentieth century in order to refute the contention that Einstein's thought lagged behind that of other theoretical physicists during the 1950s. Instead, commented a Kirkus Reviews contributor, Kaku contends "that Einstein's thought was ahead of his time to the very end of his life." Booklist contributor Gilbert Taylor concluded that Kaku is an "able popular writer, vividly evoking the pictorial imagination behind Einstein's revolutionary thinking." "This accessible biography," a Publishers Weekly reviewer stated, "is recommended to readers eager, but never quite able, to understand what this relativity business is all about."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Asian Week, May 13, 1994, Jon Matsumoto, review of Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the Tenth Dimension, p. 11.
Booklist, March 15, 2004, Gilbert Taylor, review of Einstein's Cosmos: How Albert Einstein's Vision Transformed Our Understanding of Space and Time, p. 1250.
Chicago Tribune, October 24, 1997, Jeremy Manier, review of Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize the Twenty-first Century, p. 1.
Futurist, November, 1998, review of Visions, p. 48.
International Examiner, June 20, 2000, Chizu Omori, "Spotlight: Michio Kaku," p. 5.
Issues in Science and Technology, winter, 1997, Norman Metzger, review of Visions, p. 90.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2004, review of Einstein's Cosmos, p. 165.
Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, April 20, 1994, Jim Detjen, review of Hyperspace; September 1, 1999, Leslie J. Nicholson, "Popular Author Predicts Moor's Law Will Collapse by 2020" (interview).
Library Journal, September 15, 1997, Gregg Sapp, review of Visions, p. 99; April 15, 2004, Jack W. Weigel, review of Einstein's Cosmos, p. 119.
Odyssey, December, 1999, Seth Shostak, "Cheap Chips and Pretty Kids: An Interview with Michio Kaku," p. 25.
People, November 20, 2000, Leah Rozen, review of Me and Isaac Newton, p. 44.
Publishers Weekly, March 7, 1994, review of Hyper-space, p. 59; September 1, 1997, review of Visions, p. 90; March 8, 2004, review of Einstein's Cosmos, p. 63.
R&D, August, 1995, Frederic B. Jueneman, review of Hyperspace, p. 11.
Reason, January, 1998, Kenneth Silber, review of Visions, p. 46.
Michio Kaku Home Page,http://www.mkaku.org (August 16, 2004).*