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Interview: Michio Kaku

Dr. Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist, bestselling author, acclaimed public speaker, renowned futurist, and popularizer of science. As co-founder of String Field Theory, Dr. Kaku carries on Einstein’s quest to unite the four fundamental forces of nature into a single grand unified theory of everything. His latest book, The Future of the Mind, was released in February 2014.

This interview first appeared on Wired.com’s The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast, which is hosted by David Barr Kirtley. Visit geeksguideshow.com to listen to the entire interview and the rest of the show, in which the host discusses various geeky topics.

Your new book is called The Future of the Mind, and it deals with all these amazing technologies that are in development or will be developed in terms of things we can do with our minds. For me, one of the most fascinating things about this book was just learning about how weird our minds were to start with, and how weird our minds have been this whole time. For example, you talk about how a person can be an atheist in one half of their brain and a religious person in the other half.

Isn’t that amazing? That with MRI scans we can actually see that the left brain and the right brain actually operate slightly differently. The left brain is the dominant brain, so what you consider yourself is basically your left brain. But your right brain can be separated surgically with epileptics, and by cutting the link between the left brain and the right brain then the right brain can begin to reveal its personality, and we begin to realize that the right brain is actually quite different from the left brain in terms of intentions, in terms of what it wants to be. We can actually communicate separately with the left brain and the right brain of these epileptics who have this connection surgically cut, and we realize that you can be perhaps Republican on your left brain and Democrat on your right brain—but of course your arm has only one lever to pull when you’re in the voting booth. So you can imagine the conflict this person would have trying to vote, with the left brain and the right brain competing over who controls their right arm.

You say that maybe one reason we evolved this way is because people often make better decisions when they have multiple points of view offering suggestions, and in effect, our brains do that on our behalf.

That’s right. Our brain, in some sense, is not like a digital computer, which is what we thought; it’s more like a bureaucracy. The leadership of a corporation does not have to know everything that’s happening in the bureaucracy, and that’s why we have an unconscious mind, as Sigmund Freud correctly pointed out. And that’s also why we have emotion. A corporation has to have a quick, rapid response to different kinds of emergencies, independent of the leadership. Emotions are good for our survival; they allow us to react instantly to different kinds of emergencies, and that’s why we have emotions.

You mention that we can see these different parts of the brain come out sometimes with epileptics or if people have brain injuries or things like that, but you also say in the book that there is this technology now, called “trans-cranial ultra-magnetic scanners,” with which you can actually turn off parts of people’s brains at will.

It turns out that this actually has religious implications as well. It turns out that injuries to the left temporal lobe make you hyper-religious, and that is every time you see somebody fall or [witness] misfortune, you think there are evil spirits and it was meant to be, and so these people are hyper-religious. We think that many individuals like Joan of Arc, and throughout history, many prophets, probably suffered from some kind of injury to the left temporal lobe which induced this behavior.

Now, with magnetism, we can actually induce this behavior without having to hit somebody over the head. It’s called “The God Helmet” and by putting on the God Helmet you can actually induce the feeling of being in the presence of spirits, of being in the presence of a higher being, and so nuns were put into the God Helmet and they were asked, “Doesn’t this disprove the existence of God?” And these nuns said, “No, because this simply is a telephone system to God. God wanted us to have a telephone system by which we can communicate with him, and that’s why God created our brain with this hookup to God.” And so I think this does not disprove the existence of God, but it basically shows that physics can create disturbances in the brain to allow us to understand how the brain is wired.

Speaking of hooking things up to the brain, that’s sort of the latest thing: being able to have people use their minds to control keyboards, arms, or things like that. I guess even Stephen Hawking is using this now?

That’s right, my colleague Stephen Hawking has lost control over his fingertips now. He can no longer operate a laptop computer because he has no voice, he has no motion of his fingertips under his control, so the next time you see him on TV, look at his glasses. Look at the right frame of his glasses, and you’ll see an EEV sensor basically picking up radio emissions from his brain. It’s not very sophisticated, but with it he’s able to mentally control a laptop by which he can painfully begin to type.

In Japan, there’s even a toy that you can buy—it’s basically a headband with two plastic ears on it—and when you are excited when you meet someone at a party these ears go straight up, and when you lose interest in that person then the sensors pick that up, and the two ears begin to sag. So in other words, in the future you’ll know exactly who you’re impressing at a party by looking at the ears, whether they are straight up or whether they sag.

One thing that really struck me in the book is that it’s sort of common wisdom among conspiracy people that if you wear a tinfoil hat, it’ll protect your mind from being spied on by the CIA or something. You actually say in this book that a telepathy shield would consist of metal foil placed around the brain. So is there any truth to this whole classic tinfoil hat idea?

Let’s talk about the CIA for a moment. The CIA, we now realize, had a project called MKUltra whereby they literally dumped millions and millions of dollars at universities and different military bases to study ESP, to study hypnosis, to study drugs like LSD. Out of this multi-million dollar project, almost nothing came out. They were not able to control people’s minds. They could not read minds at all. However, now we have the sophisticated MRI machines, the magnetic sensors coming in, and they do give a limited ability to peer into your thoughts, but privacy is still protected. You have to have direct access to the person’s brain, like in an epileptic operation, or to put a helmet directly on the skull.

But you could shield your brain somehow using a metal foil?

It’s called a Faraday Cage. Michael Faraday was the great physicist back in the 1800s who showed that if you are in a metal cage and you are struck with a big electric spark, like a lightning bolt, the electricity is evenly distributed around the cage so that you are perfectly fine inside. In the same way, if you really are paranoid about this, putting on tinfoil and grounding it is a way to shield the inside from the outside because then lots of little disturbances are distributed around a metal foil.

So you think, in the future, spies and world leaders might have some sort of metal around their brains to keep people from spying on them?

I saw the movie Salt with Angelina Jolie, and in that movie they actually capture a Russian operative and put him in an MRI machine to read his mind, to use it as a lie detector. It turns out that when you tell the truth, your brain doesn’t do much on an MRI scan, but when you tell a lie, first you have to know the truth, and then you have to create the lie, and then you have to create the cover-up, the consistency of the lie with all the other lies you’ve been telling all these years. That’s a lot of brain power. Your brain lights up like a Christmas tree. So in the movie they actually use an MRI scan to see whether or not this Russian was lying or not. I think this is possible, but again there are ways you can foil it, because this machine basically looks at tension and nervousness of the brain. There are psychopaths who can control a lot of their brain functions and bodily functions so they don’t respond as if they’re nervous when they tell a lie.

Do you think that, as MRI technology advances, it will be possible to read people’s minds? Say, to build a reliable lie detector that doesn’t measure whether the person is nervous or not, but just actually does tell you whether they believe they’re telling the truth or not.

At the present time, you can get this commercially. There are commercial outfits who say with “90% accuracy” they can tell whether or not a person is lying, but I think we’re still in our infancy in terms of being able to do this.

However, let me tell you what we can do with an MRI machine. At Berkeley, where I interviewed the scientists there, they can convert the electrical activity of the brain into 30,000 dots, each dot representing electrical activity of the brain. Then you put these 30,000 dots into a computer, the computer program will then digest this information, and spits out a picture of what you are thinking about. This actually can be done using today’s technology, and in the future we may be able to actually photograph a dream. This was once considered straight out of science fiction—look at the movie Inception with Leonardo DiCaprio. But actually, the back of the brain is the visual cortex, and using this MRI scan you can actually scan the visual cortex and roughly get an approximation of what you are dreaming of.

You say that in the future, maybe instead of watching movies, we’ll just experience people’s thoughts, so you could record what it’s like to win an Olympic gold medal and then download that experience into your brain and experience that sensation.

This is straight out of the movie The Matrix. Recording a thought and recording emotion was once considered science fiction, but we did it. Scientists, just a few months ago, recorded the first memory of a mouse, reinserted that memory, and the mouse remembered what it had forgotten, so now it is actually possible to record a memory. It’s been done in a laboratory. Now, the memory is not very complicated. The memory is a mouse sipping through a straw, but the very fact that we could do this at all last year is absolutely amazing, because it means that in the future we might be able to push the play button and learn calculus.

One of the things they do to the mice is they’re able to inject them with drugs and make them forget specific things. You say it might be possible to do that with people as well. There was some pretty promising research on that along those lines.

The forgetful pill has been looked at very carefully by the military because, of course, we have all the GIs with traumatic experiences, and it turns out that there are several kinds of drugs that are being tested that seem to have this capability of erasing traumatic memories. However, there is a dark side to this. What happens if someone puts a memory into your brain that is incorrect? That is a false memory? That was explored in the movie Total Recall with Arnold Schwarzenegger, where Arnold Schwarzenegger thinks he’s a good guy because all of his memories are the memories of an honest, law-abiding citizen, but in reality those memories are fake. In reality, he was a cutthroat criminal. These memories were simply injected into his mind so he could carry out the crime of the century, so this leaves open the possibility that one day you could tinker with people’s memories.

It seems like there’s so much potential to this idea, say, to be able to treat soldiers with PTSD and relieve them of these unpleasant memories, but you mention in the book that these kinds of drugs actually got a thumbs-down from the president’s council on bioethics. What did you think about that decision?

This is controversial. What the president’s commission on ethics said is that bad memories are part of our lives. We live with bad memories, traumatic memories, and they make us better people. That was the conclusion they made. But I tend to disagree. What happens if a memory is so traumatic that it debilitates you? You’re constantly depressed. You can’t get a job. You can’t function in society because you’re haunted by memories of what happened in wartime. That’s not learning from the past. That’s not making you a better person. We’re talking about basically an injury to the brain in the form of a memory that is so traumatic it paralyzes you. So I think the president’s commission went too far.

In that section, the bioethicists you quote really seem to me to be committing the naturalistic fallacy of “this is the natural thing, this is the way it’s always been, so it must be for the best.”

Diseases have been with us for thousands of years, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t cure them. That doesn’t mean we have to live with certain kinds of diseases, and I think this whole philosophy that we should be natural—that we should live with disease or live with traumatic memories—I think is taking things too far.

There’s one sort of random bit in the book I wanted to ask you about. You say that the court doctor to the emperor Claudius used electrically charged torpedo fish which were applied to the head of a patient suffering from severe headaches. Does that work?

It turns out that modern day technology that is so amazing has predecessors in the past that were overlooked, or people didn’t understand what they were doing. Now, of course, back in the days of the Roman empire, they did not know that the brain was basically electrical; however, by trial and error they realized that, yes, there are certain properties, like for example electric fish, and different kinds of living organisms which do harness electricity, and they could be used, in some sense, to treat things like headaches and stuff like that. And so we realize that the ancients were not quite as stupid as we think they were. They were on to something.

But, of course, there was no way to exploit it. There was no systematic understanding of electricity. That didn’t come for 2,000 more years. Now we can take the fact that the brain is basically electrical and use magnetic and electric probes to be able to stimulate parts of the brain that can then influence different kinds of behaviors. Now we have something called “Deep Brain Stimulation.” We can actually put a hair-thin probe into the brain in order to shut off or turn on certain parts of the brain.

For example, Parkinson’s. Michael J. Fox suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, where you tremble, and with brain scans you can actually see there’s a tiny part of the brain that’s overactive. That’s why people shake when they have Parkinson’s, like in the case of Michael J. Fox. We now know that you can insert electrical, hair-thin probes into the brain in order to quiet that area of the brain, and these people no longer shake.

Also, there’s a part of the brain that lights up when you are clinically depressed. Not just ordinary depression, but there’s a very, very virulent form of depression that seems to be impervious to drugs, psychotherapy, counseling. It turns out that if you again insert this probe into the specific part of the brain, these people who are chronically depressed suddenly become normal. It’s amazing. You see videotapes of these people, chronically depressed for decades, suddenly saying that, “Hey, this has cured me of depression.”

In the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, he imagines a device called “the Penfield mood organ,” which is sort of like a radio, but you can tune it to whatever emotion you want to experience. Do you think this deep brain stimulation has the potential to develop into something like that?

Maybe. It turns out that emotions are pretty much locked into what is called the amygdala, which is located at the very center of the brain. That’s a very old part of the brain, sometimes called “the monkey brain,” because monkeys also have emotions, and you can stimulate different parts of it. Not only do you have the emotion of fear, which is excited when you dream, for example. When you dream they make these little fires, and so that’s why many dreams are nightmares and are very fearsome. However there’s another part in the hypothalamus which is the pleasure center, and so then the question becomes ethical. Is it ethical to stimulate the pleasure center and experience pure emotion, the emotions of joy and ecstasy?

It turns out, if you take a mouse, you can also put a probe right through the pleasure center, which is called the nucleus accumbens, of the mouse, and hook the mouse to a telegraph key, so that by pushing the telegraph key it self-stimulates the pleasure center. These mice will then hit the telegraph key twice a second until they die of starvation. Then you go up the evolutionary scale, you put rabbits, dogs, cats, whatever, on the device and see whether they’re smart enough to realize this is lethal, this is killing them. They have to stop and go out and eat or else they will starve to death. So a porpoise was put on this device—you can locate the pleasure center of the porpoise brain, hook it up to a sensor, and the porpoise, by going forward, backward, forward, backward, can stimulate the sensor. What happened was, these porpoise would stimulate the pleasure center continually until it realized it was dying, it will starve to death—so it stopped, went out and grabbed some fish, and then went back to stimulate itself.

This has also been done on humans. Humans, of course, are smart enough to realize that this is death, that they will eventually die unless they go out and eat. But we have to realize that a certain fraction of the human race would prefer to live in a drug-induced euphoria, so if this were to become widespread, we might find a certain fraction of the human race permanently hooked up to this, constantly stimulating themselves.

Another thing I wanted to ask you about is this idea of intelligence boosting, like we see in the novel Flowers for Algernon. How plausible is that looking?

It turns out that there are several recorded cases of people with brain injuries to the left temporal side of the brain—one person had a bullet that went through that side of the brain when he was a child; another person dived into a swimming pool, hitting that left side of the brain very hard at the bottom of the swimming pool—and these people came out to be mathematical geniuses. These are called savants. They have an incredible ability to do calculations. They can tell you a thousand years into the future if a certain day is going to be Wednesday or Thursday. Some of them have artistic memories: They can have a flight over Manhattan, and in one helicopter flight they’ve memorized the entire landscape of the New York harbor, and they could paint the entire harbor after this. In fact, when you go to JFK airport, and you land at the international terminal, look up and you will see the mural painted by one of these savants after one helicopter ride over New York City harbor.

Now, autistic savants also exist, and we think that autism is not inherently linked to becoming what is called a “savant,” we think that autism probably damages the left temporal lobe in a way, just like with a bullet, just like with hitting your head on the swimming pool, which induces this kind of savant behavior. We’ve brain scanned these individuals, and through MRI scans we see that their brains are not quite normal. They are slightly deformed. Especially in the case of autistics, we see damage to the brain, but we also see that these people have memories that would put them in the genius level, mathematical abilities that are absolutely astounding.

There’s a mild form of autism called Asperger’s. These people can function in society. We think, in fact, that a certain fraction of the people in Silicon Valley are actually Asperger’s. We think that Isaac Newton, the greatest scientist who ever lived, was a sufferer from Asperger’s. His personality comes right out of a book of Asperger’s. Isaac Newton, by the way, was selected to the British Parliament, and there’s only one instance where he actually said something as a member of the Parliament, when he asked for the window to be closed because it was too drafty. That is the only known thing that Isaac Newton spoke in the British Parliament. Anyway, Asperger’s can be studied, but we are not yet at the ability to brain scan these people and duplicate this. We simply don’t know. There’s several theories I mention in my book as to why damage to the left temporal lobe leads to this kind of behavior, but at the present time it’s still a mystery.

Can you explain why, if these abilities are sort of within the capacity of typical brains, and they can be brought out by something as simple as a brain injury, why that trait didn’t, by natural selection, become more common in the population?

There must be some reason why this ability—which is inherent in all of us, by the way—is not manifest. We think the reason is clear. Some of these people that scientists have examined in the past who have these fantastic powers are also deficient in their personality. Some of them are very low IQ, some of them could barely tie their shoelaces, and they cannot function in society. They’re haunted by all these memories continually coming at them.

One woman who has this fantastic photographic memory says it’s like split vision. One vision is what she sees in front of her, and the other vision is the videotape of what happened thirty-five years ago on a Monday, constantly rolling in front of her. So it’s not functional. I think what evolution has done is made us forget. In other words, the brain probably records everything. It’s a runaway tape recorder. But there’s a certain algorithm of forgetfulness, and in these individuals, apparently that algorithm of forgetfulness is turned off, and they simply do not erase extraneous memories. These people have forgotten how to forget.

You really make the point in the book that we think of people with super intelligence as just ruling the world, but actually the world is sort of ruled, sadly, by people with kind of average to low intelligence, and that people with high intelligence very often go into science or journalism or academia, which are not the most lucrative professions or power-amassing professions.

In so many comic books and movies, we have the super genius becoming the villain, like Lex Luthor, or all the movies where you see super brains take over the world. But actually we do have super brains, they actually do exist: Some of them are my friends, they have Nobel prizes in theoretical physics, and their incomes are very low, a fraction of what Zuckerberg makes as a founder of Facebook. And so, having a super brain does not make you suddenly become a dictator of the world. We don’t have to fear the scenarios of science fiction where the Lex Luthors of the world take over, because people with exceptional ability, they don’t become politicians, they don’t become multi-millionaires, and some of them become professors like me, making a measly income.

In addition to boosting human intelligence, in the book you also talk about boosting animal intelligence, like the recent movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes, where an Alzheimer’s treatment ends up creating this super-brilliant ape.

Believe it or not, scientists are seriously looking at the Planet of the Apes type scenario. First of all, we are 98.5% genetically equivalent to a chimpanzee. Believe it or not, only a handful of genes separate us from a chimpanzee, yet we live twice as long as a chimpanzee; we have a vocabulary many, many times that of a chimpanzee, and we have the ability to see the future, to run simulations of the future. Chimpanzees have no concept of tomorrow. Tomorrow for them doesn’t really exist as a definite kind of thing, so a handful of genes made the difference. Now, the question is, how many of these genes are there? There are perhaps maybe a hundred of them, and is it possible to manipulate them with gene therapy? The answer is possibly yes.

My point of view is, if you were to take a chimpanzee and slowly mutate it so it has bigger cranial capacity, better articulation of the voice box so it can say things, better manipulation of the index finger so it can pick up tools, what you wind up with is something that looks like a human, and so, why bother, right? Because the manipulation of the genes of an ape, yes, it’s definitely possible, we know what these beings are now. We’ve located them. We’ve catalogued them. I mentioned it in my book, in fact. So it may be possible to do something like Planet of the Apes, but what you will wind up with is something that looks like a human.

When you were talking about this idea of maybe making animals more intelligent, you say that, not surprisingly, this area of bioethics is so new that it is totally unexplored, and it seems to me that science fiction has been presenting this idea of uplifting animals, going back to The Island of Dr. Moreau and earlier. I just wonder, do you think that bioethicists should be reading more science fiction so that they’re grappling with the ethical implications of these ideas before they happen, rather than once they’re upon us?

I think so, definitely. Because I think science fiction is way past bioethicists who are simply responding to what’s happening in laboratories today, not responding to what will happen in the laboratory a few decades from now.

It’s a very contentious issue in science fiction and futurism: Will it be possible for people to upload their minds to computers or transfer their brains to robots or things like that? Where do you come down on that debate?

President Barack Obama initiated a bombshell last January in the State of the Union Address when he said that hundreds of millions of dollars will be allocated to what is called “The Brain Project.” The European Union has already allocated one billion dollars toward The Brain Project. This is the next big thing in science. If I have this connectome project, this brain project which delineates all the pathways of the brain, then we could on a CD-ROM create “brain 2.0.” That is a Xerox copy of the brain with all of the memories, all the personalities intact. In which case, if you die, your wetware dies, but the software that codes all the memories and personality quirks survives after you die, so in some sense you become immortal. If you become immortal, you also have mind outside body, and this is a theme explored in many science fiction novels, even in Star Trek where Captain Kirk encounters beings that are pure consciousness. They exist in glowing globes of light, but they are consciousness without a body, and then, of course, these conscious beings want to take over the body of Spock, and that’s the plot line of that episode.

But is that possible? The answer is yes. If the connectome and Brain Project comes to fruition after throwing a billion dollars at it, we may have a backup copy of the brain that survives even after you die.

Then in the book, I mention perhaps one of the greatest science fiction short stories written by Isaac Asimov. His favorite science fiction story was way in the future when pure consciousness zips across the universe, and this is a possibility. If I have a CD-ROM with all of the neural connections on a disk, I can put that on a laser beam, and I can shoot that in outer space at the speed of light, and then I could explore the universe at the speed of light. Forget the booster rockets, forget asteroid collisions, forget weightlessness, forget radiation dangers, all of that is bunk when I put intelligence on a laser beam and shoot the laser beam to the stars, and then at the other end there is a relay station which absorbs the laser beam and puts all this memory into a robot, and so you can then begin to feel and live on another star system. So this idea was inspired by Isaac Asimov and other science fiction writers, but now we think it could be possible.

The author Neil Gaiman recently wrote that he had visited China, and that they had told him there that they thought that the Chinese scientists were very good at iterating on existing technologies but weren’t as good at coming up with completely new ideas on their own, and they had looked at American scientists and saw that they read a lot of science fiction, and they were trying to encourage their young students to read more science fiction to develop that kind of creative outlook. I was wondering what your thoughts were on that.

I have different thoughts on this. In Asia, we have the expression, “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.” That is the Asian philosophy of life. You stick out, you’re going to get creamed. However, in the West, we have the exact opposite expression, and that is “The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” and that, in a nutshell, typifies one of the major defects of that Asian educational system. If you are a budding Zuckerberg or Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, you are hammered down, and when I see the top physicists of China, there’s a program called CUSPEA which selects the top, top, top university students in physics and sends them to the United States to learn physics—I know this because I’m on the CUSPEA committee, one of my students in fact was a CUSPEA student—and I can see these Chinese physicists close up, and I realize that they’re very good at taking orders. You tell them to do something, they’re not going to bad mouth you, they’re not going to snicker, they’re not going to say, “Oh, why do I have to do that?” No, they do it, and they do it very well.

But when you ask them to come up with a new idea, that’s where they get paralyzed, and of course, that’s what Silicon Valley is all about. We have tons of squeaky wheels in Silicon Valley all asking for the grease, all asking for startup funds to make their dreams come true, and so I think that the Asian system has to learn this, and science fiction has a definite role to play. Some of the greatest scientist of all time were inspired by science fiction. Take a look at Edwin Hubble, the greatest astronomer of the 20th century, who discovered the expanding universe. When he was a kid, his father wanted him to be a country lawyer, so he learned law, went to Oxford, and was destined to become a country lawyer, but he remembered reading Jules Verne as a child, and he was fascinated by the stars. So he gave up his law career, went to Chicago, got a PhD in astronomy, and went on to discover the expanding universe and eventually what is called the Big Bang theory. I think science fiction had a very definite role to play in his upbringing.

Also, Carl Sagan, the noted astronomer, when he was young, he wrote that he used to read John Carter of Mars, and he dreamt about chasing Dejah Thoris on the sands of Mars, just like what John Carter did in that series. He became an astronomer, and was fascinated by Mars as a consequence.

So yeah, I think science fiction definitely expands your imagination, and allows you to dream about worlds that don’t exist but could exist in the future.

We had a listener, Zach Chapman, who wanted me to ask you: “A few years ago, Michio Kaku was on a show The Science of Games. Does he play any video games? If so, which ones are his favorites?”

I don’t have enough time to play video games now, but I used to play a lot of video games, and the ones that I liked the best are the ones that really challenge you and play with space and time. For example, we think space and time is flat. We have this mental picture of rocket ships shooting things at other rocket ships. That is a very common-sense point of view that even animals understand. But we physicists work in curved space. We work in a space with holes in it, called worm holes. We work in spaces where things can disappear, reappear, if you go off the right hand sign of the video screen you wind up on the left hand side of the video screen, so space is curved, and so these are the games that I think are the most challenging because they force you to question your common-sense notion of what is space and what is time.

Another listener, Joe Montia says, “Ask about the dark matter research going on in a lab under a mountain in Italy.” Do you know what he’s talking about?

Yes, we think that most of the matter in the universe is actually dark matter, so all of the high school textbooks are actually wrong. All of the high school textbooks say that the world is mainly made out of atoms, end of story, that’s what the world is made of. Atoms. We now know that’s wrong. Only four percent of the universe is made out of atoms. 23% actually is made out of dark matter, an invisible matter that surrounds the Milky Way Galaxy, and 73% of the universe is dark energy which is blowing the universe apart. It’s the energy of the Big Bang itself. People ask the question, “What’s propelling the galaxies apart?” And it’s dark energy, and we are clueless as to understanding what is dark matter and dark energy.

However, in Rome, in different laboratories around the world, we have gigantic detectors hoping to pick up the collision of a proton with dark matter. It should create a tiny spark that should be visible, and that’s why many laboratories around the world are looking for that spark indicating that matter has collided with dark matter. So if anyone in your audience understands what dark matter is, have them call me first.

[Laughter] All right, you can contact us at [email protected] and let us know what dark matter really is. Unfortunately, we’re almost all out of time here. Do you want to tell us about any other projects? Do you have any new books or TV shows or anything that you’d like people to know about?

Again, the book is called The Future of the Mind, which is coming out very soon, the end of February. I’m on a twelve-city book tour, in fact. I just finished a series for the Science Channel called Futurescape, a six-part series with the actor James Woods, talking about what the future is going to look like: the future of robots, the future of brain science, and things like that. But right now I’m open. I’m open to new projects. What I do professionally is try to complete Einstein’s dream of a theory of everything. What I’m looking for professionally is an equation, perhaps no more than one inch long, that will summarize all physical phenomena into a single theory, and that is the theory of everything.

Michio Kaku, thanks so much for joining us.

Thank you. It’s been a real pleasure.

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The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Geek's Guide to the Galaxy

The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy is a science fiction/fantasy talk show podcast. It is produced by John Joseph Adams and hosted by: David Barr Kirtley, who is the author of thirty short stories, which have appeared in magazines such as Realms of Fantasy, Weird Tales, and Lightspeed, in books such as Armored, The Living Dead, Other Worlds Than These, and Fantasy: The Best of the Year, and on podcasts such as Escape Pod and Pseudopod. He lives in New York.