Michio Kaku: Oracle of Physics

Science fields have always had the stigma that they are “nerdy” or “dorky.” People tend to think that they require some sort of special interest in the subject matter which deems them as socially awkward or out-casted from the realm of “normal” people. This stigma has been perpetuated in media like television programs and movies which for the most part tend to portray scientists as loners, weirdoes, party poopers, and in some cases, freaks. For example, think of the characters from The Big Bang Theory. Can you really think of many nerd roles on television shows or in movies that refute this assumption? Scientists really have gotten bad raps.

 

In recent years, it seems that many scientists and scientific educators have lived up to the intelligence that is associated with their less than glorious labels. Rather than allowing old forms of media to slander their fields of study, they have harnessed new forms of media in order to “denerdify” themselves to the general populace. They have harnessed social networking and mass media in a way that makes science seem mainstream, exciting, and open to everyone. Never before has such a plethora of knowledge been available to so many people. Scientists have opened their studies, ideas, and actions to people who are interested simply by contributing to new forms of media like posting on Facebook groups, tweeting, or integrating their work into video games and simulators.

These new ways of bringing the science back from the shadows are currently shaping what people think about the science fields in general. Not only have scientists opened up their work to people all around the world, they have allowed people all around the world to open up their ideas to them in return. Science has transformed from a closed group of elite individuals who communicate amongst themselves by mail between distant Universities to a massive forum where a multitude of ideas can be shared, discussed, and judged. This can be counted for a principle reason why general theory in physics, to name one field, has expanded far faster and with greater scope in this decade than any previous decade.

Before I completely bore you to death, I should get into one example of a scientist who has adopted new media:

Michio Kaku. If you have not heard of him, he is one of the most famous physicists of the modern day. It is not because he has come up with groundbreaking ideas or discovered a new subatomic particle or diagram. It is because he has widely publicized his studies as well as interests. He is not only one of the foremost experts in String Theory, but he has a profound fondness for science fiction. He has shied away from the normal ways of physicists by being the most public physicist to have ever lived. He has written seven books on physics, some which have been best sellers like Hyperspace (1994), Parallel Worlds (2004), and Physics of the Future (2011). He has been on more than thirty different TV programs like the visionary 2057 (2007) and Sci Fi Science: Physics of the Impossible (2009-2010). He also has a weekly one-hour radio program called Explorations, where he discusses science, war, peace, and the environment.

In 2010, he created a series called Science of Games on the website Gametrailers.com. This was truly innovative because he was the first physicist to discuss the physics of popular video game series like Mass Effect and the Force Unleashed in a forum context where physics enthusiasts and gamers alike could read his thoughts and get feedback on comments they made on his posts. Since then, science and physics have exploded in the visual software world. Dozens of physics sandboxes have been developed since 2010 like Crayon Physics Deluxe or Algodoo after this “epiphany.”

With regard to social media, Michio Kaku has taken it up like a modern day teenager even though he is 65 years old. He often posts on his twitter about where he is going to be and on what he is currently working. He always tweets when he is going to give a speech, go to a comic convention, or meet in an open forum so his followers can meet him in person. One of the reasons he has adopted social media is because he predicted that all people will be connected by a global network in his documentary, 2057.

 

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7 responses

  1. I’m not sure I agree with you about how the media has colored scientists. I mean, sure, there is a pretty distinct visual of thick glasses, suspenders, and pocket protectors when you think of ‘a nerd’, but just as there are characters like from the Big Bang Theory, or Dexter from Dexter’s Lab, you have other scientists who more or less redefine what it means to be awesome.

    For example: Pretty much half of all super heroes. Iron Man, an engineer. Bruce Banner, a chemist. Spider Man, a science student/amateur engineer/chemist. Mr. Fantastic, Dr. Manhattan, the list goes on an on. All of them scientific geniuses, all of them complete and utter bad asses (and none-too-bad-looking, either. I could name more than one person who spends their time fantasizing about Robert Downey Jr.)

    To cite a real life example, there’s Bobak Ferdowsi, who’s sort of the world’s favorite NASA employee right now. He gained fame from having the coolest hair ever (and helping to land the rover Curiosity on Mars; but that’s just an addendum to the hair).

    My point is that while “nerds” are often painted a certain way, and though nerds are frequently associated with science, scientists themselves have also earned a wholly distinct reputation for being awesome.

    1. Even though I disagree with what you have said, I have approved your message. I find your assessment that “nerd” superheros are foremost seen as nerds somewhat inaccurate. Their interesting qualities that draw people’s interests lie within either their super powers or their feats of heroics. Would you really like a superhero whose was a lab techy of a professor with no super powers and no heroic feats? I really do not think you would.

      Finally, my blog is about how new forms of media used by scientist and scientific educators have interested people in scientific fields. Would you say that his fame would have come about without the live broadcast streamed across television stations, across the internet, posted about on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media networks? I really do not think so. The new forms of media are what made him famous.

      I really hope I do not come off rough, I simply think of myself a nerd.

      1. You didn’t come off rough, and I think of myself as a nerd as well, so no trouble there, but I don’t think I understand your point. Of course I wouldn’t like a superhero without any powers or acts of heroism, because then they wouldn’t be a superhero… but I generally do think that the fact that these heroes are lab techies and scientists does make it cooler. It means that they sort of earned their power through their own merit.
        But that’s not even my point. My point is simply that scientists do also get the chance to be painted as awesome in the media. You offered the example of the Big Bang Theory, and I offered the counterexample of Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, Peter Parker, and so on and so forth.

      2. I was trying to say that the fact that they are scientists does not matter to the average person. It only matters to nerds like us! I mean if you ask someone on the street who Bruce Banner is he would most likely say “the Hulk” (or not know at all 🙂 ). Only us nerds know the real truth about him being foremost a physicist!

      3. Potentially. I definitely see what you mean. But look at Tony Stark, especially in the recent Avengers movie. His most notable line by far, I think, was when Cpt. America asked him, “Without that suit, what are you?”, posing the hypothetical where, like you, he’s wondering what he would be without his powers. His immediate response, of course, was “Umm, Genius, Billionaire, Playboy, Philanthropist.” Genius was listed first.

  2. Very informative article. I’ve always wondered how the physics of the games I’ve played in recent years seemed to become so much more realistic.

  3. I liked the way you said social media “denerdifies” scientists, lol! But I think it’s so cool that such an accomplished physicist keeps his followers up to date via twitter :). Social media has transformed the way we receive information – no longer do we have to read dusty volumes on physics!

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