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Michio Kaku, the American physicist who has popularized science, will speak at Nazarbayev University

17 may 2013, 12:13
0

Dr. Michio Kaku, the handsome, silver-haired American physicist who has become world-renowned for his ability to explain complex science to the public, will speak at Nazarbayev University on Wednesday, May 22.

Kaku, whose hundreds of television appearances have made him the world’s most recognizable scientist, will discuss “Physics of the Future: New Opportunities for Science and Business.” The talk will be at 6 p.m. in Nazarbayev University’s Senate Hall conference room.

Science buffs in Kazakhstan and around the globe know the Japanese-American as the host of science specials on the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, the Science Channel, the BBC and other broadcasters.

Kaku is not just a lightweight popularizer of science, however. He has made important contributions to physics, including being the co-founder of string field theory, a branch of string theory.

String theory uses strings rather than the particles of quantum physics – such as protons, electrons and neutrons – to explain fundamentals of physics. String field theory reformulates string theory in a way that makes it mesh with quantum field theory.

But the theoretical physicist at City College of New York is probably best known for being able to explain complex science in terms that the public can understand. His enthusiastic, unassuming and non-condescending manner have made him the darling of a public that often sees scientists as distant and arrogant.

Hundreds of television appearances have made Dr. Michio Kaku the world’s most recognized scientist. Photo courtesy of Dr. Michio Kaku

Hundreds of television appearances have made Dr. Michio Kaku the world’s most recognized scientist. Photo courtesy of Dr. Michio Kaku

“We are delighted that a scientist who is revered for his ability to explain science to the public will be speaking at Nazarbayev University,” said Dr. Ron Bubulian, dean of the university’s School of Science and Technology. “Dr. Kaku’s appearance is in keeping with our school’s mission of not only training young scientists in science but also providing them with the ability to communicate their work to the public.”

Kaku, who will take part in the Astana Economic Forum from May 22 to 24, not only does TV shows about science, but also hosts radio programs, writes best-selling books, does magazine articles and blogs, and speaks to non-science audiences around the world.

Here is one of hundreds of videos that shows how masterful he is in explaining science to the public:

 

Kazakhs who are familiar with Kaku’s biography have a special affinity for him because of his anti-nuclear activities.

He played a key role in organizing an anti-nuclear movement in the United States that spread across the non-Communist world in the 1980s, a period when President Ronald Reagan was rearming America to counter a Soviet build-up begun under Leonid Brezhnev.

Inspired by the anti-nuclear movement in the West, courageous residents of Kazakhstan organized a nuclear-protest effort in the late 1980s – the Nevada Semipalatinsk movement.

It was aimed at stopping nuclear testing in Kazakhstan, which had been subjected to almost 500 nuclear blasts since 1949.

Challenging the establishment was risky during Soviet times, but the movement’s organizers persevered – and two years later the Soviet Union imploded.

Just before it did, in August of 1991, the president of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, Nursultan Nazarbayev, halted all explosions at the Semipalatinsk nuclear testing facility.

Four months later, in December of 1991, Kazakhstan became independent, with Nazarbayev its first president.

Kaku’s anti-nuclear activism was a 180-degree turnaround from his days as a young physicist. He started as a protégé of physicist Edward Teller, the father of the hydrogen bomb.

Kaku assembled a particle accelerator in his parents’ garage while a student at Cubberley High School in Palo Alto, California. Teller spotted him at a national Science Fair in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Kaku obtained his bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvard University in 1968. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley in 1972.

He taught at Princeton before joining City College of New York.

The best-selling book “Hyperspace,” in 1994, which was written for the public rather than scientists, helped catapult him to stardom in 1994.

Kaku continued to write popular books explaining science, which led to his obtaining radio and television programs and even making film appearances.

His books include “Beyond Einstein” in 1995, “Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize the 21st Century” in 1998, “Einstein’s Cosmo” in 2004, “Parallel Worlds” in 2004, “Physics of the Impossible” in 2008 and “Physics of the Future” in 2011.

He hosts two weekly radio programs about science – “Explorations” and “Science Fantastic.”

Key television specials he has hosted include the BBC’s four-part documentary “Time” in 2006, the Discovery Channel’s three-part “2057” in 2007, the BBC’s three-part documentary “Visions of the Future” in 2008 and the Science Channel’s 12-part “Sci Fi Science: Physics of the Impossible.”

Kaku has spoken out against what he has seen as dangers of the world’s space programs.

In 1997, for example, he criticized the Cassini-Huygens deep space probe because the craft used 72 pounds of plutonium to fuel its radioisotope thermoelectric generator.  Kaku warned that an accident with the spacecraft could disperse plutonium into the environment, killing humans.

He has also spoken about the dangers of space junk, and called for better monitoring of these leftovers from man’s space activities.


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