I think Michio Kaku and I have very different philosophies about popularizing science. Kaku likes to reach for the amazing and sensational potentials of the world. I like to bring things down to earth, grounding them in simple concepts. Or something like that. Clearly there are differences even if I cannot articulate them.
But that doesn't mean we have to clash! I would probably agree with Michio Kaku on most of his futurist predictions, at least when properly translated. Allow XKCD to do the translating.
But recently, Uncertain Principles pointed out an interview of Michio Kaku by Deepak Chopra. If there is a time to clash, now is it. Let me pull out a bunch of the worst quotes.
DC [Deepak Chopra]: What the basis for your book is, that if it does not violate the laws of mathematics or physics then it is in the realm of possibility, really?This is an example of type 2 technobabble. It's true that there is a principle in physics that states, "If it's not forbidden, then it's mandatory," but this is really not the right context for it. The correct context is particle physics, because all possible particle interactions will mathematically contribute to the result. Of course, some interactions contribute more than others, and most interactions are just impossible. But don't let that get you down on life, because this only relates to the context of particle physics.
MK [Michio Kaku]: That's right. If it's not forbidden by the laws of physics, it's mandatory.
MK: Right. Think about this: if you were to push a button and the force field has knowledge of how to construct walls and floors and sidewalks, with a push of a button you could create an entire city.If I had an infinite lever and an immovable place to stand on, then we could move the world around. It's all a matter of getting the technical details sorted out. (That's a Terry Pratchett reference btw.)
DC: Is our conversation affecting something in another galaxy right now?I guess if we take a strict Many Worlds Interpretation, I suppose it is true "in principle" that things here are correlated with things in other galaxies. But this is very misleading. Really, it will be a mix of correlations, anti-correlations, and everything in between, which is to say that on average there is no correlation at all. This is the very important principle of quantum decoherence.
MK: In principle. What we're talking about right is affecting another galaxy far, far beyond the Milky Way Galaxy. Now when the Big Bang took place we think that most of the matter probably was vibrating in unison.
MK: We actually demonstrated it right on TV cameras. We went to the University of Maryland outside Baltimore and we showed an atom being teleported right across the room. You can actually see two chambers, an atom in one being zapped across the room.Chad explained why this is misleading over at Uncertain Principles. One major error is that there is already an atom in each chamber. Quantum teleportation only transfers a quantum state from one atom to another, not the atoms themselves. Also, the atoms were very carefully prepared by experimenters, not by the Big Bang.
This post is longer than I expected, so I should insert another visual.
DC: Every cell is instantly correlated with every cell. A human body can think thoughts, play a piano, kill germs, remove toxins, make a baby all at once.This time, it's Deepak Chopra who is saying something deeply silly, and Kaku just lets most of it go.
To my mind the human body is an example or for that matter a leaf for any biological, of quantum entanglement. Everything is correlated with everything instantly. What would you say to that?
MK: Yes, things are entangled so in some sense messages can travel faster than light instantaneously, however the messages that go faster than light are random messages. You can't send Morse code or information through these things and sometimes we de-cohere from matter so that we can no longer communicate with other forms of matter.
Chopra is proposing that correlations between different parts of our body is caused by quantum entanglement. I'm no expert, but I thought it was caused by electrical signals moving along neurons. It certainly is not instant, it's just instant for all practical purposes. It is not faster than light, so no quantum entanglement is necessary. And as Kaku points out, if it were faster than light, then only random messages would be communicated.
DC: But let's come back to a biological system. That's not random, that's very coherent, you know this biological system or a system like say when you have morphogenesis and differentiation, when a cell divides, keeps dividing so that you know in first year applications it has become the hundred trillion cells which is more than all the stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. That requires some kind of non-local correlation to my mind, theoretically.Auuggh, no! Michio Kaku just conceded that the biological correlations are non-local (ie faster than light). They aren't! That's why the messages can be non-random, as Chopra observes.
MK: Well these non-local correlations are going to be extremely important in the next few decades coming from the computer realm of things.
DC: To me a rose is rainbows and sunshine, earth, water, and wind, air, and the infinite void and the Big Bang all rolled into one.If someone says, "a rose is rainbows and sunshine," the correct answer is "No it isn't," no matter what kind of dance the electrons are doing.
MK: Mmm hmm. And Einstein was wrong in this one. We measured this every day in the laboratory. That electrons can dance in between multiple states and then the question is why can't I dance between multiple states?
Michio Kaku also said something very silly about how quantum mechanics might prove the existence of an omniscient being, but I'll leave that one for another post. (ETA: It is done)
I agree with Chad, someone ought to be ashamed for this interview.