Sunday, April 06, 2008

Michio Kaku

The indefatigable Bryan Appleyard rightly criticises Michio Kaku's latest book, Physics of the Impossible, for its naive technophilic populism.

Appleyard is interested in putting such work into an overall cultural context. Science, however, can also put human culture into context, and those seeking the most sophisticated field of view will be rewarded by flipping back and forth between the two perspectives.

Kaku is one of those individuals who has forged an international media career by making wildly exaggerated, and often inaccuarate claims, about the content of modern physics. For a more reliable guide to the science, John Barrow's eclectic 1998 book, Impossibility: The Limits of Science and the Science of Limits, should be consulted. It can be freely downloaded here.

1 comment:

Selena Dreamy said...

I agree, Gordon. An excellent summary of the issues involved.

Particularly the statement that “it has all been done elsewhere.“ Though Hawking was only the crest of a wave that had been building ever since the first popularisers James Jeans, Sir Arthur Eddington and Lord Haldane, in the thirties and forties. The discovery that reality is indeterminate was one of the great intellectual revolutions of the twentieth century, and found its popular culmination somewhere in the 70s, at the time, of Watson’s Supernature. rather than, as Bryan appears to suggest, Hawking’s History of Time.

Whatever. The greater the energy, the higher the frequency!

Bryan pricks it with near-perfect precision. “That leads to all kings of fetishisms," he says. Well, yes. They’re trying to flog things. And none more so than the likes of Michio Kaku, who’s at heart a paparazzis, entirely unable to relinquish his imaginary muse. Something like the equivalent of “scientology’s” incense burners and meditation freaks, who retail a hackneyed populism of Tao and the Hindu Vedas...

It’s science replayed as feel-good farce.