Monday, August 01, 2005
Kaku on ET, Time Travel, Space Travel
Dr. Michio Kaku, Henry Semat Professor of Theoretical Physics at the City University of New York, author of books such as Parallel Worlds and Beyond Einstein, and co-founder of String Field theory, has a number of very intriguing - and accessible - articles at his website.
Three of particular interest to UFO aficianados are:
1. "The Physics of Extra-Terrestrial Civilizations"
"The late Carl Sagan once asked this question, 'What does it mean for a civilization to be a few million years old? We have had radio telescopes and spaceships for a few decades; our technical civilization is a few hundred years old... an advanced civilization millions of years old is as much beyond us as we are beyond a bush baby or a macaque.'
Although any conjecture about such advanced civilizations is a matter of sheer speculation, one can still use the laws of physics to place upper and lower limits on these civilizations. In particular, now that the laws of quantum field theory, general relativity, thermodynamics, etc. are fairly well established, physics can impose broad physical bounds which constrain the parameters of these civilizations.
This question is no longer a matter of idle speculation. Soon, humanity may face an existential shock as the current list of a dozen Jupiter-sized extra-solar planets swells to hundreds of earth-sized planets, almost identical twins of our celestial homeland. This may usher in a new era in our relationship with the universe; we will never see the night sky in the same way again, realizing that scientists may eventually compile an encyclopedia identifying the precise co-ordinates of perhaps hundreds of earth-like planets."
Dr. Kaku then provides a ranking system for potential extra-terrestrial civilizations based upon their energy consumption. He also outlines some thoughts about how an advanced civilization might go about exploring the galaxy that puts Captain Kirk and crew in the dry-dock in favour of robot probes designed to reach distant star systems and create factories which will reproduce copies of themselves by the thousands (much to Dr. McCoy's chagrin).
On the other hand, he doesn't rule out human (or alien) travel by way of wormholes, either.
2. "The Physics of Interstellar Travel"
This article expands upon some of the points discussed in "The Physics of Extra-Terrestrial Civilizations" with regard to space travel. While Dr. Kaku gets his statistics wrong with respect to UFOs (he claims that only 1% are truly unidentified), he is correct in pointing out that:
(a) "there is no funding for anyone seriously looking at unidentified flying objects in space, and one's reputation may suffer if one pursues an interest in these unorthodox matters," and
(b) "what is disturbing to a physicist... is the remaining 1% [PK note - the actual number is significantly higher] of these sightings, which are multiple sightings made by multiple methods of observations. Some of the most intriguing sightings have been made by seasoned pilots and passengers aboard air line flights which have also been tracked by radar and have been videotaped. Sightings like this are harder to dismiss."
Ufologists should look at both these points and ask themselves:
(a) Why is there no funding, and why do scientists fear that their reputation will suffer? Here's a hint: because the serious study of the UFO phenomenon has been unable to disentangle itself from the looney fringe, best exemplified as of late by Dr. Michael Salla and his exopolitical cohorts, and because some thoughtful, intelligent people within ufology, like Stan Friedman, insist on presenting the ETH as a fact, when the evidence does not yet support this conclusion.
(b) How can serious ufology engage scientists like Dr. Kaku, who have demonstrated at least an interest in the phenomenon, even if their perceptions of the evidence are incorrect? Here's a hint: stick to the facts, and present those facts to men and women like Dr. Kaku who may be willing to give them a look. For example, ask them what they make of the RB47 case. One has to start somewhere.
3. "The Physics of Time Travel"
"Interestingly enough, Stephen Hawking once opposed the idea of time travel. He even claimed he had 'empirical' evidence against it. If time travel existed, he said, then we would have been visited by tourists from the future. Since we see no tourists from the future, ergo: time travel is not possible. Because of the enormous amount of work done by theoretical physicists within the last 5 years or so, Hawking has changed his mind, and now believes that time travel is possible (although not necessarily practical). Furthermore, perhaps we are simply not very interesting to these tourists from the future. Anyone who can harness the power of a star would consider us to be very primitive. Imagine your friends coming across an ant hill. Would they bend down and give them trinkets, books, medicine, and power? or would some of your friends have the strange urge to step on a few of them?
In conclusion, don't turn someone away who knocks at your door one day and claims to be your future great-great-great grandchild. They may be right."
Here's a question - if you could travel back in time, who would you most want to meet?
I would like to think that I would pick Jesus, or some other figure of world-historical significance, but I'd have to admit that I'd be sorely tempted to go visit my younger self (oh, at about age 16), to whom I would (a) impart some basic wisdom about dating, and (b) tell him not to make fun of my Dad's receding hairline, on the theory that what goes around, comes around.
Anyway, I urge everyone to read all three of Kaku's articles, as they are related to each other. Then check out his other articles, which are just as thought-provoking, and his books, which are great reads.
I just wish someone like Dr. Kaku had been teaching physics at my old high school. Perhaps then I would have found it more interesting.
Oh well - no time like the present!