Explorations With Dr. Michio Kaku - January 1, 2002

Program Title:
Explorations With Dr. Michio Kaku - January 1, 2002
Series Title:
PRA Archive #: 

Explorations with Dr. Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York, science program. Contents: Dr. Kaku recaps and summarizes THE TOP 10 SCIENCE STORIES OF 2001: 1) The terrorist events of September 11th and the U.S. military response to the tragedy dominated headlines and prompted a wave of analysis by experts and media worldwide. "Explorations" considered the attack in terms of its historical context, roots and causes with respect to foreign policy, and that the situation was spawned by CIA initiatives that resulted in devastating blowback against the U.S. 2) No arraignments have been made that link perpetrators to the anthrax attacks that occurred in the aftermath of the September 11th events, but evidence indicates that the strains originated in the U.S. and were probably made during the Cold War. Directly related to this story is the observation that terrorism will continue to exist if its roots are not addressed. Cited in particular is the failure of the U.S. government to support freedom in the Middle East due to distorted positions taken to preserve the production and import of cheap oil. 3) The year 2001 was the second hottest ever recorded in the history of science. The burning of fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution has helped create a greenhouse effect that has been steadily warming the Earth and could wreak havoc on coastlines and growing areas later this century. The Kyoto Protocols are designed to control and limit greenhouse gas emissions to protect the climate, but has been staunchly opposed by the U.S. who's economy is supported by burning oil. 4) NASA satellites have had a successful year exploring the solar system. One probe landed on the asteroid Eros, and another was safely placed in an orbit around Mars while more evidence showing that the red planet does indeed have plenty of frozen water was scoped out. Despite the retirement of Dan Goldin as Director of NASA, Michio agrees that the philosophy of "faster, better, cheaper" should continue to be applied within the organization. 5) Cosmologists gathered more evidence indicating the Big Bang is not slowing down; discoveries that support theories of an inflationary universe. Propelling this expansion is "dark energy," the energy of the nothingness contained within a vacuum of space. Einstein originally proposed the idea of "dark energy," but then discarded it due to the absence of experimental data that could support it. Ironically what he considered to be his greatest blunder in actuality may be the largest source of energy in the universe. 6) The Bush administration issued an official 6-month notice of its intent to abrogate the Anti Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty. Analysts have inferred that this means the U.S. may attempt to deploy a National Missile Defense (NMD) system in Alaska, despite widespread knowledge that indicates the technology is not ready or workable. Russia and China waged protests against the breakage of the ABM treaty with the realization that its disintegration may spawn a new nuclear arms race that includes India and Pakistan in the mix. 7) Advancements made in computer engineering laboratories may lead to technologies that surpass the limitations of silicon and Moore's law. Hewlett Packard and IBM have created transistors the size of individual molecules. Scientists still have to figure out how to mass-produce and connect these molecules, but the initial discovery may become a technological springboard akin to the invention of the first solid-state transistor at Bell Labs in 1948. 8) Researchers at IBM's Almaden Research Center accomplished another feat of computer engineering, this time in the realm of Quantum Computing. They used 7 atoms and were able to factorize the number 15 into 3X5. When the ability to design and construct computers using thousands or millions of atoms arrives, the entire device may become the ultimate code cracking machine, a notion that has already gained attention from world governments. 9) Considered science fiction only 5 years ago, huge breakthroughs in medicine were made over the last year through the harvesting of embryonic and umbilical cord stem cells. In one case one boy was cured of Sickle Cell Anemia by the introduction of stem cells into his system. The innate potential for stem cells to create organ tissues means that diabetes, heart disease, spinal cord injury, and Alzheimer's disease among countless others can possibly be cured. Unfortunately a decision by the Bush administration to restrict federal funding may limit that potential, and may also encourage scientists to move away from the U.S. to more supportive environments. 10) The field of genetics made headlines via stories on gene therapy, cloning, aging, the human genome project, how it helped develop a family tree for Homo sapiens, and create a map of human settlement across the globe. Ethical issues that pertain to genetics and an outlook forecasting how it may impact society over the next 20 years is also provided. Other topics covered: According to the British Antarctic Survey there exists a 5% chance that the Great Western Antarctic Ice Sheet will disintegrate during the course of this century. The sheet represents 13% of all of the ice in the South Pole, and if it were to melt it would cause sea levels to rise by 1 meter. The implication of such a change in the environment would inundate coastlines and could even affect ocean currents and the Gulf Stream further destabilizing global weather patterns. With an estimated 60-80 nuclear devices in India, and 20-30 in Pakistan, the possibility of nuclear war waged between the two rival nations becomes more plausible as tensions escalate. Though Western nations are horrified by the notion of nuclear war possibly becoming a reality, it was their proliferation policies of the 1970's and 1980's that are to blame for the scenario. A new report from Columbia University has suggested that engagement in leisure activities may delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease. The study analyzed 1772 people aged over 65 who did not suffer from the disease over a 7-year period and correlated intellectual, social, and physical pursuits with the decline or postponement of the disease. Scientists still believe that there is also a genetic component to Alzheimer's, and ultimately they would like to find therapies that attack the illness on that level. Scientists at the University of Illinois have found that tomato sauce may be effective at reducing the risk of prostate cancer. The studied a group of 32 prostate cancer patients and fed them 1 tomato sauce dish daily for 3 weeks and measured reduced DNA damage levels of 28%. The antioxidant lycopene is believed to be the active ingredient that is the source of the health benefit. Apparently exercise is good for both the body and the brain. By performing tests on 7 runners, researchers at Nihon Fukushi University in Handa, Japan found that mental acuity scores rose rather dramatically during the time immediately after jogging. The increase in blood flow is believed to help oxygenate the brain and enhance performance, a finding that was correlated in previous results by a Duke University study.

Date Recorded on: 
January 1, 2002
Date Broadcast on: 
January 1, 2002
Item duration: 
60 min.
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Los Angeles, Pacifica Radio Archive, 2002
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