Wednesday, January 20, 2016

"If it ain't broke, why bother to fix it?" says the smartest man in the room.

A Tour Of MICHIO KAKU'S Messy Office!! MUST WATCH 

If you've never heard of Professor, Michio Kaku, it could be because a) your idea of worthwhile Science learning comes from TV shows like The Big Bang Theory, b) you're averse to Americans with unfamiliar Japanese names c) you don't entertain yourself by listening to the thinking of didactic Science geniuses. Or maybe you just haven't come across this guy's books or radio or TV shows. Too bad, because this guy is very entertaining  and informative (at least I find him so) about the really big things in the Universe, namely: the really big things in the Universe. Can Theoretical Physics, you know, down to Earth stuff like Quantum Mechanics and String Theory, be made interesting? Well, when they are presented by the right Nerd-Geek, they are... absolutely!


I remember many, many a late afternoon driving home from my job at Fordham University in The Bronx, over the George Washington Bridge to my little house in Teaneck, NJ. That kind of traffic calls for major distraction and Dr. Kaku's show on public radio filled the bill very nicely. I learned a lot of Science by listening, but nothing resonated for me more strongly than the simple fact that Science can be made to be very entertaining. By the way, Wikipedia describes this guy as follows: "Kaku is most widely known as a popularizer of science [13] and physics outreach specialist." Interesting resume items, for sure.

Now, to get just a tad more chatty, I'll share that for a number of years I held the position of head of STEM Instruction (Science, Math, Engineering, and Mathematics) for the New York City Board of Education. My office was located in the central school system's complex of buildings in Downtown Brooklyn, and one of the events (there were always many) that I was requested to attend one day was a high school science fair. This was held in the ballroom of a hotel a couple of blocks away. I spent a couple of very pleasant hours hopping from one student display after another and offering congratulations and encouragement to the brilliant kids who had entered the event.

As I recall, I came across one manned by an appealing young woman. To the best of my recollection she was displaying (get this) a  home made, miniature Cloud Chamber,  definitely not an item one comes across on a regular basis... at least I don’t. After discussing her project with her and casting about for a friendly bit of chat to have with her before disengaging and moving on to the next display, I simply told her that the name on her name tag interested me as the only other Kaku I had ever heard of was the famous Science professor, Michio Kaku. I asked if was she aware of him. It was one of those moments; her face instantly brightened up as she waved to a silver-maned gentleman standing off to the side, saying "Hey dad, this man would like to meet you!" He turned out to be very gracious, very interested in the proceedings there that day, and a very down to Earth, engaging person. Hey, a fellow New Yorker...  and for those of you not from New York, I'll share with you that many of us simply get used to meeting all types of people all the time - famous Science popularizers, included. By the way, I love that he mentions his daughter in this video, too.

Coming across this video I was reminded of all of this and really got a kick out of this candid everyday moment in the life of a gentleman whose professional and intellectual life seem to me to be anything but everyday normal. By the way, I still teach graduate level courses for a couple of universities and I particularly got a kick out of Dr. Kaku answering a knock on his office door and receiving a packet of what he describes as "mid term exams I have to read." And I love how he quotes Winston Churchill as saying "It's pointless to have a nice clean desk because it means that you're not doing anything!" From the look of Professor Kaku's desk, the entire office for that matter, he's clearly doing quite a bit! :) :) :) 

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