Star Trek Guide

ST’s optimism scientifically backed by physicist Michio Kaku in Chicago Humanities Festival talk

If there is anything that more excitedly optimistic about the future of humanity more than Star Trek, it is astrophysics. Those attending the Chicago Humanities Festival online event “Michio Kaku on the Theory of Everything” hosted by The Next Generation’s Levar Burton got plenty of both, and if anyone left the virtual conversation with mind unblown and/or hopelessness at our insignificance in the universe, well, they just weren’t paying attention…

Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist, celebrity science popularizer and, naturally, a big science-fiction fan. Though Kaku’s first namedrop was of his childhood favorite Flash Gordon, his main go-to in explaining theories of advanced civilizations was good ol’ Trek. Kaku even stated that popular sci-fi serves a real purpose: namely as an antidote to junior high school pedagogy, what he sees as the greatest threat to appreciation of the sciences and critical thinking:

As is not atypical of such Star Trek/science crossover events, some time was devoted on the actual feasibility of those wonderful technologies in our favorite sci-fi tales. Figures Kaku, electronic wallpaper is a good first step on the way to holodecks; warp drive in limited fashion (likesay, at 1/5c) is theoretically quite possible; and, in a blow to that other mega-franchise, lightsabers likely can’t exist due to what we know about optics.

While Star Trek Guide does not have space to do proper justice to the concepts of multiverse and fundamental universal forces, we can easily convey our potential future as a species as defined by the Kardashev Scale that was kicked around by Kaku and Burton.

At present, according to the Kardashev Scale and delineated by Kaku, humanity is in the late stages of a Type-0 civilization, e.g. on that is generally earthbound, limited to consumption of nonrenewable resources, burdened by social barriers, etc. The Type-I civilization rises above internal conflict and gains control of the ecosphere while populating other planetary bodies in the solar system.

Star Trek represents a Type-II civilization while the Star Wars flicks are populated by Type-III civilizations; the former has control of its home planet, colonizes nearby worlds and can reach great galactic distances; the latter controls the entire galaxy, traveling at Spaceballs’ ludicrous speed. Kaku even contemplates a not scientifically accepted Type-IV civilization: That portrayed by the Q Continuum.

Kaku’s exciting spin on the ’Scale is weighted with all that Trek optimism: If we can survive, we’re already well on the way to Type-I status. As hints of the century-long quest’s first steps taken, Kaku posited the internet plus internationalization of culture such as soccer and pop music backed by the proliferation of languages like English and Mandarin Chinese.

After several years’ worth of worldwide crisis, disease and hatred outbreaks, programs like “Michio Kaku on the Theory of Everything” which explain the wonder of ourselves, our universe and our very existence are not only educational, they’re absolutely necessary. Thank you, Dr. Kaku, Mr. Burton and the Chicago Humanities Festival for reminding us that “The Human Adventure is Just Beginning.”

–written by Os Davis