Explorations With Dr. Michio Kaku - January 22, 2002

Program Title:
Explorations With Dr. Michio Kaku - January 22, 2002
Series Title:
PRA Archive #: 

Explorations with Dr. Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York, science program. Contents: GUEST: Dr. JEFFREY L. BADA, a Director of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA, [e-mail jbada@ucsd.edu] Professor of Marine Chemistry, and co-author of "The Spark of Life: Darwin and the Primeval Soup"[Perseus Pub.,c2000] to discuss theories exploring the origin of life on Earth. Specific topics and biographical figures addressed in the interview are:1) The simulation of conditions on early Earth and the generation of amino acids via the Miller-Urey experiment of the 1950's 2) The concept and dismissal of the "Spontaneous Generation" of life 3) Louis Pasteur, sterility and isolation of material from the air 4) Antony van Leeuwenhoek, the invention of the microscope, and the discovery of microbial life 5) Lord Kelvin, Fred Holye and the Panspermia theory 6) The Oparin-Haldane hypothesis of a "pre-biotic soup" 7) Polymerization and DNA 8) Carbon's 4 bonds and the ability to form organic compounds 9) Tom Cech, Sidney Altman and the discovery that RNA can carry out biological catalysis 10) Peptide Nucleic Acids (PNA) 11) The "Tree of Life" as a construct that molecular biology uses to relate organisms to one another 12) The notion that all life on Earth shares one "last common ancestor" Other topics covered: Vice President Dick Cheney has endorsed nuclear power as a main source of energy for the United States despite known safety risks associated with terrorism and hazardous radioactive waste. Obfuscating the issue is a directive by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to provide potassium iodide to areas near nuclear power facilities; one that offers a false sense of security to nearby residents. Ultimately the only safe way to deal with nuclear power plants is to close them down. Europe's largest glacier is melting away at a rate of 1 meter per year. Iceland's Vatnajokull is currently 900 meters thick, spans 8,000 square kilometers which is equivalent to 8% of the country's land area, and may virtually disappear within 50 years time. Scientists have noted that all glaciers on Earth are receding to some degree due to the effects of global warming. Recent reports have offered conflicting news concerning the massive ice sheet at West Antarctica. The sheet occupies 13% of the ice in the South Pole, and according to researchers at Caltech, parts of it are thickening due to a temperature drop in some locations. Meanwhile the British Antarctic Survey has estimated that there is a 5% chance that the ice sheet will completely disintegrate over the next 100 years. Even if a partial disintegration transpires sea level may rise significantly and threaten shorelines around the world. A subcommittee of the National Academy of Sciences issued a new report on human cloning that has gained the attention of President George W. Bush. Because a large percentage of animal embryos fail in experiments they also consider prospects for human cloning unsafe. The report is also careful to state that the subcommittee is in favor of cloning embryonic stem cells for the purpose of regenerating tissues and organs. NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Tracking Program located an asteroid that made a rendezvous close to Earth in December of 2001. The object is named 2001-YB5, and is about 1,000 feet across. It whizzed by at 68,000 miles per hour and came within 1/2 a million miles (about equivalent to twice the distance to the moon) of impacting Earth, a very small distance on cosmological scales. Had the asteroid pummeled Earth, an area the size of France would have been wiped out. Lactose intolerance, a condition that produces symptoms that includes nausea, diarrhea, cramps, bloating, and gas affects 30 to 50 million Americans, and is now being analyzed at a genetic level. Scientists at UCLA tested over 200 people of different ethnic origins and have zeroed in on a DNA variant that may be responsible for deficiencies in lactase, an enzyme that allows the body to breakdown the lactose sugar molecule. A caller asks if any real progress has been made in the field of Artificial Intelligence. Michio cites Moore's Law, the rate at which computing power increases, and parlays it into an estimation of when machines may be able to approach the speed of thought (about 500 trillion bytes per second). He highlights 2 main stumbling blocks facing the development of intelligent robots. 1) Robots can see and hear but do not understand their environment or and 3D orientation, and 2) robots lack a basic common sense and ability to interact and learn from the world around them.

Date Recorded on: 
January 22, 2002
Date Broadcast on: 
January 22, 2002
Item duration: 
60 min.
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Los Angeles, Pacifica Radio Archive, 2002
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