Posted by: Johan Normark | January 3, 2012

2012: Michio Kaku on what will happen this year

I am sure you have seen the physicist Michio Kaku on TV before since he is one of the main public figures in science, and particularly in physics. In this clip from CNN he briefly shares his opinion and knowledge about the Maya calendar (3 minutes into the clip). Here I must side with PZ Myers who claims Kaku babbles about topics that he knows nothing or little about. No, the Maya Long Count is not cyclical in the same way that the tzolkin and haab are. The Planet X (“the tenth planet”) and the black hole have nothing to do with the Maya calendars as well, those ideas are coming from other sources. Of course, the interviewer asks him these questions in relation to what will happen this year in science and Kaku correctly answers that the Maya calendar is not a good source for modern science (apart from Mayanist studies I must add). However, he seems to have uncritically accepted the media version of the calendar. I do not expect one of the top physicists in the world to know much about the Maya calendar but then they should not “babble” about it either.



  1. […] vetenskap. Många vetenskapsdokumentärer på TV tenderar att ha just fysiker som Brian Cox eller Michio Kaku som programledare, där de tar med tittaren på en resa som berör mycket mer vetenskap än fysik. Det är rätt så […]

  2. It’s unfortunate, but Kaku is by no means a skeptic in the modern sense of the word. He also believes in UFOs=aliens. I like to think of this in terms of there being 3 unique skillsets to being a public scientist: 1. You need to be able to do good, original research. 2. You need to be able to publicize your work and talk about it at a level the general public can understand. 3. You need to be able to critically analyze claims outside of your own field in light of plausibility and with the same rules of evidence as your own research.

    Kaku is great at 1 and 2. Not at 3.

    • Michio Kaku may not know everything, and may not know what will happen this year. He is a physicist, and not a psychic. And he is not a skeptic, if scientists would believe the skeptics, we would be still in the dark ages, the Earth would be still flat, And would be not possible to fly, and the boats would be falling off the edge of the World
      In my opinion the skeptics were wrong about everything.

    • You clearly did not read what I wrote: “skeptic in the modern sense of the word.” As in, demands actual evidence for claims. This is very different from “upholds the status quo and doesn’t believe anything else.”

  3. Yes, sceptic today usually refers to people sceptical of pseudoscience and religion:

    Anyway, congratulations to Gilgamesh who made comment # 2000. Let’s see who makes comment # 2012 (in the year 2012, that must mean something…?).

  4. Kaku has had a long tradition of being sensationalist and not very well read-up on various things he’s tackled with commenting or explaining on TV. He is a theoretical physicist with a rather narrow field of expertise, without doubt an intelligent man but I still find him unfit as a communicator and popularizer of science, especially considering the tendency they have to just throw him into things he knows little to nothing about.

  5. I guess the thing is, relating to what I wrote above, that he (or his manager?) seems to take every opportunity he gets to get some air time. A scientist should know his/her limits, so to speak. It’s like if Mr. Normark would drop some comments on let’s say an ambiguous aspect of quantum field theory needing some sort of clarification. I am hereby assuming that Mr. Normark is not qualified in that field of research, if I am wrong just replace it with something else, the point is not really what topic it is. Anyway, as most people probably would, he might have some thoughts on it, some ideas and what not. However, presenting it as “this is a scientist and he says this” is grossly misleading. Unfortunately this kind of thing is far from uncommon these days, I’m sure I’ve even seen physicians’ opinions on cosmology being interchanged with physicists’, right on prime time. “Hell, what does it matter, they all have some kind of Ph.D. anyway”…

  6. The irony of the whole thing is that Kaku becomes similar to the 2012ers/2011ers themselves since what they do is to combine unrelated things of which they are not expert on. They proclaim to be experts on topics of which they lack any education. A good example of this is Carl Johan Calleman who has combined intelligent design, Darwinian evolution, quantum physics and the Maya calendar. Calleman lacks expertise in all of these subjects but he has thousands of followers because they think that his PhD title is proof that he knows what he writes.

    • I was listening to a very old Coast to Coast Am episode with “Dr. Fred Bell” who was spewing enough technobabble to make Gene Roddenberry cringe. He was talking about a time machine he invented. Everyone kept calling him “Doctor.” Problem is, his “doctorate” (and I use the term loosely) is/was in homeopathy.

      So you have a nutjob, who has a non-accredited degree in a made-up field, talking about a completely different made-up field, but because he has that “doctorate” he was presented as believable.

      • Another example is Semir Osmanagic who receieved a PhD by the University of Sarajevo for a “thesis” on the ancient Maya and their connection with the Pleiades, crystal skulls, etc. I guess his “Bosnian pyramids” have attracted so many tourists and money to Bosnia that they felt obliged to give him a PhD. His thesis has a quality lower than most BA-theses I have seen…


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