I am about 2/3 through Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku. Kaku is a very smart man who has access to some of the greatest scientific minds of our time: he discusses the future with them and then writes about or does PBS shows about it. (To show you what kind of brainiac he is: 1.he built a cloud chamber with a powerful magnetic field to photograph tracks of antimatter and 2 he built a 2.3 million electron volt particle accelerator. He built both of these in his garage while he was in high school. The particle accelerator took 400 pounds of transformer steel and 22 miles of copper wire and produced a magnetic field 20,000 times stronger than the Earth’s. When he switched it on it used 6 kilowatts of power and frequently blew out all the fuses in his house).

Kaku’s predictions are what make his book so interesting. He divides the 21st century into thirds with predictions about what will occur from now to 2030; then from 2030-2070; then from 2070-2100.

Among his predictions:

* People my age (61) are probably part of the last generation that will die. I’d heard before that my kids (now 26 and 28) would live to be 125, but Kaku’s best guess is it’s going to be longer. DNA genome mapping and the subsequent ability to tinker with it will eliminate disease and aging.

* Your bathroom will have plenty of computer chips embedded in it that will analyse your urine, skin, etc (non-invasively) and you will be warned of any trace of cancer or other life-threatening disease far in advance of it becoming a health issue.

* Computer speed will eventually taper off. Computers have been doubling their speed every 18 months or so due to the increased miniaturization of computer chips but when the chips become 10 atoms or so across they’ll have reached their limit. Unless someone comes up with a replacement for silicon in their formation computer speeds will become more and more stable.

* Skin incisions will become a thing of the past. Miniature (nano) cameras and other devices will be injected into folks’ bloodstreams, directed by doctors from without the body, and any surgeries that need to be done will be accomplished internally.

Kaku addresses the following topics and divides them into the three time periods I mentioned above: computers, Artificial Intelligence (robots and such), Medicine, nanotechnology, energy, space travel and wealth. For the most part he avoids the trap that a lot of scientist fall into which is speaking way above our heads, but he has the annoying habit of going back in time to ancient beliefs or Star Trek references. e.g., He’ll write something like, “The ancient gods lived forever. Now it appears that such immortality is almost within our grasp.” Or, “Dr, McCoy waved the tricorder over the patient and was able to ascertain what was wrong with the patient. When someone mentioned they would have to operate he called them barbarians.” You’ll want to do some skimming.

The book really gets you thinking, though. By the year 2050 most of our furniture might be made of “catoms” (claytronic atoms) which are like tiny grains of sand that are held together by electrical charge. Say you have a nice black easy chair made of catoms but you need a couch or a bed because your nephew’s staying overnight. You simply reprogram the electrical charge, the grains of sand reform, and you now have a couch — shape shifting. If that happens by 2050 think of the effect it will have on every furniture store. Think of the millions of couches that won’t get hauled off to the dump every year; or the millions of tons of energy that won’t be used to make those millions of couches; or the millions of employees at furniture factories who’ll have to find something else to do to make money.

We think the economy is in bad shape now — what happens when manufacturing is cut by 50 or 75 per cent? Man it’s hard to get ready for the future.

I also just finished The Bradbury Report  by Steven Polansky which is about a 60-something guy who meets his 22 year old clone. Polansky’s narrator (named the “original” as he was the one cloned) achieves an emotional renaissance through interacting with his clone, and you really feel for the three main characters — the third one being a lady that knew “Ray” as a young man and coincidentally was brought in on the case of his clone who had escaped from a clone compound.The story is great but the author gets way too bogged down in inconsequential ideas: I started skimming descriptions about 1/4 of the way through the book. Sometimes I wonder why editors allow their writers so much leeway. The book is 326 pages and could easily be 100 pages less.

Thanks for all the comments about the last blog. I’ll be shifting (not shape shifting) back to movies in my next one.