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• Sci-Fi Science: Physics of the Impossible

In this TV series produced by the Science Channel, host Dr. Michio Kaku (a self declared sci-fi geek) explores how popular concepts from science fiction might actually pan out.  He visits relevant experts to discuss each futuristic scenario, but there seems to be very little science and a whole lot of wild speculation going on.  The majority of Kaku’s theories rest heavily on the predicted technological singularity, a prediction which he strongly believes.  The expected effects of the singularity are considered so game-changing that virtually anything goes.

Kaku often takes modest technologies that may hold promise many years from now, and then exaggerate them to an obscene degree.  At the end of each episode, Kaku cobbles together the examined technologies into a single monstrosity, often with rather awkward results.  All the while the viewer is treated to cheesy computer animations illustrating what it will all look like, apparently made by someone with the intellect of a small dog.  I’m being perfectly honest when I say the end result is about as thoughtful and impressive as the doodles of a schoolboy.  Like the History Channel’s shows on aliens and ghosts, this one may be a better fit on the SyFy channel.

Dr. Kaku’s “amazing” robot of the future

The episodes are mercifully short, and there’s only three episodes that deal with robotics.  In season one, episode 9 is all about building a proper science fiction robot.  He doesn’t talk about smart homes, autonomous vehicles, planetary rovers, nor does he touch on battery life, synthetic muscles, or artificial skin.  It seems to me there is no magic bullet as to what robots will look like in the future, but we can expect a wellspring of forms tailored for specific purposes, much like we have now.  Kaku visits various labs, none of which build humanoids, which leads him to conjure a humanoid robot that has modular parts.  Surprisingly, his lame creation is not as stupid as what is seen in season two, where he tackles cyborg armies (in episode 9) and an A.I. uprising (episode 10).  These are both embarrassingly bad, though I suppose you may find them mildly entertaining for that reason.

I find it baffling that a respected theoretical physicist like Dr. Kaku would lower himself to do a show like this, which was poorly planned and clearly rushed, but I guess everyone’s got bills to pay.  In keeping with the show’s premise, it would have been more effective to take a specific technology from the realm of science fiction and contrast that with the cutting edge work being done in related fields.  For example, an episode dealing with life-like androids (Star Trek’s Data for example) could have been compared with the technology of the Geminoids, artificial skin with embedded sensors, neural nets, etc..  Instead, the show takes a much broader view of topics and ends up biting off more than it could possibly chew in 20 minutes.  My advice: keep it simple, stupid, and steer clear of this show.

Dr. Kaku’s cyborg soldier of the future

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