"Compelling....Kaku thinks with great breadth, and the vistas he presents us are worth the trip"
—The New York Times Book Review
The New York Times best-selling author of PHYSICS OF THE IMPOSSIBLE, PHYSICS OF THE FUTURE and HYPERSPACE tackles the most fascinating and complex object in the known universe: the human brain. Read more...
- Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Gr
- Date: Feb 2014
From the book
Houdini believed that telepathy was impossible. But science is proving
Telepathy is now the subject of intense research at universities around
the world, where scientists have already been able to use advanced sensors to
read individual words, images, and thoughts in a person's brain. This could
alter the way we communicate with stroke and accident victims who are
"locked in" their bodies, unable to articulate their thoughts except through
blinks. But that's just the start. Telepathy might also radically change the way
we interact with computers and the outside world.
Indeed, in a recent "Next 5 in 5 Forecast," which predicts five revolutionary
developments in the next five years, IBM scientists claimed that we will
be able to mentally communicate with computers, perhaps replacing the
mouse and voice commands. This means using the power of the mind to call
people on the phone, pay credit card bills, drive cars, make appointments,
create beautiful symphonies and works of art, etc. The possibilities are endless,
and it seems that everyone— from computer giants, educators, video
game companies, and music studios to the Pentagon— is converging on this
True telepathy, found in science-fiction and fantasy novels, is not possible
without outside assistance. As we know, the brain is electrical. In general,
anytime an electron is accelerated, it gives off electromagnetic radiation. The
same holds true for electrons oscillating inside the brain, which broadcasts
radio waves. But these signals are too faint to be detected by others, and
even if we could perceive these radio waves, it would be difficult to make
sense of them. Evolution has not given us the ability to decipher this collection
of random radio signals, but computers can. Scientists have been able
to get crude approximations of a person's thoughts using EEG scans. Subjects
would put on a helmet with EEG sensors and concentrate on certain
pictures— say, the image of a car. The EEG signals were then recorded for
each image and eventually a rudimentary dictionary of thought was created,
with a one- to- one correspondence between a person's thoughts and the EEG
image. Then, when a person was shown a picture of another car, the computer
would recognize the EEG pattern as being from a car.
The advantage of EEG sensors is that they are noninvasive and quick.
You simply put a helmet containing many electrodes onto the surface of the
brain and the EEG can rapidly identify signals that change every millisecond.
But the problem with EEG sensors, as we have seen, is that electromagnetic
waves deteriorate as they pass through the skull, and it is difficult to locate
their precise source. This method can tell if you are thinking of a car or a
house, but it cannot re- create an image of the car. That is where Dr. Jack Gallant's
work comes in.
VIDEOS OF THE MIND
The epicenter for much of this research is the University of California at
Berkeley, where I received my own Ph.D. in theoretical physics years ago. I
had the pleasure of touring the laboratory of Dr. Gallant, whose group has
accomplished a feat once considered to be impossible: videotaping people's
thoughts. "This is a major leap forward reconstructing internal imagery. We
are opening a window into the movies in our mind," says Gallant.
When I visited his laboratory, the first thing I noticed was the team of
young, eager postdoctoral and graduate students huddled in front of their
computer screens, looking intently at video...
"Fizzes with his characteristic effervescence....Fascinating..... For all his talk of surrogates and intelligent robots, no manufactured being could have a fraction of his charisma." - The Independent
"A mind-bending study of the possibilities of the brain....a clear and readable guide to what is going on at a time of astonishingly rapid change." - The Telegraph
"In this expansive, illuminating journey through the mind, theoretical physicist Kaku (Physics of the Future) explores fantastical realms of science fiction that may soon become our reality. His futurist framework merges physics with neuroscience... applied to demonstrations that "show proof-of-principle" in accomplishing what was previously fictional: that minds can be read, memories can be digitally stored, and intelligences can be improved to great extents. The discussion, while heavily scientific, is engaging, clear, and replete with cinematic references... These new mental frontiers make for captivating reading" - Publishers Weekly
"Kaku turns his attention to the human mind with equally satisfying results...Telepathy is no longer a fantasy since scanners can already detect, if crudely, what a subject is thinking, and genetics and biochemistry now allow researchers to alter memories and increase intelligence in animals. Direct electrical stimulation of distinct brain regions has changed behavior, awakened comatose patients, relieved depression, and produced out-of-body and religious experiences... Kaku is not shy about quoting science-fiction movies and TV (he has seen them all)... he delivers ingenious predictions extrapolated from good research already in progress." - Kirkus Reviews
"Facts to ponder: there are as many stars in our galaxy (about 100 billion) as there are neurons in your brain; your cell phone has more computing power than NASA had when it landed Apollo 11 on the moon. These seemingly unrelated facts tell us two things: our brains are magnificently complex organisms, and science fiction has a way of becoming reality rather quickly. This deeply fascinating book by theoretical physicist Kaku explores what might be in store for our minds: practical telepathy and telekinesis; artificial memories implanted into our brains; and a pill that will make us smarter. He describes work being done right now on using sensors to read images in the human brain and on downloading artificial memories into the brain to treat victims of strokes and Alzheimer's. SF fans might experience a sort of breathless thrill when reading the book--This stuff is happening! It's really happening!--and for general readers who have never really thought of the brain in all its glorious complexity and potential, the book could be a seriously mind-opening experience." - Booklist
"[A] wide-ranging tour of what to expect from technological progress over the next century or so.... fascinating--and related with commendable clarity" - Wall Street Journal
"Mind-bending........Kaku has a gift for explaining incredibly complex concepts, on subjects as far-ranging as nanotechnology and space travel, in language the lay reader can grasp....engrossing" - San Francisco Chronicle
"Epic in its scope and heroic in its inspiration" - Scientific American
"[Kaku] has the rare ability to take complicated scientific theories and turn them into readable tales about what our lives will be like in the future.....fun...fascinating. And just a little bit spooky" - USA Today
"An invigorating experience" - The Christian Science Monitor
"Kaku's latest book aims to explain exactly why some visions of the future may eventually be realized while others are likely to remain beyond the bounds of possibility. . . . Science fiction often explores such questions; science falls silent at this point. Kaku's work helps to fill a void." - The Economist
"Mighty few theoretical physicists would bother expounding some of these possible impossibilities, and Kaku i - Los Angeles Times