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Space Flight at 50: The Journey Continues

Interview With Michio Kaku, Author of 'Physics of the Future'

How science is shaping our destiny

The future is here.

See also: What do former astronauts do?

In labs across the world, prototypes for driverless cars, smart bombs that attack cancer and mind-controlled computers are passing their test drives as you read this. Now physicist Michio Kaku brings us his vision of our next 100 years in his latest book, Physics of the Future, based on more than 300 interviews he conducted with the world's greatest scientists and innovators. (Read an excerpt from Physics of the Future.)

He spoke with the AARP Bulletin about a few of the innovations that will revolutionize — and extend — our lives.

Michio Kaku - Physics of the future

Michio Kaku. — Courtesy of Zachary Maxwell Stertz/Cineflix 2009

Q. You say we will find evidence of extraterrestrial life in the next 50 years. Why?

A. One in 200 stars has habitable Earth-like planets surrounding it — in the galaxy, half a billion stars have Earth-like planets going around them — that's huge, half a billion. So when we look at the night sky, it makes sense that someone is looking back at us.

Q. You also say that we'll be able to listen in on their conversations.

A. Yes, we may be able to receive signals that have been sent our way. But communication will be one-sided because other habitable planets are so far away, the signals will take many decades and centuries to reach them, and many decades and centuries to come back. Earth has only had radiotechnology for 50 years, so they will not hear us yet.

Q. What else will we discover in outer space?

A. In the next 50 years we'll find evidence of a parallel universe. I believe we exist in a multiverse of universes.

Q. How?

A. There is a new satellite called LISA that will pick up radiation from the instant of the big bang. Many people think that our universe is a bubble of some sort. The theory is that when such a bubble bumps into another bubble, a big bang event occurs, creating another universe. So LISA may give us the first hard proof of the existence of other universes.

Q. Let's talk about space travel for us. Will the cost go down?

A. Space tourism is coming pretty fast now. But it's still expensive, $200,000 for a ticket. It will go down. If you want to go to the space station, it costs $20 million. If you just want to go on Space Ship 2, up and down, it's about $200,000. Space travel will be for the wealthy for a long time. Until we get the space elevator. Our grandkids may have that, later in the century.

Q. Space elevator?

A. You'll go into an elevator, hit the up button, and go into outer space. The key thing is nano-fibers, which will extend like Jack and the Beanstalk up to the heavens. Centrifugal force will hold the stalk in place.

Next: How will cancer change? >>

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