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    Friday, April 2, 2010

    Meeting Michio

    Forgive me for the title, I know it makes it sound like the venerable Dr. Kaku and I are on a first name basis, but he is truly a very friendly fellow and we did actually get to talk a little about self replicating nano-technology.

    Let me not jump ahead though. As I already wrote I noticed in my Twitter feed that the Discovery / Science Channel was having a contest to be a guest on the set of “SCI FI SCIENCE: physics of the impossible.” To enter you had to tell them why they should pick you, what you would wear (costumes were encouraged) and then write a VERY short essay on how you would terraform a planet and how you would colonize the galaxy.
    I entered and got called back, interviewed over the phone and finally told where and when to be for the shoot.

    Gina was originally going to come with me but she has been ill and despite really trying to get it together for the shoot she just couldn’t do it. In any case, she did spruce up my Star Fleet uniform and off I went.
    Now the shoot was in Manhattan at 5:30 and I left the house at about 3:15. Plenty of time I thought but as fate would have it there was a jam at the Lincoln Tunnel and I lost more than 90 minutes. I’m sure I was quite a sight, sitting there in full Star Fleet regalia raging silently at what I was sure would now be a missed opportunity. I saw 5:30 come and go and I was still crawling up to the tunnel. I held fast though, I would get there and see what, if anything could be salvaged of the situation. I finally get in to the city, find a place to park near the cross street I’m looking for and catch a cab to my actual destination. I arrive 45 minutes late only to find that everyone is still outside.

    Victory! I had not missed a thing.

    I chatted with some very nice Mandalorian Mercs from Virgina and took a few pictures, posting them directly to my Facebook page. I met some excellent people and even got invited to a “Yuri Party” in the city.
    Yuri Parties are global events, I had never heard of, that celebrate Yuri Gagarin’s first journey into space and the larger ones even feature a costume contest like the Farpoint or Shore Leave conventions.

    Once on the set they had lager and wine waiting for us and the whole thing was more like a party than a shoot with the director, Adam Warner, interrupting only occasionally to give us direction. Dominic Aston and everyone on the set was very friendly, professional and easy going. It turns out the whole production is run out of England so everyone had those charming accents and were just generally more polite that the typical New York inner city dwellers.

    Finally we got to meet Dr. Kaku who comes in and presents his ideas on the big screen of how to terraform Mars. I was fortunate enough to be up front, center of the crowd for this episode and had the opportunity to be the first one to ask a question. (They liked it so much that had us repeat the entire exchange on the reverse angle shot.)

    Now this was a Television show, so everything had to be repeated four times of so from different angles, between takes Dr. Kaku would invite questions and chat it up with us. I noticed that this could be pretty hard on him as some of the questions were either based on a ridiculous movie premise or a really poor understanding of basic physical laws. He handles these situations gracefully though, like a politician he would ask them to repeat the question and then simply give a short answer to the question he wished they had asked, followed by a polite but firm “next question”. With those of us who were better able to keep up however he talked at length about his ideas and what he though future trends might lead to.

    We filmed two episodes, one on terraforming Mars, (look for me in this episode next year) and another on colonizing space (if you see me at all in this episode it will be the wildest stroke of luck.)
    I won’t post any spoilers here but his solutions were elegant and economical as always and he seemed a genuinely pleasant person. At the end he posed for pictures as we chatted some more.
    I know this will only serve to reinforce my hardcore geek status but I must say it was a real honor to have the chance to meet and talk with him.

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