The leading astrophysicist and philosopher, prolific and widely read, Dr. Menas Kafatos, has contributed significantly to global science with his studies in the fields of computing, astrophysics, earth systems science, hazards and climate change, the regional effects of climate change, quantum mechanics and consciousness. Dr. Menas Kafatos rightfully belongs to the world scientific elite.  

By Mia Kollia
Translated by Alexandros Theodoropoulos
#science #astrophysics #climatechange #conscience #universe

- What have been the most important milestones in your life?

I can identify four milestones that defined my life:

To begin with I would definitely include my childhood years in Crete; these magical years, with painting, with observation of the sky, the galaxy, the planets and the moon. Science and astrophysics became part of me ever since. Back then I realised for the first time, even vaguely, how vast the Universe is. 

At 18 years old I left for the US where I did my studies in physics at Cornell University and continued with more specific doctoral studies in physics at the M.I.T. with the famous physicist/astrophysicist Philip Morrison, who was a student of Oppenheimer.  

As I was studying the Universe I gradually turned to philosophy, which I always loved as a Greek, as well as to spirituality.
In recent years I have turned to writing, always based on philosophy and spirituality, but without leaving science apart. This combination brought me to a state of bliss that doesn’t deny the physical world but goes beyond it.

- Do you think that young people would choose to follow a career like yours because they have a charisma and a special inclination, or love and passion for the field can be enough? 

Love and passion are enough. Personal work comes after these. Talent and charisma emerge from love and work. Of course everything is needed. But love and passion about something is always a real feeling, it isn’t based on effort. On the contrary, hard effort brings the appropriate conditions of love. The love of science makes science possible. Without a love of science, the study of the universe is a technique that can’t go very far. 

- Is there an answer to the creation of the universe?

There are theories such as the expansion of the universe based on cosmological observations and Einstein's General Relativity, the "Big Bang". We’re talking about the beginning of the universe before time even existed. But what does "creation of the universe" mean? Did it arise on its own? Is it a result of quantum uncertainty? Is there an end to the universe? Or is everything random? Ultimately, the dominant questions go beyond science.

- Is it possible for a scientist to believe in God and what is your view about nature?

I think the concepts of God and Science are not against each other. Nature is everything we can see and hear and even beyond that. But do we understand what it really is? This is where Consciousness appears, the Higher Thought that goes beyond the physical world to a world where without Consciousness nothing makes sense. That’s the participatory universe as John A. Wheeler used to say. 

- What has been your most exciting contact with space during your studies?

The study of black holes and the distant universe. Is the "local" universe the same as the "distant" one? How did it start? How will it end? The black holes give us the limits of our knowledge. We know that in the end we definitely need quantum mechanics and general relativity, but are these theories enough on their own? I think we also need to see the role of Consciousness.


- Would you like to be an astronaut in order to see up close what you actually study?

Of course I’ve dreamed of it. But currently it is not easy to see our beautiful planet from space, to see the starry sky without the light of the sun and the moon. Maybe one day we will become astronauts.

- In the many years that you have been engaged with the subject, what have been the biggest changes in the environment?

The natural disasters that often come from humans. At the same time, however, we see a great deal of awareness about environmental protection. But time passes quickly and we don’t give as much importance as appropriate to the change of environment. The recent elections in Australia show that people are starting to take climate change very seriously. They want actions to be done now, not in the future.

- What is the daily routine of a scientist like you? Aside from being devoted to the subject, what else do you love to do or are accustomed to doing?

I love meeting people and talking with them about issues that concern us all. I like to listen to nature and at the same time to live in the silence of observation. I also love to listen to the waves of the sea and to swim.

- How much technology can fit in your life and how much emotion can fit in technology?

There is no emotion in technology. Personally, I keep from technology what is necessary. Let us not forget that we make technology and we can limit it so that we don’t become its slaves one day.

- The title of your book is "The Conscious Universe"; what does it actually mean?

It means to look beyond our little ego, to know what is inside us with patience and to see that Consciousness is the basis of the universe. The universe is mental, a great thought of the Higher Mind.

- How do you manage patience for the result of a research and the possible failure?

These are part of life, as I say, they are complementary. They come and go. Failure brings success. Beyond these concepts is the Eternal Observer. There is no success or failure in him. There is, as the great Heraclitus said, the Flow.

- How much criticism do you receive and how much do you exercise?

I try to listen instead of criticizing. Generally, criticism makes people hate each other. I try not to trample on the ego of people. Our goal should be to go far beyond the games of the mind.  

- How do two scientists live in the same house?

Like all people. With the daily matters, with a lot of discussion of course and with the enjoyment of life. We scientists are not automatic machines that only do calculations. We are human beings. 

- How many demands did you have from your children and how does a scientist like you control that?

Our children are independent human beings, so there is no question of control. We give birth to them but we don’t own them. If there is one requirement that I set, that is to find their way. In this I help the children as much as I can and as much as they want.   

Info: Menas Kafatos gave a speech at TEDxAthens in 28/05/2022

Who is Menas Kafatos

Menas C. Kafatos, PhD, is a quantum physicist, an astrophysicist, a climate-change researcher and a philosopher working extensively on consciousness. He studied with renowned physicist Philip Morrison at M.I.T., who was a student of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Education: Undergraduate: B.A., Physics, Cornell, 1967. Ph.D., Physics, M.I.T., 1972.

Menas is the Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor of Computational Physics and Director of the Institute for Earth, Computing, Human and Observing, Chapman University, California. He is foreign member of the Romanian Academy of Science and the Korean Academy of Science and Technology. He’s also an international advisor with the Division of Environmental Science and Ecological Engineering at Korea University, Seoul, Korea, a collaborator with the Institute of Geodynamics and the National Observatory of Athens, as well as an international scholar at several countries.   

Menas has authored more than 345 articles in astrophysics, Earth system science, climate change and impacts on hazards & agro-ecosystems, computational sciences, data systems, quantum mechanics and the mind, consciousness and the nature of reality. He has authored and co-authored 22 books.