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The Universe in a Nutshell by Michio Kaku (Transcript)

Michio Kaku

Michio Kaku, an American theoretical physicist and Professor at City University of New York, talks about universe in a nutshell…

My name is Professor Michio Kaku. I’m a professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York and I specialize in something called string theory. I’m a physicist. Some people ask me the question, “What has physics done for me lately? I mean, do I get better color television, do I get better internet reception with physics?” And the answer is yes. You see, physics is at the very foundation of matter and energy. We physicists invented the laser beam, we invented the transistor. We helped to create the first computer. We helped to construct the internet. We wrote the World Wide Web.  In addition, we also helped to invent television, radio, radar, microwaves, not to mention MRI scans, PET scans, x-rays.

In other words, almost everything you see in your living room, almost everything you see in a modern hospital, at some point or other, can be traced to a physicist. Now, I got interested in physics when I was a child. When I was a child of eight, something happened to me that changed my life and I wanted to be part of this grand search for a theory of everything.

When I was eight, a great scientist had just died. I still remember my elementary school teacher coming into the room and announcing that the greatest scientist of our era has just passed away. And that day, every newspaper published a picture of his desk. The desk of Albert Einstein. And the caption said, I’ll never forget, “The unfinished manuscript of the greatest work of the greatest scientist of our time.” And I said to myself, “Why couldn’t he finish it? I mean, what’s so hard? It’s a homework problem, right? Why didn’t he ask his mother? Why can’t he finish this problem?”

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So as a child of eight, I decided to find out what was this problem. Years later, I began to realize that it was the theory of everything, the Unified Field Theory.

Unified Field Theory: A Theory of Everything

An equation one inch long that would summarize all the physical forces in the universe. An equation like E=mc². That equation is half an inch long and that equation unlocks the secret of the stars. Why do the stars shine? Why does the galaxy light up? Why do we have energy on the earth? All of it tied to an equation half an inch long.

But then there was another thing that happened to me when I was around eight years old. I got hooked on the Saturday morning TV shows. In particular, Flash Gordon. And I was hooked. I mean, every Saturday morning watching programs about alien from outer space, star ships, ray guns, invisibility shields, cities in the sky, that was for me.

But after a few years, I began to notice something. First of all, I began to notice that well, I didn’t have blond hair and blue eyes, I didn’t have muscles like Flash Gordon, but it was a scientist who made the series work. In particular, a physicist. He was the one who discovered the ray gun, the star ships. He was the one who created the city in the sky. He was the one who created the invisibility shield.

And then I realized something else. If you want to understand the future, you have to understand physics. Physics is at the foundation of all the gadgetry, the wizardry, all the marvels of the technological age, all of it can be traced to the work of a physicist, including computers, also biotechnology. All of that can eventually trace down to physics.

Physics and the Impossible

Most of science fiction is in fact well within the laws of physics, but possible within maybe 100 years. And then we have type two impossibilities, impossibilities that may take 1,000 years or more.  That includes time travel, warp drive, higher dimensions, portals through space and time, star gates, worm holes. That’s type two.

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And then we have type three, and those are things which simply violate all the known laws of physics, and they’re very few of them.

So in my life I’ve had two great passions. First is to help complete Einstein’s dream of a theory of everything. An equation one inch long that would allow us to, “Read the mind of God.”

But the second passion of my life is to see the future. You know, if you were to meet your grandparents at the year 1900, they were dirt farmers back then. They didn’t live much beyond the age of 40, on average. Long distance communication in the year 1900 was yelling at your neighbor. And yet, if they could see you now, with iPads and iPods and satellites and GPS and laser beams, how would they view you? They would view you as a wizard or sorcerer.

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