MIchio Kaku is a professor of theoretical physics at City College, New York, and a proponent of string theory but is also a well-known celebrity for the sciences, with numerous televsion and several bestselling books appearing behind him. His latest book, God equation, Is a clear and accessible examination of the quest to combine Einstein’s general relativity and quantum theory to create a comprehensive “theory of everything” about the nature of the universe.
How close do you think science is to complete the theory of everything?
Well I guess we actually do have the theory but not in its final form. It has yet to be tested, and Nobel Prize winners have taken opposite views on something called string theory. I am the co-founder of string field theory, which is one of the main branches of string theory, so I have some “in-game” looks. I try to be fair and balanced. I think we are on the verge of entering a new era. New experiments are being conducted to discover deviations from the Standard Model. Plus, we have the mystery of dark matter. Any of these unexplored areas could give an idea of the theory of everything.
thread The theory includes a great deal of theoretical physics and diabolical math and is mind-boggling Abstraction. Do you think the general public can understand the details of this debate?
I think the audience is curious to know what the consequences of this theory could be. The universe is a bit like chess and for 2,000 years we’ve been trying to figure out how the pawns move. Now we are starting to understand how the queen moves and how to get a checkmate. The fate of science is to become like the great, to solve this mystery that we call the universe. There are outstanding questions that the public would like answers to. For example, time travel, other dimensions, wormholes. What happened before the Big Bang? What is on the other side of a black hole? None of these questions can be answered within the framework of Einstein’s theory. You have to move beyond Einstein to quantum theory.
How much do you think, will Isaac Newton Understand your book?
I think he will appreciate it. In 1666 we had a great plague. The University of Cambridge is closed and a 23-year-old boy is sent home, and he saw an apple fall on his ground. Then he realized that the laws that control the apple are the same as the laws that control the moon. So the epidemic gave Isaac Newton a chance to sit back and follow the math about falling apples and moon landings. But of course there was no mathematics at the time. He couldn’t solve the problem so he created his own mathematics. This is what we do now. We, too, are afflicted by the plague. We are also restricted to our offices. We are also creating new mathematics.
Some physicists argue that the search for a comprehensive theory is reductive and misleading. How is your work received in these departments?
I’ll be very frank, there is a dichotomy, a division that we haven’t seen in many decades. I remember the Solvay Conference, when Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein took an opposing view of quantum theory in one of the greatest debates in the history of science. Well, string theory also created an enormous amount of interest, as well as the backlash. People say, well, where’s the evidence? We honestly don’t have the evidence, in the same way that Newton did not have evidence for his inverse square law in 1666. Sometimes the mathematics and ideas are ahead of concrete empirical data. That’s where Large Hadron Collider Comes into play.
He owns an LHC Newspaper headlines Recently with my findings on the beauty quark’s behavior. Will this have an effect on the theory of everything?
The Standard Model is the theory of almost everything. It works amazingly but is one of the worst theories proposed so far. There are tons of test numbers out there that you have to manually put in. But in string theory, the Standard Model appears immediately. With a few assumptions you get the entire Standard Model. So the point here is that we need experimental evidence and the LHC might give us hints of a deviation in the standard model and here comes the role of post-LHC physics.
You have been compared to Carl Sagan In your ability to transfer complex science in an accessible format. How important is it to reach a large audience?
We were in a big shock in the 1990s when we physicists proposed the super collider. It was much larger than the Large Hadron Collider. It was scheduled to be outside Dallas, Texas, but was canceled. what happened? On one of the last days of the hearings, a member of Congress asked, “Are we going to find God with your apparatus? If so, I will vote for him.” The poor physicist who had to answer this question didn’t know what to say. We should have said, this is a machine from Genesis that will create the conditions for the greatest invention of all time – the universe. Unfortunately, we said the Higgs boson. And people said, 10 billion dollars for another subatomic particle? And they scrapped the machine.
Do colleagues resent your public touch?
Let’s be honest, Carl Sagan faced a backlash when he started entering the public arena. There was a vote to get him to join the National Academy of Sciences and he was rejected. The super collider was canceled because we were in the ivory tower and had no contact with the taxpayer who was paying the bill. And then it comes Stephen Hawking. He aroused great interest and was a true physicist at the forefront of science, not just a “celebrity” – the criticism advanced against Sagan. So I think it was a humble thing. We have to sing for our dinner. During the 1960s, all we had to do was go to Congress and say one word: Russia. Then Congress says two words: How much? Those days are gone.
You believe that within a century we will have contact with an alien civilization. Are you worried about what might entail?
Soon we’ll have a web telescope in orbit and we’ll have thousands of planets to look at, which is why I think our chances are very high for us to communicate with an alien civilization. There are some of my colleagues who think we should reach out to them. I think that’s a bad idea. We all know what happened to Montezuma when he met Cortes in Mexico hundreds of years ago. Now, personally, I think aliens would be friendly but we can’t gamble on that. So I think we will communicate but we must do so with great caution.
There are many illustrious scholars whose contributions are discussed in the book. Which, to you, stands out above the rest?
Newton ranks first, because, almost out of nothing, from the era of magic and sorcery, he came up with the mathematics of the universe, and came up with a theory of almost everything. This is unreasonable. Einstein relied on Newton, using Newton’s calculus of calculus to calculate the dynamics of curved spacetime and general relativity. They are like supernovae, dazzlingly sparkling, illuminating the entire landscape and changing human destiny. Newton’s laws of motion laid the foundation for the Industrial Revolution. A person like this comes once every several centuries.
You describe yourself as an atheist. Did your search lead you to approach or move away from the designer’s idea of the Lord?
Stephen Hawking said that he does not believe in God because the Big Bang happened instantly and there was no time for God to create the universe, and therefore God could not exist. I have a different view. My parents were Buddhists and in Buddhism there is nirvana, eternity, and there is no beginning and no end. But my father put me in a Presbyterian church, so I would go to Sunday school every week and learn about Genesis and how the universe was created in seven days. Now with the idea of a multiverse we can merge these two completely opposite paradigms together. According to string theory, big bangs happen all the time. Even as we speak, Genesis is taking place somewhere in the universe. And what is the universe expanding? Nirvana. Eleven dimensions of redundant space are nirvana. So you can have Buddhism and Judeo-Christian philosophy in one theory.