Physicist Michio Kaku on his lifelong search for ‘The God Equation’

Via PBS:

Mori Rothman

Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist who was inspired as a young child to search for the ‘theory of everything.’ Kaku co-founded the string field theory, which he believes may be the answer to the long quest to understand our universe. Kaku details the history of this search in his new book, “The God Equation.” Mori Rothman reports.

Michio Kaku on his lifelong search for "The God Equation"

Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist who was inspired as a young child to search for the "theory of everything." Kaku co-founded the string field theory, w...

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    For decades, physicists have been working with a theory called the “standard model” as a way to understand the mysteries of the universe.

    But the standard model is incomplete. Just last month the discovery of a wobbling particle opened the door for new research and discovery and there are also other theories beyond the standard model.

    Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku is co-founder of the string field theory, a model that he says is a step towards the theory of everything. Last month, he released his latest book: “The God Equation, About That Quest.”

    NewsHour Weekend’s Mori Rothman has the story.

  • Michio Kaku:

    When I was eight years old, something happened which totally changed my entire life. A great scientist had just died and the newspapers all published a picture of his desk with an open book. And the caption said, this is the unfinished manuscript of the greatest scientists of our time.

  • Mori Rothman:

    The scientist, Albert Einstein, had been working on the so-called “God Equation.”

  • Michio Kaku:

    He wanted an equation no more than one inch long that would allow him to “read the mind of God.” So I said to myself, wow, this is for me. This is something that I have to do.

  • Mori Rothman:

    Kaku went on to build a particle accelerator in his parent’s garage in high school, and dedicated his life to finding that equation, which has also been referred to as the “Theory of Everything”.

    Kaku has written 17 books and appeared in TV specials explaining science. His latest book, “The God Equation” explains the history behind the search for a theory of everything and the emergence of the string theory, which Kaku believes could be the equation Einstein was searching for.

  • Michio Kaku:

    The power of string theory is that it unifies the forces of nature.

  • Mori Rothman:

    Theoretical physicists believe there are four fundamental forces- strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, gravity and electromagnetism. Kaku says if we could explain all of these forces we could understand how our universe operates. He equates it to the rules of chess.

  • Michio Kaku:

    Let’s say chess is the rules of the universe. After two thousand years, we finally figured out how the pawns move, how the bishop. And then I suppose one day we’ll have the God equation and that’ll tell us how the whole chess board moves and then we’ll become grand masters. We’ll be able to apply this to answer some of the deepest unsolved questions in relativity, for example, is time travel possible? Einstein’s theory says yes, but is it really true? We don’t know what happened before the Big Bang, before creation itself, what lies on the other side of a black hole? All these questions can not be solved with the present understanding of physics, but that’s what string theory comes in. String theory is a theory of everything.

  • Mori Rothman:

    In the 1970s Kaku and his colleague Keiji Kakkawa took the ideas of string theory and put them into one simple equation known as the String Field Theory.

    Kaku says string theory is closer to Einstein’s ideal of a god equation than the long and complicated… but widely accepted Standard Model.

  • Kaku:

    Now we have something called the Standard Model, which clumsily gives us rhyme or reason with regards to all these subatomic particles. But it is ugly as sin. How can nature at the fundamental level, the level of the standard model of particles be so ugly and clumsy? It’s like getting an aardvark, a platypus and a whale, scotch taping them together and declaring this to be nature’s highest evolutionary achievement. The elegance of evolution? No, we need a new paradigm. String theory says this new paradigm is music, the music of resonances. You know, when you learn music, you learn that each vibration corresponds to a note, a B flat, C sharp. How many notes are there on a string? An infinite number, infinite number of octaves.

    The string theory suggests tiny strings make up everything- and that the infinite number of their vibrations, like musical notes, account for the vast diversity of our universe. Kaku says the string theory is not complete- as it needs to account for newer ideas such as eleven dimensions.

  • Michio Kaku:

    I think that some young enterprising kid out there will finally finish the whole theory from a fresh point of view. So I think the theory is testable and I think the theory is falsifiable and I think the theory is correct.

  • Mori Rothman:

    You’ve been working on the string field theory for decades now, do you ever have the shadows of doubt because it is a theory that it could be disproven?

  • Michio Kaku:

    It’s always possible that you spend a lifetime on a theory and the theory turns out to be wrong. But you see, that is a good feeling because you’re one step further toward understanding reality itself. But removing the dead ends, removing the false leads, as physicist Freeman Dyson once said, the road to the Unified Field Theory, the road to the final theory is littered with the corpses of failed attempts, hundreds of failed attempts. The greatest minds of humanity have tried to create this theory and have failed. What keeps me going is the fact that of all these corpses, one theory has defied everyone’s all the critics expectations. It has survived every challenge. So we know that mathematical consistency is on the side of string theory. So that’s why I think that it has to be correct.

  • Mori Rothman:

    Someone like me who isn’t versed in physics can pick up the book and try to understand all of this. Was your aim to impress on people who aren’t already aware of what this search for the theory of everything is, what the potential, the incredible potential is if we do find the answer?

  • Michio Kaku:

    Well, there are two kinds of audiences that I want to reach. The first is the young upstart who really wants to find the unified field theory. And I give them a message of advice. I tell them that if they ever find the God equation, the theory of everything, then tell me first and we’ll split the Nobel Prize money together, you and me. When I write a book, I think of myself at the age of eight, I went to the library and I found nothing, nothing about the unified field theory, lots of books about atomic bombs, lots of books about Einstein, the man, but nothing about hyperspace, antimatter, all the stuff that’s contained within the god equation. And I said to myself, when I grow up, I’m going to become a theoretical physicist. And in addition to working on the God equation, I will write for children, young adults, the curious to satisfy their curiosity about higher dimensions, about antimatter, about hyperspace, about wormholes, because that’s what I do for a living.

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