January 24th, 2005

The following interview from 2001 was forwarded to me by reader Denise Anderson.


Interview with Michio Kaku

Stephen Marshall:  Good morning Dr. Kaku.  I guess the first thing we should do is clarify some terminology.  Let’s start with string theory, quantum theory….

Michio Kaku:  ‘String theory’ unites relativity with the ‘quantum theory’. When these little strings vibrate, they create notes and we believe these notes are in fact the subatomic particles that we see around us. The melodies that these notes can play out is called ‘matter’ and when these melodies create symphonies, that’s called the ‘universe’. Now the harmonies that these strings can make are the laws of physics. However, when these strings move, they warp space and time around them exactly as Einstein had predicted. So even if Einstein had never lived, we would have discovered Einstein’s theory of general relativity as a  by-product of string theory.  String theory however is defined in ten dimensional hyperspace, which some physicists once thought was science fiction. How could it be that we live in a ten dimensional universe? Well the skeptics hardly laugh anymore. Around the world, the nation’s leading physicists are scrambling to learn this bizarre theory that may allow us to read the mind of God, called string theory, which says that music resonating through hyperspace may be the mind of God

Cool, I wanted ask you to draw some parallels between physics and spirituality.  In Africa they have a term which is called ubuuntu. Bishop Tutu describes it as the concept that all of mankind is linked… that, in fact, if we hurt one person, we all get hurt. It’s a beautiful notion and what I wanted to ask you is this:  In relation to Einstein’s unified field theory, something you are pursuing, is Western science – and our society – in a sense approaching truths that so-called primitive cultures hold as self evident?

Some people ask the question: when we look at Western civilization, Western civilization with the theory of mechanism… and the industrial revolution… the steam engine… isn’t it cold?  Isn’t it analytical?  What about third world peoples?  What about so-called primitive cultures? 

What about their ancient wisdom? 

They talk about holism. They talk about the whole – not the reductionism of Western science.  Well let’s take a look at reductionism.  On one hand, it has yielded tremendous benefits. We were able to, in fact, understand the nature of the atom.  That gave us chemistry.  We were able to crack the atom apart and be able to understand the nature of the stars.  Then we probed deeper and deeper and we got the quark model when we shattered the  atoms apart and it seemed like a victory over holism. 

Well, not so fast.  Because you see, we now have too many quarks.  We have thousands of subatomic particles with bizarre names.  We have leptons, hadrons and we have capamezons and taomezons and different kinds of particles.  When I was a PhD student at University of California at Berkeley, I had to memorize hundreds of subatomic particles and it was hard to believe that God, at a fundamental level, could be so malicious to bedevil PhD students by forcing us to memorize the names of hundreds of particles.  Then I began to think, what about a more holistic approach?  Well, the irony is the quark model ran out of steam.  We have 36 quarks now and we have a whole slew of leptons and neutrinos.  Now, we don’t know where this quark model came from.  It’s a very ugly theory.  Think of getting an aardvark and a whale and a giraffe and Scotch-taping them together with Scotch-tape and calling this Nature’s supreme achievement… the highest stage of evolution.  The standard model, which includes the quark model, is an ugly theory.  Even its creators say that the standard model is ugly as sin.  And how can we believe that the universe, which seems to be so simple and unified, can create such a horrible theory at the fundamental level? 

The irony is when you look at space and time and you try to unite the quarks with gravity and a fabric of space and time, then you’re literally forced to go into hyperspace – a holistic theory – a theory not just of tiny subatomic particles, but a theory of space and time, gravity, of manifold… the theory of Einstein, the power of creation itself – perhaps summarized in an equation one inch long.  So you see, we shouldn’t laugh when we talk about the power of Western civilization and the primitiveness of holistic societies because the irony of ironies is reductionism ran out of steam.  We have to go to a higher theory – a theory of hyperspace. 

A theory where the arena is no longer in the third dimension. 

The arena is the tenth dimension.  An inherently holistic theory because it unites gravity with the two nuclear forces with the electromagnetic forces, which may allow us, at some point, to “read the mind of God.”

Beautiful.  I believe that there must be certain benefit that we could acquire, as a species, from the acceptance of this holistic theory.  We might not treat each other as we do.  We might see medicine differently.  But that for the majority of people on Earth to allow for the paradigm shift to take place, they would need to see concrete proof.  So, my question then is: Do you think that we need to find, as a Western civilization, the proof and evidence of this holistic phenomena in order to benefit from it?  And, have so-called primitive societies benefited in their lives by just believing and having faith?

When we talk about so-called primitive societies and faith, we say that, ‘Well, science is based on experiment, and the rigors of experiment show the superiority of Western science.’ 

Well, not so fast. 

You have to realize that most of science is not done by direct experiment at all.  For example, how do we know that the Sun is made out of hydrogen gas?  No one has ever been to the Sun.  No one has ever taken a thermometer to analyze the surface of the Sun.  How do we know that the Sun is made out of hydrogen gas?  Because we look for echoes – indirect echoes called sunlight that then reach the planet Earth – that allow us to analyze the nature of the Sun.   Now, scientists have seen about 49 black holes in outer space.  We discover them at about the rate of one a month.  But the irony is black holes are invisible.  So how do you know that you’ve seen a black hole with the Hubble Telescope if they are invisible?  It’s because we see echoes of black holes.  We see the accretion disk.  We see the radiation pattern and the synchrotron radiation.  We look at echoes and that allows us to say, ‘Yes, there’s a black hole there.’  So, you see, Western science is not really based on direct experiment at all. 

Now take a look at string theory.  String theory is the theory of all theories.  Perhaps, a unified field theory that unites the theory of gravity, Einstein’s theory, with the theory of the quantum.  A unified field theory of all physical knowledge in an equation perhaps no longer than just one inch long.  And the question is how do you measure this theory?

We’re talking about creating a universe.  If you want to test the theory of the universe, you have to create a baby universe in a laboratory.  So this is where faith comes in.  Once again, we have faith that the Sun is made of hydrogen gas because we have indirect evidence.  We have faith that black holes have been photographed, even though they are invisible, because we see emanation from black holes.  Also we will, perhaps one day, test this theory indirectly with the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland.  That atom-smasher is smashing atoms apart and may give us what are called sparticles.  Sparticles are super-particles.  Higher vibrations of the super-string. 

Not to mention that we now know that most of the universe is not made out of atoms. 

Believe it or not, your high school chemistry teacher was wrong. The universe is not made out of a hundred  elements.  Ninety percent of the known universe is known to be dark.  Invisible.  Surrounding the galaxies.  The Hubble Space Telescope has even given us maps of where this invisible dark matter is located throughout the cosmos.  What is dark matter made of?  The leading theory is it’s the photino – the super-partner of the photon – a higher octave, so to speak, of the string.  The lower octaves give us the familiar quarks and leptons. The higher octaves give us the sparticles.  So, you see, Western science in some sense is also based on a little bit of faith as well.  But personally, as a theoretical physicist, I believe it is a power of pure thought that will allow us to crack the unified field theory.  I believe that if we are smart enough, we could solve these equations.  Some of these equations I wrote down  myself – the equations of what are called string field theory – no one alive today can solve my equations or these equations of string theory.  But once somebody does crack them, we should be able to show mathematically that – out comes the standard model, out comes the electron, out comes out the quark – just the way that we see coming out of our particles accelerators.

So, once again, Western science shouldn’t be so arrogant as to believe that we could measure everything directly.  Perhaps the most interesting things – dark matter, dark energy, the unified field theory, black holes – can’t be measured directly at all.

Cool.  Very complex, but I think I’m with you.  Next, I want to talk about Einstein.  Could you please explain what the unified field theory is and, as a corollary, address the issue of Einstein and his legacy?   To many people Einstein, obviously, changed the way we look at the world.  But some people say he was also very destructive – that his science was used for destruction.  What do you see as the relevance of his work towards the evolution of the species as opposed to the devolution -which some people would imply?

When you look at Einstein, you come up with many, many images – some of them Hollywood images, some of them caricatures or cartoon figures.  It’s hard to watch a Hollywood cartoon without seeing some kind of Einsteinian figure out there creating some kind of mischief with regards to the fabric of space and time. 

Einstein stands for two things: the first is unification – an inherently anti-reductionist holistic approach.  Physicists are used to smashing things apart.  Einstein wanted to bring them together with a cosmic theory that would explain the four forces, gravity, electromagnetism and light, the two nuclear forces.  All the forces of the universe in an equation one inch long that would allow us to read the mind of God.  However, towards the end of his life, other physicists laughed at him.  They scoffed at him.  They said, “You are too ambitions. You are trying to be God himself.” 

Wolfgang Pauli, another Nobel Laureate, once taunted Einstein  by saying, “What God has torn asunder, let no man ever put together.”  Einstein tried and perhaps he failed, but he pointed the way to a holistic unified field theory. The other legacy is not the legacy of the atomic bomb.  It is the legacy of the anti-nuclear movement.  Many people don’t realize that Einstein was the first anti-nuclear scientist.  Right after the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he formed the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists, which eventually inspired the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which still exists today as an anti-nuclear magazine.  Einstein had deep reservations about the power hidden in the atom and the power of the atomic bomb.  When he wrote down e=mc2 back in 1905, he had no way of knowing that one day a chain reaction of uranium atoms would vaporize an entire city.  And he was deathly afraid that this would get into the wrong hands. That’s why, in the 1930s, he realized that Hitler was perhaps working on the atomic bomb. 

There’s a famous story of a young storm-trooper knocking on Einstein’s door, asking Einstein, for the betterment of the Third Reich, would he lend his scientific talents to build the atomic bomb?  And Einstein of course threw him out the door.  And according to legend, Einstein shuddered himself for a week not hardly eating, wondering, “What have I done if Hitler will one day get the atomic bomb?” And then Einstein  came out and said, “If I had known that my work would lead to the invention of this atomic bomb, I would have become a fisherman instead of a physicist.” We have to realize that physics means power – the power over matter, energy, space and time itself.  It’s a sword.  It’s a sword that could cut against humanity and destroy humanity in a nuclear confrontation. But it’s a double-edged sword.  The other edge of the sword could cut against ignorance, disease and poverty.  Science is a tool.  The question is, who will wield the tool?  Will it be the warmongers?  Will it be the petrochemical industry and the polluters?   Or will it be the will of the people that wield the sword of science?   That is not yet decided.

Famous book – Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.  In his legendary opening chapter, Kuhn talks about the effects of a paradigm shift in scientific thought and how it is akin to a bloody revolution, in some instances. Could you characterize, from your own perception, the paradigm shift that was experienced after Einstein?  And more importantly, how did the shift in the paradigm of science affect humanity?  Did it change the way we treat each other politically?

When we talk about paradigm shift, we have to take a look at one of the greatest paradigm shifts of the century and that is the work of Einstein himself.  Einstein was voted not only the Man of the Century by Time Magazine, but many historians put him in the top five – the top five humans that influenced the last one thousand years of human history.  But what did the man really do?  What were the paradigm shifts that he introduced? 

The first paradigm shift was matter and energy, introduced in 1905 – the special theory of relativity.  We used to think that a rock was a rock – that a rock and a light beam would never meet.  Why should a light beam have anything to do with a rock?  But then Einstein showed that if that rock is uranium and that light is nuclear fire, then yes, uranium could detonate into nuclear fire – the fire of the Sun, perhaps – the fire of hydrogen gas being fused in the interior of a star.  Or perhaps the nuclear fire that may one day may devastate all life on the planet Earth.  Not bad for one equation, e=mc2. 

The second paradigm shift was in 1915 and was even bigger, believe it or not.  Now we are talking about the universe itself.  This paradigm shift introduced the concept of warped space – that the universe is a bubble.  It’s a small  hyper bubble that is expanding rapidly in what is called the big bang.  Not only that, but the space can be concentrated, ripped, distorted, with the power of a dying star.  And that’s called a black hole.  So the black holes, the universe itself, the big bang – are by-products of Einstein’s second great theory – a new paradigm shift where we realize that space is not flat at all.  Space is not an arena, like Shakespeare once said, that ‘we are nothing but actors on the stage’. Einstein showed that the stage itself can be warped.  That we are actors dancing on a warped stage that is equally part of our life.  And the warping of that stage is called gravity. 

The third great theory was to be the theory of all theories.  The mother of all theories.  The theory of everything.  Einstein used to say that when he woke up in the morning, he would ask himself a simple question, “If I am God, how would I create a universe?”  And believe it or not, that’s what I do when I wake up in the morning.  I play with theories.  I have equations dancing around inside my head all the time and I say to myself, ‘how am I supposed to know which equations are correct and which equations are wrong?’ And then I say to myself, ‘what did Einstein say?’  He said when you wake up in the morning, you have to ask yourself the question, “If you were God, how would you create a universe? How would you create the physical laws that govern us?” Then Einstein saw that simplicity, beauty and elegance have something to do with the nature of reality itself… that light is governed by Max’s equation – an equation half an inch long… gravity is governed by Einstein’s tensor equation, which is also half an inch long… and perhaps the unified field theory is only an inch long!  He searched for it and failed.  Perhaps because he didn’t go far enough.  Einstein introduced the fourth dimension.  The fourth dimension of time. Now we physicists are going to the tenth dimension, perhaps the eleventh dimension, as we search for an arena big enough to house the four fundamental forces… big enough to “read the mind of God.”  In other words, if string theory is correct, and all matter are nothing but notes on a vibrating string, then we have a candidate for the mind of God. 

The mind of God is music resonating through hyperspace.

Next I want to jump into Lewis Carroll and Alice in Wonderland.  You use that work to  introduce the concept of wormholes.  Can you tell us a little bit about that story, its author and the nature of stories, themselves, as vehicles for a more complete understanding of the world we inhabit?  Maybe you can start off this way – how are stories crafted?  Are stories math?  Is there a certain mathematical principle to stories in a sense that they discharge a formula for us in a way that may be more acceptable to the human mind, which is allegorical in its construct?

When people look at mathematics and they look at stories, Hollywood stories.  They  say, “Well gee, Hollywood stories are entertaining, they are interesting, they show me something about human nature and mathematics is really too bizarre.”  However that’s not really the way that the universe is constructed.  I am a physicist and we believe that the universe proceeds according to principles – just a handful of principles. 

The relativity principle, the quantum principle and that’s it. 

The universe evolves through principles, through pictures.  Einstein looked at the universe through pictures, not through the world of mathematics.  Mathematics is book-keeping in some sense.  It allows us to keep track of the picture.  For example, take a bed sheet.  Rumple the bed sheet.  An ant walking along that rumpled bed sheet would say, “I am tugged by a force – I’ll call it gravity.  There’s a star here tugging me, there’s a planet there tugging me.”  Well we look at the ant from hyperspace and we laugh and we say that’s silly.  There is no gravity at all.  You are being buffeted by the curvature of space itself. 

Now, the mathematics of a curved bed sheet is pretty, pretty mean.  You would have to have what is called tensor calculus to be able to describe the curvature of a bed sheet.  But the concept is simple.  It is nothing but ants walking on a bed sheet.  So, in other words, the human mind in some sense can grasp some of the deepest understanding of nature  – among them, wormholes.  Now when we think about wormholes, we think about science fiction and Star Trek and stuff.  But that is not where the concept of wormholes was first introduced.  It was first introduced about 150 years ago in Oxford, England. There was a young professor of higher mathematics at Oxford who knew about what are called multiply connected spaces.  Think of two sheets of paper that are joined at the hip like two Siamese twins.  That’s a wormhole.  Take a sheet of paper and bend it.  Fold it in half.  Fold it in the third dimension.  Fold the sheet of paper in hyperspace.  That’s called a wormhole. Well these are called multiply connected spaces by mathematicians and Charles Dodgson, a professor of mathematics, wanted to write a children’s book that conveyed these things because adults, of course, could not understand or even want to understand a multiply connected space.  So he created Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass

Well, today we have discovered black holes in outer space – perhaps candidates for Wonderland.  At the center of a black hole, we used to think there was a dot and anyone falling into the dot would die and therefore there’s no point talking about the Einstein-Rosen Bridge which may take you to the other side of a black hole.  Einstein himself worked out the Einstein-Rosen Bridge – a bridge connecting two parallel universes.  But he thought no one would ever make the journey to the other side of forever.  We now are not so sure.  In 1963, mathematician Rory Curr showed that black holes do not necessarily collapse to a dot.  You don’t necessarily die.  They collapse to rings – rings of fire, rings of neutrons – such that anyone falling through the ring might fall through to the other side of forever.  So just think about that.  The looking glass of Alice – the rim, the frame, the outer rim of Alice‘s looking glass – that’s the black hole.  In fact, just this month, NASA announced beautiful photographs of a spinning black hole.  We now know that most black holes spin rapidly at about a million miles an hour, sufficient enough to create a ring of neutrons.  Anyone falling through that ring may wind up on the other side of forever.  Now of course, this is just a theory.  We have never done this before. We have never shot a space probe through a black hole.  It would take many centuries before we could attempt such a feat.  However, the mathematics is clear.  Einstein’s equations show that there could be a wormhole on the other side of the black hole.  The only question is stability.  We physicists are not sure whether they are stable or not – whether you can successfully make a trip to the other side of the universe.

Let’s talk now about zero-point energy. Could you explain what that means? Secondly, is the world not dominated by a certain paradigm of energy cultivation that has certain economic interests who protect it and is there not, at every moment of a paradigm shift, a group who are threatened by that shift? Is there a danger to those people and have they, historically tried to prevent it – like when the Copernican model came in or went out?

Paradigm shifts are wonderful. They are fantastic. We study them in our history books. But they are also very dangerous because some of the proponents of the paradigm shift get executed. There is an elite that protects the old paradigm and they are threatened by the emergence of a new paradigm. For example, take a look at Copernicus. Why did Copernicus write his greatest masterpiece as an old dying man on his deathbed? Because he was no fool. Take a look at Giordano Bruno. Giordano Bruno, the great Italian philosopher, said that the Sun is a star. Now why should the Catholic Church be threatened by a statement that the Sun is a star? Because if the Sun is a star, then stars are suns. And if stars are suns, they may have planets. And if they have planets, then they may have life. And if life exists on these other planets – millions of them – then do they have the Virgin Mary? Do they have Jesus Christ? Do they have the sacraments? Do they have the saints? Do they have the Catholic Church? Do they have salvation? Do they have indulgences? I mean it goes on forever! 

So the Catholic Church, being threatened by Bruno, simply burned him alive in the streets of Rome. Rather than have to deal with a million Jesus Christs and Virgin Marys in outer space. Well, paradigm shifts are nasty. However, Einstein introduced several. And now we have to realize that yes, the old paradigm shifts can threaten some people.

Take a look at energy, for example. Nicola Tesla, the great mathematical and physical genius, had some bizarre ideas. One of them for example, was the alternating current. Edison did not like alternating current at all, and was very threatened by the new paradigm of Nicola Tesla. He took advertisements showing that alternating current was dangerous – we use them in the electric chair, they kill people. Well nobody uses DC current anymore in their home. We all use AC. But of course Thomas Edison was very threatened by Nicola Tesla. 

Well, Nicola Tesla was a very interesting man. He came up with an idea called zero-point energy. Even the vacuum of nothingness has some kind of energy. He thought that perhaps we could extract that energy for purposes that would threaten the oil companies. Well, we physicists today have found zero-point energy. It’s very small – it’s called the Casimir Effect. It has been measured in the laboratory and believe it or not, we even think the Casimir Effect may be useful for time machines if you have enough energy concentrated at that point. However, it is very difficult. We would have to be at least Type-2 – what we call Type-2 or Type-3 civilizations with fantastic power… galactic power, before we can manipulate this kind of Casimir energy. 

But the irony is, we think that we have found dark energy. Dark energy, the energy of nothing, is now thought to be what is driving the galaxies apart. It turns out that Einstein’s equation has a loophole. That even nothingness may have energy associated with it – the energy of nothing – and that energy, we think, is driving the galaxies apart. The latest cosmological data supports what is called the inflationary model and the inflationary model has within it the ability to explain something called dark matter – the energy of nothing – which pushes the galaxies apart, meaning that the universe is probably accelerating – meaning that the universe is not contracting, not expanding in a very simple way, but actually accelerating because of anti-gravity – the anti-gravity of the energy of nothing. So Tesla, in some sense, was prophetic. He pointed to the energy of nothing. People laughed at him. 

We still don’t know whether you can extract meaningful energy from it but the irony is he has the last laugh – that the energy of nothing is perhaps driving the expansion of the universe itself. Now let me talk about another paradigm shift. People are talking about energy. We need lots of it. We need nuclear energy. We need more carbon-based energy. We need more fossil fuel plants. And that old paradigm is led, of course, by the oil companies, and they are threatened by perhaps a new paradigm – the paradigm of conservation. Solar energy, wind power, renewable forms of energy that are not dependent on nuclear energy, not dependent on carbon. Well the numbers are very clear. Solar power is within striking distance of coal and oil, and coal and oil create, as we know, the greenhouse effect. 

Now I believe that our Earth is making a transition to what’s called a Type-1 civilization. A planetary civilization that harnesses truly planetary power that can control the weather perhaps. Eventually we can become Type-2 – a civilization that controls the power of a star, and uses solar flares for its energy source. Eventually we may become Type-3 – galactic, perhaps harnessing the power of a black hole at the center of the galaxy itself. But the most dangerous transition – the most dangerous paradigm shift – the most dangerous paradigm shift of all is between Type-0 and Type-1. 

Before you go on, could you just define a Type-0 civilization because we haven’t done that yet.

A Type-0 civilization is a civilization that gets its energy from dead plants, oil and coal. They don’t control the weather. They don’t control earthquakes and volcanoes like a Type-1 civilization. The don’t play with solar flares and ignite dying stars, like a Type-2 civilization. They don’t cruise the lanes of the galaxy like a Type-3 civilization. 

We are Type-0. 

We are not even on the scale yet. However the transition between Type-0 and Type-1 will take perhaps 100 years and you see evidence of this already. The Internet is a Type-1 telephone system. English will be the language of a Type-1 civilization. The European Union is the beginning of a Type-1 economy. Hollywood, rap music, blue jeans – that’s going to be the culture, like it or not, of a Type-1 civilization. 

The oil companies are protecting the old paradigm. The old paradigm of carbon dioxide. The old paradigm which is heating up the planet Earth. The poles are beginning to melt. Alaska is beginning to thaw out. Every single glacier on the planet Earth is receding. Within 30-50 years, there may be no snows of Kilimanjaro. There may be no Alps in which to ski. Greenland will gradually disappear in the next fifty years. We are talking about a catastrophic shift in the weather of the planet. The growing areas – the bread baskets of the world – like the wheat belt and the corn belt could turn into a dustbowl like they were in the 1930s. We are talking about monster hurricanes energized by warming sea water that will devastate coastal cities. We are talking about mosquitoes and malaria creeping northward as the temperatures begin to rise. We are talking about growing areas turning into deserts. We are talking about the weather going north. Canada may become relatively warm and have tremendous heat belts. The United States may eventually have the climate of Mexico and Mexico may have the climate of the Sahara Desert

Think about this. 

That’s the paradigm shift which will take place unless we can break the grip, the death grip, of the oil companies and the petrochemical industry who inject tremendous greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. So why is it when we look in outer space, we don’t see Type-1, Type-2, Type-3 civilizations? There should be 10,000 of them according to astronomer Frank Drake, in our own galaxy. Perhaps and just perhaps, there were 10,000 Type-0 civilizations in our galaxy, but they all self-destructed because a transition from Type-0 to Type-1 is the most dangerous of all transitions. It is the greatest paradigm shift of all because that means we have the power to self-destruct. 

The generation now alive – the generation watching this video – that generation is the most important generation that has ever been born – that has ever walked the surface of the Earth because that generation – the generation of today – will determine whether we make the transition from Type-0 to Type-1… to a planetary civilization… to an age of Aquarius. Or whether we pollute our atmosphere with carbon dioxide… whether we irradiate ourselves with the power of uranium. When we go into outer space one day, and we see other civilizations in space. Perhaps we will see dead civilizations. Perhaps we will see atmospheres irradiated with the power of uranium. Perhaps atmospheres too hot to sustain life. Perhaps we’ll see planets that tried to make the transition from Type-1 to Type-2 but never made it. Here we have a warning and that warning is: unless we can control the sectarianism, the nationalism, the fundamentalism, the hatreds and anger that came with our rise from the swamp… unless we can control these passions, we may never make it to the age of Aquarius.

OK. You talked about humans evolving into masters of the universe.  By your own definition, if this generation were to realize its potential and aid this paradigm shift in becoming a Type-1 civilization – we would be able to become masters of the universe.  Could you define that and tell us about what we should aim for to achieve it?

Some people say: ‘Of what use is the unified field theory?  Can I get better sliced bread? Can I get better cable television from the unified field theory?’  Well, let me tell you this. Gravity was the first of the great forces to be worked out by NewtonNewton created a calculus – a mechanics by which to understand the force of gravity.  That mechanics helped to unleash the power of steam engines and steam engines, in turn, ushered in the industrial revolution which toppled the kings and queens in feudal dynasties of old – ushering in the age of machines. 

Not bad for a theory of gravity. 

Then, about 150 years ago, we had the work of Fereday, the work of Maxwell, trying to harness the power of electricity and magnetism.  And today we know that our cities are lit up with the power of electromagnetic force.  The power that gives us laser beams and the Internet and computers.  The power to revolutionize medicine with MRI scans and PET scans and CAT scans.  Then we have the two nuclear forces.  These nuclear forces not only energize the Sun but they also energize the possibility of nuclear warfare.  Hydrogen bombs and atomic bombs – their power derives from these four fundamental forces.  And now we are talking about unifying all four fundamental forces into a unified field theory – a theory perhaps based on an equation just one inch long.  And what I ask myself is, ‘will we have the wisdom… the wisdom to handle this kind of power… the power to be masters of space and time?’ 

Now this, of course, is still distant in the future.  You would probably  have to be at least Type-2 before we could begin to manipulate space and time.  You see at the Planck energy – a fantastic energy – ten to the nineteen billion electron volts – one with 19 zeroes after it – that’s the energy of the unified field theory.  That’s the energy at which space becomes unstable.  If I had a piece of ice for example and heated it up, eventually it would melt, and then the water would boil, then the steam would rise, then the atoms of water itself would disassociate into hydrogen and oxygen, then they would be ripped apart into nuclei and electrons.  And if I pump in enough energy, a baby universe may begin to emerge out of your oven.   We are talking about cosmic power – the power to be masters of space and time.  I hope that one day we have the wisdom – the power of a God and the wisdom of Solomon to go with it – to be able to handle the kind of power that is unleashable once we have the unified field theory. 

In that realm of humans becoming masters of the universe, do you have room, as a scientist, for a Creator? You talked about this in your speech beautifully.  Who is our Creator, in your mind, and how do you reconcile that with science?

When we talk about God, we talk about God in many realms.  St. Thomas Aquinas tried to even prove the existence of God.  He had what is called the cosmological proof, that is proof by ‘first mover’.  Somebody had to kick the first object that kicked the second object that set the universe in motion, therefore there has to be a God – God the first mover.  Then there’s the theological proof – the proof by ‘first design’.  Who designed humans?  Where did all the design that we see around us come from?  And then we have the ontological proof.  A very strange proof which says that God is so perfect by definition that he must exist – that anything so powerful and so perfect by definition has to  exist.  Well, these three proofs of the existence of God have been torn up by modern science.  We don’t believe in a first mover anymore, we believe in a big bang and the conservation of energy.  Atoms keep on moving all the time because energy is conserved.  They don’t really need a Creator.  Then theological proof can be ripped up by evolution – humans evolved by random natural selection.  The watchmaker is blind in some sense.  And Kant, Immanuel Kant, took apart the ontological proof by saying that perfection does not necessarily imply existence.  However, now that we are talking about the Big Bang and the nature of creation itself, we have to look back at these old theories and ask ourselves a question.  Do we really know where the Big Bang came from? Do we really know who designed the Big Bang? 

And that’s where we physicists begin to falter a bit. 

Because, you see, there really are two kinds of gods.  The first god, is the god of intervention, the god of prayers, the personal god, the god that smites the philistines, the god that parts the waters, the god that feeds the multitude.  That’s the first god – the god you pray to.  But you see there’s also the second god.  The god of Einstein, the god of Spinoza, the god of Leibniz, the god of the universe, the god of harmony, the god of physical laws.  The universe didn’t have to be this way.  The universe did not have to be this gorgeous.  It could have been chaotic.  It could have been random.  The universe could have been a collection of electrons.  A collection of neutrinos.  The universe didn’t have to quite be this way, and this means perhaps there was a designer. 

Now, the most recent theory of creation goes even farther than this. The most recent theory of creation is the multi-verse idea, which is now the dominant theory within what is called ‘quantum cosmology’… 

In the beginning was nothing.  Nirvana.  The nirvana of Buddhism.  No beginning, no time.  But there was the quantum principle and out of the hyperspace of nothing, bubbles began to form… bubbles of something… because even nothing is quantum mechanically unstable. And these bubbles began to expand rapidly giving us big bangs.  In other words, our bubble, our universe could co-exist with many bubbles in a multi-verse and perhaps universes are being created even as we speak now. 

OK? 

So, in other words, our universe may have been created as a quantum fluctuation in the same way that quantum fluctuation goes with the boiling of water.  Water boils and tiny little bubbles form and these bubbles are bubbles in something and they expand very rapidly.  So we now have a union between Buddhism and the Judeo-Christian theory of Genesis.  Buddhism does say there is a nirvana.  We physicists would say the nirvana of hyperspace.  But even hyperspace is unstable. Bubbles of something began to form and these somethings expanded rapidly, giving us big bangs, and that means genesis.  Big bangs could be taking place even as we speak today.  Now again, some of them might be lifeless. Some of them might be collections of electrons or neutrinos. 

Not very interesting. 

Our universe is quite interesting. It’s been around for about fifteen billion years and it’s been very stable.  It has dna, it has life, it has consciousness.  Not every universe may have that.  However, perhaps one quantum event separates us from these other universes. Perhaps a cosmic ray went through Hitler’s mother and Hitler was never born.  One cosmic ray that you can’t even see may have created a miscarriage, separating our universe from another universe, in which case, we could have a multi-verse in which one universe never had WW II.  The possibilities are endless.  Physics, on the other hand, is not yet powerful to solve the mystery of the multi-verse.  Perhaps somebody watching this video will be so inspired that they will want to crack the greatest problem of all time and that is to define the equation – one inch long – that gives us everything. 

Great.  Last question… When I listen to you speak, you seem to have the ability to talk about mankind without putting us at our highest state.  There’s a self-deprecation in your analysis that I find very interesting.  You obviously have a very high regard for the forces that shape us, the so-called spiritual dimension. But hasn’t science, historically, been at odds with spirituality?  Do you think that as you talk about yourself as a cosmologist, is it in linking science and spirituality? Is that how we will progress – with this humility which has developed?  And then how you relegate spirituality and science to your theory?

Physicists are the only scientists who can say the word ‘God’ and not blush. We physicists grapple with the question of all questions:

‘If the universe was set into motion from an explosion, where did that explosion come from? What were the rules? Who wrote down the equations of the explosion that gave us space and time itself?’ 

So if there is something I have learned being a theoretical physicist, it’s that you have to be humble.  You have to realize that you could just be, as Newton said, a child wandering on the beach, picking up a stone here and there, a beautiful stone, giving it names and throwing it back in the ocean, realizing there is a whole ocean of knowledge sitting out there.  We physicists believe that perhaps we are a Type-0 civilization.  We have to get off our hobby-horse.  We have to say to ourselves we’re not so great, perhaps, after all. 

I am reminded of the movie, Planet of the Apes, where we have a mirror image of our own past where we thought that we were the center of the universe and that the human form was the form of all forms and that God himself is an ape and that god himself created the apes in his image because he is an ape.  And I watched Planet of the Apes and I realized that we have to be humble because, as Professor Howeling once said, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose, it’s queerer than we can suppose.”  And if we are just a Type-0 civilization, this means we are children… children.  We are not even Type-1 yet!  We do not even register on the charts.  Some people say, “Well why don’t they visit us, these aliens?”  Well when you walk down the street and you see an anthill, do you go down to the ants and say, “I bring you trinkets, I bring you beads, I bring you knowledge, I bring you the power of dna, the power of nuclear weapons?”  Or do you just step on a few of them? 

We have to be humble. 

If there’s a Type-3 civilization in our galaxy and there could be – Carl Sagan believed that yes, there is probably a Type-3 civilization someplace in our galaxy – would we even be smart enough to know that there is a Type-3?   I mean think about it. If there’s a ten lane super-highway being built right next to an anthill, are the ants smart enough to even understand what a ten lane super-highway is?  Or to understand the gibberish these humans are saying?  Or why these humans would build such a ten lane super-highway?  Or even that humans exist at all?  I mean think about it. We physicists do.  And some of us come to the conclusion that maybe we are not even smart enough to know how stupid we are.  Maybe we are not even smart enough to know that there is a Type-3 civilization just on the other side of that hill in the galaxy. We’re not smart enough to realize that they talk to each other.  They have a flourishing civilization with ten lane hyper-highways everywhere.  And here we are stuck on this mud ball called the third planet of the Sun, in the Orion arm of  a minor galaxy, in the backwash of the Virgo super-cluster, thinking that we are Nature’s greatest creation… that we are God’s gift to humanity… that our science is the greatest of all science and our art is the greatest of all art, when in fact there is a whole universe out there…

Thanks, Doctor.


An Interview with MICHIO KAKU by Stephen Marshall of the Guerrilla News Network from:

The Prophets Conference, New York City
Techniques of Discovery
May 2001

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