Theoretical Physicist Michio Kaku: A Best-Selling Writer on the Future

From a New York Times Inside the List by Lauren Christensen with theoretical physicist Michio Kaku:

The theoretical physicist Michio Kaku has built a parallel career as a best-selling writer on the future — of science, of the mind, of the human condition. Now, with “The God Equation,” No. 12 on the nonfiction list, Kaku turns his lens on the past.

Not just, say, 380,000 years after the Big Bang, the earliest we’ve yet probed the universe. Before that. As the title suggests, Kaku’s latest concern is with what he calls the “holy grail” of all science, the metaphorical “umbilical cord” of our infant universe, whenever it was (or wasn’t) born out of the alleged multiverse….This book is like a State of the Union where the union is all of existence.

The quest is a controversial one. “Nobel Prize winners have taken opposite points of view,” he said. To Kaku, the “vigorous debate” is a good thing.

In conversation, Kaku articulates the thorny situation with ease, and a sense of wonder: Right now the known laws of the universe — “the theory of almost everything,” he calls it — can be written on a single sheet of paper. There’s Einstein’s general relativity on one line, and then a couple more for the Standard Model. “The problem is that the two theories hate each other,” he said. “They’re based on different math, different principles. Every time you put them together it blows up in your face. Why should nature be so clumsy?”

Because it’s not, he hopes. Where in English departments, “hundreds of Ph.D. theses are created every year because we want to know what Hemingway really meant,” to him, “physics is the exact opposite.” The equations get “simpler and simpler, but more fundamental and more powerful, every year.”

Say one day we do finally unify them into one law of the natural world and answer the question of How We Got Here. Then what?

When we “find the rules that govern the chess game,” Kaku said, “we then become grand masters. That’s our destiny, I think, as a species.”…

“I like to think that on the other side of the galaxy, there’s a young physicist writing the same equation I am, in a different notation. That’s what gives me hope.”

Lauren Christensen is an editor at the Book Review.

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