“It’s turtles all the way down,” a possibly apocryphal old lady once said as a way of fully explaining her concept of the world supported on the back of a giant tortoise. But according to City University of New York’s Michio Kaku, it’s physics all the way down. He shares this highly educated assumption with, presumably, everyone in his field of theoretical physics, and if you’ve got 42 minutes, he’ll tell you why the subject’s explanatory power has compelled him and so many others to dedicate their lives to it. In “The Universe in a Nutshell,” the lecture embedded above, Kaku tells of the origins of modern physics, breaks down how it has clarified to humanity so many of the mechanisms of existence, and reminds us of both the countless technological advances it has already made possible and the infinitude of them it will in the future. To our fellow humans just a few generations back, he says, we, with our advanced communication devices and our ability to watch slickly produced, high-resolution lectures on demand, would look like wizards; our grandchildren, enjoying yet more benefits from physics, would look like gods.
This video comes to you free from Big Think, though as a production it originates from the associated venture Floating University, which sells access to lectures on a variety of subjects, from physics to demography to linguistics to aesthetics. Given all the useful information technology now so widely available — thanks in part to discoveries in, yes, physics — a particularly fruitful time has come for projects meant to reinvent education. Floating University considers itself to be “democratizing education,” and the demand certainly seems fervent. “Why can’t school be like this?” writes one YouTube commenter. “I don’t want homework, I don’t want a binder with dividers, I don’t want to be bored to death with worksheets. I just want to LEARN.” This, of course, started arguments. But that’s democracy for you.