Michio Kaku Explains the Physics Behind Absolutely Everything

“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.

Please note, oodles of Free Physics Cours­es — includ­ing ones by Richard Feyn­man, Leonard Susskind, Sean Car­roll, and Wal­ter Lewin — can be found in our col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Learn­ing Physics Through Free Cours­es

Mod­ern Physics: A Com­plete Intro­duc­tion

Ein­stein in 60 Sec­onds (or 40 Hours)

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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Comments (16)
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  • Kathleen Vernacchio says:

    Thank you for shar­ing this. It was very enjoy­able.

  • preethi says:

    very use­ful link.…

  • Derek says:

    Michio Kaku is one of my absolute favorite physi­cists. I could lis­ten to him on any­thing.

  • Joe Andrews says:

    Re Glob­al Warm­ing — and I apol­o­gize in advance if you find my fol­low­ing com­ments laugh­able, I recent­ly read in “Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can” that it is the­o­rized that our sec­tion of our galaxy may be pass­ing through an area of “clumped” dark mat­ter, and a detec­tion sys­tem based on strands of DNA is being planned to detect the mat­ter. If dark mat­ter can clump, is it not also pos­si­ble that dark ener­gy can clump? And if it can, how do we know that glob­al warm­ing is not being caused by a pass through a clump to dark ener­gy, and not by the burn­ing of fos­sil fuels? I am aware that cur­rent the­o­ry regard­ing par­ti­cle physics states that dark mat­ter, and I believe also dark ener­gy, com­pris­es par­ti­cles, WIMPS, that do not inter­act eas­i­ly with “sol­id” atoms. There­fore with no inter­ac­tion there the­o­ret­i­cal­ly can be no heat. But is it pos­si­ble that a reac­tion could occur that cur­rent physics can­not account for. Thank you for read­ing, and don’t choke on your bagel from laugh­ing.

  • Russ Mason says:

    Tom Camp­bell is way, way ahead of Michio Kaku. Check out Camp­bel­l’s YouTube videos, or get his My Big TOE (The­o­ry of Every­thing) books. Kaku is indeed won­der­ful at self-pro­mo­tion, how­ev­er.

  • Rue Caliber says:

    what is with the words at the bot­tom?
    they start out being what he is say­ing,
    and then it starts to lag behind.
    and then near the end it turns into a sto­ry about time trav­el,
    but it is too fast to read unless you pause it.


  • Rupert Brook says:

    Call me cyn­i­cal if you like but a the­o­ry of every­thing is sim­ply just that; a theory.It does n’t even mat­ter if you can prove it because proof lies in sat­is­fac­tion and sat­is­fac­tion lies too.All that physics has giv­en the world is yet anoth­er way to make mis­ery for the many and plea­sure for the few.
    Such a great waste of time! If all that the peo­ple of this world can do is make mis­ery then all they deserve is an eter­ni­ty of mis­ery too.Save your pity for those they harm and not for the Physi­cists.
    They are noth­ing in the scheme of things and nev­er will be.
    ‘If a man knoweth anthing he knoweth noth­ing , yet as he ought to know.
    The gath­er­ing of end­less knowl­edge is mere van­i­ty.

  • Jason says:

    In response to Joe Andrews, the prob­lem with your hypoth­e­sis is this. There is con­sid­er­able mea­sur­able evi­dence that the burn­ing of fos­sil fuels is caus­ing glob­al warm­ing. That’s not to say that there could­n’t be anoth­er cause, but as Occam’s Razor states, sci­ence prefers the sim­plest expla­na­tion.

  • steven says:

    loved this…reignited my inter­est, despite the fact i’m not in this field, it’s always been of inter­est and the way this video por­trayed was very well done

  • steven says:

    geez brooke, give it a rest…downer…the dis­cov­ery of why things are they are is the sin­gle best adven­ture that can be giv­en to humanity…even if the answer isn’t found the process is well spent and bet­ter than many ways peo­ple choose to live their lives…

  • steven says:

    *the way they are

  • Tigger123456 says:

    How do you get rid of all the garbage on the screen?

  • Ray Madison says:

    Kaku is the guy who wrote that Amer­i­cans are not as well edu­cat­ed as those from Europe and Asia, and yet he wants us to know that mod­ern physics “breaks down how it has clar­i­fied to human­i­ty so many of the mech­a­nisms of exis­tence.” But I’ve not seen any­thing writ­ten by him where he sees that mod­ern physics was the prod­uct of phi­los­o­phy, from which phys­i­cal sci­ences were born, and where he rec­og­nizes that the mech­a­nisms of exis­tence were intel­li­gent­ly self-oper­at­ed or there’d have been noth­ing to cause them to work as prob­lem solv­ing sys­tems at all. No there does­n’t have to be a god to have invent­ed the obvi­ous intel­li­gence that obvi­ous­ly could not have log­i­cal­ly been an acci­dent, espe­cial­ly when we’re dis­cov­er­ing that intel­li­gence has always been a prod­uct of our cos­mic ener­gy.

  • Rickster says:

    Very inter­est­ing.

    But, how would one account for all the extra ener­gy released by the indus­tri­al rev­o­lu­tion and trans­port machin­ery in the last cen­tu­ry. It must have con­tributed to the over­all ener­gy released and quan­ti­fied since then. It would seem that humans have con­tributed in Net amount of ener­gy.

    Not laugh­ing, just say­ing.…..

  • Crazed Leper says:

    “I myself have made the earth and have cre­at­ed even man upon it. I—my own hands have stretched out the heav­ens, and all the army of them I have commanded.””–Is. 45:12

    “Bless Jeho­vah, O my soul. O Jeho­vah my God, you have proved very great. With dig­ni­ty and splen­dor you have clothed+ your­self, 2 Enwrap­ping your­self with light as with a gar­ment, Stretch­ing out the heav­ens like a tent cloth,”–Ps. 104:1,2

    “There is One who is dwelling above the cir­cle of the earth, the dwellers in which are as grasshop­pers, the One who is stretch­ing out the heav­ens just as a fine gauze, who spreads them out like a tent in which to dwell,”–Is. 40:22

    “He is say­ing to the sun that it should not shine forth, And around stars he puts a seal, 8 Stretch­ing out the heav­ens by him­self And tread­ing upon the high waves of the sea; 9 Mak­ing the Ash con­stel­la­tion, the Keʹsil con­stel­la­tion, And the Kiʹmah con­stel­la­tion and the inte­ri­or rooms of the South; 10 Doing great things unsearch­able, And won­der­ful things with­out number.”–Job 9:7–10

    “The word of Jeho­vah con­cern­ing Israel,” is the utter­ance of Jeho­vah, the One who is stretch­ing out [the] heav­ens and lay­ing the foun­da­tion of [the] earth and form­ing the spir­it of man inside him.”–Zec. 12:1

  • Howie P.C. Id says:

    I was won­der­ing if you would explain (briefly)
    what the sig­nif­i­cance for what these two gen­tle­men
    are say­ing. Thank you.

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    Sir Roger Pen­rose might be using Stu­art Hamerof­f’s climb­ing ana­log matrix to derive ori­gins for
    con­scious­ness from quan­tum orbitals, the shape of these orbitals first dis­cussed by Erwin Schrödinger.
    Thank you, Mr. Schrödinger.


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