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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