Exploring Time Travel, Parallel Universes, the Mind of God, String Theory, Lessons from Einstein, and more | Dr. Michio Kaku on The Tim Ferriss Show

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Key Takeaways

  • Michio Kaku built a 2.3 eV “atom smasher” in his parent’s garage, and went to the national science fair where he won the grand prize and met Edward Teller, father of the atomic bomb
  • Curiosity and passion – two greatest drivers of human behavior
    • You need to have both, curiosity without passion is not enough: “You have to be able to sit down, learn the math, learn the physics, and get up to a PhD…”Michio Kaku
  • Watching Flash Gordon and reading Isaac Asimov made him realize that physics and the future are two sides of the same coin
  • Elvis Presley is still alive
  • Most people think that time moves at the same rate, but that is not true
    • One hour on the moon is not the same as one hour on Earth
  • A human brain has about 100 billion neurons, and each of those neurons is linked to 10,000 other neurons
    • For comparison, that’s the number of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy
    • Mapping the human brain is an incredibly complex task, but it’s possible to happen in the next 100 years
  • Consciousness gives us the ability to instigate all the feedback loops to create a model of ourselves in space, society, and time
  • Albert Einstein’s ‘God letter’ sold for $2.9m
    • He did not believe in God as a supreme being, but he was a fan of Spinoza’s philosophy (god as the sum of all substances of the universe)
  • Religion and science are two separate realms, and they do not necessarily contradict each other
    • Religion is about ethics, the spiritual and supernatural, and science investigates the natural world
  • The standard model of physics cannot give us the answers to many of the greatest philosophical questions
    • Einstein’s equations give up at the point where string theory begins (what happened before the Big Bang)

Key Books Mentioned

Intro

  • Dr. Michio Kaku (@michiokaku) is a professor of theoretical physics in the City College of New York, co-founder of string field theory, NY Times best-selling author, and a popularizer of science.
    • He joins The Tim Ferriss Show to tell all about how Einstein and Flash Gordon changed his life, why string theory is the best answer to the mystery of dark matter, how science and religion are allies in discovering the truth, and much more
  • Check out Michio Kaku’s website
  • Host – Tim Ferriss (@tferriss)

Flash Gordon: The Saviour of Sci-FI and Michio Kaku’s Childhood

  • “When I was a child, I realized that if I was to do anything in this world, I would have to do it myself.”Michio Kaku
    • When he was eight years old, he was greatly inspired by Albert Einstein and his search for a theory of everything
    • He built a 2.3 eV “atom smasher” in his parent’s garage, and went to the national science fair where he won the grand prize and met Edward Teller, father of the atomic bomb
    • Teller promised him a scholarship if he could get into Harvard University, and Michio got a full ride to Harvard
    • After Michio graduated from Harvard, Teller offered him a job to design hydrogen warheads at Los Alamos Labs, Livermore Labs
    • However, young Michio had a different goal; “You see, for me, the hydrogen bomb was puny. It was not powerful enough. I wanted to work on the biggest explosion in the universe: The Big Bang.”Michio Kaku
    • His dream was to search for a theory of everything, an equation that can summarize all the laws of the universe into one compact form
  • Curiosity and passion – two greatest drivers of human behavior
    • You need to have both, curiosity without passion is not enough: “You have to be able to sit down, learn the math, learn the physics, and get up to a PhD…”Michio Kaku
  • Future and physics- two greatest passions of Michio Kaku’s life
    • “One hand, I work on the unified field theory, the God equation, the theory of everything, but I’m also a futurist.” Michio Kaku
  • He was fascinated with Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series and Flash Gordon (1954 TV series)
    • Watching Flash Gordon made him realize that physics and the future are two sides of the same coin
    • If you understand physics, it allows you to see into the future (what is possible/impossible, plausible) or at least the outlines of the future

Yes, Time Travel Is Indeed a Real Thing

  • Physicists no longer giggle and roll their eyes when you talk about time travel, higher dimensions, and such
    • This is partially due to the work of people like Stephen Hawking and Roy Kerr who have taken these topics seriously
  • “Time travel, in other words, if the universe rotated and then you rotated around the universe and came back, you could come back yesterday.”Michio Kaku
    • In his memoirs, Einstein said that time travel is not possible because the universe doesn’t rotate, it expands
    • From there on, there have been hundreds of solutions of Einstein’s equations that make time travel possible (e.g. Roy Kerr in 1963)
  • The chronology protection hypothesis
    • Stephen Hawkings wanted to find a law of physics that prevents time travel
    • However, the world of physics could not find such a law and disprove the existence of a time machine
  • With the rise of string theory, we now have wormholes “…And a wormhole is the looking glass of Alice.” – Michio Kaku
    • Black holes rotate and collapse to a ring, and if you fall through it, you would end up in Wonderland (parallel universe)
    • The string theory gives a new way of looking at the Big Bang 
  • Einstein said that the universe is something like an expanding bubble (the Big Bang theory), but string theory adds more to it; there’s a multiverse of “bubbles”
    • And they can collide, split in half, and make other Big Bangs, and some of them make time travel possible
  • Elvis Presley is still alive
    • Albeit in a different universe according to quantum physics
    • People who have died in one universe are not necessarily dead in another
    • Unfortunately, we can’t visit Elvis, or our loved ones because the technology required for such a feat is beyond our capabilities

Common Misconceptions About Time

  • Most people think that time moves at the same rate, but that is not true
    • One hour on the moon is not the same as one hour on Earth
    • Generally, the faster you move, the slower the time rate
  • NASA’s identical-twin astronauts, Scott and Mark Kelly
    • Scott spent a year in outer space, and when he came back he was actually younger if only by a fraction of a second
  • Time is a river that can speed up and slow down (this is why the time rate is slower in space than on the Earth)
    • That river can have whirlpools and split into two rivers, and that is why we can work out time-travel paradoxes, e.g. grandfather paradox
    • The forking of rivers represents the possibility of different universes existing at the same time
    • This is the foundation of quantum mechanics, i.e. an electron can be two places at the same time
    • If an electron can be at different places at the same time, why not people, or the universe?

A Brain the Size of a Galaxy

  • A human brain has about 100 billion neurons, and each of those neurons is linked to 10,000 other neurons
    • For comparison, that’s the number of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy
  • The Human Connectome Project – mapping the human brain
    • Their goal is to make a comprehensive map of neural connections in the brain; every single cell
    • Neuroscientists have already mapped the brain of a fruit fly
    • Mapping the human brain is an incredibly complex task, but it’s possible to happen in the next 100 years
  • By replacing neurons with a transistor, it’s possible to create a working model of a human brain
    • It would be identical to that of a human brain, but what about consciousness?
    • “My definition of consciousness is the sum total of all the feedback loops necessary to create a model, a model of yourself in space and time in society.”Michio Kaku
  • There are different levels of consciousness:
    • Spatial consciousness (reptiles) – a reptile understands space; location of food, enemies… 
    • Social consciousness (monkeys) – understanding your role in society, a consciousness of a social type
    • Temporal consciousness (humans)
  • What feedback loops make the human brain different from reptiles and monkeys?
    • The front part of our brain can daydream, imagine things that don’t exist, create a model of ourselves in time
    • Consciousness gives us the ability to instigate all the feedback loops to create a model of ourselves in space, society, and time
    • Every thought that goes through our mind does this
    • “If you can think of a thought, a thought that is outside the domain of these three levels of consciousness, then you can disprove my theory.”Michio Kaku

Reading the Mind of God

  • Albert Einstein’s ‘God letter’
    • A handwritten letter in which he criticizes the concept of God and religion
    • It sold for $2.9m, everyone wanted to know Einstein’s thoughts about God
  • He did not believe in God as a supreme being, but he was a fan of Spinoza’s philosophy (god as the sum of all substances of the universe)
    • The universe could have been random and chaotic, but it’s not 
  • Religion and science are two separate realms, and they do not necessarily contradict each other
    • Religion is about ethics, the spiritual and supernatural, and science investigates the natural world
    • In Genesis, we learn about the creation of the world and how God sets the universe into motion
    • “So the universe had a beginning. So I’ve had these two contradictory ideas in my head. Either the universe had a beginning or it didn’t. No two ways around it, right? Wrong.”Michio Kaku
  • The multiverse theory is how we can combine these two ideas into one
    • The origin/genesis of our universe is the Big Bang, and big bangs are happening all the time because they are quantum events
    • The universe is expanding into the hyperspace of string theory
    • Our universe had a beginning, but other universes are being born all the time

The Controversy of String Theory

  • “In science, the truth comes out of an incorrect debate with an untruth” – Michio Kaku
  • String theory is a theory of universes where every solution is a universe
    • How can we test string theory if we cannot test it in a laboratory?
    • Michio believes that kind of thinking misses the whole point because most of science is not done directly, but indirectly
    • E.g. We have never been to the sun, but we know that it’s made out of hydrogen
    • We know it “…because we look for echoes, echoes from the sun called sunlight, we have indirect proof of these things.” – Michio Kaku
  • Michio Kaku gives five indirect proofs of string theory:
    • The fifth force of nature – at Fermi Laboratory, they found the first crack in the standard model of particles
    • LISA space probe will give us pictures of the infant universe – possible evidence for connecting the infant universe to the father universe 
    • Most of the universe is made out of dark matter, and no one’s been able to give predictions about the nature of dark matter except for string theory
    • Scientists are building a new generation of “atom smashers”
      • “We hope to find evidence of the fifth force by creating particles that are only seen beyond the standard model”Michio Kaku
    • The fifth indirect proof is to look for deviations from Newton’s laws of gravity

What Is the Use of Theory of Everything?

  • String theory is a theory of everything, and it can give us many answers:
    • What happened before creation?
    • Is there a multiverse?
    • What’s on the other side of a black hole?
  • The standard model of physics cannot give us the answers to many of the greatest philosophical questions
    • Einstein’s equations give up at the point where string theory begins (what happened before the Big Bang)
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