compassion, collaboration & cooperation iN transistion
He stretches his mind to 11 dimensions, understands what Einstein failed to grasp, and he plans for the death of our Sun, five billion years from now. Michio Kaku is a superhero of the incomprehensible.
It was Einstein's unfinished business. The world's best-known and most prolific physicist was driven in his latter years to find a single set of laws for the universe: laws that would apply as readily to the chaotic BeBop of sub-atomic particles as to the majestic waltz of galaxies in deep space.
They say the answer is string theory. Problem is, string theory is too weird for most people to understand. Some scientists even say it's more fiction than science.
Not Michio Kaku. One of the world's best-known theoretical physicists, and one of the key players in string theory, he is a professor at the City University of New York. Not only is Kaku 'sold' on string theory - and
one of the earliest players in its development - he is also a passionate proselytiser. He has just completed a world tour for his third popular science book, Parallel Worlds, and is working with the BBC on a documentary series.
But it is not just the desire to spread the word about string theory, physics and the intrinsic value of science that drives him to engage the public. Kaku believes that the very future of the human race is on
the line. "We're at a precipice; we are experiencing the birth pangs of a 'Type 1 Civilisation'. And there's no guarantee we'll make it."
IT turns out it is no easy matter to create a universe where matter, space
and time are stable. For it all to work, the fundamental forces must be
unified. And that unification can only take place in higher dimensions.
As Kaku puts it "Forget building bridges, we're talking about being God.
This is what Einstein dreamt about every day of his life. If I'm God,
how do I create a stable universe? It's extraordinarily difficult."
WHEN HE IS not working, Kaku spends a lot of time popularising science. He is a gifted writer, whose vivid narratives sweep breathtakingly not only across alternate universes, but across art, history, politics, literature, philosophy and religion. His own religious influences were contradictory: his parents were Buddhist, but he was raised as a Presbyterian. Yet modern physics seems to accommodate both views.
"In Christianity, there in an instant of creation; while in Buddhism there is Nirvana, which is timeless," he says. "I am pleased that modern cosmology provides a beautiful melding of these two mutually contradictory ideas: continual genesis taking place in a hyper-dimensional timeless Nirvana."
Kaku described his belief eloquently: "I would say that I lean toward the God of Einstein and Spinoza; that is, a God of harmony, simplicity and elegance, rather than a personal God who interferes in human affairs," Kaku muses. "The universe is gorgeous, and it did not have to be that way. It could have been random, lifeless, ugly; but instead, is full of rich complexity and diversity."
Elizabeth Finkel is a Melbourne science writer, contributing editor to COSMOS magazine, and the author of Stem Cells: Controversy on the Frontiers of Science.
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