Michio Kaku: The Universe in a Nutshell (Full Presentation) | Big Think

Michio Kaku: The Universe in a Nutshell (Full Presentation) | Big Think

Intro (00:00:00)

  • Professor Michio Kaku specializes in theoretical physics and string theory at CUNY.
  • Physics has contributed significantly to technological advancements, including lasers, transistors, computers, the internet, and medical imaging technologies.
  • Kaku's interest in physics began at age eight when he became fascinated by Einstein's unfinished Unified Field Theory.


  • The Unified Field Theory seeks to encapsulate all physical forces in a single equation, like E=mc² does for energy and mass.
  • Kaku was inspired by science fiction and realized physics underpins technological progress.
  • Advanced physics may eventually enable technologies resembling the abilities of Greek gods, impacting longevity and travel.


  • Modern civilization's progress is closely tied to the history of physics, moving away from superstition and toward the understanding of natural phenomena.
  • Pioneers like Galileo and Newton replaced Aristotelian misconceptions with scientific explanations of planetary motions and gravity.

Do they signal the death of Kings? (00:07:45) and THE MOON IS IN FREE FALL (00:08:41)

  • Newton's theory of gravitation was inspired by observing an apple fall and wondering if the moon was also falling towards Earth.
  • Newton developed calculus to calculate the moon's trajectory, leading to a universal understanding of celestial motion.
  • Newton's work was furthered by Edmund Haley, who financed the publication of Principia, a foundational text on the laws governing celestial bodies.

EINSTEIN'S EQUATIONS Only apply near the speed of light or near a black hole (00:12:52)

  • Newton's laws of gravity are so precise they're used for space exploration like fly-bys of Saturn and Neptune.
  • Newton's three laws of motion underpin mechanics and machines, initiating the Industrial Revolution.
  • The first law suggests objects in motion stay in motion unless acted upon by an external force.
  • The second law, force equals mass times acceleration, was pivotal for steam engines and factories.
  • The third law, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, is the principle behind rockets.
  • Newton's understanding of gravity led to the calculation of Earth's escape velocity and set the stage for modern advancements.

Does the moon also fall? (00:15:05) & ELECTROMAGNETISM (00:18:24)

  • Newton's laws enabled the construction of stable structures like the Empire State Building without scale models.
  • Electromagnetic force, observed in phenomena like lightning, was harnessed in the 1800s, leading to the electric revolution.
  • Faraday demonstrated electricity's properties in lectures, invented the Faraday cage which protects against electric charges.
  • Nikola Tesla and others built upon these principles to develop technologies that use electromagnetic forces.
  • A moving magnet generates an electric field, and vice versa, suggesting they could form a wave.
  • James Clerk Maxwell theoretically combined electricity and magnetism, discovered light waves, and derived the equations for light.

What does this mean for us? (00:20:41)

  • Faraday's work on electromagnetism profoundly impacts our lives, as visible in night-time pictures of Earth from space.
  • The internet, a product of electromagnetic force, correlates with prosperity and scientific progress globally.
  • Future innovations like internet-enabled glasses that translate languages and provide information about people will enhance communication.
  • Biomedical advances like ingestible cameras utilize electromagnetic principles to improve health diagnostics.


  • Gravity helps us understand planetary motion and was key to the Industrial Revolution.
  • Electromagnetic force led to electronic and electric advances, including the internet and medical technology.
  • The understanding of nuclear forces, encompassing nuclear strong and weak interactions, governs the functioning of stars and the sun.


  • Apollo symbolized the sun's enduring power, but only nuclear forces can explain the sun's longevity.
  • The nuclear force has two types: weak (radioactive decay) and strong (holds protons together since the universe's genesis).
  • Einstein’s E=mc² equation reveals that mass can be converted into energy, extending to the creation and discovery of countless subatomic particles when atoms are split.
  • The speaker built a particle accelerator in high school, leading to a scholarship from Edward Teller, the father of the hydrogen bomb.
  • Antimatter is composed of particles opposite to regular matter, releasing immense energy when colliding with matter.
  • The Particle Zoo refers to the plethora of subatomic particles assembled into the Standard Model, considered ugly but effective in scientific understanding.
  • The Standard Model is incomplete without the Higgs-Boson, which scientists aim to discover through experiments like those conducted at the Large Hadron Collider.


  • String theory posits that the universe's four fundamental forces are akin to the vibrations of microscopic strings.
  • Twanging these strings changes them into different subatomic particles.
  • String theory is encapsulated in a concise equation and aims to be tested by the Large Hadron Collider.
  • String theory could reveal supersymmetry particles ("sparticles") that represent higher string vibrations.
  • The theory hopes to address the limitations of Einstein's equations, providing insight into the origins of the Big Bang and the operation of black holes.
  • String theory suggests a multiverse, and proposes mechanisms for universe formation via collisions or splitting.
  • Wormholes, solutions to Einstein's equations suggested by string theory, might enable travel between universes or function as time machines, though their feasibility is debated.


  • In the far future, as the universe cools and stars fade during the Big Freeze, all intelligent life faces extinction.
  • The laws of physics imply an unavoidable death for all life, with the only potential escape being to leave our universe.
  • String theory provides the mathematical framework to explore wormhole travel to other, warmer universes, despite bordering on science fiction.

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