String field theory co-founder Michio Kaku did not even try to explain his controversial yet undeniably brilliant cosmological theory of everything during his interview on Reddit, beyond this analogy:
“In string theory, all particles are vibrations on a tiny rubber band; physics is the harmonies on the string; chemistry is the melodies we play on vibrating strings; the universe is a symphony of strings, and the ‘Mind of God’ is cosmic music resonating in 11 dimensional hyperspace.”
(The “Mind of God” is what Stephen Hawking said we would understand once we completed a theory of everything.)
While Kaku’s cursory approach annoyed some Redditors (the top-voted response brings up problems with string field theory like its lack of testable theses that he did not address), it allowed him to respond to a wide array of fascinating scientific questions.
On coming breakthroughs:
“Time travel and teleportation will have to wait. It may take centuries to master these technology. But within the coming decades, we will understand dark matter, perhaps test string theory, find planets which can harbor life, and maybe have Brain 2.0, i.e. our consciousness on a disk which will survive even after we die.
“I think, in the coming years, we will have a brain pacemaker that can stimulate the memory of people with Alzheimer’s disease. They will be able to upload simple memories of who they are and where they live. Beyond that, we will be able to use electronics to upload vacations we never had, perhaps. And the internet itself will be a brain-net of emotions and memories.
“The 20 century was the century of physics, with computers, lasers, TV, radio, GPS, the internet, etc. Physics, in turn, has made possible that can probe biology. So I think the 21st century will be the century of physics and biology, esp. biology that can be explored via physics. So the future belongs to nanotech, biotech, AI, and quantum physics.”
“I have not seen the movie, but I think it’s only a matter of time. Today, it is still easy to tell if you are talking to a computer. Computers have no sense of self-awareness, and cannot master common sense very well. But this is a technical question, so I think that, in the coming decades, we will have something like Her.”
On colonizing another planet:
“I agree, along with Carl Sagan, that we should eventually become a two planet species. Life is too precious to place on a single planet. But I also think we should explore new ways to drive down the cost of space travel. instead of costly booster rockets, maybe we should think of laser/microwave driven rockets, or space elevators. Until then, the cost of space exploration will limit our ability to explore the universe.
“I think a colony in space will take much longer than sci fiction writers think. It costs $US10,000 to put a pound of anything into near earth orbit. That is your weight in gold. It costs about $US100,000 a pound to put you on the moon. And it costs $US1,000,000 a pound to put you on Mars.”
On the birth of the universe:
“The modern thinking is that time did not start with the big bang, and that there was a multiverse even before the big bang. In the inflation theory, and in string theory, there were universes before our big bang, and that big bangs are happening all the time. Universes are formed when bubbles collide or fission into smaller bubbles.”
“One problem with politics is that it is a zero sum game, i.e. politicians argue how to cut the pie smaller and smaller, by reshuffling pieces of the pie. I think this is destructive. Instead, we should be creating a bigger pie, i.e. funding the science that is the source of all our prosperity. Science is not a zero sum game.”
“Some advice. Keep the flame of curiosity and wonderment alive, even when studying for boring exams. That is the well from which we scientists draw our nourishment and energy. And also, learn the maths. Maths is the language of nature, so we have to learn this language.
“When I was a kid, I had two role models. The first was Einstein, whose futile search for a theory of everything fascinated me. But I also watched the old Flash Gordon series on TV. I was hooked by all that I saw, e.g. starships, aliens, ray guns, etc. Eventually, I realised that what was driving the entire series was physics. So I saw that my two loves as a child were really the same thing.”