FATE recently had the distinction of a personal interview with renowned physicist Michio Kaku when he visited Minneapolis. Kaku is the author of Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Telepotation, and Time Travel, and is the Henry Semat Professor of Theoretical Physics at the City University of New York Graduate Center.
PG: You are a proponent of string theory, which envisages an 11- or 13-fold dimensional universe. How do you envisage these extra dimensions?
MK: We live in a three-dimensional world. Length, width, height, and we also have the fourth dimension, which is time. But anyone who talks about higher dimensions is sometimes called a crackpot. Now, when I was a child, I used to go to the Japanese tea garden in San Francisco where there are fish swimming in a shallow pond. And I imagined being a fish myself. And if I was a fish, I could travel forward, backward, left, and right, but the concept of “up” made no sense because the pond is the universe.
So I imagined there was a scientist there who would say, “Bah, humbug. There are no other dimensions other than forward, backward, left, and right. There’s no such thing as up. What you see is what is. If you cannot measure it, it doesn’t exist. So then I imagined as a child reaching down and grabbing the fish, lifting the scientist into the world of up, hyperspace, the third dimension. What would he see?
He would see a world where beings move without fins, a new law of physics. Beings breathing without water, a new law of biology. Then I would put the fish back into the pond, what stories he would tell. A universe beyond the universe.
Well, today many physicists believe that we are the fish. We spend all our lives in three dimensions, going forward, backward, left and right, up and down. And anyone who talks about another, unseen dimension is considered a crackpot. Well, not anymore. This summer, the largest machine that science ever built, the Large Hadron Collider, 27 miles in circumference, costing eight billion euros (about ten billion dollars), will be turned on. And we hope to get evidence of the eleventh dimension. One of time, ten of space.
We work in an area called string theory, which used to be a bunch of outcasts in the physics community. But now, we’re center stage. We have gotten the major faculty positions at Harvard, Princeton, Yale; all the young crowd coming up are string theorists. My generation suffered enormously because people thought, “Oh my god, this is Star Trek, beam me up to the higher dimensions,” they said.
The young people, however, have the benefits of realizing that we are now the center of gravity. What happened? What happened was we physicists began to smash atoms, and we have a pretty good understanding of the theory of particles. It’s called the Standard Model. Except it is the ugliest theory known to science. Why should mother nature at a fundamental level create this ugly theory called the standard model? It has 36 quarks, it has eight gluons, it has three W bosons, it has a whole bunch of electrons, a whole bunch of neutrons, it just goes on and on and on.
The Music of Creation
Why should this be nature’s supreme theory? It’s like getting an aardvark, a platypus, and a whale, start shaping them together and calling this nature’s finest evolutionary creation, the byproduct of millions of years of evolution of the earth. I would like to believe that these 36 quarks, eight gluons, three W bosons are nothing but the lowest octave of a vibrating string.
Now, these strings are special. They are not ordinary strings. These strings, when they vibrate, create the musical notes which correspond to the particles we see in the universe. We can explain why we have leptons, muons, hadrons, photons, neutrinos, the zoo of subatomic particles; it’s nothing but the lowest vibration of the string. The normal aspect of the string is that they only vibrate in ten or eleven dimensions. They vibrate in ten dimensions. When you add membranes or beach balls, they can vibrate in eleven dimensions. So we think that’s what the Big Bang was. The Big Bang was an instability in eleven-dimensional hyperspace.
Einstein wanted to read the mind of God. That was his goal in life. He wanted an equation one-inch long that would allow him to read God’s thoughts. That’s what dominated his thinking. For the first time now, we have a candidate for the mind of God. The mind of God is: cosmic music resonating through eleven-dimensional hyperspace. That is, we think, the mind of God.
Read the rest of Phyllis Galde’s interview with Michio Kaku exclusively in the May-June 2009 issue of FATE!