Michio Kaku interview on Deepak Chopra Wellness Radio-Sirius XM September 19, 2009
Deepak Chopra: My very special guest today is Dr. Michio Kaku and Dr. Kaku is a theoretical physicist and best-selling author and popular writer of science. He's the co-founder of string field theory which is a co-branch of string theory and continues Einstein's search to unite the four fundamental forces of nature into one unified field theory. Dr. Kaku has popularized science as no one else that I know. He's appeared on Discovery Channel, BBC, ABC, the Science Channel, CNN, just to name a few. He has many many publications, many books, he's a professor here in New York. He holds the Henry Semat Chair and Professorship in theoretical physics at the City College of New York where he has taught for over 25 years. He's been a visiting professor at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton as well as New York University. Welcome Dr. Kaku!
MK: Deepak, it's a real honor to be on your show.
DC: And you know we're going to talk about the unified field theory and we're also going to talk about of course your book towards the end of our show I want to ask you a few questions about the world of consciousness in nature. How does nature function with or without consciousness? I was walking New York City one day and saw your book Physics of the Impossible in a window and I was totally taken up with how you started that book. You said "To deny the impossible... you deny the impossible at your peril," or something like that. What do you mean?
MK: That's right. To a physicist we have the "I" word, the I-word is impossible. That's dangerous. The New York Times once said that airplanes were impossible right before the Wright Brothers sailed into the sky at Kitty Hawk and the New York Times railed against rockets. Rockets cannot move in outer space, impossible said the New York Times and then when Neil Armstrong walked on the surface of the moon the New York Times had to write a retraction saying that well "I guess rockets can move into outer space," contrary to our previous belief.
DC: What the basis for your book is, that if it does not violate the laws of mathematics or physics then it is in the realm of possibility, really?
MK: That's right. If it's not forbidden by the laws of physics, it's mandatory. So this means that if you take a look at the most fantastic schemes that are considered impossible: teleportation, warp drive, parallel universes, other dimensions, artificial intelligence, ray guns, you realize that they can be possible if we advance technology a little bit and that's why in the book I begin to catalog the impossible and show that most of them are within the law of physics.
DC: And therefore will at some point become technologies.
MK: That's right. If it's not forbidden, it's mandatory. And as Arthur C. Clark once said "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," and that's what this book is about. Magic. The magic of science.
DC: (laughs) Okay. You talk about three levels of the impossible, so the first level is?
MK: The first level is class one, which are possible props within this century, in this ability, which we're probably going to have very soon in the next few decades. Teleportation, not to mention the first star ships. Also, class two impossibilities will take a little bit longer, perhaps a few centuries, maybe a millennia.
DC: Do you claim to underestimate that you know? The Internet was started in 1996 and look where we are. The first IBM computer at the MIT occupied the whole building and now my Blackberry has more technology there. I believe technology is doubling exponentially, it doubles every year. So about ten years from now it's going to be a million times more in its power than it is today. But, let's get back to your level one because it fascinates me. In your book you start with force fields. First of all I think we'd like our audience to understand what are force fields? And then I want to ask you some questions.
MK: Okay. A force field is basically an invisible shield. You push a button and all of a sudden a bubble forms around you which is impenetrable. It can stop bullets, it can stop ray gun blasts and we realized force fields are actually a little bit difficult to create. Ordinary electric fields, ordinary magnetic fields, they don't obey the laws of force fields. However, with laser beams, nano technology, we think we can create a multi-layer force field that will do everything you see in Star Trek and everything you see in the movies.
DC: See the part that didn't excite me is the war technology. You know, that we'll have Star Wars technology and all that. But the part that did excite me is that the force fields could be engineered and given an architecture which would make it possible to press a button and create a city like New York instantly.
MK: Right. Think about this: if you were to push a button and the force field has knowledge of how to construct walls and floors and sidewalks, with a push of a button you could create an entire city.
DC: That's amazing. Almost instantly. Almost instantly.
MK: Almost instantly. Right. At the speed of light you might be able to do this.
DC: That is magic.
DC: That for certain is magic.
MK: (laughs) Yeah. It's any sufficiently advanced technology.
DC: Any other technologies or any things, applications come to mind with force fields other than war?
MK: Well the military of course is funding most of this research but it would be great if we had our own personal force fields. Just imagine creating your own architecture in your room. Buildings. You wouldn't have to spend all that time saving your money for that second house. You'd simply push a button and have as many houses as you want.
DC: Now you talk about force fields but in the book you also address the future of telepathy for example. Does telepathy, will telepathy employ force fields or will it be a non-local kind of communication.
MK: Well today using MRI scans and electro encephalographs we can actually pick up images of thoughts. So that if you think of a dog or a cat we can actually pick up the image of the dog or a cat. It doesn't look like a dog or a cat of course, but then a computer analyzes it and then eventually you get a dictionary. One to one correspondence between dogs, cats, houses and certain brains images recorded on an MRI scan.
DC: When you say images I think, to me it's a little perhaps misleading. The symbolic expressions of those, right?
MK: That's right.
DC: They're not real images. They're squiggles.
MK: Squiggles right. Eventually we'll able to use this as lie detectors. When you tell a lie that consumes a tremendous amount of brain power. Because you have to know the truth, concoct a lie, make it consistent with all the other lies you've been telling all your life. That's a lot of brain power, right? So your brain lights up like a Christmas tree when you tell a lie. And eventually we'll able to perhaps control objects around us simply by thinking about it. In Japan they've actually connected a robot to this MRI scan. You think about something and this robot moves. It moves its arms and legs according to telepathy. And we might even be able to read people's thoughts after a certain point.
DC: So telepathy in a sense does interact or express itself through these force fields, right?
MK: That's right, through the force of electricity and magnetism.
DC: And electromagnetic fields. Now your theory or your quest for the unified field theory since we are talking about force fields, physicists recognize four forces: the strong and weak interactions, electromagnetism, and gravity. So the quest of the unified field theory is?
MK: It's to unite all of the four forces into an equation perhaps no more than one inch long and Einstein thought it would allow him to quote "Read the mind of God." So..
DC: He said once that I want to know how God thinks, everything else is a detail.
MK: Right. And this is what I do for living, working on something called string theory which we think may answer the fundamental question: Are there other universes? Can you go through a black hole? Can you warp the fabric of space and time and meet your mother before you were born? These are all questions that in principle string theory should be able to answer. And it's a very strange theory. It exists in hyper space, eleven-dimensional hyper space. Migrating strains create music and this music we see as sub-atomic particles.
DC: That's why we call the U-N-I-verse the universe. UNI-VERSE. It's a symphony.
MK: Right. So we think that subatomic particles like protons and neutrons are nothing but strings vibrating in a certain mode and that the physics is nothing but the harmonies and cords and you can create on strings. Chemistry is the melodies you can play on vibrating strings.
DC: That's beautiful.
MK: The universe is a symphony of strings and the mind of God that Einstein eloquently wrote about for thirty years would be cosmic music resonating through eleven-dimensional hyper space.
DC: That's beautiful. Absolutely stunning. Now you know a lot of people who are listening to us of course have heard of black holes. I just want to first phrase what I know in my language and then ask you to comment. So a black hole is something that happens when a giant star exhausts its thermonuclear energy and then disappears into lets say the heat death of absolute zero. And it has something around it called the Schwarzschild's limit of the event horizon. Correct me if I'm wrong.
MK: That's pretty good.
DC: Okay. If you throw a photon across the event horizon the laws of physics say that it might take eternity for the photon to travel from the Schwarzschild's limit of the event horizon into the black hole. But the laws of mathematics also predict, I'm told, and you can correct me, that if you're observing the same phenomenon from the other side, what half takes an eternity from one side takes a fraction of a fraction of a second on the other. The photon zips through that twelve kilometers or so, disappears into the black hole and possibly explodes through a worm hole into a different universe in space and time. Is that what you were talking about when you were talking about time warps and other dimensions?
MK: That's right. If you want to see a black hole tonight, tonight just look in the direction of Sagittarius, the constellation. That's the center of the Milky Way Galaxy and there's a raging black hole at the very center of that constellation that hold's the galaxy together. The Earth goes around the Sun, but the Sun goes around the black hole at the center of the Milky Way. Now that black hole is spinning rapidly and we believe that spinning stars collapse to rings not dots. Dots are the old picture. We now believe that black holes collapse to rings hitting very fast. If you follow through the ring you don't die. The mathematics says you fall straight through, perhaps to another universe.
DC: What do you think?
MK: Well we should do this experiment one day. Send a probe through a spinning black hole and see whether or not it winds up on the other side of forever. This is a looking glass of Alice so that on the other side of the ring there is Wonderland while you sit in the countryside of Oxford. It's also the star gates, it's the wormhole that you mentioned. So if I take a sheet of paper and I put two dots on it, you know a straight line is the shortest distance between two points.
DC: Mmm hmm. MK: But that's not right. If you fold the sheet of paper and bring the two points together you realize that a wormhole is the shortest distance between two points.
DC: I am given to think that you think there is life elsewhere in the universe.
MK: Right. So far we have discovered 350 or so planets orbiting other stars and just the other day the French had their Carreau Satellite that picked up a rocky planet. Not a gas giant, but a rocky planet orbiting in and of the star. So one day we're going to have an existential shock looking at the night sky realizing that the constellations have rocky planets that are Earth-like twins orbiting other star systems.
DC: I am totally fascinated by the idea of quantum entanglement, by the idea of non-locality, by the idea of correlation, the idea that two entities can communicate across space and time without sending a signal, literally. That this correlation remains unmediated because there's no signal that is mediating it. It's unmitigated the robustness of the correlation doesn't diminish with distance and space time and it's instantaneous. What Einstein calls spooky action as a distance. Explain that.
MK: Well. Einstein anticipated most of twentieth and twenty-first century physics first of all. Wormholes were actually first proposed by Einstein in 1935 they're called Einstein-Rosen bridges. Wormholes to other universes. And he also butted heads against the quantum theory. And this is one sense where he actually blew it. He had reservations about the quantum theory because it was so bizarre. So fantastic. How can you be two places at the same time? How can you disappear, reappear somewhere else? How could things be non-local so that something here affects something on the other end of the galaxy faster than the speed of light?
DC: Is our conversation affecting something in another galaxy right now?
MK: In principle. What we're talking about right is affecting another galaxy far, far beyond the Milky Way Galaxy. Now when the Big Bang took place we think that most of the matter probably was vibrating in unison.
DC: So it was already correlated?
MK: It was already correlated. We call this coherence or correlation. As the universe expanded, we're still correlated, we're still bound by these invisible webs. You can't see them. The book Physics of the Impossible is being filmed for the Science Channel and we actually filmed this quantum entanglement.
DC: You actually demonstrated this?
MK: We actually demonstrated it right on TV cameras. We went to the University of Maryland outside Baltimore and we showed an atom being teleported right across the room. You can actually see two chambers, an atom in one being zapped across the room. A TV screen shows the blip whenever an atom is being teleported and this is non-local matter.
DC: That means going from here to there without the space in between?
MK: That's right it just disappears and reappears to someplace else.
MK. How can that be? You only see this on Star Trek with Scotty beaming people into outerspace, right? And we do it now regularly and we do it for the TV camera as a matter of fact for the Science Channel which will air it in December. All twelve episodes that I'm hosting aired on the Science Channel. This is called quantum entanglement so in principle our conversation is being mirrored in some sense on the other side of the galaxy.
DC: Here's a very fundamental question I want to ask as a biologist, you know because when I look at biological systems: your body, my body, the human body has a hundred trillion cells. Each cell to some people's approximation does 100,000 activities per second. Every cell is instantly correlated with every cell. A human body can think thoughts, play a piano, kill germs, remove toxins, make a baby all at once. Once it's doing that your biological rhythms are actually mirroring the symphony of the universe because you have circadian rhythms, seasonal rhythms, tidal rhythms you know they mirror everything that is happening in the whole universe. To my mind the human body is an example or for that matter a leaf for any biological, of quantum entanglement. Everything is correlated with everything instantly. What would you say to that?
MK: Yes, things are entangled so in some sense messages can travel faster than light instantaneously, however the messages that go faster than light are random messages. You can't send Morse code or information through these things and sometimes we de-cohere from matter so that we can no longer communicate with other forms of matter. For example: believe it or not, if parallel universes exist that means in the quantum realm, Elvis Presley could still be alive. He could be alive in a parallel universe that is vibrating out of phase with our universe. So that universe has de-cohered from our universe. We can no longer interact with the universe of dinosaurs and space aliens and universes where.
DC: But let's come back to a biological system. That's not random, that's very coherent, you know this biological system or a system like say when you have morphogenesis and differentiation, when a cell divides, keeps dividing so that you know in first year applications it has become the hundred trillion cells which is more than all the stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. That requires some kind of non-local correlation to my mind, theoretically.
MK: Well these non-local correlations are going to be extremely important in the next few decades coming from the computer realm of things first of all, not the biological because computer power based on silicon will be exhausted in about ten, fifteen years. Silicon Valley could become a rust belt, we may have to go to quantum computers. And quantum computers computer on atoms, forget the transistors of silicon. When Silicon Valley becomes a rust belt we'll have quantum computers computing on atoms. Then this discussion we're having will determine the gross domestic product of the planet Earth. The world economy will hinge on correlation, decoherence, non-local effects.
DC: Do you think the brain is a quantum computer, that the human brain or any brain is a quantum computer because you know in brains neurons are entangled, they bind, they phase in frequency lock-in.
MK: Well Roger Penrose of Oxford believes so. He says that quantum effects affect the human brain and therefore he says "hum-bug" we'll never be able to create a robot in the factory because robots are made out of silicon and steel and you have to have computations on atoms, he says in order to resolve the complexity of the mind.
DC: You know the more I hear about quantum entanglement it sounds like a mathematical description of omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence.
MK: Well actually there is a way that we physicists get into the whole question of an omnipotent being. The quantum theory says that an object exists in multiple states until you look at it. So, I'm looking at you but you exist in multiple states.
DC: Multiple probability clouds hovering around nuclei that are also probability clouds.
MK: Right. In one universe I have a twin brother, in another universe I have a sister, neither of which exist. In another I went to a different college, in another universe I'm a rock star, I'm not a physicist. Then we begin to ask...
DC: So in essence in the most fundamental state, you are a field of possibilities?
MK: Right. And...
DC: And infinite possibilities, right?
MK: So who determines whether I'm a bum, whether I'm homeless, whether I'm a professor of theoretical physics. Someone has to look at me says Neils Bohr. By looking at you, your wave function collapses and you exist in a definite state.
DC: So not only Neils Bohr, but I believe Eugene Wigner and John Wheeler. They all say...
MK: Many Nobel laureates.
DC: Are they saying the physical universe would not exist unless there were conscious sentient beings looking at it?
MK: That's what it leads to. Their theory says that I exist because you look at me, somebody looks at you so you exist, so who looks at her? Who looks at us? Well, God. So Eugene Wigner who helped to build the Atomic Bomb, one of the founders of the quantum theory, in his autobiography said this is the proof of the existence of some kind of omniscient being i.e. God.
DC: What you're saying is that physical matter is an expression of information and energy fields. Your string theory says and forgive me if I'm misinterpreting it, that these energy and information fields including gravity and space time are expressions of a single unified field and we go to that level and we have to invoke consciousness as actually something that perturbs that field in order to create what we call physicality.
MK: Right. Normally we would say that a rose is a rose is a rose. That's called objective reality.
DC: To me a rose is rainbows and sunshine, earth, water, and wind, air, and the infinite void and the Big Bang all rolled into one.
MK: Mmm hmm. And Einstein was wrong in this one. We measured this every day in the laboratory. That electrons can dance in between multiple states and then the question is why can't I dance between multiple states? Do I exist in multiple universes? This is called the many worlds theory, the theory that the universe constantly splits apart with multiple realities and that we have de-cohered. That is that we are no longer vibrating in unison with these other parallel universes and this has a direct impact on string theory. Because string theory has to take a position as to whether or not we have many worlds consciousness. Some people think that consciousness might be a part of string theory in the sense that if there are multiple realities, who determines this reality? Why am I here? Why am I physicist rather than a homeless bum? Right? That is that this universe has consciousness in it which may differentiate our universe from all the other possible universes.
DC: Or we're not aware of all those other universes if they exist across these wormholes in different dimensions in space and time.
MK: Mmm hmm. For example, this would allow you to resolve the paradoxes of going back in time and meeting your teenage mother before you were born, she falls in love with you and then you're in deep doo-doo. What do you do with this teenage girl who just fell in love with you, right? Well then you might exist to multiple realities. Your time line may fork into two rivers. The river of time may fork into rivers in which case you have a parallel reality and so then you can become a time traveler and not have to worry about causing a time paradox. Now this of course is for the future. Our descendants may one day have this technology. So one day if somebody knocks on your door and claims to be your great great great great great-granddaughter, don't slam the door.
MK: She could be correct.
DC: Yes. Now here's... I have a question since quantum entanglement, non-local communion you might say, correlation exists across the seas of space and because space is another way of measuring time isn't it?
MK: Mmm hmm.
DC: Does that mean that past, present, and future are also correlated?
MK: In fact, the answer is yes. Stephen Hawking for example used to say that time travel was impossible because where are the tourists from the future taking my picture? (laughs). He changed his mind precisely for that reason. The quantum theory has within it the possibility of time travel, so he changed his mind. Now he simply says that time machines are very hard to build but they may be possible. My personal attitude is, where are the tourists from the future? Maybe they're invisible.
DC: Mmm hmm.
MK: We're going to have invisibility very soon, within a few decades, so maybe they're already here. DC: So the technology for invisibility is already there? The technology for teleportation is already there? The technology for something, an object to go through a wall is already there? The technology to travel through time is already there and all these technologies come about as a result of mathematics which is an activity in consciousness. Where does mathematics exist?
MK: That's a tough one. If you take a look at all these multiple universes that we talked about, all of them are solutions of a higher theory called string theory, that's what I do for a living, that's my day job. But then the question is well, where did string theory come from if it's just pure mathematics? My personal attitude is that it is mathematical self-consistency. Once you start to postulate a universe in fifteen dimensions or seventeen dimensions the universe is mathematically unstable, it falls apart, it's inconsistent. So, perhaps ultimately mathematical self-consistency that are metaphysics, that is string theory: the physics beyond ordinary, worldly physics is the only one possible. There are no other possible theories.
DC: Well we've been talking to Dr. Michio Kaku who is a very prominent world-renown theoretical physicist. His extraordinary book is called Physics of the Impossible and we've just touched the surface, we've talked about level one possibilities which are going to be possible. Let's just mention level two and three because we'll reserve them for another occasion. I hope you'll come back and we're going to do a television series on this. Good luck on your Science series, I think this is absolutely mind-shattering what you're doing and bringing together the disciplines of consciousness and physics together. What are level two and three impossibilities, so-called impossibilities?
MK: Uh, the next level. Technologies that may be realized in centuries or millennium include: warp drive, traveling faster than the speed of light, parallel universes, are there other parallel dimensions and parallel realities? Time travel that we mentioned and going to the stars. So in the Science Channel series airing in Winter of this year we're literally going to take you to the stars.
DC: Thank you Dr. Kaku for coming and being my guest.