Internet This talk convinces us that physics is at the base of all technology. SUDHAMAHI REGUNATHAN

One of the recommendations of policy makers in education is to use more of ICT (information and communication technology) in teaching methodology, and so schools and universities equip their classrooms and departments with computers, LCD projectors and what you may. With that they feel the recommendation has been adequately addressed. The talk by Michio Kaku on “The Universe in a Nutshell” is among those resources that education givers could make use of to inspire and teach their students. It is one of the clearest understandings of physics delivered in an interesting manner. It is a 42-minute talk and is illustrated.

Michio Kaku is a physicist and professor at The New York State University. He begins by telling us how physics has played a role in making almost everything in one’s life. “ some point everything in the living room or a hospital will trace itself to a physicist,” he says. Kaku says when he was eight, his teacher came into the classroom to announce that the greatest scientist of “our period is dead.” And the newspaper headlines said, “The Unfinished work of a Scientist” and showed Einstein’s table with the papers scattered about. Many years later, Kaku understood why he could not finish was the Unified Field Theory or The Theory of Everything that lay unfinished on the table: an equation that would summarise all the physical forces in the Universe...

Kaku cites another event that engaged him when he was eight...a determining age in the life of the physicist to be sure. He says he was hooked on to “Flash Gordon” and “Star Wars” TV shows and many years later realised even that was possible only because of a physicist. “Physics is the base of all technology,” declares Kaku.

He stretches the spectrum of understanding in yet another dimension when he says that if our ancestors could see us now, they would think of us like spirits... Our ancestors themselves lived a difficult life, not beyond the age of 40 and tilling the soil. If we were to get a glimpse of our grandchildren, we would think of them as Gods...and he captures the imagination of the listener when he says, “We would view grandchildren as Gods...Venus has a perfect body and we have begun to unravel genetics at the molecular level of the ageing process.” The listener can visualise that, for he or she knows how far we have come in the beautification of our body. Kaku goes on, “...Apollo moved about on a chariot... it will not be long before we have a flying car in our garage. By 2100 we will have the power of the gods.” And he quotes Arthur C. Clarke as having said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from divinity.”

In the second section of his talk he traces the beginning of modern physics, of Galileo and Isaac Newton and the beginning of all activity today to the fundamental question Newton asked: “If the apple falls, does the moon also fall?” Yes. The moon is in free fall just like an apple. To calculate the force of the moon, Newton invented Calculus.

In this manner Kaku takes you along the four major forces that capture the essence of physics: gravity, electromagnetic forces, weak and strong nuclear forces. In the process he also explains the string theory.

He leaves you with the question: is there a fifth force? Kaku wonders if the fifth force could be the conscience or something so esoteric but also adds caveats saying a scientific theory is one that works every time and for everyone without fail. The new energy scientists are looking at dark energy...the energy of the big bang...73 per cent of the energy in the Universe is dark energy, 23 per cent is dark matter, 4 per cent of the Universe is the stars made of hydrogen and helium, etc. We make up just .03 per cent of the Universe. In other words we are the exception. What then is dark matter? That remains the challenge of future physicists.

Web link