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So where we last left off, we were talking about the fact that inside the nucleus of the atom, we have particles upon particles when you smash them apart. In the 1950’s, we were drowning in subatomic particles. In fact, J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, once made a statement. He declared that the Nobel Prize in Physics should go to the physicist who does not discover a new particle this year. That’s how many particles were being discovered.
So let’s talk about the particle zoo. Right now, we physicists have unlocked hundreds, thousands of subatomic particles and we’ve been able to piece them together into a jigsaw puzzle. It’s an ugly jigsaw puzzle, it’s horrible, but hey, it works! It describes all the subatomic particles. But look at this mess, it’s called the standard model. It has 36 quarks, 19 free parameters, 3 generations of **** no rhyme, no reason, but this is the most fundamental basis of reality that we physicists have been able to construct. Billions of dollars, 20 Nobel Prizes have gone into the creation of the standard model, and it is the ugliest theory known to science, but it works.
There’s one piece missing, and that one piece that’s missing is called the Higgs Boson. We expect to find it, but it’s still damn ugly. We want to create a higher version of this theory. And that theory, we think, is string theory.
String theory is based on the simple idea that all the four forces of the universe, gravity, the electromagnetic force, the two strong forces, can be viewed as music. Music of tiny, little rubber bands. So if I had a super-microscope shown here and I could look right into the heart of an electron, what would I see? I would see a vibrating rubber band. And if I twang it, it turns into a neutrino. I twang it again, it turns into a quark. I twang it again, it turns into a Yang-Mills particle. In fact, if I twang it enough times, I get thousands of subatomic particles that have been catalogued patiently by physicists.
So these are not ordinary strings, however. They’re not ordinary piano strings or violin strings, they are super strings. They vibrate in hyperspace, a dimension beyond physical comprehension. 10, maybe 11 dimensional hyperspace. The world I live in, as a theoretical physicist, is not quite the world that you live in. I live in a world that is 11 dimensional. All the equations I write down, all the physical pictures that I construct are 11 dimensional, existing in hyperspace. We know that physical reality is three dimensional. We have length, width, height. Einstein gives us time as a fourth dimension. But we physicists believe that the instant of the Big Bang, the universe was not 3 dimensional, was not 4 dimensional, it was 11 dimensional.
So string theory says that all subatomic particles of the universe are nothing but musical notes. A, B-flat, C-sharp, correspond to electrons, neutrinos, quarks, and what have you. Therefore, physics is nothing but the laws of harmony of these strings. Chemistry is nothing but the melodies we can play on these strings. The universe is a symphony of strings and the mind of God, the mind of God that Einstein eloquently wrote about for the last 30 years of his life, for the first time in history, we now have a candidate for the mind of God. It is cosmic music resonating through 11 dimensional hyperspace. That is the mind of God.
And how will we test it? How will we know that the universe is 10 or 11 dimensional? Because we are building a machine. The biggest machine of science ever built in the history of the human race, outside Geneva, Switzerland. It is the large Hadron Collider. And no matter how big it is, however, it is a pea shooter compared to an even bigger machine that we physicists wanted to build outside Dallas, Texas. Ronald Reagan wanted to big the Super Collider, a much bigger machine, outside Dallas, Texas, however, Congress cancelled it in 1993. Congress gave us a billion dollars to dig a huge hole, a smaller version shown here. Congress cancelled our machine in 1993, and then gave us a second billion dollars to fill up the hole. Two billion dollars to dig a hole and to fill it up. I can’t think of anything more stupid than that for the United States Congress. But what happened?
In 1993, just before the final vote was taken, a congressman asked a physicist, “Will we find God with your machine? If so, I will vote for it.” The entire fate of an $11 billion machine rested on this last final question. Will we find God with your machine? Well, the physicist didn’t know what to say, so he said, “We will find the Higgs Boson.” Well, you could almost hear all the jaws hit the floor on the United States Congress. Everyone was saying, “$11 billion for another god darned subatomic particle!” And the machine was cancelled the next day.
Ever since then, we physicists have been playing that scene over and over and over in our minds. How should we have answered that question? I don’t know. But I would’ve answered it differently. I would’ve said this, I would’ve said, “This machine, the Super Collider, will take us as close as humanly possible to the Deity’s greatest creation, Genesis. This is a Genesis Machine. It will celebrate the greatest moment in the history of the universe, it’s birth.” Instead we said, “Higgs Boson,” and our machine was cancelled. Sorry about that.
So the Higgs Boson, we think, will be created by the Large Hadron Collider. A tube 17 miles in circumference with two beams of protons circulating in opposite directions, then slamming together right here, creating a shower of particles. And among these particles, we hope to find the Higgs Boson. But not only that, we hope to find particles even beyond the Higgs Boson. The next set of particles beyond the Higgs Boson are sparticles, super particles, nothing but higher vibrations, higher musical notes of a vibrating string.
And what else could we do? We can also unlock the secrets of the Big Bang. You see, Einstein’s equations break down at the instant of the Big Bang at the center of a black hole. The two most interesting places in the universe are beyond our reach using Einstein’s equations, we need a higher theory, and that’s where string theory comes in. String theory takes you before the Big Bang, before Genesis itself. And what does string theory say? It says that there is a multi-verse of universes.
Where did the Big Bang come from? Well, Einstein’s equations give us this compelling picture that we are like insects on a soap bubble. A gigantic soap bubble just expanding and we are trapped like flies on fly paper, we can’t escape the soap bubble. And that’s called the Big Bang theory.
String theory says there should be other bubbles out there in a multi-verse of bubbles. When two universes collide, it can form another universe. When a universe splits in half, it can create two universes, and that, we think, is the Big Bang. The Big Bang is caused either by the collision of universes or by the fissioning of universes.
String theory, we think, is a theory of everything. It unites all forces, gravity, the electromagnetic force, the weak and the strong force into one comprehensive picture and that pyridine is music. That all the forces of the universe are nothing but different musical notes on a vibrating string, but it also gives us a picture of the universe itself. That the universe is a soap bubble, like what Einstein predicted, but there are other soap bubbles out there. And when these soap bubbles collide, when these soap bubbles fission, it creates a violent burst of energy which we think could be the Big Bang.
Now, string theory, in turn, can be summarized in an equation about an inch long, that’s my equation. That’s just called String Field Theory. It is an equation that allows you to summarize all the wondrous properties of string theory into one equation.
If you were to summarize the march of physics over the last 10,000 years, it would be the distillation of the laws of nature into four fundamental forces. Gravity, electricity and magnetism, and the two nuclear forces. But then the question is, is there a fifth force?
Well, I’m a physicist. We believe in testing theories to make sure that they are falsifiable and reproducible. We want to make sure that on demand, your theory works every single time without exception. And if your theory fails one time, it’s wrong. In other words, Einstein’s theory has to work every single time without exception. One time Einstein’s theory is proven to be wrong, the whole theory is wrong.
Well, so far, we can reproduce these four physical theories, but a fifth theory cannot be reproduced, we’ve looked for it. Some people think that maybe a fifth force may be short range, like not over the nucleus of the atom, but ranging over several feet, so we’ve tried. We’ve looked for a gravitational force of some sort that acts not over stars and galaxies, not over nuclear distances, but over these distances. And we can’t find any.
Today, however, we have membranes, and we don’t yet understand how membranes fit into this picture, but we think our universe is a membrane of some sort. So strings can coexist with membranes.
Then the question is, if there are other dimensions, if there are other universes, can we go between universes? Well, that of course is very hard, however, Alice In Wonderland gives us a possibility that maybe one day we might create a worm hole between universes. This is a worm hole. Think of taking a sheet of paper and putting two dots on it. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. But if I can fold that sheet of paper, then perhaps I can create a shortcut. A shortcut through space and time. Called a worm hole, this is a genuine solution of Einstein’s equations. We can actually see this in string theory. The question is, how practical is it to go through one of these things. We don’t know. In fact, there’s a debate among physicists today, Steven Hawking, many physicists are jumping into the game, trying to figure out whether it’s physically possible to go through a worm hole.
Because if you could, then you might be able to use this as a time machine. Since string theory is a theory of everything, it’s also a theory of time. And time machines aren’t allowed in Einstein’s equations, but to build one is extremely difficult. Far more energy is required than a simple DeLorean with plutonium. But then the question is, if you go backwards in time and meet your teenage mother before you are born and she falls in love with you, how can you be born if your teenage mother just fell in love with you? Or for that matter, if you think you’re so smart, here’s the mother of all time travel stories, and let’s see whether you’re smart enough to figure this one out. So listen carefully.
The year is now 1945, it’s a dark and stormy night. A drifter comes in carrying a baby girl in a basket that he lays at the doorstep of an orphanage. Well, the next day, the nuns at this orphanage pick up this baby girl. They don’t know where she came from, they don’t know what to call her, so they call her Jane. And Jane grows up in the orphanage wondering, “Who is my mother, my father, who is my family, where did I come from?” Well, when Jane is 19, she turns into this beautiful young girl and she falls in love. A handsome drifter comes into her life, sweeps her off her feet, but it was not meant to be. They quarrel and the drifter stomps out never to be seen again. But it is a very sad story. Jane is left pregnant. She’s rushed to the hospital nine months later, delivers a beautiful baby girl, but that very same night, somebody smashes open the window of the hospital and steals her precious baby girl, and it’s even worse than this. It turns out that Jane is bleeding. She’s about to die. She’s not normal. The doctors have to change Jane into Jim in an emergency operation.
Well, Jim wakes up the next day with a huge headache, left as a young baby girl at an orphanage, no father, no mother, lover gets her pregnant, leaves her abandoned, someone steals her baby girl, and now she’s not even Jane any more, she’s Jim. Well, Jim gets into bar room fist fights every time someone says, “Jim, where did you come from anyway? Who’s your mother, your father, your brother, your sister, who are you, Jim?” Well, Jim becomes a bar room drunk. But then one day, a bartender comes up to him and he says, “Jim, Jim, wake up. I’m really a time traveler. Come into my machine and let us solve the mystery of who is Jane/Jim.” So they spin the dial, they go way back into the past and then poor Jim is left somewhere in the past, he doesn’t know where. But then he meets this beautiful 19-year-old girl and it’s love at first sight. But, you know, it was not meant to be. They quarrel and Jim stomps off, but then he finds out through the grapevine that his girlfriend is pregnant and he realizes, “Oh, my God, history is repeating itself. I want to make sure that my kid gets the best education possible.”
So Jim goes to the hospital nine months later, smashes the hospital window, kidnaps his own precious baby girl, and he goes back into the time machine. And they go back, back, way back into the past until it is 1945. Jim comes in from the darkness carrying his precious baby girl that he drops off at an orphanage. Well, the next day, the nuns at the orphanage see this baby girl, they don’t know what else to call her, so they call her Jane. And Jane grows up wondering, “Who is my mother, my father, my family? I was left as a foundling on the doorstep of this orphanage.”
Well, Jim finally says to himself, you know, time traveling is kind of nice. I’m going to stop being this drunk and I’m going to do something constructive. I’m going to join the Time Travelers Corp. So Jim has many exploits, heroic exploits in the annuls of time. But now Jim is an old man, he’s an old man about to retire. So on his retirement day, they give him a gold watch. But then Jim asks for permission for one final mission in time. And that is to go back in time to meet a certain bar room drunk who gets into fist fights any time someone says, “Who are you, Jim? Who is your mother? Your father? Your brother, your sister, your aunt, your uncle, where did you come from?”
Well, if you get a sheet of paper and you draw the family history of Jane, what you find out is Jane is a family tree unto herself. She is her own mother, her own father, her own son, her own granddaughter, her own great-great-great grandfather, her own great-great-great grandmother. She’s a family tree unto herself.
And can you imagine what happens if they have a family get together and they have a food fight and someone says, “You did this to me!” “No, you did that to yourself.” And they would all be right. Because if time travel is possible, it means you can be your own mother or your own father.
But what does string theory say about this? That’s science fiction. What does string theory say about this. Well, string theory says, like Einstein, that time is a river. We’re all swept up in the river of time. Time can speed up and slow down. Time beats faster on the moon than it does on the earth. Time beats slower on Jupiter than it does on the earth. And we measure it with your cell phone. Your cell phone picks up GPS signals from satellites. Satellites beep at different rates than your cell phone and your cell phone has to compensate for that. So your cell phone has to include Einstein’s theory of general relativity in its computer software and hardware.
So to sum up, Einstein’s equations allow for time travel. Time is a river. The river of time can fork into two rivers and if the river of time forks into two rivers, that answers all the time travel paradoxes. Because if you hop into a time machine, go backwards in time, you cannot change your own past, you’re changing someone else’s past in another time stream. So the river of time forks into two rivers and there are no paradoxes in time travel if you start to use something called string theory.
But then the question is, what would it take to one day perhaps go from one universe to another? You know, trillions of years from now, the universe is going to get awfully cold. We think the universe is headed for a big freeze. Trillions of years from now, all the stars will blink out, they’ll be dead stars, neutron stars, black holes. Stars will cease to twinkle, the universe will be so big, it’ll be very cold. At that point, all intelligent life in the universe must die. The laws of physics are a death warrant to all intelligent life. The universe must eventually approach the heat death predicted by physicists years ago. But there’s one loophole. Only one. There’s only one way to escape the death of the universe, and that is leave the universe. Well, you’re now of course entering the realm of science fiction, but at least we now have equations. The equations of string theory, which will allow us to calculate if it is possible to go through a worm hole to go to another universe where it’s warmer and perhaps we can start all over again. Because perhaps one day we will be able to play with entire universes. String theory is a theory of an entire universe. Therefore when you solve the equations of string theory, you find entire universes emerging from string theory.
Now, then people ask the question, “When? When might we have this cosmic power?” And the answer is, it depends on your energy. When we physicists look at outer space for energy, we realize that any advanced civilization would eventually find three sources of energy. Planets, stars, and galaxies. So a type one civilization is planetary. They consume planetary energy. They control the weather. They control earthquakes, they control volcanoes. Anything planetary they control. Sort of like Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon.
A type two civilization is stellar. They control the energy output of an entire star, like Star Trek and the Federation of Planets. That’s a very typical type two civilization.
Then there’s type three, galactic. Like the Empire of The Empire Strikes Back.. They roam the galactic space lanes. Now, what is the energy of string theory? The energy of string theory is called the plank energy. It is 10 to the 19 billion electron volts. That’s the universe I live in. I live in 11 dimensions, that’s the dimensions that I work in, that’s the dimensions that I dream about, and the energy scale of theory is the plank energy. 10 to the 19 billion electron volts, that’s a quadrillion times more powerful than the Large Hadron Collider. That energy puts you in type three. Once we have the power of galaxies, the power of star systems, we will have the power of the plank energy, perhaps even maybe the ability to bend space and time into a pretzel. What lies beyond that?
One day I gave a lecture at the old planetarium there, and a little pesky 10-year-old boy comes up to me, and he yanks on my pants and he says, “Professor, you’re wrong. There’s type four.” So I look down at this pesky little kid, and I said to him, “Shut up, kid. Why don’t you play in traffic, there’s a nice intersection over there, why don’t you go there?” Oh, no, the kid didn’t go, he kept yanking on my pants and he kept saying, “Professor, you’re wrong, there’s type four.” And I said, “Look, kid, in the universe, we have planets, stars, and galaxies, therefore any intelligent civilization will have planetary energy, stellar energy, and galactic energy. That’s all there is. There’s no type four.” And then the kid kept yanking on my pants again. And he kept saying, “Professor, you’re wrong. There is something beyond type three, and that is the continuum.” And then I said to myself, “Hmm, maybe he’s on to something, the continuum, from Star Trek. On Star Trek, there’s something called the Q. The Q are beyond galactic, they are on the level of gods. And in fact, they get their energy from the continuum. What is the continuum? Dark energy.
We physicists in the last ten years have discovered a new energy source, larger than the galaxy itself. Dark energy. Realized in our universe today, 73% of our universe, the matter energy, 73% is in the form of dark energy. The energy of nothing. That’s what’s blowing the galaxies farther and farther apart. That’s the energy of the Big Bang itself. Kids ask the question, if the universe banged, then what made it bang? And the answer is dark energy. 73% of the universe’s energy is dark energy. 23% is dark matter. Dark matter is invisible matter, if I held it in my hand, it would go right through my hand. It holds the galaxy together. 23% of the universe is dark matter. Stars made out of hydrogen and helium makeup 4% of the universe.
And then what about us? Where do we arrogant humans, numero uno, where do we fit into the larger scheme of things? We make .03% of the universe. Let me repeat that again. We, the higher elements, we, made out of oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, tungsten, iron, we make up .03% of the universe. In other words, we are the exception. The universe is mainly made out of dark energy. The universe is mainly made out of dark matter. Overwhelming the stars, overwhelming the galaxies, in fact, and we only make up .03% of the universe.
So in other words, for you young aspiring physicists out there in the audience, you may be saying to yourself right now, why should I go into physics? Because you guys already have a candidate for the Unified Field Theory, right? Just realize that every single physics text book is wrong. Every single physics text book on the earth says that the universe is mainly made out of atoms, right? There it is. The universe is mainly made out of atoms. Wrong.
In the last ten years, we have come to the realization that most of the universe is dark and there’s a whole shelf full of Nobel Prizes for the young people who can figure out the secret of dark matter and dark energy.
I should also point out that there’s a morality tale. Dark matter was first predicted by a woman, Vera Reuben, but she was ignored for 40 years because it was so incredible. Dark matter, invisible matter, holding the galaxies apart? And that’s a very sad story in my field, theoretical physics, because women often times are slighted and not given credit. The most famous example of this, by the way, was the case of Jocelyn Bell. She was a young PhD student in astronomy and she looked up in the heavens and a star was blinking at her. Stars don’t blink. They twinkle because of imperfections in the atmosphere, but they don’t blink like that. I mean, they don’t blink regularly. She catalogued this day after day, week after week, month after month. And then she made the biggest mistake of her life, she told her thesis adviser.
Well, when it was time to write the paper, whose name came first? His name came first. He was the big shot, she was a lowly female grad student. When it was time to give talks around the world, who gave the talks? He did. And when it was time to win the Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of the pulsar, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics? He did. Not her.
What’s the lesson here? The lesson is, if you in the audience ever discover something important—tell me first. I mean, I’m a generous man. I can find enough money for a subway token for you, I’ll be the big shot physicist, I’ll put my name first and hey, a subway token isn’t so bad as a consolation prize.
The point I’m raising is, there’s a whole shelf full of Nobel Prizes for those people who can discover what is making up 73% of the universe, dark energy. And what is dark matter, which makes up 23% of the universe? No one knows. String theory gives us a clue, but there’s no definitive answer.
The thing about physics, or even science, that really intrigues me the most, is to find the most fundamental basis for everything. Rather than trying to massage a theory or make a theory prettier, why not find out why it works, what makes it tick? For example, let me give you something from the area of medicine. I was reading an article once about breast cancer recently in the New York Times, and it mentioned a figure which I found absolutely startling. And that is, that 95% of the money going to breast cancer research does not go to curing breast cancer at all. It simply goes to massaging breast cancer, maintaining the established quo, polishing up existing therapies rather than curing it at the fundamental level. You know, when I was a kid, I still remember, people were talking about iron lungs. Polio was this horrible disease and there were people saying that one day we will have thousands of iron lungs over the United States. Whole villages of iron lungs, because we have to manage polio. But you know something? Jonas Salk went out there and cured the damn thing. Today we have no iron lungs, but we have something very similar. We have a cancer establishment that puts so much money in massaging cancer and only 5% of that money is earmarked to actually curing it.
So that’s the analogy in biology. In physics, what we want is the fundamental theory that drives all these subatomic particles. It’s hard to believe that nature could be so malicious to create a universe at the fundamental level based on thousands of subatomic particles and even the standard model is ugly. 36 quarks, 19 free parameters that you can adjust, 3 generations, Xerox copies of each other, 3 redundant copies of quarks. Why should nature be so redundant to create a fundamental theory that is not elegant, not beautiful, not simple, but horrible, but it works.
Being a physicist, we also have some insight into the energy picture of the future. First of all, solar power is very nice, but it’s twice as expensive as fossil fuel technology on average. Therefore, if you bet the store on solar power, you’re going to go bankrupt. However, solar, wind, renewable technologies are going down in price every year. Fossil fuels are rising in price on average every year and the two curves should cross in about 10 years time. We don’t know for sure, but when that happens, there’s going to be a see change. It means that it will be economically advantageous to go with solar, hydrogen, renewable technology.
For example, in Europe today, investors are buying up rights to the Sahara Desert. Not because they want to put solar panels in the desert, it’s too soon for that. But in 10 years time, when solar does become cheaper, more efficient, with tax credits and mass production, in 10 years time, it’s too late. Everyone will have rights to desert areas and put solar panels there. So the time to invest in solar is sometime between now, when it’s still too expensive, and 10 years from now when it’s too late. You want to get your foot in the door.
And then beyond that, fusion power becomes a possibility. The Europeans are bidding the store on the ITER fusion reactor based in southern France, 10 billion Euros from the European Union, also Russia, the United States, Japan, and Korea, to create the first fusion reactor in southern France and in 10 more years, by 2030, we hope to make it commercial. So in 10 years, we could be entering the solar age, in 20 years, we’ll enter the solar fusion age, when sea water, sea water is the basic ingredient for a fusion plant.
Now, what about fission power? Fission power is the power of uranium. Fusion power is the power of the stars, the power of hydrogen. Uranium has a problem. When you split uranium, you create nuclear of waste, tons of nuclear waste. That nuclear waste is hot. That heat is what’s causing the meltdown in Japan even as we speak. In fact, it may take 30 years, according to the Hitachi Corporation, to bring that raging accident finally under control. 30 years is one of our best projections as to when we can finally put that reactor accident to rest.
Fission power has problems. First, meltdowns. Second, nuclear waste. Where do we put it? President Barack Obama has decided to cancel the Yucca Mountains Nuclear Waste Repository. So at the present time, the United States is suffering from a massive case of nuclear constipation. Nuclear waste is banking up at every single nuclear site. 104 of them in the United States with nowhere to put the nuclear waste.
Now, my attitude is, it takes about 10 years to get a new nuclear power plant to completion. In that 10 years time, solar becomes very competitive. So the economic climate changes. Now it may seem to be economical to build a nuclear power plant, but in 10 years time, solar becomes very competitive with fossil fuels, in which case, nuclear energy may be an idea whose time has come and gone.
Some people ask the question, “Professor, if you’re finding the theory of everything, then what’s in it for me? Everything is gone, right?” Wrong.
There’s several ways you can look at this question. Think of looking at a chess game for the first time in your life and you watch the two players move the chess pieces. If you’ve never played chess all your life, you can figure out the rules just by looking at the game. How pawns move, how kings move, and so after a while, you figure out all the moves. But does that make you a grand master? No. Finding out the rules of chess is like finding the Unified Field Theory. We now know how particles move, we now know how every object in the universe moves. We know all the moves of matter and energy. That’s the Unified Field Theory. So it’s like figuring out the rules of chess, but does that make you a grand master? Does that make you a master of gravity? A master of electricity and magnetism? A master of the nuclear forces? No.
There’s another way to look at this. Dark matter, dark energy, have been discovered in the last ten years, which have forced a revision in every single physics on the planet earth. This is embarrassing. Because we now realize the most of the universe is dark and we’re clueless as to what they really are. Now, we have some hints, string theory says that dark matter may be a higher vibration of the string called sparticle. A sparticle is a super particle, but is not proven. Dark energy, even string theory, has a hard time explaining the magnitude of dark energy.
So once we understand dark energy and dark matter, we’ll understand the Big Bang. Because what is driving the Big Bang, but dark energy. So once we understand dark matter, dark energy, we’ll understand the birth of the universe and the death of the universe.
I’m a theoretical physicist. Being a theoretical physicist, my laboratory is my pencil. I can carry it on the bus, on the airplane, the train. My laboratory is my pencil.
And on one final note, let me say the following. That ever since I was a child, my role model was Albert Einstein and I had the rare privilege of speaking at the Einstein Centennial several years ago. And my favorite Einstein story is this: When Einstein was an old man, he was tired of giving the same talk over and over and over again. So one day his chauffeur came up to him and he said, “Professor, I’m really a part time actor. I’ve heard your speech so many times, I’ve memorized it. So why don’t we switch places? I will put on a mustache, I will put on a beard, I mean, I will put on a wig. I’ll be the great Einstein, and you can be my chauffeur.” Well, Einstein loved the joke, so they switched places and this worked famously until one day, a mathematician in the back asked a very difficult question. And then Einstein thought, “Oh, the game is up.” But then the chauffeur said, “That question is so elementary that even my chauffeur here can answer it for you.”
Let me give some advice to you, if you are a young physicist, perhaps just getting out of high school, you have dreams of being Einstein, of dreams of working on string theory and stuff like that. And then you hit freshman physics. Let me blunt. We physicists flunk most students taking elementary physics and we’re more or less encouraged to do so by the engineering department. We don’t want to train engineers who make bridges that fall down. We don’t want to create engineers that create skyscrapers that fall over. There’s a bottom line. You have to know the laws of mechanics. So before you can work with the laws of Einstein, you have to work with the laws of friction, levers, pulleys and gears.
So if you’re a young physicist, graduating from high school with stars in your eyes and you encounter freshman physics for the first time, take heart, if you have a rough time, that’s the way it is.
Thank you very much.