Thinking Differently

I heard Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist and one of the co-founders of "string field theory," on the radio the other nite. Amazing. I could listen to this guy for hours. He makes physics fun and easy to understand. He makes you think, too. About absolutely everything.

Kaku is busy trying to finish Einstein's dream of a "theory of everything, an equation perhaps only an inch long that would unify all four fundamental forces of the universe." That would be quite a formula, eh? During this interview, Kaku talked about all kinds of stuff, but what really excited me was his chat about Einstein's brain, which lives on -- albeit in several pieces -- at Princeton University. Contrary to popular belief, Einstein's brain isn't very much different from our brains. The areas that handle abstract though are well developed, of course, but not much else, according to Kaku. This gives us mere mortals hope, I'd say. :)

Also, and perhaps even more exciting, is Kaku's strong belief that "geniuses are made, not born." That one floored me because I've always wanted to believe that, but pretty much everyone has told me the opposite. I can ignore them now. Kaku was clearly not saying that you can't be born a genius; instead, he was simply saying that it's not absolutely necessary. That's a wonderfully liberating thought. Einstein, after all, was not a child prodigy. He was a slow learner in his early years, actually. Then at age 12 or so, something profound changed. Kaku credits Einstein's dramatic intellectual growth to many factors, including this rather ordinary looking list: focus, imagination, access to a mentor, abstract thinking, the ability to ask questions nobody else asks, and the ability to think in pictures. That last point was key. Apparently, Einstein was able to hold childlike images in his head for long periods of time, which led to his passionate belief that even complex theories should be easily explained to, well, a child. So, although Einstein was really smart, Kaku seemed to be pointing out that what really made Einstein special was that he thought about things very differently from his colleagues at the time.

This is such good news for us "normal" people because if Kaku is correct it means we can model Einstein's thought processes in the hopes of improving our own thinking in whatever way we choose. Science. Business. Family. Community. Whatever. I'm finding out that it's how you think that is as important as what you think.

I'm looking forward to reading Kaku's new book, Beyond Einstein

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