SCIENCES

The God Equation: The Quest for a Theory of Everything

Doubleday. Apr. 2021. 240p. ISBN 9780385542746. $19.95. SCI
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For centuries, scientists have sought a single theory—preferably in concise mathematical form—that explains everything in the physical universe. Kaku (physics, City Univ. of New York; Hyperspace) returns to the subject he last addressed in the 1990s to review this history from Newtonian mechanics through electromagnetism to Einstein’s work on relativity and gravity, which he was unsuccessful in unifying with quantum mechanics. Kaku then describes his field, string theory, and how it may hold the answer to unite all of the known natural forces, including gravity. When conveying a highly theoretical topic some sacrifices must be made: the few equations are relegated to the notes, and important concepts like “renormalization” seem to be hand-waved away as too mathematically difficult to describe. The author is convinced that string theory (or the related M-theory) will provide this Theory of Everything, but never offers a convincing scientific rationale why all of these physical forces must be unified under a single equation, or why it must be simple—other than an argument from elegance and parsimony.
VERDICT Despite some flaws, this is a solid introduction to the topic, and physics novices may find that it whets their appetite for more.

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