Quantum Fluctuations: a universe from nothing at all; or there is no such thing as God and I can prove it

The popular chide from just about every quarter, no matter what magic book the individual might happen to read from on a Sabbath, and regurgitate at we non-believers whenever they get a chance, is that when it comes to origins—not just of life but the existence of the universe itself—is that “it takes more faith to be an atheist than it does to be a believer” because, while the religious believe the universe was created by a god, those heathen so-called rationalists believe the universe leapt into existence from nothing at all in a tiny big bang, billions of years before Moses was but a glint in his father’s eye.

The argument which we’ve all endured on various on-going and some defunct threads, both on this blog and others, a million times before, goes something along the lines that everything which exists has to have a designer except the designer Himself, because while we are physical beings, He is supernatural and therefore outside of our ability to comprehend and that this somehow makes magic bread and infallible celibate pedophiles not only a foregone conclusion but a moral imperative—or words to that effect.

Where the religious’ authority to speak with such certainty about such matters as our cosmological origins comes from, however, is something I would like to expand upon here, in what I hope will become one of the more popular long-slow-cook debates which this blog has, over the years, done rather well at playing host.

It’s been some time since we last had a group hug on a grand new topic—and while the Catholics among you don’t need a second invitation to a mass-debate, perhaps this time the readers out there who’ve traditionally been rather shy to dip their toe into an open conversation about, literally, everything might be finally encouraged to put up or shut up. It is, afterall, with no less a sense of occasion than the state opening of the Queen’s legs, that I hereby declare, ladies and gentlemen, boys, girls, Sunni and Shia, rising apes, fallen angels and all those who aren’t sure what they are, that I say with absolute certainty, (drum roll please) there is no such thing as God and I can prove it!

OK, now the disclaimer. Do I mean god (with a lower case g) is dead, as-in the awe and wonder of the universe around us which we carry in our hearts when we look into the night sky and simply boggle as to what, if anything, it could all possibly mean? No. Einstein’s god is alive and well and frankly would prefer it if we’d all just calm down a bit, call him by his first name and treat him like an ordinary bloke for once.

So, do we mean the magic baby Jesus god is dead then? The bundle of swaddling clothes who stole Santa’s thunder from under the ruddy red noses of Hasbro’s beleaguered marketing department and started foisting his hippy nonsense about peace and love for your fellow human credit cards on us, sometime in 4th century, Byzantine Turkey? Well, like it or not, this god too is alive and well in all of us who care about each other just enough to cherish the democracy, free speech and relative wealth that stems a from a free market economy driven inexorably towards the once yearly season of aspirational greed. And while we are still just human enough, despite the evil shadow of consumerist Jesus, to show a fair degree of antagonism towards people who believe that to be Christ-like, one must exalt the ridiculous, neither are we so short sighted as to kill off this one god who, empty fools and credulous pigs aside, at least symbolically marks the beginning of the Winter solstice and that inevitable if all-too prolonged assent of Ra, into Summer.

Which god is it that is dead, then? Pat Robertson’s vengeful god, perhaps? We could all do so much better without hearing another word from the lips of that stupid old queen ever again. Or perhaps it is Sarah Palin’s confused Jesus that has breathed his last breath of fresh, dewy Alaskan air, tinged with a faint aroma of a nearby destroyed coastline full of rotting rare seabirds, covered head to beak in sticky black gold, put under the ocean about 6,000 years ago, by a home-schooled, pro-life, monobrow, sandals and socks, beard but no moustache god? No, no friends. Sorry to disappoint, but this god too is also alive and well. In fact business is booming in everything from Genuine Holy Father Vatican approved tea-towels to three litre cancerous limb regrowth Lourdes water presentation box-sets. Order now.

Well then which god is it who has finally left us? Be not afraid, my dark minions. The one who has gone before us, is the one god above all others you really want to have vanished, almost as if he were never here in the first place.

Answer me this. How many times have you personally held a conversation, or read about, overheard someone else having, twittered, facebooked or otherwise encountered the phrase, “why something, rather than nothing”, as if this is supposed to leave any atheistic / agnostic argument against cosmological constants or so-called anthropic reasoning dead in the water?

Don’t say it didn’t freak you out a little when you first came across this one, by the way, because we both know it did. Indeed, reading back on some of my earlier writing, I can tell that—certainly without knowingly avoiding the subject—I have myself seemed somewhat reticent to approach the subject, either in case I found myself reaching into the well of knowledge and coming up thirsty, or because I naively felt that it was in the interest of balance; of not wanting to seem presumptuous, or arrogant, that the various religious contributors to this blog should be left with at least something resembling an argument of some kind or another to lean back on, once they’ve chewed their way through all the usual theological noise in their tirades against everything from Darwinian evolution by natural selection, to why God would prefer children remained orphaned, than let gay people raise a family.

Then, about 4 or 5 months ago, I was reminded of my failure to address this “something rather than nothing” business, when I read “Why Does E=mc2” by Professor Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw. How, I wondered aloud, do I bridge my recognition of this difficult subject and my hope that those of you out there, on the other side of this membrane we call “my” blog, might meet me in the middle and learn alongside each other about the amazing truth behind why the “fixed constants” or “grand design” argument falls down so spectacularly, when held up to the cold, hard light of scientific reasoning?

The section of the afore mentioned book which convinced me to simply, one day, come clean with you about this and dive right into the facts of the matter (yes it has taken me this long to get around to it—but having nothing to do except sit in bed with a head cold and the occasional lucid fever dream does tend to do force a guy like me into action now an then) was when the subject of particle accelerators arose, fairly early-on in the third or fourth chapter of Cox and Forshaw’s incredibly accessible book.

It spoke of how, from the point of view of a particle—if it were indeed possible to ride on the back of one as it hurtled around in circles, close to the speed of light—that the eventual collision between itself and another particle of similar mass, in the detector, would be an event which would seem to last far longer from the perspective of the world outside, than it would appear from the perspective of the particle looking out. But this isn’t just a clever mind experiment, designed to see if the reader can conceptualise of such incredibly tiny atomic interactions in their mind’s eye. It is an experiment which can be performed, in the real world, repeated and observed. It is an experiment which proves beyond doubt that just as Einstein predicted, space-time itself is flexible; and that it can slow down—from one point of view and yet appear to maintain its original speed from the point of view of another—relatively speaking.

It was at the point in the book at which these kinds of examples of real-world experiments which test various of Einstein’s famous theories, that I finally—after years of being so-close and yet so far from understanding what these famous equation really mean—that it finally began to dawn on me; that physics isn’t just some neat way for eggheads in giant expensive laboratories to feel good about themselves for the sake of feeling cleaver. That E=mc2 really does beautifully demonstrate, most unambiguously, not just that that the speed of light is constant, but that energy and mass are two sides of the same coin.

Fast forward forty or fifty years after Einstein first proved this. Throw in some Nobel prize winners, some cosmic background radiation, the triangulation of stars with the same temperature, a few hundred thousand billion empirically observed predictions of phenomena like black holes, dark energy and dark matter, and—hey fucking presto—not only is it possible to show how the universe came to exist, but more importantly it becomes possible to prove why it is impossible for it not to exist.

As it turns out, quantum fluctuations in a flat universe which contains exactly zero energy (such as our universe just happens to be) will always produce something, rather than nothing and that is exactly why the argument of the same name, so often flung in your face by the very people who understand its implications for their religious credulity the least, in-fact stands as the solid gold proof which is needed, in order to show that the universe did not require a deity—Thor, Zeus, Mithras, Odin, Yahweh or otherwise—for any of it to be magically brought into being. The universe simply is, it is not a question of being either on or off, depending on a divine willing it into existence or not.

Now, fast forward to the below video lecture—which I would be delighted to take questions on and attempt to provide answers for in the comments below, once you’ve watched it with, hopefully, as much fascination as I did. Please don’t skip any bits which might get a bit heavy, or offensive to your religious sensibilities—that is sort of the whole point.

Introduced by Professor Richard Dawkins, at the 2009 RDF conference, Lawrence Krauss presents, ‘A universe from nothing’:


37 comments on “Quantum Fluctuations: a universe from nothing at all; or there is no such thing as God and I can prove it

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  2. that I say with absolute certainty, (drum roll please) there is no such thing as God and I can prove it!
    fever dream
    OK – that explains everything.
    I hope you’re feeling better soon,Jim.

  3. I’m a bit baffled by how Dawkins and his cohort manage to conflate relativity theory with quantum mechanics, while physicists around the world have been trying for nearly a hundred years to solve the contradictions between the two. One of the main difficulties remaining for relativity theory is that as a theory that systematizes the universe as a whole, it becomes subject to Godel’s incompleteness theorem, i.e. any self-consistent system implies the existence of a meta system. QM does not have this issue as it does not propose that the universe as a whole is systematic. However, let me set straight a few of the things proffered by this particular pseudo-scientific charlatan.

    The total amount of energy in the universe we presently occupy is approximately 10^120 x 10^140 (including degrees of gravitational freedom) quanta, multiplied by the amount of energy per quantum. Sorry to dump water on your drum roll, but each quantum contains an infinite amount of energy. Any infinite amount of anything placed into a finite container will, of course, constantly spill over, creating a measurable, testable release of energy. This energy has indeed been measured and tested, and is known as the Casimir Effect. The University of Leicester, in particular, has proposed sending a probe into space in order to test whether the energy from the Casimir effect could be utilized.

    The quantum void, as well, is not nothing, although it is certainly not a ‘thing’ either. The base particles of matter have no mass and are only differentiated from void by form (angle and spin). Odd isn’t it that the ultimate materialism winds up, at the quantum level, being dependent on form – or to put it as Heisenberg did “Plato was right after all.”. Mass comes about if/when these particles move in a certain fashion. Rather than being “space” the void could better be pictured as a seething layer of massless particles constantly being created and destroyed.

    In fact the void bears a striking resemblance to some facets of Eckhart’s mysticism. Put simply, as Aristotle said “unformed matter and the void are not differentiable and therefore the same.”, Eckhart’s description of the godhead, originally a gnostic term, was that the godhead had no attributes that could be posited of it – i.e. no positive attributes. Eckhart’s godhead, then, would also not be differentiable from the void.

    Please note that I’m not proposing an intelligent universe, or a personally involved one. The crap Dawkins is displaying, though, proposes through a pile of pseudo scientific crap what is obvious to anybody sensibly familiar with dialectic – i.e. for the void to have self-identity it has to be compared to its opposite, i.e. its difference. The universe may well be the difference that provides the void with its selfsameness as void.

    Perhaps with the results of the human genome project having pulled the rug out from under all of Dawkins’ genetic bullshit he’s now going to try to dazzle with his lack of knowledge of elementary physics instead. (in case you’re unfamiliar with the results, genes do not translate to phenotypes in any direct manner, in fact genes function much like language, providing the nouns and verbs with which an organism can self-organize its system – linguistics has become the most relevant methodology for genetic exploration).

    One thing is certain,though. It’s far easier to demonstrate that Dawkins is a bigoted white upper middle class ideologue with no relation to either science or religion, than to prove or disprove the existence of something (‘god’) that we haven’t even defined in any meaningful way.

  4. For someone who is clearly very passionate about this subject, Dasein42, I’m disappointed it seems that you didn’t actually watch the actual video in question. Maybe you think by pasting a few complicated looking numbers into a reply box you’re doing your bit to put those secular humanist white supremacists in their place—but we already knew people like you aren’t really interested in debating honestly on the facts.

    Lawrence Krauss isn’t billing this as a grand unified theory of everything so long as you don’t believe in the Judeo-Christian god. He is summarising his life’s work for an audience of non-physicicsts. If you feel as if he is borrowing from one set of data in order to foist the results of another on to his audience, then I’d appreciate more specifics than the Casimir Effect—which if you’d watched the video you’d know Krauss eluded to in a section of the lecture he didn’t have time to fully present—presumably on the assumption his audience were already largely familiar with it.

    I find your accusation of Krauss being a pseudo-scientitist troubling, given his unblemished reputation in his chosen field. Again, if you had watched the video, you’d know that Krauss’ is simply trying to explain, in common language, what—by his own admission—is made almost impossible to express in anything but the language of pure mathematics, in plane speaking. It is because he is an educator he tries to expand upon the mathematical concepts such as this nevertheless and, for my part, this is much appreciated. Where we are in terms of seeking actual answers to the problem so often posed by those who understand the implications of asking the question “why something rather than nothing” in the first place, is a very complicated area to get into and we non-physicists need all the help we can get in understanding as much of it as we can—especially in the face of the kind of misinformation people like you arrogantly go spreading around the place as if you know what you’re talking about.

    I do not feel as if there are any contradictions in what I have learned from Feynman to Dirac, Cox to Popper, with what is being said here by Krauss—indeed, with the possible exception of Feynman, I can’t think of anyone as enthusiastic about educating the general public on physics as Krauss—whereas you seem to be saying because he is a talented orator; has a gift for distilling pure arithmetic down into easy to swallow chunks, that he is therefore wrong no matter what his understanding of the workings behind the plain English may be.

    I think an indication of why you think this way, may be contained in what you say next and the reason why you drag Dawkins into this, just because he introduced Krauss at the start of the clip. Perhaps that’s as far into the video as you got, before you decided the lecture was about something it is obvious to anyone who watched it, it isn’t? If you’d pressed on you’d know that the differences of opinion between Krauss and Dawkins on these matters are mentioned early on in the introduction—indeed this is how the two met in the first place.

    But since you mention The Selfish Gene, I’d be fascinated to learn which part of it you feel has had “the rug pulled out from under it” given that, by my understanding, everything that has happened in genetics in the past 25 years has done nothing but to confirm just how accurate some of Dawkins predictions and observations truly were. It seems to get forgotten quite easily, because he is the face of modern rationalism and critical enquiry (spun as baby killing atheism by the Christian press) that he is primarily known outside of North America for his groundbreaking work as a biologist and public educator. If you feel as if you have evidence which shows his work in this area is somehow mistaken, no one would be happier than Dawkins himself if you were to present your findings for peer review. Have you done that?

  5. Just wanted to say, that every night before bed, I turn on this lecture and listen to it. The act of imagaining, contemplating, and being in awe of the sheer wonder of this kind of brilliance, allows my mind to turn off the ‘noise’ of my everyday worries about bills, cars, jobs, etc. I fall asleep, with my last conscious thoughts wrapped around how to calculate distance based on light wattage, or thinking about how the stars died for us. I look forward to this lecture every night, each night understanding just a little bit more. It seems that I don’t count sheep, but rather, I contemplate quantum mechanics. I really love this video… and when I finally feel that I ‘get’ it all, I’ll make a comment.

    For now though… I’m just in awe. I feel like I’m a sophomore in highschool again, just beginning to study evolutionary biology. I feel like the mechanical answer to why there is so much biodiversity, is right there in front of my face, but I still can’t quite grasp the thought of natural selection, or survival of the fittest, or even population drift. This is how I feel about cosmology… like the mechanical answer to why the universe IS the way it is, stands before me, waiting for the lightbulb epiphany moment when it all comes together.

    When I was a child, I marveled at bones. Bones — this was why I wasn’t a puddle of goo, but had structure! In highschool, I marveled at evolution — this was why the world wasn’t a puddle of goo, but had form and diversity– and here I am, an adult, looking to the stars, and trying to fill in the blank, “Ahh… _____! This is why the universe is the way it is!”

    Can’t wait.

  6. I’m delighted Kim, really I am. This lecture blew me away too. You might be interested to know that Professor Brian Cox, a scientist at CERN who is also recognised on British television as the face of physics and science programming on the BBC, recently launched a series on The Wonders of The Solar System, which—as a licence fee payer—I have no objection to you downloading from BitTorrent, although you might want to also ask permission of the copyright holder too :)

    Cox’ programme is extremely “bite sized” in nature, by virtue of the fact it’s aimed at a general audience—but it’s not dumbed down in any way. In the two episodes that have aired so far, he’s covered the formation of stars and the proximity effect by looking into our own Sun and how Saturn’s rings provide a useful model for explaining how the solar system formed.

    I’ve no-doubt that, given Cox’ senior role at the large hadron collider at CERN, future programmes will look into quantum mechanics and the WMAP satellite observations of the last scattering surface of the cosmic background radiation which promise to one day unite physics and cosmology in a grand unified theory of everything.

    On not fully “getting” some complicated yet basic scientific principals: I was surprised myself to find I only genuinely understood Einstein’s famous equation very recently—Brian Cox again having wrote an excellent book on this called “Why does E=MC2?” which helped a lot. But I still found it easier to grasp the concept of energy and matter being two sides of the same coin, than I did natural selection. For that, I can’t recommend Richard Dawkins book ‘The Greatest Show on Earth” highly enough—but I suspect you already knew that. So I also point you towards a YouTube user called AronRa—who as well as being an excellent educator also makes highly entertaining videos on everything from taxonomy to speciation.


  7. @Jim , Thanks firstly for your calm and well thought out response. As a result of my own frustration with some who I view as believers in science without any real understanding (which is still faith based belief, rather than knowledge, even if the belief happens to be true), my characterization of Krauss was hopelessly crude and thus totally inaccurate, I should have said that he popularizes science in a manner that can be ambiguous and misleading, and the resulting popular understanding is often pseudo-scientific. I would modify his claim also that modern physics ‘requires’ mathematical language to ‘is far easier to not mislead’ in esoteric (domain specific) language such as that of mathematics. I don’t believe his popularizations intentionally mislead, it’s just a huge risk of any popularization and something I don’t believe anyone has a solution for at this point. The unfortunate thing is that we can’t transfer knowledge, we can only share information, and this relies on the understanding of the hearer to convert to knowledge of his/her own. An interesting current phenomena is the frustration of modern physicists (particularly in quantum work and thermodynamic work) with the current mathematical language itself, which utilizes non discrete number sets for almost all advanced work, and results in false infinities in physics that have to be individually assessed as to whether an infinity in that area makes any sense, something only done with great difficulty. Experiments as to whether the infinity is actual or not range from extremely difficult to virtually impossible in some cases.

    The scientific issues with Dawkins’ work have to do with current understanding of complexity catastrophe, systems theory and emergence, genes as context sensitive, evental linguistic structures, a fair amount of non linear mathematics, and the fact that the results of the human molecular genome studies are still in draft form and so couldn’t be assimilated into any of the work he has done to date. A good introductory work on the subject that deals individually with each area (other than the last) is Theoretical Biology, edited by Goodwin and Saunders. Most decent libraries should have a copy.

    I do not believe genetic determinists are white supremacists, or even bigoted in any intentional manner. Dawkins, I believe, does inherit certain intellectual prejudices that are common to the English (I was brought up partly in England, partly in Canada). These prejudices are especially prevalent in the middle/upper middle classes, and often present themselves in a disdain for accuracy of expression at the expense of common language, even in the case where common language creates ambiguity. The trouble is that with something like genetic determinism, ambiguity can be exploited by the ‘clever’ but ignorant and bigoted individual or group. Richard Lewontin is a good corrective for this, as a top geneticist (co-inventor of the methodology of molecular genetics) who also has a good understanding of socio-political realities. I’d really recommend, as a short read, his review for the NY Times of a book by Carl Sagan available online at
    . He and Carl Sagan are longtime friends (since the early 1960’s) so his careful but important criticism of Sagan is far less crude and biased than many scholarly (sometimes including mine unfortunately) critiques. As well his credentials in the science lend a legitimacy on the particular topic that I won’t claim for myself.

    Your mention of Einstein’s equation (it’s one of those that the more you contemplate it the more subtle it is) reminded me of my own a-ha recently when I finally understood the mathematics in Heisenberg’s 1925 notebooks. Part of the difficulty is that Heisenberg needed matrix mathematics, along with a methodology for solving linear equations with an infinite number of variables, both of which had been formalized a couple of years earlier, but he hadn’t heard of. As a result he invented his own matrix math using a discrete number set rather than one that is infinitely divisible. It was Born who translated the mathematics into a recognized form prior to full publication of Heisenberg’s first key paper on quantum mechanics.

    I do have a draft copy of the human molecular genome study results that include a good explanation of the evental, linguistic nature of genes. If you would like a copy you can email me through my blog at , obviously I will not publish the comment, but will email you and anyone else with an interest in the pending paper a copy of the draft in pdf.

    A last comment, in a similar vein to Zizek I would describe myself as an atheist theologian, assuming that by theologian one understands that this includes the natural sciences and the human sciences, albeit in a different way than modern science, and one that requires modern science in order to test for fallacies. An understanding of that is not needed by anyone other than a specialist in the area, but has its basis in the notion of the period from the ancient greeks to the postmodern age as the religious epoch. Atheist theology includes an understanding that ‘god’ is a word with multiple meanings, which include event, no thing, void, being, and no one depending on context. Studying from the perspective of the meanings of these words gives a complementary view of things that completes the explanations of modern science rather than competing with them.


  8. woops, messed up the tags such that the links highlight whole paragraphs, however they do work.

  9. Jim,
    Thank you for the recommendation to Brian Cox. Absolutely, I will totally check him out. I’ve listened to The Greatest Show ON Earth on Audio CD, but I have to buy the book because there are just too many beautiful examples (especially in the embryology section) that I need to read with my own eyes in order to better remember them. I’m a visual learner — for a musician, I’m absolutely awful at retaining information learned by listening or by conversation — I’m a reader — I remember the image of the words, and then remember the fact.

    I’ve also come across some beautiful music videos called “Symphony of Science” that I absolutely love, in particular, “We Are All Connected”. I’m probably going to write a choral arrangement of it because I simply cannot get it out of my head, and writing vocal harmonies is one of the ways I choose to express myself. If you haven’t seen “We Are All Connected”, please look it up. Its really breathtaking. I bring this up because there’s another guy, deGrasse, I think? Anyway, he has this emotional reaction to appreciating the amazing universe that I really admire. When I listen to his sound bites from the “We Are All Connected” video, it makes me feel like I have friends in the world — people who really Get Me, because they want to learn the secrets of how the universe operates.

  10. Mitdasein:
    The difficulty appears to be that as an increasing number of people around the world abandon religion and indeed all superstition for entirely reasonable reasons, that doesn’t stop people seeking out easy answers to complicated questions. Unfortunately there’s nothing easy about arithmetic logic. This is why scientific metaphors are so numerous, while a real understanding of the raw data is limited to a very small number of specialists, who have ironically become the keepers of the hallowed text; the high priests at CERN, or CalTech and so on.

    The danger, it would seem for scientists who want to teach we non-scientist about, say, the spooky behaviour of a single unit of energy, is that the only way to do so is to use imperfect metaphors, which leads to general speculation about the premise of the metaphor itself, rather than the phenomena being described.

    As an example of this, it is widely understood that when we talk about quantum electrodynamics we are talking about the study of subatomic particles. Mysterious bits of tiny stuff that orbit the nucleus of atoms. But because popular science—and indeed science fiction—has almost romanticised metaphors such as Schrodinger’s cat or the monolithic dispute between Bohr and Einstein, it becomes somewhat forgotten that we’re not actually talking about magic fairy dust, when we talk about photons or quarks or muons. We’re talking about agitated energy—exactly the same stuff as the light refracting off the screen you’re reading from now, just in a different state.

    I don’t think that this is a deliberate attempt by academia to keep the huddled masses dumb. I think it is simply the case, that bearded, often insular, bookish, fasciated in learning types—who are traditionally attracted to research and academic excellence—are catastrophically bad at i) dealing with the press, ii) making TV documentaries and iii) writing accessible science books.

    That is why the Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins of this world are welcomed so warmly by those of us who, perhaps in another life, might have been lucky enough to have rich parents—who might have been able to send us to Oxford or Cambridge, where we might have learned the “correct” way to imbibe knowledge; to stand on the shoulders of giants and understand for ourselves the nature of nature. Stephen Hawking isn’t world famous because he predicted that one day we’d understand what happens on the event horizon of a black hole. He’s famous because he wrote an accessible book about space-time that—to a mathematician—isn’t actually that accurate. This doesn’t change the fact that he himself knows only too well the problems inherent to using common language metaphor to describe purely mathematical theorem. Similarly Darwin too struggled for many years to keep simple the explanation of his discovery without masking its enormity.

    So I think we do no-one any good when we publicly tear apart popularisers of science, just because we have been fortunate enough to have the time and interest to delve deeper into, say, Bose–Einstein condensate for ourselves. It’ll take the vast majority of people tens of years to become familiar with the practical applications of and seemingly counterintuitive processes involved in freezing energy down to a single fluctuation in order to glean the most amount of computational power from it. But you wouldn’t dream of picking apart those who are researching so-called quantum computing simply because they might use common language when—for example—asked to describe their work on a TV documentary or in a public lecture aimed at a non-scientific audience.

    It’s not until a scientist makes a statement of fact about something we feel emotional ownership over that we react accordingly. So, when Dawkins and others point out that we are not unique—that if the universe was designed with us in mind, it isn’t the work of a particularly practical or efficient pair of hands—some people feel placed on the defensive. They don’t want to be thought of as expelled star dust—and they treat with a great mistrust anyone, like me, who is actually in awe and dumbstruck wonderment of the fact that we can prove this is what we really are made of; that reality is so much more incredible than some fairy story about angels, virgins and magic bread.

    The last thing the very people we rely on to teach us about these facts need, is a sympathetic vote in favour of “moderation” or “compromise” in the name of “fairness” towards the sensibilities of those who cannot or refuse to attempt to understand how we know what we know. It may be an entirely laudable value worth defending in politics, the arts, industrial relations and, indeed, every other area of public life to protect the weak. But in science there is the truth and there is the public understanding of the truth. And I feel that those of us who can attempt at least some straddling of that line between the two, should do all we can to encourage critical thinking and scepticism among everyone we touch—more than we should seek out reasons simply to criticise the educators for not always being strictly academic in their methods.

  11. It is said that writing to internet forums, or newspapers, is the first sign of incipient mania. Well I guess I am in for it. Due to stray quantum fluctuations in my brain, effect of genes or what not, I am unable to resist responding to this, even though I suspect it is pointless.

    The first technique in winning debates is creating a straw man for an argument and then knocking it down. The second is shifting the discussion to something else entirely – like searching for the coin where there is light, or arguing Communism against Fascism, ignoring the fact that they both advocate state-control which is what the real issue is about.

    An attempt to reach at the truth of an argument has to be based on building for your opponent the best case, rather than the worst, and then showing it to be incorrect, totally false, or needing a bit of fixing.

    Assuming Jim’s good faith regarding the argument re Consumerist Jesus, the vengeful god etc, these are not really a subject for any serious discussion about whether God exists or not. These are proper subjects for psychological and anthropological discussion. The people who are lost in world they never made and harking back to some comfort in one religion or another, or those seeking spiritual experiences have nothing to do with the ontological question of God’s existence. I am not running them down, it is just not part of this sort of debate. I am willing to accept a possible physiological/physical hypothesis that people in throes of religious fervour, performing the Dance of the Goddess (whichever she might be) might tap into some existing natural fields and affect nature and themselves to perform what we would pass as miracles. We do not yet know all that there is to know about our universe, so all of that is possible and has no bearing on the question at hand.

    It is not possible to deal with this question without a lot of preambles and pre-requisites. A perusal of Stanislaw Lem corpus, together with some Borges writings may go a long way towards cleaning the thinking machinery enough to perceive that arguments about creationism, or its opposite, and the question of something out of nothing is straw man, or at best “arguments outside of the glass” (as Umberto Echo would have it). As Russel stated, the Universe may have been created a second ago, containing all its contents” that means our memories, Dawkins theories, and a book saying it was created in 6 days”.

    However, it is tantalising to ask the question whether we are no better than a bunch of apes who barged into a nuclear power plant, and wondering about the stupidity of connecting wood to non-wood (looking at the desk) as it is so useless for camp fires. We speak of a designer for the universe, or lack of it. Does a bunch of rats develop a cosmogony depicting endless stretches of suburban yards with sewer pipes underneath them, or as Asimov said about bacteria (clashing light bulbs give rise to strings of Petri-dishes)? The truth is that the difference in level of technology between us and what makes the universe is much vaster than between bacteria and man, or apes and power plants. We are not able yet to even guess if what we see is “artificial” or “natural”. This distinction may be meaningless. As Lem says in New Cosmogony one possible answer to the question of where are the civilisations of the first galactic cycle (stars older by 8 billion years), and where are their works, is that their works are all around us, we live in it, and there is nothing “natural” around anymore. This answer can be seen as perfectly rational if you think of few hundred generations of intelligent rats occupying the Empire State Building.

    One day, you can plot the function of the age of the universe against the number of years between 1880 and today. I think the growth rate averages at something like 1.5 billion years per decade. That’s how ludicrous it is. That people with this level of knowledge (i.e. us) argue over these things?

    Hey, we may all be a computer simulation and the stars may be points of light, only expanded on “as need” basis as when you travel to them – sort of virtual universe – the moon was Swiss cheese until we needed to walk on it, and the canals of Mars were there 100 years ago until they were no longer in accord with scientific theories. We always reject the results reported from older times as inaccurate, due to mass hysteria, etc. People who cannot even keep credible records for a hundred years trying to explain this size/age universe?

    Or people who reject teleological theories in principle (due to historical issues with the church) and therefore will reject a proper mathematical model (based on something like game theory), if such is offered, which shows parts of the universe working according to goal driven function, even if it yields verified and measurable predictions. These are all part of the hangover from the ape and its governance system which is still very much alive today.

    Having dispensed of God the Designer issue – which we cannot answer anything about, and having dispensed with circus metaphysics like: do we come from apes or not, 6 days creation and such like phantoms that are result of vaporous thinking, does there remain a question of worthy of asking re God’s existence? I maintain that yes there is one, and here’s the definition for those who want to think about it.

    If we assume that the universe is a clockwork, where all events are tied to each other via certain laws (to be discovered) and that these laws completely determine the dynamics of the universe (sort of Laplacian vision) then, even if there is God that designed this universe it is of no consequence to us, and it is not even meaningful. Such a universe is fully determined by its laws which would be the sole and total legacy of such God.

    However, the universe may not be like this. In fact, current thinking is that it is not. Then if we believe that the laws governing this universe are loose, then it means that there exists a theoretical set (possibly infinite) of possible universes all obeying the same set of laws, diverging from any given moment. The question in information theory terms is what is the information content of the laws, and what is the information content of the complementary part. The laws are that which choose from the set of all possible universes (no limitation) to the restricted set (all universes obeying the laws). The next step is from that set to the one universe we experience (I duck here the question of the hypothetical co-existing universes as we do not know anything about it at this time, unless those of us who are practicing warlocks).

    It would be safe to say, that as of now, the second stage (choosing the one world) involves more information than the entire corpus of laws we know.

    So, if a God exists, and if it communicates with this world (rather than leaving it to randomness), while not breaking the natural laws imposed on this universe, that God would be communicating via that information band. In short, is there, or is not there, information “source” in the Universe? This is a meaningful question. As you can see, if this was a computer simulation (for example) and obeying a set of laws (the natural laws) and we were on the outside and having much vaster computer at our disposal, we could examine ahead possible outcomes in the simulation universe and interfere by injecting choice (at the random quantum level for example) while taking care to “balance the books” so we do not break any of the laws and our interference cannot be proved. We could use this ability to push consistently in a desired direction, or aim at certain set of goals, which may also vary from time to time.

    Please do not ask the question of why we’d do that (using a large computer to control a small one etc). This is anthropomorphic thinking. We cannot discuss the question of “motivation” for such hypothetical designer or controller (does it have such a thing?). We do know that we live in this universe and we can ask if it is being influenced in this way. The rest of the above illustration is just to create a gestalt to help with this explanation.

    I contend is that the above is perfectly possible and ontologically describable, and it forms a cogent hypothesis about the universe. It may be capable of detection (such as proving that random choices of millennia add to tendency in certain directions). The human race may need to exist millions of years to detect such a thing, and keep records as well, or may stumble on it as our capacity increases and may force whoever running the world (if they exist) to interfere more visibly.

    It is interesting how often major human disruptions are precipitated by events which are so small as to have quantic origins. It is usually a result of forces arraigned beforehand and a situations waiting to explode, and the event may be random, or may not. I have seen a whole catalogue of events of the type in recent years (remember the bunch of people who all won a lottery in Germany for a trip to Spain and the bus overturned). This could be an example on how we could interfere with out simulation universe without being detected.

    I trust that you can see how in this context the question of ZPE, “something from nothing” and the rest of the claptrap ratiocination is simply kindergarten level argument. I would leave Popper aside as well (even he regretted writing that book).

  12. In the hope of having the time later today to reply more fully to the rest of your comments, O Cohen, can I just quickly ask which book Popper “regretted” writing? Surely you do not mean The Logic of Scientific Discovery? The book written by the man widely regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of science of the 20th century? One of the few works of science to be written in two languages by its own author? The book described by the Nobel Laureate Peter Medawar as “one of the most important documents of the twentieth century”?

  13. Hi Jim,

    The book I had in mind is Conjecture and Refutation – and my side remark refers to a comment from one of my professors (Scientific Methodology) years back which I can quote vaguely from memory as “… having seen the people calling themselves Popperians he regretted ever writing that book”. I can answer the question of why I regard the whole business of Science Philosophers (Kuhn, Hempel, Quine and Popper etc etc) as a piece of anthropomorphic reasoning that has no real value except befuddle the issue – even though that has already been adressed by much better minds already and would also take me aside to a different discussion entirely (nothing to do with the question of God’s existence or not, or even the validity of religious views).

    If you think the point is of interest I am quite happy to write something about it.

  14. Seriously? This is your response to why there is something than nothing?

    “According to present-day understanding of what is called the vacuum state or the
    quantum vacuum, it is “by no means a simple empty space”.

    Quantum fluctuations, theoretical constructs, by the way, require space and time as prerequisites before they can fluctuate. Thus, the question, “why is there something rather than nothing?” is still unanswered.


    In his article ‘The other side of time’ (2000) scientist Victor J. Stenger has written:
    “Quantum electrodynamics is a fifty-year-old theory of the interactions of electrons and photons that has made successful predictions to accuracies as great as twelve significant figures. Fundamental to that theory is the spontaneous appearance of electron-positron (anti-electron) pairs for brief periods of time, literally out of “nothing.””
    From here he has concluded that our universe may also come literally out of nothing due to quantum fluctuation in the void, and therefore we need not have to imagine that God has done this job.
    But is it true that electron-positron (anti-electron) pairs are appearing spontaneously literally out of “nothing”? Are scientists absolutely certain that the so-called void is a true void indeed? Because here there is a counter-claim also: God is there, and that God is everywhere. So actually nothing is coming out of “nothing”, only something is coming out of something. Here we want to examine whether scientists’ claim that the so-called void is a true void can be sustained by reason or not.
    There can be basically two types of universe: (1) universe created by God, supposing that there is a God; (2) universe not created by God, supposing that there is no God. Again universe created by God can also be of three types:
    (1a) Universe in which God need not have to intervene at all after its creation. This is the best type of universe that can be created by God.
    (1b) Universe in which God has actually intervened from time to time, but his intervention is a bare minimum.
    (1c) Universe that cannot function at all without God’s very frequent intervention. This is the worst type of universe that can be created by God.
    Therefore we see that there can be four distinct types of universes, and our universe may be any one of the above four types: (1a), (1b), (1c), (2). In case of (1a), scientists will be able to give natural explanation for each and every physical event that has happened in the universe after its origin, because after its creation there is no intervention by God at any moment of its functioning. Only giving natural explanation for its coming into existence will be problematic. In case of (1b) also, most of the events will be easily explained away, without imagining that there is any hand of God behind these events. But for those events where God had actually intervened, scientists will never be able to give any natural explanation. Also explaining origin of the universe will be equally problematic. But in case of (1c), most of the events will remain unexplained, as in this case God had to intervene very frequently. This type of universe will be just like the one as envisaged by Newton: “Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done.” So we can with confidence say that our universe is not of this type, otherwise scientists could not have found natural explanation for most of the physical events. In case of type (2) universe, here also there will be natural explanation for each and every physical event, and there will be natural explanation for the origin of the universe also. So from the mere fact that scientists have so far been able to give natural explanation for each and every physical event, it cannot be concluded that our universe is a type (2) universe, because this can be a type (1a) universe as well. The only difference between type (1a) and type (2) universe is this: whereas in case of (1a) no natural explanation will ever be possible for the origin of the universe, it will not be so in case of (2). Therefore until and unless scientists can give a natural explanation for the origin of the universe, they cannot claim that it is a type (2) universe. And so, until and unless scientists can give this explanation, they can neither claim that the so-called void is a true void. So scientists cannot proceed to give a natural explanation for the origin of the universe with an a priori assumption that the void is a real void, because their failure or success in giving this explanation will only determine as to whether this is a real void or not.


    This is about scientists’ claim that our universe has originated from nothing due to a vacuum fluctuation. Here I want to show again that this claim cannot be sustained by reason.
    Abbreviation: origin of the universe from nothing due to vacuum fluctuation (OUNVF)
    We all know that the theorems in Euclidean geometry generally start with some basic assumptions that are accepted as true without any proof. These basic assumptions are called axioms. Similarly scientific theories also start with some basic assumptions. These are called postulates. So far these postulates of scientific theories were all God-independent. I am going to explain what I want to mean by the term “God-independent”. Let us suppose that P is a postulate. Now it may be the case that there is a God. Or it may be the case that there is no God. Now let us suppose it is the case that there is a God, and we find that P is not affected. Again let us further suppose that it is the case there is no God, and again we find that in this case also P is not affected. Then we can say P is God-independent. But in the case under consideration the basic assumption with which scientists start is not at all God-independent. Rather we can say that it is very much God-dependent. Their basic assumption here is this: the void is a real void, and it is nothing but a void. Now if it is the case that there is a God, then this assumption is very much affected, because the void is no longer a real void. If, and only if, it is the case that there is no God, then only it is a real void. Therefore when scientists are saying that the void is a real void, then they are also saying it indirectly that it is the case there is no God, or, that it is a fact there is no God. But my question here is this: are these scientists now in a position to say so? Have their knowledge of the empirical world and its laws and its workings up till now made them competent enough to declare at this stage that there is no God? Because here two points will have to be considered:
    1) They have not yet been able to give a natural explanation for the origin of the universe.
    2) Similarly they have not yet been able to give a natural explanation for the fact that our universe has become habitable for life, whereas it could have been barren and lifeless as well.
    Now it may so happen that scientists completely fail to give any natural explanation for both 1) and 2). In that case will it not be too early for them to suppose that the void is a real void? Because if they are unsuccessful, then they do not know whether there is a God or not, and therefore neither do they know whether the void is a real void or not. But if they are successful, then they definitely know that there is no God. Then only they can say that the void is a real void. So we can say that 1) and 2) are two hurdles that the scientists must have to cross before they can arrive at a place from where they can boldly declare that God does not exist. This is the place that may be called scientists’ heaven. Because once they can reach there, then they will have no hesitation to deny the existence of God. Because now they have explained the alpha and omega of this universe, starting from its origin up to the coming of man on earth and further beyond, and nowhere they have found any hand of God influencing the course of events in any way. But, to arrive at that place can they take any undue advantage? Or, can they try to reach there by any unfair means? Can they already assume that there is no God, and based on that assumption, can they try to cross any one, or both, of these two hurdles? But in case of 1) they have just done that. That is why I want to say that OUNVF is a pure case of circular reasoning.

  16. The universe we live in is a false vacuum with physical properties
    such as electromagnetism with particles and anti-particles constantly anihlating each other.A false vacuum would have to have a cause.Additionally 0 time = 0 quantum effects. It has recently been discvered that matter does fluctuate from this false vacuum,
    New Scientist. In the Genesis creation account, God is creating order out of chaos and other neolithic writings reflect this concept
    within the first written records of history.In 13.6 billon years that equal 7days for him, ei.time dilation, he has done a very good job.

  17. If there was NOTHING ‘out there’ before this ‘God’ creature createed the Universe, then WHERE was this ‘nothing’? And WHERE was ‘God’ if nothing existed? Saying that God has always been there and that the Universe goes on forever sounded just as silly decades ago as it does now. Let’s see the PROOF. Some of us are rational people and would have to admit our own error if we could see the PROOF. No hurry, though, since we’ve been waiting for this PROOF for well over 2000 years.

  18. This is interesting. So you are a rational person who would admit his error if he saw proof that ‘God has always been there and that the universe goes on forever’.

    Well, rationally, what type of proof would you expect, would you find acceptable in proving this?

  19. Kabbalah, the mystical teachings of Judaism, has always taught that G-d created the universe something from nothing (“yaish mi’ayin”). I don’t understand why one would think this concept negates the existence of G-d? G-d created time and space but is beyond time and space.

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  23. Yea. I’m a bit baffled too. As a person of faith; a Muslim, and someone interested (though not all that well versed) in cosmology et al, I have always explained the distinction between the Creator and Creation as that between everything observable (creation) and the unobservable Originator (God). We cannot measure or empirically understand God, because he is not like anything (this is a central tenet in our creed).

    Because the energy in the universe equals zero (if i am correct in acknowledging this as the basis for enabling quantum fluctuations to create something ‘from nothing’), doesn’t mean that it is really nothing. What created ‘nothing’ then (what created quantum agents and their fluctuating)?

    God, of necessity, will always be an infinite degree of cognition away from us. The argument put forth by Krause and you, only seems to nuance the understanding of the Big Bang, suggesting something existed before it. I don’t think my understanding of God, and my religion, necessarily say that is not possible. It only says:
    “the heavens and the earth were joined together as one unit, before We clove them asunder” (The Majestic Quran, 21:30)

    This could even support the theory of quantum fluctuations; heavens and earth being joined together in ‘nothing’. Certainly what I have heard doesn’t challenge the basis of my faith in a spiritual or logical sense.

    Thanks for the thought provoking stuff Jim.

  24. Hey, Hisham. Sorry for the delay in replying. I have a billion million unopened emails.

    What created ‘nothing’ then (what created quantum agents and their fluctuating)?”

    This is a tough one to summarise, but I’ll try. We have to be careful with certain words here, because there’s a bunch of loaded meaning attached to even the most innocent of phrases we use in common language, such as ‘created’, for example — which implies there was a ‘time’ before ‘something’ happened and a time after that something happened. It’s a little like that old conundrum ‘was mathematics discovered, or devised?’

    However wary of setting semantic traps for myself I might be, the short answer is, I don’t know. But that doesn’t stop me making an educated guess. As I understand it, quantum field theory proposes that the universe (or, that is, what we think of as every-thing) is in-fact merely one of many possible universes. So, everything we think of as reality is but one of many possible realities within and without of our own. So to think of it as having “a beginning” is to think in terms which only make sense in our particular universe. But this says nothing — literally — about what ‘a beginning” might be in another reality. “Do androids dream of electric sheep?” – Philip K. Dick

    It sounds like bad science fiction unless you’re careful to point out that this is supported by some serious mathematical heavy lifting. This is partly due to the relative ease with which extra dimensions can be modelled with numbers, whereas our brains are saddled with living in just four — up and down being one, in, out, forward and backwards being two, time and distance being three, with left and right being the fourth. But to model what might have ‘existed’ ‘before’ our particular universe gave rise to this particular reality we call time and space, we have to consider the possibility that spacetime — which Einstein proved to be intrinsically linked to gravity — aren’t necessarily one and the same on other branes in the multiverse, where the cosmic controls are set to an infinite number of infinitely variable configurations.

    To propose, at this point, that the dials are being twiddled by God, begs it’s own question; who designed the designer? This, known as the problem of infinite regress, tells us nothing we can test, verify or repeat. It also tells us everything about the true worth of the books, texts and myths which claim to know the designer’s mind. Don’t take that wrong, there is no polite way to tell someone they believe in things which aren’t true. Sorry about that.

    If we look at the multiverse hypothesis from a practical, methodical, rational perspective, however, cleverer men than me would, at this point, wheel out a blackboard covered in hieroglyphical formula and theorem — rigorously exposed to repeated adjudicating and falsification. Unfortunately, we mere mortals, simply have to trust that the competition between scientists to get this stuff as right as it can be, is enough to keep everyone honest. At this point you should again resist the urge to compare and contrast the theoreticians with the theologians, in terms of assumed authority and hierarchy of knowledge, for two very simple reasons:

    The first, is that the most honest answer in all of science, is “I don’t know, but I’ll try to find out” — a statement which no priest, rabbi, mufti, shaman or religious cleric of any kind, has ever had the honesty to make, without being dragged kicking and screaming from the past into the present, and by the very evidence which they refuse to accept. The second, is to do with margins of error, versus the ‘problem’ of infinity. Quantum theory isn’t an idea borne of mere imagination; wishful or creative licence with the evidence, in order for it to fit a preexisting dogma. It’s based upon everything we can observe, test and objectively verify, against the improbability of a given phenomena being merely an ephemeral illusion we have no choice but to treat as solid fact.

    Simply put, quantum theory paints as accurate a picture of how things really are, that we are ever likely to deduce from the available evidence. Remember, infinity is not a quantity and so cannot be quantified. Hence, everything had no ‘choice’ but to come into existence, ‘from’ the quantum foam, because the alternative is that nothing came into existence ‘from’ anything — and since we are here, we know that this is not the case. This is known as The Primacy of Existence, and it is, in contrast to religious truth claims, not a faith-based position, but an axiomatically valid and therefore demonstrably ‘true’ statement. We exist not because we are aware of our existence, but in spite of it. A rock does not know it exists, and yet rocks do not disappear in a presuppositional paradox.

    Roger Penrose has some very interesting thoughts on this.

    God, of necessity, will always be an infinite degree of cognition away from us.

    “Religion and science are non-overlapping magisteria, which interdigitate with one another at every fractal scale of self symmetry” – Stephen Jay Gould

    Which God? What evidence do you have that the particular definition of God which you just so happen to believe in is objectively valid? And this versus the conflicting truth-claims of people who belong to religions other than your own? And what of that which is forever moving away from our true cognition? Is this not the perfect argument against the theology which claims to know that which it cannot demonstrate? If He is forever beyond us, why the certainty in His basic existence? What does existence even mean, if it is not used to assert facts? And are not facts without evidence indistinguishable from fiction?

    “the heavens and the earth were joined together as one unit, before We clove them asunder” (The Majestic Quran, 21:30)

    And how was this evidence gathered? Was it privately revealed to those who already believed in His basic existence? Or was it independently verified after being subjected to falsification? Was it written prior to the scientific enlightenment, when women and children were valued as chattel? Or was it written after the first Vienna Circle of Logical Positivists declared all metaphysical truth-claims “essentially meaningless”? Are these the words of men who were born after we landed on the moon, or before we devised agricultural crop rotation?

    This could even support the theory of quantum fluctuations; heavens and earth being joined together in ‘nothing’. Certainly what I have heard doesn’t challenge the basis of my faith in a spiritual or logical sense.

    A research team from an American university (I can’t find the original paper, but I’ve put a request out on twitter) sent teams of students out onto a Christian bible college campus, with questionnaires asking random questions about different versus from scripture. The questions were deliberately open ended so as not to lead the participants into giving certain answers. They asked things like, “what do you think the person who said this meant?”, and “how would that apply to our modern thinking?” None of the participants knew the quotations were actually taken from the Quran. Every single person who took part assumed they were the words of Jesus and interpreted them accordingly.

    Our pattern seeking brain is phenomenally well adapted to seeing only what we want to see. That is why, when we want to move the line of demarkation away from blind belief towards testable knowledge, we use the logic of scientific discovery. It is the only means we have of truly cancelling out our biases, to reveal the truth. If you approach something with the presumption that whatever you find it will confirm what you already believe, you’re merely rehearsing prejudices. This is anathema to the notion of open mindedness and intellectual honesty. And yet it is those of us who advocate a rational approach to life, the universe and everything, who are most often accused of lacking awe, passion and faith.

    “The real miracle is, there are no miracles” – Albert Einstein

  25. Jim, I am quite the lamen regarding the type of in depth, scientific jargon that is being communicated in this blog (primarily because I am so new to attempting to become scientifically literate and I’m only 16), however I would love to try and take something away from this. As far as quantum fluctuations, is there any documentation or literature you would recommend to someone wanting to learn more. It’s difficult to find scientifically sound articles on the internet, and I’m really just looking to form some opinions on these things. Also, I know this was in one of your above replies, but I was wondering how exactly you equate for the issue of there not being time nor space before the Big Bang. I know in one of your replies you described how difficult it is to accurately convey science in terms a common person can understand, but that’s exactly what I’m asking you to do. Or at least direct me to a site/article/piece of literature that can do that. Thanks and I hope I’m not asking too much here.

  26. Hey, Foster. Jim here (logged in on my Twitter account). As you can see a lot has already been said in the comments about this article above, but I’ll try to trim it down a bit, since I have done some further reading on this in-between the article first being posted and now.

    The long and short of it is, we think of things happening in terms of before during and after a given event, because time is linear. A happens, causing B to happen which causes C, and so on — cause and effect. So far, so Newtonian mechanics (give or take a 3 or 4 year PhD in the mix somewhere, on how exactly we demarcate the past from the present and the future).

    So while we are comfortable with the notion of their being a time previous to now, just as we are with the fact that the here and now will always be replaced by the future, which itself will then become the past, after it too has passed, this wasn’t the case previous to the expansion of the universe.

    Everything (as-in every thing) was so densely packed together the only distance over which any information could propagate was so short, it happened instantaneously. Things, in other words, didn’t take time to happen, they simply occurred all at once. It wasn’t until this hot dense state began to cool and expand that the distance between these events began to elongate and so gave rise to time itself.

    So to talk about what happened before there was any difference between the past, present and future, is like asking someone what their favourite flavour of ice cream was before they were born. The reason they cannot tell you, isn’t because they don’t remember, it’s because they simply didn’t exist in order to form a preference for strawberry as opposed to vanilla. And so it is with time. Previous to the expansion of the universe, there was nothing over which one series of events could impact upon another. There was simply everything at once.

    The evidence we have for this is fairly conclusive — although far from complete. The biggest step taken towards proving this hypothesis, was the 1948 discovery by Ralph Alpher and Robert Herman’s of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation — the last echoes of the big bang which are still hot enough for us to measure. The WMAP observatory, whose mission was to photograph the so-called Last Scattering Surface of this radiation, shows us that — exactly in line with prediction — the universe was once contained within a single point.

    Popular authors to look out for on this topic are Lawrence Krauss, Steven Hawking, and Roger Penrose. Let me know how you get on!

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