Everything From Everlasting Not-Quite Nothing ...
(Top Posts - Science - 040401)

... well, not really from not-quite nothing, more like
from a world that's theoretically everywhere and
every'when' while at the same time nowhere in our
substantive experience, a world that has always been
and will always be, the sub-atomic quantum world ...

Profound question for you - if we are a natural form
of matter that has evolved to its current state of being
over billions of years, wouldn't it be logical that such
a 'caused' form of matter would struggle to compre-
hend 'non-caused' states of being?

Theists call everything outside (and to varying degrees,
inside) the macro world "God" or "God-caused" and
assign "God" all sorts of miraculous human-centric
characteristics, mating to aspects of ancient myth that
have survived and rejecting aspects which have died
a natural death. For theists, there never was "no God".

Science is substantially more reliable when it comes to
demonstrating quantum physics (and naturalistic law)
than theists are in claiming "God did it".

As for human limitations and our desire to "know all" ...

The whole 'before' "our" physics area reminds me of most
humans' reluctance to realistically deal with our limitations
as a naturally evolved being in a mysterious natural world,
with many still using myths to explain unknowns based on
the intellectual level of a child.

Oh, we can understand how an ant has limitations or even
a bonobo or chimp has limitations, but our own limitations,
we seem genetically programmed to deny them, and our
invention of "God" is evidence of our boundless ego/de-
sire to know/control everything, no matter the natural limita-
tions of that which makes us what we are.

Since we, disbelievers, have that same genetic instruction
(know no limits) and we've dropped the god stuff, we face
the unknowns with a hunger/desire to know more (all we
can) thru whatever naturalistic means we have available to
us, deeply unsatisfied with god as a cop-out tool for trying
to explain unknowns.

Will that hunger/desire ever leave us?

Not in our current form, but perhaps we will create some
intelligent or multi-telligent entity(ies) that can in reality tran-
scend our current limitations and enter an area of knowledge,
comprehension, and understanding we, in our current form,
can only dream of.

About that dream ...

To those of faith, that dream is called "God" and is often
acted out in a bizarre revelation of our origins from ignorance
via "God cants" in ceremony / language / social/cultural cus-
toms and rituals. Doubt of "God" is not often received well.
Open-minded search for reasons for existence apart from
"God" (or leveraged off of anything other than "God" being
involved somehow) are often strongly discouraged via threats
involving "God" being displeased about or actually harming
humans who dare to doubt or disbelieve in "God".

To we of non-faith, that dream is of how we can probe the
mysterious and as yet unknown to reveal the verity regarding
our place in a natural world of wonder. To we of non-faith,
always probing/seeking, pondering/exploring, *no* answer
is *final*, for we're ever-curious in going farther, knowing
more about who and what we really are.

Food for thought, in short and long versions, follows ...

- - -

Short version:

Excerpt from "After The First Three Minutes: The
Story of Our Universe", by T. Padmanabhan
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0521620392
"Given a description of a quantized universe, we
should be able to ask questions about the 'creation'.
The most important question is: 'Why is there a
universe at all? Why is there all this matter?'
Classical cosmology offers us no explanation:
given a certain amount of matter in the universe,
classical cosmology merely traces it back to the
big bang and then throws up its hands, being at
a loss to explain further! ...

Some of the quantum mechanical models of the
universe do give an answer. One can show -- in
these models -- that equations describing such
a universe *do not allow* an empty universe.
In other words, quantum cosmology not only
describes a universe with matter in it, but
actually demands that there should be matter
in it. In these models, empty space becomes
unstable due to the quantum fluctuations of the
gravitational field and makes a spontaneous
transition into an expanding universe filled
with matter. ...

It would, of course, be very wrong to say that
all that needs to be known is known. At best,
quantum cosmology is in its infancy. Several links
in the chain of arguments need to be strengthened
and several gaps need to be filled. All the same,
combining quantum theory and general relativity,
two major intellectual triumphs of this century,
seems to lead us to a far richer and more beautiful
vision of our universe."

- - -

Long version:

Where Did the Universe Come From? *The Simple Answer*

Philosophers have struggled with this question for many
millennia.

Theologians have grappled with it in a never-ending quest
to spin a god or (with the advent of science) an intelligent
designer (code name for god) as THE logical explanation
for our existence.

Creationists, well, their problem/fantasy is well known.

Could there be a simple answer to a question of immense
importance regarding our place in the universe?

Yes and No.

Simple, when explained in a careful and simplistic manner.
Difficult to grasp when you get into the complex science
required.

Let's look at it from a simple basis. *The Answer* to
anyone who spins a logical intelligent designer theory or
religion at you....

Excerpt from "After The First Three Minutes: The Story
of Our Universe", by T. Padmanabhan
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0521620392

Given a description of a quantized universe, we should
be able to ask questions about the 'creation'. The most
important question is: 'Why is there a universe at all?
Why is there all this matter?'

Classical cosmology offers us no explanation: given
a certain amount of matter in the universe, classical
cosmology merely traces it back to the big bang and
then throws up its hands, being at a loss to explain
further! An empty and uneventful space is as acceptable
to classical theory as all the richness of our evolving
universe.

Some of the quantum mechanical models of the universe
do give an answer. One can show -- in these models -- that
equations describing such a universe *do not allow* an
empty universe. In other words, quantum cosmology not
only describes a universe with matter in it, but actually
demands that there should be matter in it.

In these models, empty space becomes unstable due to
the quantum fluctuations of the gravitational field and
makes a spontaneous transition into an expanding universe
filled with matter.

You may think that creating matter and making it expand
would require some amount of energy, and hence if
matter came out of 'empty space' we would be violating
the conservation of energy -- which is a cherished principle
in physics.

In fact, this is *the* question which had plagued several
philosophers: how can something emerge from nothing?

Actually there is no violation of energy conservation in
this process. Remember that the gravitational field has
negative energy because it can bind matter together (we
saw earlier that the electron bound to a proton exists
in a state with negative energy; any attractive force will
share this feature and gravitational force is always
attractive).

So we can easily come up with a situation in which
the negative gravitational energy exactly balances the
positive energy of matter (and expansion), thereby
keeping the total energy zero.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
The equations of quantum cosmology indicate that
the universe has essentially sprung spontaneously
from the vacuum due to quantum fluctuations.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

This might seem a very bizarre phenomenon unless you
properly grasp the subtleties of quantum-mechanical
descriptions of the universe. The vacuum of quantum
theory is not the 'mere emptiness' of classical theory.
Instead it is bristling with elementary particles constantly
being created and destroyed, and fields which fluctuate
incessantly.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
The mathematics of these models indicate that such
a state of affairs *can* lead to the creation of a
material world.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It would, of course, be very wrong to say that all
that needs to be known is known. At best, quantum
cosmology is in its infancy. Several links in the chain
of arguments need to be strengthened and several
gaps need to be filled.

All the same, combining quantum theory and general
relativity -- two major intellectual triumphs of this
century -- seems to lead us to a far richer and more
beautiful vision of our universe.

- - -

Another perspective ...

Sunday, March 25, 2001
SUNDAY BOOK REVIEW
Something from Nothing
http://www.calendarlive.com/top/
1,1419,L-LATimes-Books-X!ArticleDetail-26133,00.html


Excerpt:

"... Today many physicists believe that nothingness
is the foundation of everything, not just the arena in
which matter resides but the substrate from which
matter is actually constructed.

As physicists envision the universe now, everything
that exists is ultimately just a complex enfolding of
the underlying substrate of empty space.

This vision presents the universe, as English physicist
Paul Davies has summed it up, as 'nothing but struc-
tured nothingness.'

Indeed, it might be said that one way of characterizing
the history of modern physics is the gradual rise in the
status of nothing from anathema to supreme principle.

Small wonder, then, that in the last 18 months there have
been several books that have chronicled the history of
nothing and our changing attitudes to this most enigmatic
concept. ...

[skip section on history, including theological and multi-
cultural history of perspectives on nothingness]

Over the last century an eerie parallel has also been found
in physics, for physicists now believe that everything in
our universe--every speck of matter and every active force--
arose from the nothingness of empty space.

One of the most important stories of modern science has
been the gradual folding of more and more elements of
our world-picture into the fabric of space.

Einstein began the process, inadvertently it must be said,
by revealing with his general theory of relativity that gravity
could be understood as a byproduct of the underlying
curvature of space.

Unlike Newton, for whom gravity remained the ultimate
mystery, Einstein's theory places the origin of this funda-
mental force in the architecture of the void.

Both Barrow and Seife describe this astonishing insight,
which remains physics' most compelling and mystical
achievement.

That something as powerful as gravity--the force which
holds our planet in orbit around the sun and our sun in
orbit around the galaxy--could be a byproduct of empty
space seems to defy reason.

The equations of general relativity even allow, as Barrow
tells us, for the existence of empty universes: vast ex-
panses of space and time devoid of matter and energy.

Physicists refer to these as 'vacuum' universes.

Such a world would be Augustine's nightmare, a pure
and purposeless void, in the most profound sense.

But the pure void of general relativity is itself an abstrac-
tion; physicists have since discovered that the vacuum is
far from empty.

That other great pillar of 20th-century physics, quantum
mechanics, showed us that the vacuum is teaming with
'virtual' particles ...

[skip section trying to relate history and modern aspects
of quantum theory, including superstring theory, with
philosophy, theology, and theoretical physics]"

--- end excerpt ---

The Book of Nothing : Vacuums, Voids, and the
Latest Ideas About the Origins of the Universe
by John D. Barrow
Hardcover - 416 pages (April 17, 2001)
Pantheon Books; ISBN: 0375420991
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0375420991

Review Excerpt:

"... Arguably, the most important discovery of 20th-century
physics is that there is no such thing as nothing: even the
tightest vacuum is teeming with subatomic particles popping
in and out of existence, according to the dictates of quantum
theory.

Now, many astronomers suspect that such 'vacuum effects'
may have triggered the Big Bang itself, filling our universe
with matter. Indeed, the very latest observations suggest that
vacuum effects will dictate the ultimate fate of the universe. ..."