Universe(s) Origin(s) 2 of 7 - No Origin
of the Universe?
(Top Posts - Science - 072802)

Excerpt from "A Brief History of Time" (Stephen Hawking,
ISBN 0-553-34614-8) ...

... Throughout the 1970s I had been mainly studying black
holes, but in 1981 my interest in questions about the origin
and fate of the universe was reawakened when I attended
a conference on cosmology organized by the Jesuits in the

The Catholic Church had made a bad mistake with Galileo
when it tried to lay down the law on a question of science,
declaring that the sun went round the earth. Now, centuries
later, it had decided to invite a number of experts to advise
it on cosmology. At the end of the conference the partici-
pants were granted an audience with the pope. He told us
that it was all right to study the evolution of the universe
after the big bang itself because that was the moment of
Creation and therefore the work of God.

I was glad then that he did not know the subject of the
talk I had just given at the conference -- the possibility that
space-time was finite but had no boundary, which means
that it had no beginning, no moment of Creation. I had no
desire to share the fate of Galileo, with whom I felt a strong
sense of identity, partly because of the coincidence of hav-
ing been born exactly 300 years after his death! ...

(end excerpt)

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Excerpts from "The Mind of God: The Scientific Basis
for a Rational World" (Paul Davies, ISBN 0-671-79718-2)

... quantum events are not determined absolutely by pre-
ceding causes. Although the probability of a given event
(e.g., the radioactive decay of an atomic nucleus) is fixed
by the theory, the actual outcome of a particular quantum
process is unknown and, even in principle, unknowable.

By weakening the link between cause and effect, quantum
mechanics provides a subtle way for us to circumvent the
origin-of-the-universe problem.

If a way can be found to permit the universe to come into
existence from nothing as a result of a quantum fluctuation,
then no laws of physics would be violated. In other words,
viewed through the eyes of a quantum physicist, the spon-
taneous appearance of a universe is not such a surprise,
because physical objects are appearing all the time -- with-
out well-defined causes -- in the quantum microworld.

... many distinguished physicists have argued that the
theory can be made to work satisfactorily in this situation,
and thus was the subject of "quantum cosmology" born.

The justification for quantum cosmology is that, if the big
bang is taken seriously, there would have been a time when
the universe was compressed to minute dimensions. Under
these circumstances quantum processes must have been
important. In particular, the fluctuations described by Heis-
enberg's uncertainty principle must have had a profound
effect on the structure and evolution of the nascent cos-

Quantum effects were important when the density of mat-
ter was a staggering [skip - very large density].

This state of affairs existed before 1 divided by 10 to the
43rd power seconds, when the universe was a mere 1 divided
by 10 to the 33rd power centimeters across.

These numbers are referred to as the Planck density, time,
and distance, respectively, after Max Planck, the originator
of the quantum theory.

[insert - interesting aside - Origins of Quantum Mechanics:
"... on 19 October 1900, physicist Max Planck made a
groundbreaking presentation to the German Physical
Society. Planck was a sober man and, at 42, a little long
in the tooth for a revolutionary. But his discovery was to
turn the classical physics of the billiard ball on its head."

Well, one of the reasons I posted this excerpt was that
I was born 55 years to the day after Max Planck's ground-
breaking presentation ... Just a coincidence, but in this odd
world of "Quantum whatever", I certainly got a kick out of
that fact. ... -end insert-]

The ability of quantum fluctuations to "fuzz out" the phys-
ical world on an ultramicroscopic scale leads to a fascin-
ating prediction concerning the nature of space-time.

... At the Planck scale the separate identities of space and
time can be smeared out.

... It may happen, as a result of these quantum effects,
that the most probable structure for space-time under
some circumstances is actually four-dimensional space.

It has been argued by James Hartle and Stephen Hawking
that precisely those circumstances prevailed in the very
early universe. That is, if we imagine going backward in
time toward the big bang, then, when we reach about one
Planck time after what we thought was the initial singular-
ity, something peculiar starts to happen.

Time begins to "turn into" space.

Rather than having to deal with the origin of space-time,
therefore, we now have to contend with four-dimensional
space, and the question arises as to the shape of that
space -- i.e., its geometry. In fact, the theory permits
an infinite variety of shapes.

... The hypothesis that the universe originated in a singu-
larity of infinite compression is depicted here by allowing
the cone to taper to a single point at the base [reference
drawing of a cone ending in a point]. The singular apex
of the cone represents the abrupt appearance of both
space and time in a big bang.

The essential claim of quantum cosmology is that the
Heisenberg uncertainty principle smears out the sharp-
ness of the apex, replacing it by something smoother.

Just what that something is depends on the theoretical
model, but in the model of Hartle and Hawking a rough
guide is to round off the apex [reference drawing of a
bell, turned upside down] ... where the point of the cone
is replaced by a hemisphere. The radius of the hemis-
phere is the Planck length (1 divided by 10 to the 33rd
power centimeters), very small by human standards,
but infinitely large compared with a point singularity.

Above this hemisphere the cone opens out in the usual
way, representing the standard nonquantum develop-
ment of the expanding universe. ... Note also that in
this scheme ... there is no actual "first moment" of time,
no abrupt beginning at a singular origin.

The big bang singularity has, in fact, been abolished.

One might still be tempted to think of the base of the
hemisphere ... as the "origin" of the universe, but, as
Hawking emphasizes, this is mistaken. ... The upshot
of all this is that, according to Hartle an` Hawking,
there is no origin of the universe. Time is limited in
the past, but has no boundary as such.

Thus centuries of philosophical anguish over the para-
doxes of infinite versus finite time are neatly resolved.

Hartle and Hawking ingeniously manage to pass be-
tween the horns of that particular dilemma.

As Hawking expresses it: "The boundary condition of
the universe is that is has no boundary."


No-Boundary Universe
Excerpt: ... A proposal first advanced by Stephen
Hawking and Jim Hartle, the no-boundary universe
is one in which the universe does not start with a
singularity. It uses American physicist Richard
Feynman’s proposal to treat quantum mechanics
as a “sum over histories,” meaning that a particle
does not have one history in space-time but in-
stead follows every possible path to reach its cur-
rent state. ...

-end insert-

The implications of the Hartle-Hawking universe for
theology are profound, as Hawking himself remarks:
"So long as the universe had a beginning, we could
suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is com-
pletely self-contained, having no boundary or edge,
it would have neither beginning nor end: it would
simply be. What place, then, for a creator?"

(end excerpts)

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Posts in this series:

Universe(s) Origin(s) Preface

Universe(s) Origin(s) - 1 of 7
}}} String Theory / Infinities / Singularities {{{

Universe(s) Origin(s) - 2 of 7
}}} No Origin of the Universe? {{{

Universe(s) Origin(s) - 3 of 7
}}} Multiverse? {{{

Universe(s) Origin(s) - 4 of 7
}}} Universes from Black Holes? {{{

Universe(s) Origin(s) - 5 of 7
}}} Cyclic Universe? {{{

Universe(s) Origin(s) - 6 of 7
}}} Einstein / Big Bang / Superstrings {{{

Universe(s) Origin(s) - 7 of 7
}}} Nothing / Everything {{{


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