Why is there something rather than nothing?

Sometimes, talking about philosophy is not quite enough to get through to some people. For me personally, reading Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time pushed me over the edge from "theistic agnostic" to "atheist" because it showed me that something I had though required a divine explanation — the origin of the universe — was within the realm of scientific inquiry. Only in retrospect have I understood my philosophical follies.

This is a phenomenal talk from the physicist Lawrence Krauss on how the universe really could have (and almost certainly did) come from nothing, answering the believers' question, "How could something come from nothing"? I've discussed this in previous blogs, but it's great to hear a pro do it justice. Most fascinating to me, though, is that it turns out that much of what Hawking thought was the case nearly 25 years ago when he wrote A Brief History of Time now has very strong empirical support. Choice quote from the video:

It turns out, that in a flat universe the total energy of the universe is precisely zero...Because gravity can have negative energy. So, the negative energy of gravity balances out the positive energy of matter.

What’s so beautiful about a universe with total energy of zero?  

Well, ONLY such a universe can begin from nothing… And that is remarkable… Because, the laws of physics allow a universe to begin from nothing. You don’t need a deity. You have nothing… zero total energy… and quantum fluctuations can produce a universe.

Right now, we know it to an accuracy of better than 1%. The universe IS flat. It has zero total energy, and it could have begun from nothing. … And, I’ve written this piece (and, of course, I got a lot of hate mail) saying that in my mind this answers that crazy question that religious people always keep throwing out… Which is:

“Why is there something rather than nothing?”

The answer is… There had to be. If you have “nothing” in quantum mechanics, you’ll always get something. It’s that simple. It doesn’t convince any of those people, but it’s true.


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