Hi Folks

I am new to this group, but I would like to introduce myself by drawing attention to the most fundamental question of all - "why is there anything and not simply nothing at all?" It could be stated alternatively as "why does existence exist?" I raise this question because it seems to get overlooked by cosmologists who talk about big bang theories without considering where the combustible material came from for a big bang to occur, and by philosophers concerned with a first cause or prime mover without considering what the very origins of space and time themselves were.  It has to be born in mind that "nothing at all" is exactly that - nothing - not a void waiting to be filled which necessitates the existence of space and time.  And the question begins with the word "why" and not "how" although any thoughts on "how" would be interesting to hear.

Rose Crockford 

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Replies to This Discussion

Because there is anything and not simply nothing at all.

Okay, that was a bit flippant, but I suppose before an answer can be attempted, we need to know what sort of "why"you are looking for.

My take on this is that every time we think of the complexity of life, or something similar, we are somewhat in awe of it and naturally ask the questions of how.

Just like the first thing you do when something bad happens to you, is think, "why me", why, why, why...

I think it's just natural for a thinking brain to ask why.

That doesn't mean there actually is why, but we still like to ask.

     Hello Rose. Glad to welcome you here. Now as to why, from my understanding, the answer is they don't know. A great answer. It spurs the search, the furtherance to understand 'why' the universe is instead of why it isn't. Some observations that they have come across, speculations as it were include: (Let it be noted that I am not a scientist, just a very interested layperson).

     Baryon asymmetry Why is there far more matter than antimatter in the observable universe?

 

     Cosmic inflation Is the theory of cosmic inflation correct, and if so, what are the details of this epoch? What is the hypothetical inflaton field giving rise to inflation? If inflation happened at one point, is it self-sustaining through inflation of quantum-mechanical fluctuations, and thus ongoing in some impossibly distant place?

 

     Future of the universe Is the universe heading towards a Big Freeze, a Big Rip, a Big Crunch or a Big Bounce? Or is it part of an infinitely recurring cyclic model?

 

     Dark flow What is the cause of a large swath of galaxy clusters all moving towards one part of the universe?

 

     Black holes, black hole information paradox, and black hole radiation Do black holes produce thermal radiation, as expected on theoretical grounds? Does this radiation contain information about their inner structure, as suggested by Gauge-gravity duality, or not, as implied by Hawking's original calculation? If not, and black holes can evaporate away, what happens to the information stored in them (quantum mechanics does not provide for the destruction of information)? Or does the radiation stop at some point leaving black hole remnants? Is there another way to probe their internal structure somehow, if such a structure even exists?

 

     Higgs mechanism Are the branching ratios of the Higgs Boson consistent with the standard model? Is there only one type of Higgs Boson?

 

     Supersymmetry Is spacetime supersymmetry realized at TeV scale? If so, what is the mechanism of supersymmetry breaking? Does supersymmetry stabilize the electroweak scale, preventing high quantum corrections? Does the lightest supersymmetric particle (LSP) comprise dark matter?

 

     As you can tell, these and many other unsolved problems await. Glorious. What a future awaits the probing mind of man, that we can even ask these and other questions. We don't know is just the first step, a challenge to ourselves and our posterity. May you have fun with your investigations, and if you understand even 1% of what you read, you got me beat. Still, I find myself continually drawn back to these and other questions, and maybe, just maybe someday I will be able to understand an inkling of some. It will be my small victory. Peace to you my friend.

Excellent reply man!

I think it was Einstein that said (or wrote)  Knowledge is a sphere of light in a universe of darkness - as the sphere of light grows the periphery of darkness also grows. 

May I recommend A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing by Lawrence krauss.

That should answer a few questions...

The issue is whether we understand what nothing is. The nothing that you are probably referring to is part of a misconception of what nothing is.

To understand what nothing is or more importantly, CAN BE, is to understand physics.

The modern understanding of nothing, is not nothing, as nothing seems to be impossible to exist. At least for enough time to be observed.

If you think of quantum physics, you will see that there are particles popping in and out of existence out of nowhere and at completely random intervals.

So nothing might exist, but not for long...

Oh oh it's magic... lol

Rose, interesting question and one that has no answer at this time. I am sure Copernicus and Galileo felt very similar thoughts as they contemplated motion of the stars and certainly there is an answer. A religious would use "god of the gaps" thinking with such unknowns. For modern astronomers, "nothing" means "unknown". 

I have a theory that suits me with such unanswered questions. A bee gets up in the morning and pokes its nose into every blossom it can find. It doesn't behave that way saying, "I must do the will of god", it behaves because of instincts. It is programmed to do what it does, unaware. Same with the salmon, it returns to its birthing stream because of its programming. Humans behave because of its programming and is aware of unanswered questions. The brain capacity encourages it to seek answers, to seek patterns. That is why humans go to the moon and bees and salmon do not. 

String theory offers some interesting possibilities of explanations although much disputed by physicists. Two great string theorists are Michio Kaku and Brian Greene

"In fact, it is often stated that of all the theories proposed in this century, the silliest is quantum theory. Some say that the only thing that quantum theory has going for it, in fact, is that it is unquestionably correct."
~ Michio Kaku
Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and The Tenth

Dimension (1994), 262. Science quotes on: | Quantum Theory (34)

"“We all love a good story. We all love a tantalizing mystery. We all love the underdog pressing onward against seemingly insurmountable odds. We all, in one form or another, are trying to make sense of the world around us. And all of these elements lie at the core of modern physics. The story is among the grandest -- the unfolding of the entire universe; the mystery is among the toughest -- finding out how the cosmos came to be; the odds are among the most daunting -- bipeds, newly arrived by cosmic time scales trying to reveal the secrets of the ages; and the quest is among the deepest -- the search for fundamental laws to explain all we see and beyond, from the tiniest particles to the most distant galaxies.” 
― Brian GreeneThe Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Ques...

There's an article Back to the beginning of quantum spacetime in the March '13 issue of Physics Today which gives a good introduction to loop quantum gravity and how it might explain the Big Bang.  

The author Martin Bojowald says in the quantization of spacetime there are "ladder operators" similar to the ladder operators that give solutions for the quantum harmonic oscillator.  The basic unexcited state, he says, resembles a matter state in which any energy excitation can be reached - thus a state of infinite temperature!  This is called the State of Hell, and it looks like the Big Bang state!  There is no spatial extension in the State of Hell.

A kind of bounce may happen at the Big Bang but it wouldn't be a bounce in time.  Rather, around the Big Bang state, time effectively disappears and you're left with 4 space dimensions. The collapse and expansion would not be causally connected, and information transfer from collapse to expansion would be limited, which could solve the problem of how the Big Bang had such low entropy. The wavefunction of the universe can be extended "before" the Big Bang, but this isn't temporally before. 

Brian Cox is another physicist that makes physics and quantum physics more fathomable. He has many films that not only entertain, but enlighten. 

"If you want to move society forward in a more rational direction, religious leaders can be useful because they share that view. Setting yourself up as anti-religion is not helpful. You can set yourself up as anti-maniac, that’s different. So it’s OK to say that if you believe the world was created 6,000 years ago, as the Creationists do, then you are an idiot. There is nothing wrong in saying that because you are an idiot. But setting yourself up as an atheist who is against all religion is not a battle that needs to be fought.”

~ Brian Cox, Brian Cox: 'I'm not anti-religion. I'm anti-maniac'

Wonders of the Universe

I agree.

I'm thinking that there never was a "nothing at all" because if there was, it still would be nothing and we wouldn't be here to talk about it.  I think it's easier to believe that the materials and forces that do exist in space have always existed in some form and that they have had an infinite amount of time to combine and re combine into everything that is possible to be created.  Actually, I hate to even use the word "time" because there really isn't any such thing in the universe.  It's a concept that we use here on earth to measure our existence, but in space, it has no beginning or ending.  So, when we are talking about events in space, time wise we can only compare them to things we know about on earth such as how long it takes for the earth to travel around the sun or how long it takes a beam of light to go a mile. 

For a long time I thought about time the same way you do, but once I started reading and understanding time, it becomes apparent that time/space are united.

If you run Einsteins experiments, you start to understand that time does exist and in more than one form.

There is the time you mention, which must have existed outside space/time because at one point there was no space, and then there is space/time, which you can travel in.

So if you took a round trip at near the speed of light to a distant star when you return you'd be living in a different time.

If time was just a concept, this wouldn't happen.

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