Origin of everything?

******I’d like a scientific principle or theory (please, no religion) on how everything came into existence. Is there some scientific principle that I’m not aware of that allows something to come into existence with absolutely nothing else to cause it? The big band started with something. There’s a current theory that the big bang was just a small “bubble” originating from a much larger group of bubbles, perhaps other universes).
This seems sensible to me; it just doesn’t answer the basic question. Either the universe(s) and all in it have always existed as thought by Einstein and Hoyle and seems to be the easy answer. The other explanation to which I’m addressing is that the universe began from absolutely nothing…no atoms, no light, no vibrations, just nothing.:smack: I’m interested in some of the current theory.


One theory I read recently (don’t remember where) is that everything that gets sucked into a black hole ends up getting spit back out into another universe. So the Big Bang could’ve been the other end of a black hole from another universe exploding and it all started all over again here. Completely untestable of course, but it’s a thought.

The best answer anyone is honestly going to be able to give you: we don’t know.

That, and non-dairy creamer, are life’s greatest unsolved mysteries.


If the net energy of the universe is zero, then why can’t it have sprung from nothing? But I’ll echo that we don’t know. We don’t even know what dark energy and dark matter are.

It makes life interesting.

Not knowing what kicked off the universe is less unknowning than not knowing what kicked off the omnipotent being that kicked off the universe.

There’s really no answer beyond that even if what we know to exist didn’t always exist, then some process or another back in the hierarchy doesn’t need a start. Since we can only verify the existence of the extant universe, postulating over any other processes is a moot point. It’s just as likely that we’re a universe and AI simulation running on some guy’s home computer in the real universe as anything else. It just gets ludicrous to pontificate over.

The basic unanswered question of cosmology is, “Why is there something instead of nothing?” Not even proving the existence of God would answer that; if God exists, God is something.

Yes, but what?

Could be that nothingness is inconsistent with itself, an impossible construct.

I’ve heard of this “bubble theory”, but it bothers me. Where did the bubbles come from? What triggered them, and what are they themselves made of (bubble stuff)? Where did the bubble stuff come from? Some other, older “protobubble stuff”? OK, where did that come from?

I seriously doubt we will ever find the definitive answer to the Creation Of Everything. Because no matter how far we go, we will still have to ask where that “first thing” came from. From some previous “first thing”.

As has already been said, the only honest answer anybody can give at this point is that we just don’t know.

But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t an abundance of speculation, and some tantalizing hints from existing theories: for instance, it’s impossible to have a truly empty space – sure, you can clear out all matter and stuff, but you’d be left with all sorts of quantum fields and virtual particles; and if you somehow cleared that out, they’d spontaneously reform (out of ‘nothing’), because their presence is energetically favourable to their absence. (See here for a little more info on this.) True, this still presupposes the existence of some background space, and the validity of the laws of quantum field theory, but I think it’s an illuminating analogy.

Similarly, consider the creation of virtual particle pairs – ordinarily, they must always recombine, and ‘return’ the energy they borrowed; but, under certain conditions, such a particle can escape and become ‘real’ (though usually at a price – in Hawking radiation, for instance, an escaping particle has to ‘steal’ its energy from the mass of a black hole).

So, in an analogical way, it might be that nothing is just an unstable state of being, which ‘decays’ into something; however, there are some bootstrapping issues with this view – the rule that ‘something decays into nothing’ (and the physics to substantiate it) would seem to have to precede the existence of something, in order for the nothing to know that it must decay; but where, then, does that rule come from? There seems to be a curious teleology at work here: the nothing must decay into something in precisely such a way as to create a world in which nothing must decay into something!

But actually, there is a strikingly similar teleology at the heart of even classical mechanics, embedded in something called the principle of least action. According to this principle, the evolution of any given system follows a trajectory such that a certain quantity, called the action, is minimized (or more accurately, made stationary). What, exactly, this means isn’t very important right now; wiki does an alright job at explaining it if anybody’s interested. The thing is – how does the system ‘know’ to evolve in precisely such a way? It would almost seem that points in the future on this trajectory exert an influence on points in their past, ensuring that the ‘correct’ trajectory is traced out! This runs counter to all our accustomed notions of time and causality.

The answer to this conundrum comes, once again, out of the mysteries of the quantum world. Here, a system, in some sense, doesn’t have to decide right away which trajectory to follow – it gets to evolve, in parallel, along all possible trajectories (this notion is what ultimately led to Feynman’s path integral formulation of quantum mechanics). It is only when probed by some interaction that it has to make up its mind, so to speak – and this it does with overwhelming likelihood (for any remotely macroscopic system, practical certainty) in such a way as to satisfy the principle of least action, neatly eliminating the curious teleology.

Of course, this doesn’t nearly begin to solve the question, either. In a genuine ‘nothingness’, where should (some analogue of) the principle of least action come from? Why would it have to hold?

Well, I think there is some way to make this all appear a bit more plausible. Let’s consider a different way of looking at the evolution of the universe in time, one that, in a way, gets rid of time (with its always troublesome questions of what was ‘before’ etc.). Let’s think of the universe as a system of N particles; each of those particles has three spatial coordinates, so we can represent this universe in a 3N dimensional space, called the configuration space. Each point in this space represents a configuration of matter in the universe, and a trajectory through this space traces out the time-evolution of the universe. We can apply a special form of the action principle to this space, known as the Jacobi principle, which does not depend on time, but only on the 3N generalized coordinates, and in such a way obtain a unique history of the universe dependent only on its endpoints (this is taken from Julian Barbours ideas which he presents here (PDF)).

Now, generally, there’s nothing that says that the number of particles is to stay constant over time – for instance, if you pull hard enough on a meson, thanks to colour confinement, you’ll end up with two. Thus, it seems that the trajectory through the configuration space is only ever confined to a 3N dimensional subspace of a much larger (potentially infinite) space at a given point, but can evolve beyond that.

But then, nothing has a configuration space, too – a zero-dimensional one, because N is zero. However, now we have nothing that stops us from having our trajectory start in the zero dimensional subspace of the configuration space, and trace out a history according to Jacobi’s principle that corresponds to a universe in which matter is seemingly created out of nothing!

As a word of caution, though, this isn’t meant to be anything but an analogy for how it might be that something can seemingly come into existence; whether it works in detail or not (it probably won’t) isn’t all that important, this just goes to show that it isn’t inherently impossible to think about the concepts involved in some not totally nonsensical way. It’s just a bit of out-there speculation, is all.
Of course, there are other lines of thinking, as well – I recently read a proposal by Laura Mersini-Houghton that essentially amounts to treating the so-called ‘string landscape’ as ontologically real and eternal and having the wave function of the universe propagate across it in a sort of direction-less time, ‘settling’ into one of the roughly 10[sup]500[/sup] possible string vacua and thus giving birth to our universe; interestingly, this produces interactions with neighbouring universes due to quantum mechanical entanglement, which supposedly account for the recently-observed ‘dark flow’ and WMAP cold spot. Here’s a thread about it I killed.

As one last note in an already overlong post, I don’t believe it’s the case that you have to choose between the two options of ‘eternal existence’ and ‘creation out of nothing’ – there are other alternatives possible; I’ve seen proposals involving circular time, both on the large and the small scale, with our universe being kind of a linear spin-off of the circular region in the latter case, counterpointing arrows of time, where the big bang kind of serves as the mid point between two universes evolving in opposite directions in time, and many more.

So, here’s to hoping this won’t kill the thread, I’ve kinda had a bit of a bad track record lately…

There’s nothing headslappy about the idea of it coming from nothing, it’s a perfectly valid theory. Or to paraphrase the True Master: “In the begining, there was nothing, which exploded”

Lawrence Krauss has just given a lecture on this very topic.

All of our language and all or our science has been developed within a construct of what we understand as the universe. Concepts like “time” and “before” and mathematical modeling of energy distributions all take place within what we know.

And there are two big things we don’t know. We don’t know what space is. It’s not as if the big bang was the result of superdense superhot something sitting in empty space. Space itself came about as the result of the big bang.

Secondly, we don’t know how to model what we call “time” without there being space inside of which alternate distributions of energy can create more than one moment of time. As a result, constructs like “always” become meaningless if they are applied “before” the big bang–i.e. before time began.

In short, we are unable to talk about a “before the big bang” because we have no language–words or mathematics–which are able to describe such a construct.

I’ll leave you with this comment from Steven Weinberg: *“We don’t know if the universe is infinitely old or if there was a first moment; but neither view is absurd, and the choice between them will not be made by intuition, or by philosophy or theology, but by the ordinary methods of science.” *


Count Basie?

Just to address this small aspect of your OP, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle allows something to come into existence with absolutely nothing else to cause it. Virtual particles are created spontaneously all the time, all around you, with absolutely no cause.

Is it correct to say then that it is impossible for “nothing” to exist?

Well, not that of course . . . something else.

I’m not sure about this. Euclid developed his geometry within what he believed to be a flat space to talk about flat spaces, but as it turned out, his methods are equally well suited to consider curved ones, all you have to do is repeal the parallel postulate; lots of other things far removed from our everyday experience can be made sense of mathematically, just take the concept of infinity, for instance – the world we live in, the reality we interact with is as surely finite as it is comprised of time and space, yet this neither discounts the possibility of a fundamentally infinite universe, nor our ability to meaningfully reason about it.

Well, you are much smarter than I (and I am not being snarky here)…I am referring to us non-gifted types, perhaps.
If we are trying to talk about a universe infinite in “time”–i.e. one that has always “existed” even before the big bang, I don’t know what language can be invoked to do so, since “always” and “time” and so on are bound up in language which describes a universe that embraces the concept of “space.”

Pre- big bang, there is no time passing until the moment of the bang arrives, and there is no space inside of which the bang occurs. I can persuade a couple of my more capable neurons to get a handle on infinity and curved space and a handful of other concepts at a rudimentary level, but I can’t even formulate words or comprehend mathematical models for anything pre- big bang. The words “nothing” and “infinite” are bound up in a post- big bang paradigm.