Something from nothing...

I was talking with a friend today and we got onto the topic of uncaused causes, for a reason I can’t remember.

Anyway, I stated that there were things out there that did not have causes, because I had remembered reading this which is about the cosmological argument.

Here is the relevant paragraph:

What exactly does this mean? Can anyone summarize how this is possible, using small words (:wink: )?

Do we just not know why it seems to be spontaneous, or do we know that it definitely is spontaneous?

I was going to tell you to google on “vacuum energy” but when I did that the first links to come up were an amazing set of garbage.

Here’s the Wikipedia page on vacuum energy.

The first thing you see is that “empty” space is not, in our understanding of the quantum world, really empty. Nothing is or can be.

The quantum world is totally probabilistic, and our best understanding of is says that that implies that the underlying reality is as purely random as anything possibly can be. Therefore the appearance of particle pairs (or the universe) is a truly random fluctuation. So that implies no cause, just one spontaneous randomness that happens to have larger consequences.

However, current physics can’t say anything meaningful about the instant of beginning of the universe. It is assumed to be spontaneous, but cannot currently be proven to be so.

Note that your link states specifically that its argument is a scenario, possible but unproven. I don’t think his argument is a good one on philosophical grounds - it’s basically as much hand-waving as physics. I think I agree with the conclusion regardless.

Your problem in understanding the piece is that you walked in on the middle of an argument. Everybody is making assumptions about what is known and understood. Even when nothing is. :slight_smile:

Yes, I know and I took the site to be a “possibility” and I also agree with you about me walking in on the middle of the argument ;).

This might be redundant or what not, but how can something be truly random? Could it just be that we don’t understand why these thing appear random? (My apologies if you have to go through this twice).

All I can do is repeat what I said about our current “best understanding.” Maybe when we finally get the Theory of Everything, it will give underlying reasons for what currently seems random. Or maybe it will show that true randomness exists. We just don’t know yet.

According to information theory, something is “random” if there is no way to predict it. Some people believe that quantum physics is governed by tiny deterministic mechanisms – a sort of “burning fuse” that tells a Plutonium atom when to decay, for instance, rather than our current understanding that it decays at a random time. So far, such “hidden variables” have not been demonstrated…

(Einstein hated the “playing with dice” explanation, and sought after hidden variables, but never had any luck finding 'em…)

An electron-positron pair can appear out of nowhere…and disappear into nowhere…and no one is the wiser. It happens “behind our backs,” so to speak. However, in some cases, such as near a black hole’s event horizon, or even near the nucleus of a very heavy atom, one of the particles in the pair can be caught and trapped, leaving the other to wander off where we can detect it. It seems as if that particle has “appeared” out of nowhere. The phenomenon is sometimes called the “breakdown of empty space.” Near black holes, it’s called “Hawking Radiation.”

Space-time is really weird at the Heisenberg scale…


It’s unlikely that randomness will be removed by future theories. The reason the whole concept of randomness exists is the philosophical argument embodied in the Heindenberg uncertainty principle. We can never know things for certain because measuring them disturbs them and measuring them again puts us back at square one. Since we can never know anything for certain, then the best we can do is assign probabilities and view events as random. Sure, there might be something else going on there, but for us the observer (and unfortunately we can never be more than observers), things will have to always appear random.

We have no way of curing this randomness since we have no foothold of certainty. If hidden variables exist (something i have heard to be disproven), and a theory is created that will be able to predict the motion of an electron or when an atom will decay, things again come down to the fact that we can never make measurements accurate enough to plug into such a theory.