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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The ultimate balance sheet fix, 14 Oct 2012
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This review is from: A Universe from Nothing (Paperback)
Ask why there is something rather than nothing and the answer seems to depend upon what is meant by "nothing". To address that question, start, as the author does, by dismissing any tendentious definition of nothing put about by theologians who see this as their preserve, also consider whether nothingness should exclude concepts like laws of physics as well as those of space or time. The answer is far from clear, perhaps unknowable, and getting it wrong could mean falling into the error of those theologians and skewing any ensuing theory.

Leave that part of the question, then, and turn to the "something" aspect, where our breadth of knowledge and understanding of the visible universe, its history and future, are by contrast detailed and precise, at least insofar as we ignore the 98% of its components about which we know next to nothing (dark energy, dark matter...) but which are, in principle at least, capable of being addressed. The mutual consistency of cosmological theories covering inflation, CMB, galaxy formation, primeval quantum fluctuations, light element abundance and so on is astonishing.

The task of explaining what happened between nothing and something is relatively straightforward, once the first 10^ -30 seconds or so are out of the way. It is that first instant (as well as the "nothing" which came "before") which remains illusive and pretty much in the realms of philosophy. Krauss is determined to avoid any appeal to special conditions which might look suspiciously God-orientated but also acknowledges that multiple universes and other anthropocentric interpretations are equally unproductive when it comes to making falsifiable predictions. His treatment is by turns ontological, epistemological and pragmatic with even some speculative digressions.

An underlying question as to whether the entire universe may, on balance contain precisely zero energy is discussed, though not convincingly answered. That a flat space-time does accord with a net zero gravitational energy for the entire universe is certainly made clear, but not whether the author also regards its total rest mass energy as correspondingly balanced by the work done by negative pressure or rather as a perfectly reasonable quantum loan from the vacuum which somehow got inflated away (by a factor of at least 10^26 possibly 10^78 in some accounts).

All of it is thoroughly readable and thought-provoking. Given that the author describes how his own thoughts on this, his speciality subject, evolved even as he was writing the book, that is not so surprising.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 5 Jan 2013 07:34:50 GMT
P. R. Lamb says:
What about those mathematical physicists who are also theologians? Perhaps all 'explanations' should be read in the light of Derrida's warnings.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jan 2013 16:21:31 GMT
M. Woodman says:
Thank you for pointing out that the roles of mathematical physicist and theologian are not mutually exclusive. I'm afraid I didn't see fit to deconstruct Mr Krauss's presentation of nothingness as a concept on which theologians tended not to keep a properly open mind.
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