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5.0 out of 5 stars Creation ex nihilo: When physical reality defies human intuition and imagination, 29 July 2012
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This review is from: A Universe from Nothing (Hardcover)
The particle physicist and cosmologist author is an engaging popular science writer. The author addresses the general reader who has an interest in cosmology while the text does not contain a single mathematical formula. The author takes us into a fascinating journey during which he weaves the arguments that led astrophysicists and cosmologists to develop a compelling scenario of a universe being created from virtually nothing, precisely dating its creation at 12.72 billion years ago.

The author wisely advises the reader quoting Jacob Bronowski that the nature of the universe will not be the result of hope, revelation, or pure thought;it will emanate from probing its nature and we have to accept it as it is whether we like it or not and even when it runs counter to our intuition or defies our imagination.

I find it productive to commence the review proper by defining what the author means by the term 'nothing' because in science even 'nothing' has to be defined. In the context of the book it means empty space with energy associated with it, even in the absence of any matter or radiation and in which the laws of nature such as quantum mechanics and general relativity operate. In this sense empty space is complicated. It is teeming with virtual particles that pop in and out of existence in a time so brief we cannot see them directly. Virtual particles are manifestations of a basic property of quantum systems. These 'quantum fluctuations' imply something about the quantum world:nothing always produces something, if only for an instant;or as cosmologist and Nobel prize laureate, Frank Wilczek aptly put it 'nothing' is unstable.

We can outline the scenario of creation as follows:we can speculate that the universe began in the most symmetrical state possible and that in such a state no matter existed;the universe was a vacuum. A second state existed, and in it matter existed. The second state had slightly less symmetry, but was also lower in energy. Eventually a patch of less symmetrical state appeared and as visualized by astrophysicist Alan Guth and permitted by general relativity inflated or expanded exponentially (the Big Bang) so even the tiniest region at early times could could quickly encompass a size more than large enough to contain our whole universe today. In fact we have a notion for both the enormity of the expansion and the corresponding time frame:it took a fraction of a second to go through twenty-eight orders of magnitude. According to this picture, when inflation ends, the energy stored in empty space gets turned into an energy of real matter and radiation, creating effectively the traceable beginning of our Big Bang expansion. We say traceable beginning because inflation effectively erases any memory of the sate of the universe before it began.

There are three main observational pillars that led to the empirical validation of the Big Bang:the observed Hubble expansion (as evidenced by the red-shifted radiation from distant galaxies);the observation of the cosmic background radiation (the afterglow of the Big Bang);and the observed agreement between the abundance of light elements - hydrogen, helium, and lithium - we have measured with the amounts predicted to have been produced during the first few minutes of the history of the universe.

We have already noted that the slight asymmetry between matter and antimatter led to the creation of the universe. If matter and antimatter were exactly equal they would have mutually annihilated with radiation as the only result. Even if the asymmetry were 1 part in a billion there would be enough matter left over to account for everything we see in the universe today. In fact an asymmetry of 1 part in a billion or so is precisely what was called for, because there are roughly 1 billion photons in the cosmic microwave background radiation for every proton in the universe.

A word might be in order on the mass composition of the universe. It might come as a surprise to many that the visible universe that is galaxies, stars, planets, and cosmologists who speculate about the nature of the universe comprise a mere 1 percent of its mass while adding dark matter in and around galaxies still amounts to 30 percent of the universe mass;a commanding 70 percent of its mass belongs to a mysterious dark energy which permeates uniformly empty space, is believed to have remained constant through time while it bears an uncanny resemblance to Einstein's cosmological constant.

I find it appropriate to conclude the review by convincing the skeptical reader of the reality of virtual particles. We have mentioned earlier in the review that virtual particles pop in and out of existence in a time so short we cannot see them directly. But how can we be sure they are real? The answer is through their effects and the validation follows:physicists can use Dirac's equation to calculate to an amazing high precision , the impact on the spectrum of hydrogen of all possible virtual particles that may exist intermittently in the vicinity. And when we do, we come up with the best, most accurate prediction in all of science. Using Dirac's equation, and the predicted existence of virtual particles, we can calculate the value of atomic parameters and compare them with observation and obtain an amazing agreement of about 1 part in a billion or better! The evidence for the existence of virtual particles is incontrovertible.

I leave the reader in suspense to find for himself the frightening fate of our universe in the distant future, say two trillion years from now.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 25 Aug 2012 19:40:32 BDT
Last edited by the author on 25 Aug 2012 19:42:21 BDT
trini says:
I have not bothered to read the whole review. When I got to the reviewer's words that the book 'A Universe From Nothing' is talking about "a universe being created from virtually nothing", I simply ask the reviewer (and of course Krauss himself), "where did the 'virtually nothing" come from, who created it, and I ask myself, how can any intelligent person believe in self-creation out of absolutely, true nothing?

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Nov 2012 23:58:33 GMT
Tsuchan says:
You read the wrong review, dear. Krauss doesn't say "virtually nothing". Try reading my review, or better still, read the book... it explains incrementally what the author said: a universe from nothing: no matter, no energy, no time, no space, no laws of physics. Is there anything more you'd like to subtract from nothing to arrive at a view of nothing you're happy with?

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Oct 2013 08:34:31 BDT
I agree with Trini: 'Nothing' means an absence of anything. The author does not claim that the universe was created from this Nothing. If one accepts his definition of 'nothing' however, then fair enough. I can see no reason why a theist/scientist - and there are plenty of them - would be fazed by this.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Nov 2014 13:34:42 GMT
M Harris says:
so you can't personally believe it and you can't be bothered to read the book and the explanation it provides. Right, that's settled then, Dr Krauss is completely wrong
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