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Math Science

Mathematical Proof That the Cosmos Could Have Formed Spontaneously From Nothing 612

Posted by Soulskill
from the something-from-nothing dept.
KentuckyFC writes: "One of the great theories of modern cosmology is that the universe began in a Big Bang. It's backed up by numerous lines of evidence, such as the cosmic microwave background and so on. But what caused the Big Bang, itself? For many years, cosmologists have fallen back on the idea that the universe formed spontaneously; that the Big Bang was result of quantum fluctuations in which the universe came into existence from nothing. But is this compatible with what we know about the Big Bang itself and the theories that describe it? Now cosmologists have come up with the first rigorous proof that the Big Bang could indeed have occurred spontaneously and produced the universe we see today. The proof is developed within a mathematical framework known as the Wheeler-DeWitt equation. Heisenberg's uncertainty principle allows a small region of empty space to come into existence probabilistically due to quantum fluctuations. Most of the time, such a bubble will collapse and disappear. The question these scientists address is whether a bubble could also expand exponentially to allow a universe to form in an irreversible way. Their proof (PDF) shows that this is indeed possible. There is an interesting corollary: the role of the cosmological constant is played by a property known as the quantum potential. This is a property introduced in the 20th century by the physicist David Bohm, which has the effect of making quantum mechanics deterministic while reproducing all of its predictions. It's an idea that has never caught on. Perhaps that will change now."
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Mathematical Proof That the Cosmos Could Have Formed Spontaneously From Nothing

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  • by Your.Master (1088569) on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:05AM (#46724733)

    Many, many, MANY people have claimed that God wrote the Bible.

  • Re:"Proof" (Score:5, Informative)

    by uberdilligaff (988232) on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:10AM (#46724767)
    Extraordinarily well said. The mathematical model is NOT the actual physics. It is only a very useful abstraction that happens to fit very well with the observed state of the physical world today. To the extent that the mathematical model helps us understand the physical universe, it is quite useful. Extrapolating the model back to its mathematical origin (the zero point) does not "prove" that the universe exploded into existence as an infinitesimal point at time 0. It should raise suspicions that the model might not be quite such a good fit to the conditions that existed at that time as opposed to the conditions that prevail today, 14+ billion years later.
  • Re:"Proof" (Score:2, Informative)

    by jythie (914043) on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:32AM (#46725011)
    Which is why it is described a 'mathmatical proof', a domain where 'proof' has a different and specific usage then general english.
  • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms.infamous@net> on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:52AM (#46725201) Homepage

    You are supposed to read it and think "people should act this way",

    Yes, with the genocide [skepticsan...dbible.com] and the slavery [wikipedia.org] and the misogyny [blogspot.com] and the mock executions of sons by their fathers [wikipedia.org], what a fine world it would be if we followed the moral example of the Bible.

  • by bhagwad (1426855) on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:59AM (#46725295) Homepage

    At some point it becomes illogical to ask "what caused it" or "what comes before". Both these questions postulate the prior existence of time. If time itself came into being, then asking "what caused this" or "what happened before this" is meaningless since both questions imply a time based causation which could not have happened in the absence of time itself.

  • by rgbatduke (1231380) <rgb@nOSpAM.phy.duke.edu> on Friday April 11, 2014 @12:16PM (#46726309) Homepage

    Sheesh. I mean, I'm a theorist. I love theory. But let us not lose sight of the difference between metaphysical speculation and "proof". All that has been done is that it has been shown that -- subject to a whole slew of prior assumptions (premises, axioms) that may or may not be correct (and that cannot be verified or sorted out either way) -- that a particular kind of "empty" Universe could consistently give rise to a vacuum fluctuation that grows a la big bang. Of course, there is a big difference between an "empty" Universe subject to all sorts of quantum rules and nothing -- as nothing tends to come without anything, including a set of rules quantum or otherwise.

    So let me summarize the argument. If the Universe already existed, complete with a set of physical laws, but just happened at some point in meta-space and meta-time to be empty, then if those probably non-unique laws had parameters within some almost certainly non-unique range, then mass-energy could have poofed into existence in a big bang as a quantum vacuum fluctuation that grew. It is proven that all of this could have happened.

    And we are now precisely as knowledgeable as we were before. We already knew that it could have happened because it did. We still know absolutely nothing (more) useful about the state of the Universe before the bang, because the bang erased the prior state in a blast of cosmic entropy and all of our ability to make inferences comes from weak extrapolation of observation of its visible state "now" (that is, into the distance-mediated past). We cannot use the "proof" to make any useful predictions that can be tested (either verified or falsified).

    Don't get me wrong, I think it is a lovely result, and it may prove useful in some indirect way by providing an incentive to reformulate quantum theory in ways that are at least consistent with the big bang, just as quantum theory ultimately proves useful when discussing things like black holes. But it is still theoretical metaphysics, not physics.

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