Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Mathematical Proof That the Cosmos Could Have Formed Spontaneously From Nothing

Comments Filter:
  • by nitehawk214 (222219) on Friday April 11, 2014 @09:30AM (#46724375)

    ... I will punch you in the face.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by marcello_dl (667940)

      If you make implementation details about the initial condition of an universe proof that such an universe has no superior level, you are already so ridiculous that punching people in the face is probably the best you can do.

      • by aaaaaaargh! (1150173) on Friday April 11, 2014 @11:25AM (#46725611)

        "superior level"???

        Why not talk about about the great Matma, an inferior level, the mysterious Wumpus, or the Flying Spaghetti monster instead?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jellomizer (103300)

      So we see evidence of a seeming Miraculous event in the universe. One that seems to defy logic. And you use it as a time to get angry at people who believe in God.

      Is your atheism so week, that you fall back on violence if confronted with evidence that seems to force you to realign your belief structure.
      So tell me again how atheist are better than religious people?
      Or is it that you are just as human as the rest of us, and will strongly hold onto our belief structure and get very angry when something dissuad

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Is your atheism so week, that you fall back on violence if confronted with evidence that seems to force you to realign your belief structure.

        What evidence?

        So tell me again how atheist are better than religious people?

        You seem to be taking your dislike for the one you replied to and generalizing based on that. Nice job.

        • What evidence?

          I'm filing this one under "if we mangle these numbers hard enough, they support our hypothesis." I would say that I'd be open to changing my mind if someone explained it to me, but I doubt it's possible for non-physicists to really understand it to begin with.

      • "And you use it as a time to get angry at people who believe in God."

        When people believe in gods that can't invent wireless camera phones and used the most inefficient method to communicate "his" message regardless of religion (christianity, islam, etc). People have every right to look down at believers in old gods with their ancient texts (which are full of errors).

        If gods of our ancestors were so all powerful, why do they seem to have a messaging problem? Note that there are over roughly 30,000 differen

    • by MikeRT (947531) on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:02AM (#46724693) Homepage

      But it is proof that disproving Aquinas's argument that no physical phenomena can arise ex nihilo is currently beyond the capacity of science, mathematics and philosophy.

    • by dimeglio (456244) on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:22AM (#46724901)

      If you make this a proof of God... I will punch you in the face

      Of course not. If He wanted you to believe, God would have showed you his birth certificate.

  • I would love to hear more about this nothing. I never knew something could be so fascinating and capable as nothing.
    • Quantum fluctuations are something. The question should actually be "Where do quantum fluctuations come from" to which a physicist will probably reply - "they just happen". Which is feck all use to anyone as an answer. Might just as well say the universe just happened or the God/The Sphagetti Monster created it.

      If physicists don't have a proper answer to "Why is there something rather than nothing" then they should stop pretending they do by the deceit of changing the definition of "nothing".

      • There's a lot of things in physics, that when you get down deep enough the only answer we've got is "it just does."

        Tell me, how does the force of electric attraction or repulsion work in general? We can describe the way the force works. Opposite charges attract, like charges repel. We can calculate the magnitude of these forces. But when you really get right down to it, why this force exists and what creates this motive force from apparently nothing is unexplained. We can describe the force, saying "it's li

    • Re:Nothing (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jythie (914043) on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:26AM (#46724951)
      Well, adding 'zero' to the number system was a pretty big deal about nothing.
    • by mmell (832646)
      Here you go. [google.com]
  • by MadTinfoilHatter (940931) on Friday April 11, 2014 @09:39AM (#46724453)
    This is an abuse of the word "nothing", which is a universal negation "not anything". But quantum fluctuations in the quantum vacuum are something, and not nothing. The research might be interesting, but it does nothing for the question the philosopher is asking when he is wondering "Why there is somerthing rather than nothing?"
    • by Ricyteach (2565289) on Friday April 11, 2014 @09:42AM (#46724491)
      Physicists seem to have a curious definition of "nothing" (see Lawrence Krauss' book).
    • - "why there is something rather than nothing?"
      - "because this can happen according to this newfangled model"
      - "cool, and what made the universe should follow this newfangled model?"
      - "because another newfangled proof makes anything else illogical"
      - "cool and what made the universe forcibly logical? all you did so far is to prove the universe can't help but follow the same logic that you derived from the behavior of the universe itself."
      The End.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I think most college students would agree that zero everywhere is a compelling solution for differential equations.

    • This is an abuse of the word "nothing", which is a universal negation "not anything". But quantum fluctuations in the quantum vacuum are something, and not nothing. The research might be interesting, but it does nothing for the question the philosopher is asking when he is wondering "Why there is somerthing rather than nothing?"

      Exactly. Lawrence Krauss and others are trying to redefine "nothing" for there own personal theories and world view (he's an atheist). I guess that's understandable from that viewpoint, but you can make a lot of interesting theories if you redefine terms to fit your own meaning.

    • Yes. Same goes for modeling the properties of 'nothing'.

      The claim in the headline is phrased that way presumably because it is attention-seeking 'scientific journalism' (web hits are good).

    • My thoughts exactly; Otherwise, mathematics proves you can get something from absolutely nothing - IOW, magic. . In the words of Grace Slick, logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead. If this were truly the case, it'd be as supernatural as the God explanation.
      For there to be "fluctuations" there has to be something to actually fluctuate.
  • by ZombieBraintrust (1685608) on Friday April 11, 2014 @09:44AM (#46724511)

    Heisenberg's uncertainty principle allows a small region of empty space to come into existence probabilistically due to quantum fluctuations

    I don't remember that in the principle when I took physics. I think they are skipping quite a few steps in the summary.

    • by beatle42 (643102)
      Are you suggesting that the summary doesn't faithful reproduce every detail of the thing it's summarizing? If only we had a word to describe glossing over details to give people a sense of what something says, preferably in a fairly succinct way.
      • No, he's suggesting the summary doesn't reproduce every *crucial* detail of the thing it's summarizing, making it a poor summary.

      • I suggesting they are name dropping Heisenberg's uncertainty principle to make their claims sound more plausable. I bet the following statements are just as true/false.

        Newtons First Law of Motion allows a small region of empty space to come into existence probabilistically due to quantum fluctuations

        The Pythagorean Theorem allows a small region of empty space to come into existence probabilistically due to quantum fluctuations

  • "Proof" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 11, 2014 @09:45AM (#46724519)

    This is not a "proof that the universe could have formed spontaneously from nothing". As is common in popular versions of science (and often even in peer-reviewed articles by scientists), there is a confusion between modeling reality and reality itself. All this proves is that the current most accurate (in terms of making predictions that we can measure) mathematical model of reality does not contradict the claim that the universe spawned from nothing (and of course the term "nothing" here is tenuous at best--it certainly isn't philosophical nothingness, because something did indeed exist, i.e. a state in which quantum fluctuations were occurring, such a state is not nothing, it is something... perhaps by "nothing" they mean a vacuum, but again, a vacuum is something since it is still governed by laws). And let's not forget that though QM has a lot of predictive power as a model, it is still just that, a model.

    • 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: (Score:2, Informative)

      by jythie (914043)
      Which is why it is described a 'mathmatical proof', a domain where 'proof' has a different and specific usage then general english.
    • Note that the words "could have" are used, which makes your point moot. They are not claiming that the Universe formed spontaneously from nothing, they are claiming that such claims cannot be refuted (yet). Or, alternatively, they're claiming that theories involving from-nothing Universes do not refute existing results; unlike, say, a theory which allows faster-than-light travel, which *would* refute existing results, and therefore have a much larger burden of proof (ie. it would have to be able to replace

  • by Ricyteach (2565289) on Friday April 11, 2014 @09:51AM (#46724579)
    In "God and the Astronomers", agnostic Robert Jastrow chronicles the development of the Big Bang theory, and how for decades many physicists resisted it; not because of data, but because it meant the universe had a beginning, which was at odds with their worldview (“The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be." --Karl Sagan). They recognized that if there was ever truly NOTHING, that science would never be able to explain why there is SOMETHING. The question of origins is outside the reach of scientific inquiry. I wish the physicists would stop playing in the philosophical and theological sandbox.
    • I think this is in part why so much attention is being spent on the big bang and what could have caused it. Currently, it's an impervious wall, but we want to know what's on the other side of it.
    • by Boronx (228853)

      "I wish the physicists would stop playing in the philosophical and theological sandbox."

      Of course you do. Theologians have already had their sandbox reduced by scientists, and you wouldn't want it to shrink any more than it already has.

  • by fadethepolice (689344) on Friday April 11, 2014 @09:57AM (#46724643) Journal
    Since the equations only express the properties of the universe, what exaclty did the quantum fluctuation occur in? This seems to be more of a confirmation of M-theory than that the universe came from nothing. What is the formula for the state directly before the fluctuation ocurred? It seems that state would be necessary to calculate what the fluctuation occurred IN. That would, to me, be more of a discovery.
  • by TrollstonButterbeans (2914995) on Friday April 11, 2014 @09:59AM (#46724673)
    So "nothing" has quantum fluctuations.

    I have zero apples, which one will produce an apple seed to grow a tree.

    Note: The article itself doesn't imply what the summary says, but the summary here makes the article seem like nonsense.
    • by naasking (94116)

      I have zero apples, which one will produce an apple seed to grow a tree.

      While extremely unlikely, given a long enough timeline an apple seed will spontaneously form due to quantum fluctuations. So the zeroth apple will produce that seed.

  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:00AM (#46724677)
    In what was there fluctuations? This might seem like a glib question but, I actually am interested in the answer. Their theory seems to cover the idea of where all the stuff (including space) came from. But where did the "thing" that was fluctuating come from? And no I am not implying religion.
  • MIND FUCKING BLOWN what happens when our universe collides with another universe.. Whats in the empty space that our universe is expanding to? WHERE IS FLIGHT 370!>!>!>!>!
  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:04AM (#46724711) Homepage
    That is, I could just as easily write down:

    E=M*(C cubed)

    But that doesn't mean it is 'right'. The correct formula is E= M*(C squared) and it doesn't matter how many times I write any other formula.

    As such, math can describe ANY internally consistent theory. (and even some internally inconsistent ones). It is only through practical testing that we can determine if the math is right.

  • by gweihir (88907) on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:09AM (#46724759)

    Or rather not applicable. Physics is not accessible to mathematics, Mathematics is just a tool physics uses on formalized abstractions of physics. These abstractions _always_ introduce inaccuracies, and hence no mathematical proof can ever apply to physics directly or absolutely. Mathematics can just not bridge these transformation steps. That is the tasks of Physics.

  • I don't see how it would be possible for a quantum fluctuation to create the universe it is a part of, but maybe I just don't understand the theory and principles involved. Wouldn't we have to verify that our mathematics work and quantum fluctuations exist outside our own universe before a proof like this would be valid?
  • However do what you like to zero - you're not getting any other value from it unless you have another value -ie something non zero - to begin with. This theory does nothing to explain how something arose from nothing.

  • When I see a null self initialize into something there will be proof. Until then it is a git semantic proof that is easily exposed as shenanigans with language.
  • I have some basic understanding on a non-physicist level of what quantum physics is all about, the weirdness that is involved with it and how it scales to the world I can see, but this I simply cannot fathom.

    How can quantum fluctuations occur in absolute nothingness?

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

    What does this mean, really? Either a thing did or didn't happen. What does it mean to have proved that it could have happened?

    Is there room for someone to come along later and prove that it couldn't have happened for reasons not yet understood?

    What if we discover the universe didn't form spontaneously from nothing? Would that disprove this "proof"?

    Car analogy time: if I see a car at a certain place, and I measure its speed at 60mph, then I could claim to have "proven" that it could have been 60 miles away

  • More likely it's the result of the infinite improbability drive. I just hope that the Universe and Arthur Dent never meet.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:36AM (#46725041) Journal
    Math proofs are based on a set of axioms or starting assumptions. All the mathematical proofs are simply inevitable consequences of the axioms, that is all. Every mathematical proofs say, "this is consistent with your original assumptions". That is all, nothing more, nothing less.

    I remember reading about an European mathematician who set out to prove that Euclidean geometry was the only possible geometry. He came up with lemma after lemma, conjecture after conjecture, but no matter how hard he tried he could not prove non-Euclidean geometry could not exist. All those proofs, lemmas and work on conjectures formed the mainstay of the branch of non-Eucledian Geometry.

    So all the math proof tells you is, if you make a set of assumptions, cosmos could be created spontaneously.

  • Heisenberg's uncertainty principle allows a small region of empty space to come into existence probabilistically due to quantum fluctuations.

    Ok, so this entire premise is refuted by this one statement.
    This statement assumes there was "Space" prior to the big bang. There was neither time or space prior to the big bang... in fact, there WAS NO PRIOR TO THE BIG BANG. It would be like arguing that "This triangle rolled across the floor while it was a circle"

    Secondly, it also assumes that the universes physical laws like quantum mechanics still applied prior to the big bang. There were no universal laws, and once again there is no "Prior to the big b

  • So is it likely that we will shortly have a new universe start forming in the middle of our current one?
    • Mod parent up. I was just thinking the same thing. What if a new universe exploded tomorrow from your neighbor's dog?
  • Heisenberg's uncertainty principle allows a small region of empty space to come into existence probabilistically due to quantum fluctuations.

    I'm afraid my poor little brain is ill equipped to understand this.

    So, if there was 'nothing', WTF is there to be 'quantum fluctuating'?

    A fluctuation of nothing produced everything?

    Sometimes (okay, often) ... when people speak of quantum mechanics I have no idea of WTF they're saying or how it translates into reality.

  • I was about to blame Slashdot for a bad headline when I realized that the article actually states that this mathematical proof offers evidence that the universe could have spontaneously formed from nothing. But if the universe really did form spontaneously from nothing, wouldn't that violate the law of conservation of mass and energy?

    After reading the article, it sounds like they have a good theory about what happened during the Big Bang, but I didn't see anything in the article that offered proof that
  • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Friday April 11, 2014 @11:13AM (#46725469)

    This proof, while impressive, does not proof that the cosmos could have formed spontaneously. It only shows that the big bang was not the start of the cosmos and something early and yet unknown pre-existed it. The old axiom that "ex nihilo nihil fit" (nothing can come from nothing), still holds, because if there were nothing, no matter, no energy, no anything, then there couldn't be quantum fluctuations to spontaneously form the universe.

    As such, the big bang must not have been the start of universe, but probably very, very, very close to the start of the universe.

  • by rgbatduke (1231380) <rgb@@@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.

An Ada exception is when a routine gets in trouble and says 'Beam me up, Scotty'.

Working...