Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Krauss on something and nothing

Expand Messages
  • Jim
    All, I have just completed Lawrence Krauss s book A Universe From Nothing which Wil recommended a month or so ago. I endorse Wil s recommendation –
    Message 1 of 4 , Apr 24 11:53 AM
    • 0 Attachment
      All,

      I have just completed Lawrence Krauss's book "A Universe From Nothing" which Wil recommended a month or so ago.

      I endorse Wil's recommendation – Krauss's book is a great read. Krauss has the ability to explain complicated scientific theories and experiments in a clear and lively way which makes the theories understandable to the general reader. I followed just about all Krauss's arguments although I struggled a bit in the last couple of chapters.

      The book is just about all science. In fact Krauss does not have any time for philosophy. He gives the impression that he thinks philosophy is as useless and unnecessary as theology.

      Putting that prejudice to one side, I learnt a lot about science – about cosmology, relativity and quantum mechanics.

      He didn't start addressing the question of how something (our universe of solid matter) could arise out of nothing until about half-way through the book. In the early part of the book Krauss made me realize for the first time just how big our universe actually is.

      As a scientist, Krauss rightly says he is concerned to answer `How' questions rather than `Why' questions. I guess he thinks `Why' questions are just badly formulated questions.

      So around page 100 he starts to answer the question "How is there something rather than nothing?"

      He seems to answer this question in two stages, corresponding to two different conceptions of `nothing'. The two questions he addresses are:

      (1) How does matter emerge from empty space?
      (2) How does empty space emerge out of nothing at all?

      He spends more time on question one (roughly in pages 100-160), and he addresses question two much more briefly (roughly in pages 160-180).

      So his first definition of `nothing' is empty space. But this is a bit of a cheat because empty space is not really nothing. Rather empty space contains energy and has negative pressure. He writes:

      "Empty space is complicated. It is a boiling brew of virtual particles that pop in and out of existence in a time so short we cannot see them directly" (153)

      So when he writes on page 105: "The structures we see, like stars and galaxies, were all created by quantum fluctuations from nothing", he really means "The structures we see, like stars and galaxies, were all created by quantum fluctuations from empty space." And, further, this empty space is not really empty as it contains a boiling brew of virtual particles continually popping in and out of existence. So Krauss does have a tendency to `over dramatize' his descriptions for extra effect.

      Elsewhere he describes the process more soberly:

      "According to this picture, when inflation ends, the energy stored in empty space gets turned into an energy of real particles and radiation, creating effectively the traceable beginning of our present Big Bang expansion." (150)

      "... small density fluctuations in empty space due to the rules of quantum mechanics will later be responsible for all the structure we observe in the universe today. So we, and everything we see, result out of quantum fluctuations in what is essentially nothingness near the beginning of time, namely during the inflationary explasion." (150-1)

      "… it is possible to begin with equal amounts of matter and antimatter in an early hot, dense Big Bang, and for plausible quantum processes to `create something from nothing' by establishing a small asymmetry, with a slight excess of matter over antimatter in the early universe." (157)

      "Antimatter particles would annihilate with the matter particles in the early universe, and the remaining excess of matter particles would survive through to the present day, establishing the character of the visible universe we know and love and inhabit." (157)

      "Quantum processes associated with elementary particles in the primordial heat bath can inexorably drive an empty universe (or equivalently an initially matter-antimatter symmetric universe) almost imperceptibly toward a universe that will be dominated by matter or antimatter. (158)

      All this makes Krauss's answer to question one above convincing in my view.

      However his answer to question two seems more sketchy and speculative to me. He writes:

      "… a quantum theory of gravity allows for the creation, albeit perhaps momentarily, of space itself where none existed before." (163-4)

      "[Last chapter] `nothing' meant empty but preexisting space combined with fixed and well-known laws of physics. Now the requirement of space has been removed. ... `Nothing' in this case no space, no time, no anything! – is unstable." (170)

      I wonder what others who have read Krauss's both make of his answers to questions one and two. As I say I am reasonably convinced by his answer to question one but not to his answer to question two.

      I also don't think science can answer all our questions about existence. Scientific answers give us lots of information about ourselves and the world, but they only push the ultimate questions further back. Even when Krauss answers all his `How' questions, I think there will still be some residual `Why' questions which philosophy is equipped to tackle.

      Now to start on Jim Holt's book.

      Jim
    • Mary
      Jim, I finished Holt s book this morning. His survey of explanations includes quantum fluctuation as well as several others and more philosophical theories.
      Message 2 of 4 , Apr 24 12:58 PM
      • 0 Attachment
        Jim,

        I finished Holt's book this morning. His survey of explanations includes quantum fluctuation as well as several others and more philosophical theories. During the panel discussion Holt accused Krauss of not answering why there is something rather than nothing, which as you know he simply dismisses. I'm curious to know if you think Holt himself satisfactorily answers the question. I think Holt's book offers a good selection of theories which any reader can pursue in depth as well as develop their own.

        Mary

        --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Jim" <jjimstuart1@...> wrote:
        >
        > All,
        >
        > I have just completed Lawrence Krauss's book "A Universe From Nothing" which Wil recommended a month or so ago.
        >
        > I endorse Wil's recommendation – Krauss's book is a great read. Krauss has the ability to explain complicated scientific theories and experiments in a clear and lively way which makes the theories understandable to the general reader. I followed just about all Krauss's arguments although I struggled a bit in the last couple of chapters.
        >
        > The book is just about all science. In fact Krauss does not have any time for philosophy. He gives the impression that he thinks philosophy is as useless and unnecessary as theology.
        >
        > Putting that prejudice to one side, I learnt a lot about science – about cosmology, relativity and quantum mechanics.
        >
        > He didn't start addressing the question of how something (our universe of solid matter) could arise out of nothing until about half-way through the book. In the early part of the book Krauss made me realize for the first time just how big our universe actually is.
        >
        > As a scientist, Krauss rightly says he is concerned to answer `How' questions rather than `Why' questions. I guess he thinks `Why' questions are just badly formulated questions.
        >
        > So around page 100 he starts to answer the question "How is there something rather than nothing?"
        >
        > He seems to answer this question in two stages, corresponding to two different conceptions of `nothing'. The two questions he addresses are:
        >
        > (1) How does matter emerge from empty space?
        > (2) How does empty space emerge out of nothing at all?
        >
        > He spends more time on question one (roughly in pages 100-160), and he addresses question two much more briefly (roughly in pages 160-180).
        >
        > So his first definition of `nothing' is empty space. But this is a bit of a cheat because empty space is not really nothing. Rather empty space contains energy and has negative pressure. He writes:
        >
        > "Empty space is complicated. It is a boiling brew of virtual particles that pop in and out of existence in a time so short we cannot see them directly" (153)
        >
        > So when he writes on page 105: "The structures we see, like stars and galaxies, were all created by quantum fluctuations from nothing", he really means "The structures we see, like stars and galaxies, were all created by quantum fluctuations from empty space." And, further, this empty space is not really empty as it contains a boiling brew of virtual particles continually popping in and out of existence. So Krauss does have a tendency to `over dramatize' his descriptions for extra effect.
        >
        > Elsewhere he describes the process more soberly:
        >
        > "According to this picture, when inflation ends, the energy stored in empty space gets turned into an energy of real particles and radiation, creating effectively the traceable beginning of our present Big Bang expansion." (150)
        >
        > "... small density fluctuations in empty space due to the rules of quantum mechanics will later be responsible for all the structure we observe in the universe today. So we, and everything we see, result out of quantum fluctuations in what is essentially nothingness near the beginning of time, namely during the inflationary explasion." (150-1)
        >
        > "… it is possible to begin with equal amounts of matter and antimatter in an early hot, dense Big Bang, and for plausible quantum processes to `create something from nothing' by establishing a small asymmetry, with a slight excess of matter over antimatter in the early universe." (157)
        >
        > "Antimatter particles would annihilate with the matter particles in the early universe, and the remaining excess of matter particles would survive through to the present day, establishing the character of the visible universe we know and love and inhabit." (157)
        >
        > "Quantum processes associated with elementary particles in the primordial heat bath can inexorably drive an empty universe (or equivalently an initially matter-antimatter symmetric universe) almost imperceptibly toward a universe that will be dominated by matter or antimatter. (158)
        >
        > All this makes Krauss's answer to question one above convincing in my view.
        >
        > However his answer to question two seems more sketchy and speculative to me. He writes:
        >
        > "… a quantum theory of gravity allows for the creation, albeit perhaps momentarily, of space itself where none existed before." (163-4)
        >
        > "[Last chapter] `nothing' meant empty but preexisting space combined with fixed and well-known laws of physics. Now the requirement of space has been removed. ... `Nothing' in this case no space, no time, no anything! – is unstable." (170)
        >
        > I wonder what others who have read Krauss's both make of his answers to questions one and two. As I say I am reasonably convinced by his answer to question one but not to his answer to question two.
        >
        > I also don't think science can answer all our questions about existence. Scientific answers give us lots of information about ourselves and the world, but they only push the ultimate questions further back. Even when Krauss answers all his `How' questions, I think there will still be some residual `Why' questions which philosophy is equipped to tackle.
        >
        > Now to start on Jim Holt's book.
        >
        > Jim
        >
      • Jim
        Mary, I m looking forward to starting Holt s book. I feel Krauss has given me the scientific background, so I m looking to Holt to discuss some different
        Message 3 of 4 , Apr 24 2:45 PM
        • 0 Attachment
          Mary,

          I'm looking forward to starting Holt's book.

          I feel Krauss has given me the scientific background, so I'm looking to Holt to discuss some different philosophical approaches to the question of why there is something and how nothing can best be characterised.

          Jim
        • eduardathome
          I have seen that answer to (1) elsewhere although it could be from Krauss. I don t spend much time on it, as I don t think it s important except for
          Message 4 of 4 , Apr 24 4:31 PM
          • 0 Attachment
            I have seen that answer to (1) elsewhere although it could be from Krauss.
            I don't spend much time on it, as I don't think it's important except for
            scientists. It provides a scientific answer. It could be said in a
            paragraph rather than pages. Scientists like philosophers like to write a
            lot. The universe started as a boiling pot of virtual particles and the
            pluses came out ahead of the minuses ... otherwise we would have a
            anti-matter universe.

            The question to (2) is more difficult since one would have to explain how
            the virtual nothingness got started in the first place. I would leave that
            to the scientists as well. It probably is worth a sentence or two.

            eduard

            -----Original Message-----
            From: Jim
            Sent: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 2:53 PM
            To: existlist@yahoogroups.com
            Subject: [existlist] Krauss on something and nothing

            All,

            I have just completed Lawrence Krauss's book "A Universe From Nothing" which
            Wil recommended a month or so ago.

            I endorse Wil's recommendation – Krauss's book is a great read. Krauss has
            the ability to explain complicated scientific theories and experiments in a
            clear and lively way which makes the theories understandable to the general
            reader. I followed just about all Krauss's arguments although I struggled a
            bit in the last couple of chapters.

            The book is just about all science. In fact Krauss does not have any time
            for philosophy. He gives the impression that he thinks philosophy is as
            useless and unnecessary as theology.

            Putting that prejudice to one side, I learnt a lot about science – about
            cosmology, relativity and quantum mechanics.

            He didn't start addressing the question of how something (our universe of
            solid matter) could arise out of nothing until about half-way through the
            book. In the early part of the book Krauss made me realize for the first
            time just how big our universe actually is.

            As a scientist, Krauss rightly says he is concerned to answer `How'
            questions rather than `Why' questions. I guess he thinks `Why' questions are
            just badly formulated questions.

            So around page 100 he starts to answer the question "How is there something
            rather than nothing?"

            He seems to answer this question in two stages, corresponding to two
            different conceptions of `nothing'. The two questions he addresses are:

            (1) How does matter emerge from empty space?
            (2) How does empty space emerge out of nothing at all?

            He spends more time on question one (roughly in pages 100-160), and he
            addresses question two much more briefly (roughly in pages 160-180).

            So his first definition of `nothing' is empty space. But this is a bit of a
            cheat because empty space is not really nothing. Rather empty space contains
            energy and has negative pressure. He writes:

            "Empty space is complicated. It is a boiling brew of virtual particles that
            pop in and out of existence in a time so short we cannot see them directly"
            (153)

            So when he writes on page 105: "The structures we see, like stars and
            galaxies, were all created by quantum fluctuations from nothing", he really
            means "The structures we see, like stars and galaxies, were all created by
            quantum fluctuations from empty space." And, further, this empty space is
            not really empty as it contains a boiling brew of virtual particles
            continually popping in and out of existence. So Krauss does have a tendency
            to `over dramatize' his descriptions for extra effect.

            Elsewhere he describes the process more soberly:

            "According to this picture, when inflation ends, the energy stored in empty
            space gets turned into an energy of real particles and radiation, creating
            effectively the traceable beginning of our present Big Bang expansion."
            (150)

            "... small density fluctuations in empty space due to the rules of quantum
            mechanics will later be responsible for all the structure we observe in the
            universe today. So we, and everything we see, result out of quantum
            fluctuations in what is essentially nothingness near the beginning of time,
            namely during the inflationary explasion." (150-1)

            "… it is possible to begin with equal amounts of matter and antimatter in an
            early hot, dense Big Bang, and for plausible quantum processes to `create
            something from nothing' by establishing a small asymmetry, with a slight
            excess of matter over antimatter in the early universe." (157)

            "Antimatter particles would annihilate with the matter particles in the
            early universe, and the remaining excess of matter particles would survive
            through to the present day, establishing the character of the visible
            universe we know and love and inhabit." (157)

            "Quantum processes associated with elementary particles in the primordial
            heat bath can inexorably drive an empty universe (or equivalently an
            initially matter-antimatter symmetric universe) almost imperceptibly toward
            a universe that will be dominated by matter or antimatter. (158)

            All this makes Krauss's answer to question one above convincing in my view.

            However his answer to question two seems more sketchy and speculative to me.
            He writes:

            "… a quantum theory of gravity allows for the creation, albeit perhaps
            momentarily, of space itself where none existed before." (163-4)

            "[Last chapter] `nothing' meant empty but preexisting space combined with
            fixed and well-known laws of physics. Now the requirement of space has been
            removed. ... `Nothing' in this case no space, no time, no anything! – is
            unstable." (170)

            I wonder what others who have read Krauss's both make of his answers to
            questions one and two. As I say I am reasonably convinced by his answer to
            question one but not to his answer to question two.

            I also don't think science can answer all our questions about existence.
            Scientific answers give us lots of information about ourselves and the
            world, but they only push the ultimate questions further back. Even when
            Krauss answers all his `How' questions, I think there will still be some
            residual `Why' questions which philosophy is equipped to tackle.

            Now to start on Jim Holt's book.

            Jim




            ------------------------------------

            Please support the Existential Primer... dedicated to explaining nothing!

            Home Page: http://www.tameri.com/csw/existYahoo! Groups Links
          Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.