A team of Canadian theoretical physicists claim to have solved the question of how the Universe arose from nothing. And guess what? It didn't need a magic creator; it can all be explained in materialist terms.
Now, I don't have the maths or detailed knowledge of physics to be able to fully understand the underlying principles they used, let alone to be able to explain it in simple terms, so I'm dependant on what others have said.
Regrettably, the full paper sits behind a paywall so I only have the abstract and the comments of science journalists who know more than I do about this stuff to go by, however, there are a few idea which are not that difficult to grasp, even by me.
Firstly, as has been known for some time now, pairs of virtual particles spontaneously arise in a quantum vacuum - the nearest thing in science to pure 'nothing' - due to fluctuations in the quantum energy field. In other words, the energy in a quantum vacuum only averages zero at any one point. It actually randomly fluctuates a little around zero and, when that fluctuation is large enough, the available small amount of energy can manifest as a pair of particles with a very short lifespan.
The analogy here is that of sea level. Although it's valid enough at a large scale to talk about the height of a tide at any given point in time at a given location, in fact, the surface of the water isn't flat, so this height actually fluctuates about the mean. Waves on the surface of the water are non-zero fluctuations, the height of which is random but follows a 'Poisson' frequency distribution curve.
Secondly, in an example of human intuition being a poor measure of reality, asking how the Universe came from nothing is asking the wrong question, since it assumes the Universe is not nothing. In fact, just as a fluctuating quantum energy field averages out as nothing but becomes more ordered when virtual particles are produced, so the Universe itself averages out as nothing, only an elegantly ordered nothing. This zero-sum Universe has been known about for some considerable time. I tried to explain it here nearly three years ago.
Thirdly, the conditions pertaining at the Planck length, i.e. the smallest unit of space that can exist, give rise to what is called 'Doubly Special Relativity'. Under these conditions, the tiny energies contained in virtual particles become almost infinitely magnified, giving rise to enough energy to create all the mass in the Universe and a duration long enough to create a 13.8 billion year-old Universe with some considerable time yet to run.
In this work, we investigate inflationary cosmology using scalar field theory deformed by the generalized uncertainty principle (GUP) containing a linear momentum term. Apart from being consistent with the existence of a minimum measurable length scale, this GUP is also consistent with doubly special relativity and hence with the existence of maximum measurable momentum. We use this deformed scalar field theory to analyze the tensor and scalar mode equations in a de Sitter background, and to calculate modifications to the tensor-to-scalar ratio. Finally, we compare our results for the tensor-to-scalar ratio with the Planck data to constrain the minimum length parameter in the GUP.*
Short distance physics of the inflationary de Sitter universe
Ahmed Farag Ali, Mir Faizal and Mohammed M. Khalil
Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics, Volume 2015, September 2015 DOI: 10.1088/1475-7516/2015/09/025
*© 2015 IOP Publishing Ltd and Sissa Medialab srl
The finding of this team is certainly raising interest in those who understand these things. Paul Baldwin, writing in the Daily Express, for example, has virtually proclaimed it to be the end of religion.
A TEAM of scientists have made what may turn out to be the most important discovery in HISTORY – how the universe came into being from nothing.
The colossal question has troubled religions, philosophers and scientists since the dawn of time but now a Canadian team believe they have solved the riddle.
And the findings are so conclusive they even challenge the need for religion, or at least an omnipotent creator – the basis of all world religions.
The Daily Express is not exactly known for its scientific coverage let alone for its objectivity and tends to go for the sensational headline rather than the objective truth in a story, but the (somewhat garbled) interview with Prof. Mir, co-author of the paper is interesting.
[Asked if this removed the need for a God figure to kick start the universe] If by God you mean a supernatural super man who breaks his own laws then yes he’s done for, you just don’t need him.
The story starts with laws of quantum mechanics, where the energy of a system at any given time [cannot be] known with absolute certainly [sic]. So, basically we cannot also state that a system has zero energy as that would be amount to specifying an exact amount of energy at a given time.
This uncertainty which occurs due to quantum mechanics can lead to the creation of small amount of energy from nothing as long as it exists only for a very small amount of time. Such particle created out of nothing are called virtual particles. The consequences of the existence of such virtual particles has been tested experimentally.
The problem with this explanation is that such virtual particles can only have a small amount of energy for a very small amount of time. To get a universe the size of our universe from such small amount of energy, a theory called inflation is used.
According to inflation the small amount of energy created from nothing underwent a rapid expansion, resulting in the formation of the universe as we see it today. During this time, the positive energy in the matter of the universe and negative energy in form of gravity was created such that they exactly balanced each other. The total energy of the universe still being zero.
Even though inflation has been studied before, recently it has been studied using a new theory called doubly special relativity. According to doubly special relativity there is a maximum energy and no particle in the universe can attain an energy greater than that energy. Just as Einstein’s theory of relativity reduces to Newton’s theory for low velocities, doubly special relativity reduces to Einstein’s theory of relativity for low enough energies.
Just as we do not observe any effect from Einstein’s theory of relativity for objects traveling slowly, we do not observe any effect from doubly special relativity even for particles at low energies. This maximum energy (Planck energy) is so large that even the particle at the LHC can be considered to possess low enough energies compared to it. However, the energy at the beginning of the universe is large enough to consider the effects coming from doubly special relativity.
This means if you divide a stick into half, you cannot continue this process indefinitely. As you will come across a length scale below which space does not exist. This length is also so small that it is usually neglected by scientists when studding most phenomena. But it cannot be neglected when the beginning of the universe.
The effect of the existence of this minimum length on inflation had been studied before by Brian Greene (Author of the famous book Elegant Universe). However, this is the first time that inflation has been studied by combining the doubly special relativity with the existence of a minimum length scale in nature.
Professor Mir Faizal,
Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
(quoted in the Daily Express)
The claim that the findings are so conclusive that they put an end to the 'God did it!' argument (and thus effectively remove gods from any involvement - the basic argument for religion) may be slightly over-optimistic and probably gives too much credit for honesty to religious people. Fundamentalists at least, are not going to give up their cherished excuse because of mere scientific evidence.
Besides, this stuff is so difficult to understand without the advanced mathematics denied to those of us without advanced degrees in the subject, that it will be simpler for religious people to do what they've always done with contrary scientific evidence, and simply dismiss it as the product of mad, elitist and/or dishonest 'sciencist' scientists trying to pull the wool over our eyes. If it disagrees with them, science must be wrong because they have a book which contains all the truth anyway - it says so in the book so it must be true because the book is true because it says so... ad infinitum.
Ignorant incredulity, intellectual dishonesty and confirmation bias will inevitably win the day in these circles. It's better to be in the in-group and be wrong than to be right and be in the out-group. Besides, the in-group has granted itself the special privilege of being able to define what's true and what isn't. It's a matter of 'faith'.
For cults that rely increasingly on 'God of the Gaps' arguments and use a false dichotomy fallacy to convince their ignorant and intellectually dishonest followers that, if science is wrong or can't explain something, then the only alternative on offer is their particular superstition or locally popular god, this finding can't be considered exactly helpful. It's yet another example of science shining a light in yet another gap and finding it to be totally devoid of gods.
'via Blog this'