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Quantum Fluctuations and The Emperor's New Clothes

  1. Don W profile image83
    Don Wposted 7 years ago

    Last year in a series of lectures, one of which titled 'Life, the Universe and Nothing', physicist Lawrence Krauss suggested that the question 'why something rather than nothing' has been answered by science - there was not much comment on this until the science and reasoning was summarised by Stephen Hawking and it became 'news', but I guess that's the nature of the vacuous, popular-media-centric world we live in - Anyway, without rehashing the science, there are various hypothesis in current physics which are said by some to relate to the question. E.g. quantum "vacuum", quantum fluctuations. A flat universe (now tested). M-theory and its one dimensional strings, membranes and so on.

    Now it seems to me, that this situation is rather like the story of the Emperor's New Clothes in relation to the question 'why something rather than nothing?' Something very obvious is not being said. Is it just me, or is it the case that none of these ideas address this particular question, let alone answer it?

    Quantum fluctuations are something, not nothing. Calling quantum particles 'nothing', doesn't make them nothing. If virtual particles are popping in and out of existence in empty space (which they may well be) then 'empty' space is a contradiction in terms. Likewise, zero-point energy is not nothing. Membranes are not nothing. One dimensional oscillating strings are not nothing. And a multi-verse (the set of multiple possible universes) is not nothing. It feels like the Emperor's New Clothes, because people are suggesting the answer is there, but it seems quite obvious that it isn't. Have I missed something?

    I am genuinely confused as to why and how anyone could think that the most current ideas in physics relate to this meta-physical question. Physics is nowhere near being able to answer that question, and it's debatable whether it ever will be given the nature of physics and the nature of the question. Hence meta-physics. Simply put, if it's thought the universe came into being though quantum fluctuations etc (which is something) then how does that relate in any way to the question 'why something rather than nothing?'

    If modern physics is saying that 'nothing' i.e. a state void of any thing, is not possible, fine. But that doesn't answer the question. It just shifts it. The question then becomes 'why a quantum state, rather than no state?' If the answer is 'don't know', surely it's better to to be ingenuous about that, than for Lawrence Krauss and Stephen Hawking to play a word game and say something came out of nothing which isn't really true. If I've missed something here, by all means shed some light on the subject.

    1. profile image60
      paarsurreyposted 7 years agoin reply to this

      Thanks for writing "something"; though I have read it fully; yet I have understood "nothing".

      Anybody please tell us something from it in plain words.


      1. Beelzedad profile image55
        Beelzedadposted 7 years agoin reply to this

        Sometimes, in order to understand the world around you, it helps to not just read only one book. smile

        1. Shadesbreath profile image84
          Shadesbreathposted 7 years agoin reply to this


        2. profile image60
          paarsurreyposted 7 years agoin reply to this

          One cannot read and understand all the books; they are not deisghned to be read by ordinary people.

          Quran is a Revealed Book; it mentions the Big Bang in a very simple way as it is a guidance for everybody:

          [21:31] Do not the disbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were a closed-up mass, then We opened them out? And We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?

          http://www.alislam.org/quran/search2/sh … p;verse=30

          1. Beelzedad profile image55
            Beelzedadposted 7 years agoin reply to this

            But, a book, by it's very nature IS designed to be read by people, notwithstanding.

            And who amongst us can stand up and say we've read them all? Probably none.

            Neither do our limits though, preclude our abilities to go beyond them and achieve that which seems utterly impossible.

            Most of us land somewhere in the middle keeping within our conceived limits but at the very least trying to achieve an element of reaching near them rather than not making the attempt at all for fear of going beyond them.  smile

            1. profile image60
              paarsurreyposted 7 years agoin reply to this


              I try to know if written in easy language; technical language or terminology is difficult to understand

              1. Beelzedad profile image55
                Beelzedadposted 7 years agoin reply to this

                Easy as an excuse is an easy way of trying to get out of understanding. smile

    2. Beelzedad profile image55
      Beelzedadposted 7 years agoin reply to this

      The concept of quantum fluctuations is that of borrowed energy, which can be borrowed from a source and then later returned to the source depending on what happens to it. If it is such that the borrowed energy does not happen to be returned to its source, it can materialize itself in other ways.

      For example, we have two particles of matter and one particle of anti-matter. When brought together, one particle of matter and the particle of anti-matter will annihilate each other and release a tremendous amount of energy leaving the other particle of matter to continue existing. Since energy and matter can be converted to one another, the same thing can happen with particles of energy. This is what is theorized as what happened when our universe began.

      The left over energy from the quantum fluctuations of the Big Bang is what was left over, which formed our universe. smile

      1. profile image60
        paarsurreyposted 7 years agoin reply to this

        Thanks for explaining it.

      2. Don W profile image83
        Don Wposted 7 years agoin reply to this

        That's all fair enough. What I'm struggling to understand is why someone as apparently sensible as Lawrence Krauss thinks this is the same as something from nothing. Saying the universe may have begun through quantum fluctations is not at all the same as saying the universe may have begun from 'nothing'. And now Hawking with his suggestion that the universe will "create itself from nothing". Are physicists (and journalists) that philosophically naive? Don't get me wrong, I have no issue with the quantum fluctuation part onwards, but you either you start from nothing, then jump straight to quantum fluctuations, in which case that needs some explanation, or you start with quantum fluctuations, in which case you're not starting from nothing.   

        And this is not an isolated occurrence. Earlier in the year the NY Times ran this article about a paper written by Eric Verlinde. In that paper he is quoted as saying "gravity doesn't exist". However, if you read the summary of the actual paper all he's really suggesting is that gravity is not a fundamental force (it's not necessarily a very good paper). But again saying gravity is not fundamental is not the same as saying 'gravity doesn't exist' (and besides it does exist because it seems to go haywire when I drink a certain amount!). What's gotten into physicists of late? And how does explaining complex scientific ideas to non-scientists in a misleading way help the advancement of scientific knowledge? I know people want to sell books, but this is ridiculous.