Ask an Astrophysicist on the Origin of the Universe
NASA has a pretty cool feature called Ask an Astrophysicist in which you can ask a question to an astrophysicist. (duh!)
Well, about a month ago I asked the following question:
In various pop-science books and TV documentaries, astronomers and physicists sometimes refer to the universe expanding from ‘nothing.’ But what exactly do they mean by ‘nothing?’ Does that mean no matter, no energy, no space, no time, no physical laws, no vacuum, etc?
And this was the answer I received:
No one knows. Our understanding of physics does not extend this far. From a short time after the Big Bang until now, the broad history of the universe is becoming pretty well understood (though with big mysteries like dark energy and dark matter and a lot of other fascinating details to be filled in). But we have no current understanding of the very beginning.
Dr. Randy A. Kimble
JWST I&T Project Scientist
While I think “no current understanding” sounds a bit too absolute (after all, there certainly are a lot of very good ideas in theoretical physics), it really underscores the fact that we really don’t know much about the initial moments of the universe.