Home > Cosmic Origins, General Cosmology > Ask an Astrophysicist on the Origin of the Universe

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.

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  1. franktastukart
    07/27/2010 at 12:58 PM

    the answer to your question is yes there is no matter, no energy, no space, no time, no physical laws, no vacuum, etc this is a one of the hardest thing for most people and some physicists to rap there heads around. when you think of the lack of space and time. most people think of a big blank space. but that is wrong.

  2. 11/02/2010 at 11:56 PM

    I had not thought of it that way, but I agree. The closest thing we have to nothing is the vacuum of space. When we think of nothing we tend to think of black emptiness in every direction. But even empty space is filled to the brim with matter and energy (electromagnetic waves, dark energy, gamma radiation) and is still constrained within time. We have no idea of what absolute nothing is like. How can you say that this “nothing” created everything when [a. you have no concept of absolute nothing and [b. it is beyond any human logic to believe that everything came from nothing in the first place.

  3. Eric
    12/16/2010 at 11:18 PM

    how can there be no matter when mass is nonzero?

  4. Pachomius
    01/18/2011 at 3:50 PM

    [quote]

    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

    [unquote]

    “No one knows.”

    That is the most glaring example of a cop-out.

    The man has jettisoned his logical mind.

    He should have said instead:

    “There is something but we don’t know what among the things we know at present.”

    And that is the correct answer if the man has not abandoned his logical mind.

    But the more interesting question is why some astrophysicists resort to such a cop-out from their logical mind?

    That is something for them to search their heart and of course logical mind about, if they still have some logical mind inside their brain, withal their habit of resorting to cop-outs.

  1. 08/28/2010 at 6:39 PM

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