Brain Pickings

The Science of Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing


What the greatest mystery of science has to do with this moment we share, right now.

We’ve previously explored the complex scientific underpinning of concepts we’ve come to see as cultural givens, such as time, infinity, and consciousness. But perhaps our most fundamental solid ground, the kind of existential stake on which we peg our very understanding of the world and our place in it, are the concepts of “something” and “nothing,” and nothing is more mind-bending than the proposition that there is no such thing as “nothing.” That’s precisely what theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss explores in A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing — a riveting cosmological story that seeks to unravel the greatest mystery of science: where the energy in the universe comes from. Krauss uses groundbreaking scientific research to subvert some of humanity’s most basic and enduring philosophical questions, based on the premise that the nature of “something” and “nothing” is a scientific inquiry rather than theological or philosophical one.

Everything we see is just one percent of cosmic pollution in universe dominated by dark matter and dark energy. You could get rid of all the things in the night sky — the stars, the galaxies, the planets, everything — and the universe would be largely the same.”

This, of course, is not to say there isn’t room for philosophical reflection in these grand questions. Just take this one, brilliant in its exquisite simplicity, from my favorite illustrator and visual philosopher, Wendy MacNaughton (remember her?), titled The Universe and Forever:

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