That is, our universe could have started out as a speck doomed to collapse to a singularity, but instead it tunneled through the energy barrier to a larger radius, initiating inflation Figure 1.
But this was not all. Vilenkin demonstrated mathematically that the probability for tunneling did not vanish even when he took the initial size of the universe to be zero. In other words, the universe could tunnel to some radius that allowed it to inflate from literally nothing!
Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition. Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news. Crank mail is an occupational hazard for cosmologists. Edward Harrison, an astronomer at the University of Massachusetts, is no stranger to such odd correspondence, and he might have dismissed a letter that crossed his desk recently had he not noticed that it was from a retired chemistry professor named Charles Leffert.
One gets lots of crackpot mail, says Harrison. Secondly, when something with negative pressure expands, it doesn't lose energy as in the case of the petrol vapour in the car engine , it actually gains energy. So this amazing primordial field not only makes the Universe expand faster and faster, it pays itself energy for doing so.
When the inflationary scenario was first investigated by Alan Guth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he quickly spotted that the total field energy in a given region of inflating Universe would go on rising with the expansion. But, as explained, the overall energy of the Universe, taking into account the gravitational energy, remains zero throughout.
Guth understood that the inflationary phase was unstable, and would soon come to an abrupt halt. When it did, the invisible field energy it had accumulated would be released in a surge of creative activity, generating the searing heat and violent burst of matter production that we have come to associate with the big bang.
The picture we now have for the origin of the Universe is thus a curious one. First, time and space come into existence spontaneously. Then the Universe embarks on a brief phase of frenetic expansion, during which vast amounts of free energy accumulate in the primordial field. Finally the accelerating expansion ceases, releasing field energy to make heat and matter. The rest, as they say, is history. The fiery plasma gradually cooled to the point where stars could form.
These stars synthesised the remaining chemical elements in their cores. Then, over the aeons, planets, rocks, clouds, crystals and life emerged, and eventually intelligent beings who look back on the great cosmic story and wonder what, if anything, it all means. Many a philosopher has declared that nothing can come of nothing, or, to put it colloquially, that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
But the Universe, it seems, is the ultimate free lunch. Everything can come of nothing. Early theologians believed that God created the Universe from nothing. Has science rediscovered this basic concept? The answer is both yes and no. Cosmologists believe that given the laws of physics, the Universe does not need a creator. It can come into existence spontaneously and uncaused. But the laws of physics must be assumed already to have some sort of independent existence.
If the laws themselves came into existence only with the physical Universe, they obviously couldn't explain the origin of that Universe. It is tempting to say that the laws of physics were there before the big bang, but that is an abuse of language.
As I have explained, there was no time before the big bang. However, these laws may still be considered to exist in the logical sense of prior - that is, the laws are somehow more fundamental than the Universe they describe, in the same sense that the basic rules of geometry came before their application: Euclid's axioms are more fundamental than Pythagoras's theorem.
So science has done away with the need for a button-pushing creator who lives for eternity before making a Universe at a certain moment in time. Yet the laws that permit a Universe to create itself are even more impressive than a cosmic magician. If there is a meaning or purpose beneath physical existence, then it is to those laws rather than to the big bang that we should direct our attention. I believe St Augus-tine understood this, 15 centuries ago. The four-part series, 'The Universal Question', which began in The Independent yesterday, continues tomorrow and Tuesday.
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Create citation alert. Buy this article in print. Click here to jump the queue arXiv : The less energy is involved, the longer the bubble can exist. Curiously, the energy in a gravitational field is negative, while the energy locked up in matter is positive. If the universe is exactly flat, then as Tryon pointed out the two numbers cancel out, and the overall energy of the universe is precisely zero.
In that case, the quantum rules allow it to last forever. Categories : Physical cosmology. Our universe is nothing but one bubble, but there are other bubbles. When two bubbles collide that could merge into a bigger bubble, which could be the big bang.
In fact, that is what probably the big bang is or perhaps a bubble fissioned in half and split off into two bubbles. That could be the big bang. Or perhaps the universe popped into existence out of nothing.
That is also a possibility. How can you create a universe from nothing? Well if you calculate the total matter of the universe it is positive. If you calculate the total energy of the universe it is negative because of gravity. Gravity has negative energy. When you add the two together what do you get? Zero, so it takes no energy to create a universe.
Universes are for free. A universe is a free lunch. And then you may say to yourself well that can't be right because positive and negative charges don't cancel out, therefore, how can the universe be made out of nothing. Well if you calculate the total amount of positive charge in the universe and calculate the total amount of negative charge in the universe and you add it up what do you get?
Zero, the universe has zero charge. Inflation solves this because the inflationary Universe has zero total energy and so has no choice but to balance on the knife edge between expansion and recollapse.
It is the possession of zero total energy, incidentally, which leads to the speculation that the Universe is a mere quantum fluctuation. Inflation solves the problem because the entire observable Universe spent the epoch prior to inflation in a volume smaller than a proton.
To the flatness and horizon problems are often added a host of other problems that inflation apparently solves. Proponents of the idea have a naughty habit of counting some cosmological solutions twice. Guth never does this. This is not true.Alan Harvey Guth born 27 February is an American theoretical physicist and cosmologist. Guth has researched elementary particle theory and how particle theory is applicable to the early universe. In particular he discovered and developed the theory of cosmic inflation. Wikipedia has an article about: Alan Guth. Namespaces Page Discussion. Views The universe is the ultimate free lunch Edit View history. Wikimedia Commons Wikipedia. The Universe: the ultimate free lunch the period of exponential expansion in the first fraction of a second after the Universe appears as a quantum fluctuation. The Inflationary Universe by Alan Guth, Addison-Wesley/Jonathan Cape, £, ISBN 0 6 IN , a year-old American. The model relies on the fact that a region of space filled with a peculiar state called “false vacuum” experiences rapid expansion due to a. Download Citation | The Universe: The ultimate free lunch | It is commonly believed that the origin of the Universe must have involved the. Alan Guth is the first and main father of inflationary cosmology, see e.g. Alan Guth and inflation. His comment about the “universe as the ultimate free lunch” is an. The Ultimate Free Lunch Cosmologists take the expanding universe for granted almost as much as physicists do the conservation of energy. If you calculate the total energy of the universe it is negative because of gravity. Gravity has negative energy. When you add the two together what. Guth has researched elementary particle theory (and how particle theory is applicable to the early universe). In particular he discovered and developed the. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Jump to navigation Jump to search. hypothesis that the total amount of energy in the universe is exactly zero. The zero-energy universe hypothesis proposes that the total amount of energy in the universe. This increased its use in the mainstream. Most amazingly, as the Universe ballooned in size—from the diameter of a proton to that of a grapefruit—the negative pressure would conjure seemingly limitless quantities of energy from the vacuum. It was the institution of the "free lunch" I had struck. Our journalists will try to respond by joining the threads when they can to create a true meeting of independent Premium. Boris Johnson. Wikimedia Commons. In the case of a universe that is approximately uniform in space, one can show that this negative gravitational energy exactly cancels the positive energy represented by the matter. Vote Are you sure you want to submit this vote? The four-part series, 'The Universal Question', which began in The Independent yesterday, continues tomorrow and Tuesday. Popular adage communicating the idea that it is impossible to get something for nothing. American Notes. These stars synthesised the remaining chemical elements in their cores. Sign up for membership to become a founding member and help shape HuffPost's next chapter. Retrieved 6 May In a lecture, Caltech cosmologist Sean Carroll put it this way: "You can create a compact, self-contained universe without needing any energy at all.