Thursday, April 17, 2014

Physicists Claim Mathematical Proof Universe Began Spontaneously From Nothing

I try to keep the content of this blog original, but every once in a while I like to report on interesting scientific findings. Recently over on I read a report that Chinese physicists claimed that they have mathematical proof that the universe could have spontaneously formed from nothing. When such incredible claims are made, even if they favor our position, we should always be reserved and examine the data with as much skepticism as we would data that contradicted our viewpoints.

From the site:

One of the great theories of modern cosmology is that the universe began in a Big Bang. This is not just an idea but a scientific theory backed up by numerous lines of evidence.

For a start, there is the cosmic microwave background, which is a kind of echo of the big bang; then there is the ongoing expansion of the cosmos, which when imagined backwards, hints at a Big Bang-type origin; and the abundance of the primordial elements, such as helium-4, helium-3, deuterium and so on, can all be calculated using the theory.

But that still leaves a huge puzzle. What caused the Big Bang itself? For many years, cosmologists have relied on the idea that the universe formed spontaneously, that the Big Bang was the result of quantum fluctuations in which the Universe came into existence from nothing.

That’s plausible, given what we know about quantum mechanics. But physicists really need more — a mathematical proof to give the idea flesh.

Today they get their wish thanks to the work of Dongshan He and buddies at the Wuhan Institute of Physics and Mathematics in China. These guys have come up with the first rigorous proof that the Big Bang could indeed have occurred spontaneously because of quantum fluctuations.

The new proof is based on a special set of solutions to a mathematical entity known as the Wheeler-DeWitt equation. In the first half of the 20th century, cosmologists struggled to combine the two pillars of modern physics— quantum mechanics and general relativity—in a way that reasonably described the universe. As far as they could tell, these theories were entirely at odds with each other.

The breakthrough came in the 1960s when the physicists John Wheeler and Bryce DeWitt combined these previously incompatible ideas in a mathematical framework now known as the Wheeler-DeWitt equation. The new work of Dongshan and co explores some new solutions to this equation.

At the heart of their thinking is Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. This allows a small empty space to come into existence probabilistically due to fluctuations in what physicists call the metastable false vacuum.

When this happens, there are two possibilities. If this bubble of space does not expand rapidly, it disappears again almost instantly. But if the bubble can expand to a large enough size, then a universe is created in a way that is irreversible.

Arxiv paper:

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