NOVELIST Martin Amis once said we are about five Einsteins away from explaining the universe's existence. "His estimate seemed about right to me," says Jim Holt at the beginning of his book Why Does the World Exist? "But I wondered," he continues, "could any of those Einsteins be around today? It was obviously not my place to aspire to be one of them. But if I could find one, or maybe two or three or even four of them, and then sort of arrange them in the right order... well, that would be an excellent quest." Thus begins his humorous yet deeply profound journey to solve the great mystery: why is there something rather than nothing? ...Sounds as if he does not take the subject too seriously. I saw Larry Krauss on the Comedy channel Colbert Report claiming that there is no God and physics can explain a universe from nothing, but he got stumped on whether something could come from the nothing that is God.
For instance, Holt writes that a theory of everything, uniting relativity and quantum mechanics, would be the closest science can get to an explanation for existence. "But the final theory of physics would still leave a residue of mystery - why this force, why this law?" Holt writes. "It would not live up to the principle that every fact must have an explanation: the Principle of Sufficient Reason. On the face of it, the only theory that does obey this principle is the Theory of Nothingness. That is why it's surprising that the Theory of Nothingness turns out to be false, that there is a world of Something."
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
New book on existence
I quoted Jim Holt on physics philosophy, but I did not realize that he had his own book on the subject in the oven. NewScientist reports: