Friday, 6 January 2012

1. Was there a "time" when there was "nothing"?

Roland, Lagos

What was said
The origin of the universe can be explained by the laws of physics, without any need for miracles or Divine intervention. These laws predict that the universe was spontaneously created out of nothing in a rapidly expanding state.

This is called inflation because it is like the way prices in the shops go up at an ever increasing rate.

Time is defined only with the universe, so it makes no sense to talk about time before the universe began, it would be like asking for a point south of the South Pole.

A more honest response

We have some good guesses about how and when the universe began. One of these is that the universe was spontaneously created out of nothing. We do not know if this is really true.

Physics is the study of our universe, the way it is now, the way it was in the past and the prediction of how it will behave in the future. We have no way, precisely none, of probing what goes on "outside", "before" or "after" our universe. The very ideas are a bit fuzzy. Questions of this nature therefore belong to a different field. That may seem unsatisfactory. If so, go talk to a science philosopher, if you can stand it.

Some other comments Unsure why, Coxy, thought it was worth the time to respond to this kind of toss. You can't give an honest answer without seeming like you're giving up. Where does god live? Where is the edge of the universe? What's outside it? Funky questions, but you'll never get the answer out of a physicist.

And what was that waffle about inflation for? Did they have a lot of whitespace to fill?

Did like the south pole analogy though, that was good.

Imagine he could stand up.

Before reading the following, imagine that Stephen Hawking wasn't horribly afflicted by a crippling disease. Let's put that to one side and imagine he was physically well. I want to focus on the physics and I want to avoid anyone saying, however it be dressed up as snivelling sanctimonious drivel, that you can't say anything against the man because he is disabled.

So imagine, if it makes you happy, and I can't imagine how it would, that it was actually Brian Cox (too obvious even for this self-referential nod to a pun) who gave this interview over at the BBC.

I wouldn't dream of trying to put words in SH's mouth, but I'll gladly do the same for Coxy, and he was the interviewee, right? Right. Let's take a look at what he said, what he meant, and what he should have said. Over the course of several posts, I think.