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A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is…

A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing (2012)

by Lawrence M. Krauss

Other authors: Richard Dawkins (Afterword)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Pretty thin, frequently screedy. Although I would not describe myself as a believer, I was nevertheless irritated by how facile and smug his frequent digs at believers in a "prime mover," "first cause," God, etc., were. If the history of science teaches us anything, it is that the current state of theoretical physics will one day look as antiquated as Newtonian physics does post-Einstein, or Aristotelian cosmology does post-Copernicus. When discussing the current state of our scientific knowledge, Krauss is usually forthright about the limits and provisionality of what we think we know, but when he turns to the subject of belief in God, all nuance and caution are abandoned, and he speaks as though the nonexistence of God were some kind of objective fact rather than a reasonable interpretation of available evidence. Perhaps this is what happens to a theoretical physicist who spends too much time debating creationist extremists. Enemies, they say, come to resemble each other, and on the subject of belief in God he speaks with all the arrogant confidence in his own infallibility of a Pope condemning birth control. Ridicule and cheap zingers may be delicious meat for the Christopher Hitchens crowd, but I would have welcomed more nuance and intellectual modesty. ( )
  middlemarchhare | Nov 25, 2015 |
Lawrence M. Krauss has attempted to answer the question of why is there something rather than nothing. I.e., how did our universe evolve? He claims that religion and theology have been at best irrelevant, because positing a god does not solve the problem of “Who created the creator?” He has a different agenda:

“The purpose of this book is simple. I want to show how modern science, in various guises, can address and is addressing the question of why there is something rather than nothing: The answers that have been obtained—from staggeringly beautiful experimental observations, as well as from the theories that underlie much of modern physics—all suggest that getting something from nothing is not a problem. Indeed, something from nothing may have been required for the universe to come into being. Moreover, all signs suggest that this is how our universe could have arisen.”

Krauss first develops the arguments concerning the “big bang,” which is currently accepted by the vast majority of scientists and cosmologists. He then proceeds to explain that quantum physics requires that “virtual particles” pop in and out of existence all the time. He argues that modern physics views what we might call “nothing” as a seething field of virtual particles required by Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. He also discusses dark matter and dark energy before explaining the possibility of many universes (the “multiverse”) unlike our own coming into existence through natural processes.

Krauss doesn’t actually claim that he has the definitive answer to why there is something rather than nothing. Rather, he avers he is presenting an alternative to a theological approach, which he believes is more intellectually satisfying, even if not dispositive:

“In this sense, science, as physicist Steven Weinberg has emphasized, does not make it impossible to believe in God, but rather makes it possible to not believe in God. Without science, everything is a miracle. With science, there remains the possibility that nothing is. Religious belief in this case becomes less and less necessary, and also less and less relevant."

Those of you hoping to find a definitive answer to why there is a universe rather than nothing may be disappointed by this book. But then you would probably be disappointed by every book written on that deeply troublesome topic. I found this book to be stimulating and provocative, and I highly recommend it.

(JAB) ( )
  nbmars | Aug 20, 2015 |
I won't rehash what others have said much better than I could, but I will say that I found this book fascinating. Having never studied physics, I am a long way from understanding everything in this book, but I now have a much better idea of how the universe came to exist than I did before I read it. Who would have thought a book on cosmology and particle physics would be such a page turner! ( )
  slsmith101 | Feb 17, 2015 |
Krauss does a marvelous job of explaining how we know what we know about the universe. For example, his explanation of how we know the universe is expanding is the clearest I have ever read. Which isn't to say that everything here is clear--this is complicated stuff, and sometimes the explanations are pretty complicated, but at least they are clear for the most part. There is also a good deal of repetition in the book, which, given the complexity of the subject matter, isn't such a bad thing. However, at times the book reads more like a collection of articles than an integrated whole. Some of the best parts of the book are the descriptions of scientists and how they made, and continue to make their discoveries. And then there is the frightening description of how the universe will appear after the stars that are racing away from us being to do so at greater than the speed of light--yes, it is possible and it will happen. As Krauss points out, we are lucky to live in the universe at a time when it is possible to actually figure out things about the universe that our distant descendants may be clueless about. On the down slide, sometimes Krauss goes a little out of his way to thumb his nose at religion, which seems unnecessary and a bit impolite. Any religious person reading this book deserves a little more sympathy; after all, if they read with an open mind, the myths of their faith's creation story are going to explode with the force of the big bang! ( )
  datrappert | Feb 9, 2015 |
Fascinating ..... ( )
  lvluisa6 | Oct 11, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
Where, for starters, are the laws of quantum mechanics themselves supposed to have come from? Krauss is more or less upfront, as it turns out, about not having a clue about that. He acknowledges (albeit in a parenthesis, and just a few pages before the end of the book) that every­thing he has been talking about simply takes the basic principles of quantum mechanics for granted.


And I guess it ought to be mentioned, quite apart from the question of whether anything Krauss says turns out to be true or false, that the whole business of approaching the struggle with religion as if it were a card game, or a horse race, or some kind of battle of wits, just feels all wrong — or it does, at any rate, to me. When I was growing up, where I was growing up, there was a critique of religion according to which religion was cruel, and a lie, and a mechanism of enslavement, and something full of loathing and contempt for every­thing essentially human. Maybe that was true and maybe it wasn’t, but it had to do with important things — it had to do, that is, with history, and with suffering, and with the hope of a better world — and it seems like a pity, and more than a pity, and worse than a pity, with all that in the back of one’s head, to think that all that gets offered to us now, by guys like these, in books like this, is the pale, small, silly, nerdy accusation that religion is, I don’t know, dumb.
A Universe From Nothing isn’t going to win any converts, nor is it particularly useful for debating with atheists, as the science sounds so fanciful. But as bizarre as the spontaneous creation and destruction of particles might seem, Krauss argues that there’s scientific proof of the phenomenon, which makes it better than any creation myth.

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lawrence M. Kraussprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dawkins, RichardAfterwordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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On this site in 1897,

Nothing happened.

- Plaque on wall of Woody Creek Tavern, Woody Creek, Colorado
To Thomas, Patty, Nancy, and Robin, for helping inspire me to create something from nothing...
First words
Preface: In the interests of full disclosure right at the outset I must admit that I am not sympathetic to the conviction that creation requires a creator, which is at the basis of all of the world's religions.
Chapter 1: Early in 1916, Albert Einstein had just completed his greatest life's work, a decade-long, intense intellectual struggle to derive a new theory of gravity, which he called the general theory of relativity.
A universe without purpose or guidance may seem, for some, to make life itself meaningless. For others, including me, such a universe is invigorating. It makes the fact of our existence even more amazing, and it motivates us to draw meaning from our own actions and to make the most of our brief existence in the sun, simply because we are here, blessed with consciousness and with the opportunity to do so.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 145162445X, Hardcover)


Lawrence Krauss’s provocative answers to these and other timeless questions in a wildly popular lecture now on YouTube have attracted almost a million viewers. The last of these questions in particular has been at the center of religious and philosophical debates about the existence of God, and it’s the supposed counterargument to anyone who questions the need for God. As Krauss argues, scientists have, however, historically focused on other, more pressing issues—such as figuring out how the universe actually functions, which can ultimately help us to improve the quality of our lives.

Now, in a cosmological story that rivets as it enlightens, pioneering theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss explains the groundbreaking new scientific advances that turn the most basic philosophical questions on their heads. One of the few prominent scientists today to have actively crossed the chasm between science and popular culture, Krauss reveals that modern science is addressing the question of why there is something rather than nothing, with surprising and fascinating results. The staggeringly beautiful experimental observations and mind-bending new theories are all described accessibly in A Universe from Nothing, and they suggest that not only can something arise from nothing, something will always arise from nothing.

With his characteristic wry humor and wonderfully clear explanations, Krauss takes us back to the beginning of the beginning, presenting the most recent evidence for how our universe evolved—and the implications for how it’s going to end. It will provoke, challenge, and delight readers as it looks at the most basic underpinnings of existence in a whole new way. And this knowledge that our universe will be quite different in the future from today has profound implications and directly affects how we live in the present. As Richard Dawkins has described it: This could potentially be the most important scientific book with implications for supernaturalism since Darwin.

A fascinating antidote to outmoded philosophical and religious thinking, A Universe from Nothing is a provocative, game-changing entry into the debate about the existence of God and everything that exists. “Forget Jesus,” Krauss has argued, “the stars died so you could be born.”

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:05 -0400)

"Internationally known theoretical physicist and bestselling author Lawrence Krauss offers provocative, revelatory answers to the most basic philosophical questions: Where did our universe come from? Why is there something rather than nothing? And how isit all going to end? Why is there something rather than nothing?" is asked of anyone who says there is no God. Yet this is not so much a philosophical or religious question as it is a question about the natural world--and until now there has not been a satisfying scientific answer. Today, exciting scientific advances provide new insight into this cosmological mystery: Not only can something arise from nothing, something will always arise from nothing. With his wonderfully clear arguments and wry humor, pioneering physicist Lawrence Krauss explains how in this fascinating antidote to outmoded philosophical and religious thinking. As he puts it in his entertaining video of the same title, which has received over 675,000 hits, "Forget Jesus. The stars died so you could be born." A mind-bending trip back to the beginning of the beginning, A Universe from Nothing authoritatively presents the most recent evidence that explains how our universe evolved--and the implications for how it's going to end. It will provoke, challenge, and delight readers to look at the most basic underpinnings of existence in a whole new way. And this knowledge that our universe will be quite different in the future from today has profound implications and directly affects how we live in the present. As Richard Dawkins has described it: This could potentially be the most important scientific book with implications for atheism since Darwin"-- "Authoritatively presents the most recent evidence that explains how our universe evolved--and the implications for how it's going to end"--… (more)

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