In 3rd form Science I got into an argument with my teacher. He said a vacuum contained nothing. “But” I said “even if it just contains blackness, isn’t that something?” Dr Grant Christie introduced a large crowd to “the rock star of cosmology” Professor Lawrence Krauss who would totally have been on my side in that 3rd form argument.
What is ‘nothing’? Scientists have been working on this, as have theologians and philosophers (who Krauss dubbed “experts on nothing”).
Nothing is exciting – it is still a boiling, bubbling brew of virtual particles.
- Space responds to the presence of matter and energy.
- Universes can pop in and out of existence.
- We are linked to the cosmos in many different ways.
- When you spawn universes, it is the result of a phase transition.
- After the Big Bang, the universe expanded many times faster than the speed of light.
- Nothing can travel through space faster than light – but Space can do whatever the hell it wants.
- If we wait long enough, everything we see will disappear.
- 1% of static like we see on tv is radiation left over from the Big Bang.
- The idea of dark energy is still weird and extreme and upsets people. 99% of the universe is dark matter and dark energy.
- The language of the universe is mathematics. Language doesn’t capture those things. Maths can even describe universes we don’t live in.
Professor Krauss made a great case for scientists should be speaking at writers’ festivals:
Science is culture. Scientists change the way we think about ourselves.
Dr Christie and Professor Krauss got into an exploration of the birth of universes. If a new universe popped into existence beside us, would we be aware of it? No, as it makes its own space and time. From the outside, it would look like it is collapsing, but would be expanding on the inside.
The three initial elements of our universe were hydrogen, helium and lithium. Carbon, nitrogen and oxygen were only produced by stars. So we are all made of stars, at least in part:
You are stardust, you are star children.
Krauss makes the case for “How” questions – they are the interesting ones. It’s even possible that the laws of physics are an accident, a kind of “cosmic natural selection”:
It’d be very unusual to live in a universe where we couldn’t live.
Cosmology has become a precision science. The next big scientific push in the field is “gravitational waves”. Krauss is right there at the scientic forefront, where things don’t fit – now, and back at the beginning of the universe.