To noth or not to noth - is that the question?

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

M-Theory: Nothingness Rules OK

"M theory is a theory of everything. It explains how the universe was created out of nothing and the Big Bang, and how it behaves now"
"M-theory makes God unnecessary ... it predicts that the universe will spontaneously be created out of nothing, without the need for a creator"
Stephen Hawking, interviewed on BBC2 Newsnight, September 2010.

This idea - that our universe emerged from nothingness and was not 'created' - derives from M-theory, which was a theoretical convergence of six competing models within superstring theory in 1995. These string theory models each emerged within modern particle physics as attempts to explain some of the conflicts between Einstein's theory of relativity and quantum physics, particularly regarding the nature of gravity (Einstein's theory had itself replaced the traditional Newtonian theory of the universe by proposing that gravity was a distortion of the time-space fabric created by massive objects like planets).

Perhaps the three main (inter-related) controversial proposals of M-theory are: (1) that every elementary particle identified by quantum physics (eg. the quark) has a supersymettrical partner; (2) that there are seven more dimensions to reality than the four space-time dimensions proposed by Einstein (i.e. reality is 11-dimensional); and (3) that our universe is one of trillions (at least 10 to the power of 500) in a larger multiverse of parallel realities. Hawkings' 2010 book shows that recent research into a phenomenon called 'quantum entanglement' provides empirical evidence for M-theory - and predicts that experiments soon to be carried out in the Large Hadron Collider in Central Europe will provide further confirmation of M-theory.

Finally, consider these end-points:
(1) the universe starts from and ends with nothingness;
(2) the vast majority of the universes in the multiverse are vaccuum universes devoid of matter or anything but heat;
(3) 96% of our own universe is unknown to us (i.e. 74% is dark energy and 22% is dark matter), and most of space is effectively 'empty';
(4) the two fundamental natural forces which drive our physical universe are arguably based on nothing: gravity has no identifiable particle (the graviton is purely hypothetical); while electromagnetism - which comprises all the radiation in the universe from radio waves through visible light to gamma rays - is based on a particle called the photon which has NO mass;
(5) and, even when we focus on what matter (including our bodies and our planet) is actually made of - atoms - almost everything between the miniscule inner nucleus and the thin outer atomic shell, is sheer empty space.
Nothingness Rules OK...

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