I buy more books than those that I actually read in their entirety. I saw Lawrence M. Krauss’ — a cosmologist and particle physicist — book called A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing on Amazon.com’s personal recommendations to me. How do they know I would be interested in something like this? Easy, they keep a profile of the type of books I purchase. But I didn’t buy it although the title did get my attention. But when I saw Lawrence’s opinion column on CNN online site, I read it. As I read it I realized that’s exactly what I wanted to say on the subject — down to a T. And he made his point better than I can. So very taken was I that I went ahead and bought his book immediately. However, I still knew that I may not read it.
Years before I read a Vic Stenger’s book. He is a physicist too. (A name drop alert: I’ve briefly chatted with Vic after one of his lectures; at NTS. But most importantly I’ve been on his chat forum for years.) I was deeply affected with Victor mentioning that at the quantum level even vacuum is bubbling. It is quite unstable because it is brimming with energy. At that level it is seeking a more stabler state. Which is what material do; seeking more stabler states. This happens when a material changes state when it makes a phase transition, from say liquid to gas. Like when water transitions from a liquid state to a solid one, ice, when the temperature drops, given a particular pressure.
So, I always wanted to know more about how we can get the ‘ultimate free lunch’ of a universe from nothing. The properties of void (vacuum) that Vic talked are inherited wholesomely by our universe. Big bang was inevitable. Quantum physicists ask why isn’t there more of something than nothing. That’s why of all the new books that are waiting to be read I started reading Lawrence’s book. After I started I simply couldn’t put it down. It was a readable book. Enthralling one at that probably because of my inclinations.
Dr. Krauss doesn’t mince words. No dilly dallying and skirting with unnecessary pleasantries. He is ruthlessly blunt when making a point. The honesty and courage those of a world class physicist. An accomplished scientist has those rights bestowed upon him by someone more authoritarian than any state in the US or even the Union. But that is not to say that he didn’t construct his scientific arguments carefully; which he does in excruciating detail. The evidence provided by this cosmologist was on firm ground. It’s just that he seems like a guy of the attitude that doesn’t suffer fools gladly.
Although Dr. Krauss painstakingly sets his arguments and experiments, he expects the reader to be well versed with the basic tenets of physics (and related sciences). This reminds me of a friend who once asked me, in all earnest, to explain my views I hold on the universe. Neither her education nor her vocation had set her up for her to even begin to understand what I would be talking to her about on that matter. And she was willing to debate me on it, not accept what I had to say. (Not that I would like her to believe everything I say but what tools does she have to sincerely debate me on that matter?) I politely told her that she doesn’t know anything about chemistry, physics, mathematics or other subjects like history to debate me on that matter. It took me a couple of decades of studious pain and I still wouldn’t claim any mastery.
So, unless you want to debate Dr. Krauss you should want to accept what he says is true. If you want to debate him then you should not only have a good knowledge on physics (especially quantum physics), chemistry, mathematics, etc. to actually debate him but also you should have the knowledge of the latest proposals put forward by some leading scientists on string theory, black holes and a myriad other issues on cosmology. However, that is not to say that the science doesn’t check out. There are herds of physicists waiting with baited breath, wanting to make their ranks, or add a feather to their cap, repudiating someone is on the menu. These guys won’t hesitate to make a mince meat of a leading physicist to get a boost in a similar spirit of a cyclist competing in Tour de France.
The truth is that the theories that Lawrence Krauss presents more than check out. There is plenty of evidence for what he presents. The composition of Hydrogen and Helium — and other lighter elements — in the universe today. The maps of the cosmic background radiation. The flatness of the universe. The Hubble shift. General relativity. Even the recently discovered Higgs-Boson (the “God particle”). These and more provide incontrovertible evidence that Big Bang created out universe 13.72 Billion years ago.
But what’s scathing than all those is his views on religion and a creator of this universe. It may be the material (pun intended) he is dealing with that puts his kind at loggerheads with the theological types of this world. He doesn’t avoid the question. And his answer is honestly unambiguous. The bottom line is exactly what I’ve heard from Vic all those years back. That it is scientifically possible, and more than probable, that a creator of this universe is not necessary to explain for its existence. Or to put it slightly differently, explaining the existence of the universe with a creator is more complex and contorted than explaining without one.
A Prologue which was slated to be written by Christopher Hitchens evaporated after Hitchens died — I am sure he would have loved to write one — I know he would because writing came naturally to him. However, the famous evolutionary biologist, Dr. Dawkins, wrote an Afterword. No wonder, in the Afterword Richard Dawkins compared Dr. Krauss to no one less than Dawkins’ idol Charles Darwin himself. What Darwin did in the field of biology Krauss did in cosmology he wrote. The theologians, seeking to discredit science, ran from the field of ‘how we came to be biologically’, chased away by Darwin, to the field of ‘how we came to be materially,’ to find no solace there either, since it is now repudiated by Krauss. I personally feel that the comparison is unfair to both Darwin and Krauss. Darwin lived in a different time. And Krauss, to borrow from his idol, Newton, stood on the shoulders of far too many giants to see as far as he did. So, time would tell ultimately whether that assessment is right. But I suspect that judgement may be too early for Krauss. But that’s no big consolation (no one lives that long to be fully recognized). I am pretty sure that like Newton, when he was alive, Krauss lives the comfort of the limelight (where we mortals merely crave for about 15 minutes of it in our lives).
I read these books for the nuggets of gold — which are but the gems that have been excavated from much toiling in the soil — that are presented as an ultimate free gift from people such as Krauss. Although I don’t mind paying for these even if I never open the wrappings I would indeed be a fool for not perusing such knowledge. It’s up to you what you do with your gifts.