Alexander Vilenkin and the Universe From Nothing

A quantum fluctuation of the vacuum assumes that there was a vacuum of some pre-existing space. And we now know that “vacuum” is very different from “nothing”. Vacuum, or empty space, has energy and tension, it can bend and warp, so it is unquestionably something. As Alan Guth wrote, “In this context, a proposal that the universe was created from empty space is no more fundamental than a proposal that the universe was spawned by a piece of rubber. It might be true, but one would still want to ask where the piece of rubber came from.”

The picture of quantum tunneling from nothing has none of these problems. The universe is tiny right after tunneling, but it is fulled with a false vacuum and immediately starts to inflate. In a fraction of a second, it blows up to a gigantic size. Prior to the tunneling, no space or time exists, so the question of what happened before is meaningless. Nothing – a state with no matter, no space, and no time – appears to be the only satisfactory starting point for the creation. [. . .]

The picture of quantum tunneling from nothing raises another intriguing question. The tunneling process is governed by the same fundamental laws that describe the subsequent evolution of the universe. It follows that the laws should be “there” even prior to the universe itself. Does this mean that the laws are not mere descriptions of reality and can have an independent existence of their own? In the absence of space, time, and matter, what tablets could they be written upon? The laws are expressed in the form of mathematical equations. If the medium of mathematics is the mind, does this mean that mind should predate the universe?

Taken from chapters 17 and 19 of Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universes (New York: Hill & Wang, 2006), pp. 178-191 and 203-205

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