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A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothingby Lawrence M. Krauss
Lawrence Krauss's new book, A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing, summarizes the continuing developments in the field of cosmology. In addition to championing these new insights in the study of modern physics, Krauss also frames these advances in the appropriate context of their resulting implications for theologians and deists. Adapted from a lecture he delivered at the 2009 Atheist Alliance international annual convention (and made popular on YouTube), A Universe from Nothing explores the history of the universe from the big bang through inflation to its theoretical endpoint using the most current (and widely accepted) science.
Krauss is marvelously adept at conveying his broad scientific knowledge in as succinct and lucid a manner as is perhaps possible, making it relatively easy for a nontheoretical physicist to grasp the concepts he is attempting to illustrate. Among the more notable and recent advancements that Krauss examines in the book are the discoveries that the universe is now accelerating following the so-called "cosmic jerk" that took place some five billion years ago (see also the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics), the abundance of dark energy that appears to account for nearly three-quarters of the universe's total mass (that resides mostly in "empty space"), and the uniform flatness that characterizes our universe. The majority of the book is spent assembling and explaining the related pieces that together form a picture of the universe which, according to the latest scientific data, seems to have evolved from nothing — in fact, it may have only been able to evolve precisely because there was nothing.
The ultimate arbiter of truth is experiment, not the comfort one derives from one's a priori beliefs, not the beauty and elegance one ascribes to one's theoretical models. The results of experiments that I will describe here are not only timely, they are also unexpected. The tapestry that science weaves in describing the evolution of our universe is far richer and far more fascinating than any revelatory images or imaginative stories that humans have concocted.
As our understanding of the nearly 14-billion-year-old universe is constantly evolving, there is clearly much to be learned about cosmology. Krauss is enthusiastic in his dissemination of the accumulated knowledge and seems eager to welcome whatever conceptual refinements future advancements will inevitably bring. A Universe from Nothing is not simply a scientific treatise, however, as Krauss considers what ramifications these new insights have on age-old theological arguments.
For more than two thousand years, the question, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" has been presented as a challenge to the proposition that our universe — which contains the vast complex of stars, galaxies, humans, and who knows what else — might have arisen without design, intent, or purpose. While this is usually framed as a philosophical or religious question, it is first and foremost a question about the natural world, and so the appropriate place to try and resolve it, first and foremost, is with science.
Richard Dawkins, in the book's afterword, characterizes Krauss's book as "the knockout blow" to the theologian's remaining arguments in favor of a creator. With a few hundred billion galaxies in the observable universe and a modern physics that seems to indicate that our universe could have only arose from nothing, Krauss's assertion that a god is "unnecessary — or at best redundant" is as compelling as the science he uses to arrive at said claim. A Universe from Nothing, like most books of reason and evidence, will do little to dissuade those who ardently profess their belief in a deity, but as cosmology clarifies our place in the universe with greater precision, the arguments in favor of a creator seem ever less defensible. Krauss, in this eminently readable (and often funny!) book, has ventured further down the road of rationality and empiricism, allowing us a guided tour on the never-ending quest to truly understand the nature of life in this brilliant universe we call home.
If we wish to draw philosophical conclusions about our own existence, our significance, and the significance of the universe itself, our conclusions should be based on empirical knowledge. A truly open mind means forcing our imaginations to conform to the evidence of reality and not vice versa, whether or not we like the implications.
Recommended by Jeremy, Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
“WHERE DID THE UNIVERSE COME FROM? WHAT WAS THERE BEFORE IT? WHAT WILL THE FUTURE BRING? AND FINALLY, WHY IS THERE SOMETHING RATHER THAN NOTHING?”
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.”
"Readers interested in the evolution of the universe will find Krauss's account lively and humorous as well as informative. In 1925, Edwin Hubble ('who continues to give me great faith in humanity, because he started out as a lawyer, and then became an astronomer') showed that the universe was expanding. But what was it expanding from? Virtually nothing, an 'infinitesimal point,' said George LeMaitre, who in 1929 proposed the idea of the Big Bang. His theory was later supported by the discovery of remnants of energy called cosmic microwave background radiation — 'the afterglow of the Big Bang,' as Krauss calls it. Researchers also discovered that the universe is expanding not at a steady rate but accelerating, driving matter farther apart faster and faster. Krauss, a professor and director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University, explores the consequences of a universe dominated by the 'seemingly empty space' left by expansion, urging focused study before expansion pushes everything beyond our reach. Readers will find the result of Krauss's ' absolutely surprising and fascinating universe' as compelling as it is intriguing.(Jan.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Astronomers at the beginning of the twentieth century were wondering whether there was anything beyond our Milky Way Galaxy. As Lawrence Krauss lucidly explains, astronomers living two trillion years from now, will perhaps be pondering precisely the same question! Beautifully navigating through deep intellectual waters, Krauss presents the most recent ideas on the nature of our cosmos, and of our place within it. A fascinating read." Mario Livio, author of Is God A Mathematician? and The Golden Ratio
"In this clear and crisply written book, Lawrence Krauss outlines the compelling evidence that our complex cosmos has evolved from a hot, dense state and how this progress has emboldened theorists to develop fascinating speculations about how things really began." Martin Rees, author of Our Final Hour
“A series of brilliant insights and astonishing discoveries have rocked the Universe in recent years, and Lawrence Krauss has been in the thick of it. With his characteristic verve, and using many clever devices, he’s made that remarkable story remarkably accessible. The climax is a bold scientific answer to the great question of existence: Why is there something rather than nothing.” Frank Wilczek, Nobel Laureate and Herman Feshbach professor at MIT, author of The Lightness of Being
"With characteristic wit, eloquence and clarity Lawrence Krauss gives a wonderfully illuminating account of how science deals with one of the biggest questions of all: how the universe's existence could arise from nothing. It is a question that philosophy and theology get themselves into muddle over, but that science can offer real answers to, as Krauss's lucid explanation shows. Here is the triumph of physics over metaphysics, reason and enquiry over obfuscation and myth, made plain for all to see: Krauss gives us a treat as well as an education in fascinating style." A. C. Grayling, author of The Good Book
“In A Universe from Nothing, Lawrence Krauss has written a thrilling introduction to the current state of cosmology — the branch of science that tells us about the deep past and deeper future of everything. As it turns out, everything has a lot to do with nothing — and nothing to do with God. This is a brilliant and disarming book.” Sam Harris, author of The Moral Landscape
"We have been living through a revolution in cosmology as wondrous as that initiated by Copernicus. Here is the essential, engrossing and brilliant guide." Ian McEwan
“Nothing is not nothing. Nothing is something. That's how a cosmos can be spawned from the void — a profound idea conveyed in A Universe From Nothing that unsettles some yet enlightens others. Meanwhile, it's just another day on the job for physicist Lawrence Krauss.” Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History
"In A Universe from Nothing, Lawrence Krauss has written a thrilling introduction to the current state of cosmology — the branch of science that tells us about the deep past and deeper future of everything. As it turns out, everything has a lot to do with nothing — and nothing to do with God. This is a brilliant and disarming book." Sam Harris, author of The Moral Landscape
“If The Origin of Species was biology’s gift to atheism, we may see A Universe from Nothing as the equivalent from physics. The title means exactly what it says. And what it says is devastating. ” from the Afterword by Richard Dawkins
A provocative account of the astounding new answers to the most basic philosophical questions: Where did the universe come from and how will it end?
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 is it 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.
About the Author
Lawrence M. Krauss, a renowned cosmologist and popularizer of modern science, is director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. Hailed by Scientific American as a rare public intellectual, he is the author of more than three hundred scientific publications and 8 books, including the bestselling The Physics of Star Trek, and the recipient of numerous international awards for his research and writing. He is an internationally known theoretical physicist with wide research interests, including the interface between elementary particle physics and cosmology, where his studies include the early universe, the nature of dark matter, general relativity and neutrino astrophysics. He received his Ph.D. in Physics from MIT in 1982 then joined the Harvard Society of Fellows. In 1985 he joined the faculty of Physics at Yale University, and moved to take his CWRU appointment in 1993 as Chairman of the Physics Department at Case Western. Krauss is also one of the few prominent scientists today to have actively crossed the chasm between science and popular culture, for example, performing solo with the Cleveland Orchestra, narrating Gustav Holst's The Planets at the Blossom Music Center in the most highly attended concert at that venue, and receiving a Grammy nomination for his liner notes for a Telarc CD of music from Star Trek.
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