The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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October 2, 2013

Nobel speaker says universe comes from nothing

Nobel speaker's view is controversial

Lawrence Krauss was introduced as a man “obsessed with nothing” and lived up to the billing.

“Science has demonstrated that a universe from nothing is not only plausible but likely,” he said Wednesday at the Nobel Conference in St. Peter’s Gustavus Adolphus College.

Advances in quantum mechanics have shown that empty space isn’t.

“This is what nothing looks like,” Krauss said, displaying an animation with roiling shapes popping in and out of existence. The particles live and die in fractions of a second but can persist in the presence of gravity.

“Gravity plus quantum mechanics allow space and possibly time to appear from nothing,” he said.

But what about the laws themselves? Where did those come from?

One answer might be an infinite number of universes exist, and we live in one with the sort of physical laws that permit life.

“It could be that every possible law happens, and that’s the same, it seems to me, as having no law,” said Krauss, a cosmologist and professor at Arizona State University in Tempe. But if you can’t monitor other universes, this seems impossible to test experimentally, he acknowledged.

Here, as at other times, Krauss sprinkled in some shots at religion, saying you don’t need “supernatural shenanigans” to explain the seeming contradiction of something coming from nothing.

Earlier, he dismissed biblical explanations for existence.

“Really, if we want to learn about the universe, the way is not to think about a book written before we even knew the Earth orbited the sun, but to ask the universe,” he said.

Krauss, wearing a Gustavus Adolphus College shirt, began his talk by stepping out from behind the podium and speaking while strolling back and forth on the stage.

He began by describing how cosmologists arrived at the modern view of what the universe looks like and how it began. Krauss said Edwin Hubble helped overturn the idea of the unchanging and eternal universe and replaced it with the expanding universe, which “changed everything.”

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