|This graphic shows a timeline of the universe based on the Big Bang theory and inflation models.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Our universe could have popped into existence 13.7 billion years ago without any divine help whatsoever, researchers say.
That may run counter to our instincts, which recoil at the thought of something coming from nothing. But we shouldn’t necessarily trust our instincts, for they were honed to help us survive on the African savannah 150,000 years ago, not understand the inner workings of the universe.
Instead, scientists say, we should trust the laws of physics.
“The Big Bang could’ve occurred as a result of just the laws of physics being there,” said astrophysicist Alex Filippenko of the University of California, Berkeley. “With the laws of physics, you can get universes.”
In the very weird world of quantum mechanics, which describes action on a subatomic scale, random fluctuations can produce matter and energy out of nothingness. And this can lead to very big things indeed, researchers say.
“Quantum mechanical fluctuations can produce the cosmos,” said panelist Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the non-profit Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute. “If you would just, in this room, just twist time and space the right way, you might create an entirely new universe. It’s not clear you could get into that universe, but you would create it.”