by Lenny Esposito
Stephen Hawking is a very smart man. I think that statement is uncontroversial. Hawking is recognized as a brilliant mathematician and theoretical physicist, and the former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, a position he held for thirty years. That was the same position Isaac Newton held when his writings were changing the face of science and mathematics simultaneously. Some have even called Hawking one of the smartest men alive. So when in his recent book The Grand Design, Hawking and co-writer Leonard Mlodinow seek to answer what they term "the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything" people take notice.
But because someone is brilliant, especially in their field of study, it doesn't always make them right. One of those ultimate questions (they really list three) is "Why is there something rather than nothing?"1 Hawking and Mlodinow's answer is simply, "Because there is a law like gravity, the universe
can and will create itself from nothing"2. They rely on the simple actions of gravity at a quantum level to balance the positive and negative energy of the universe and to create matter, time, and space.
I've written on some of the issues with quantum vacuums before, but there's a fundamental problem with this scenario, that may be easy to grasp. One cannot rely on a law to do anything by itself. The law of gravity cannot be the starting point because laws don't exist if there is nothing upon which the law governs. For a familiar comparison, let's look at traffic laws such as the speed limit.
Everyone who drives is familiar with a speed limit. The speed limit is a law set by a governing body in order to control the flow of traffic and keep the drivers safe in their vehicles. Some areas such as Germany's autobahn have no speed limit. But for a speed limit to mean anything, you have to have at least two other things…
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