Built on Facts

Isaac Newton, when he wasn’t revolutionizing mathematics and almost single-handedly inventing physics as a systematic discipline, wrote some really ridiculous stuff. Alchemy, occult esoterica, you name it. In his defense, it was the 1600s. He didn’t have a whole lot of prior scientific understanding to help him sort the wheat from the chaff.

Until he reached the age at which the position is traditionally handed to a successor, Stephen Hawking occupied Isaac Newton’s chair at Cambridge University. I don’t know what his excuse is.

Stephen Hawking’s book The Grand Design should be read by all physicists – as a warning that brilliance is no immunization against developing dreadfully dumb ideas with insipid prose and committing them to alarmingly permanent print. And permanent this print indeed is, as if nothing else the book is gloriously printed on expensive paper with beautiful if rather impressionistic full-color graphics. Regrettably that’s about the best thing one can say about the book.

What’s wrong with this book? I’ll let it speak for itself in a moment, but for now let me outline the objective of the book. For some time, Hawking has been interested in the metaphysics question of “How come existence?” His book is a claim to have answered that question. Though it’s not a part of his argument, Hawking does go out of his way several times to make the point that the existence of God is superfluous in his metaphysics. The less said about this the better, but I note that the very minor God issue (in terms of percentage of the text) has served as a fantastic distraction in the popular press which has allowed the god-awful physics in the book to escape without much notice.

On to Hawking’s physics/metaphysical argument. We’ll start with the questions he poses, and move quickly through the book to evaluate his answers. The questions:

Why is there something rather than nothing?
Why do we exist?
Why this particular set of laws and not some other?

Hawking begins with an argument for what he calls model-dependent realism, which is essentially the idea that it’s pointless to talk about what’s real except in the context of what’s observable. This isn’t so fishy in itself. In the quantum mechanical context, for instance, there’s no point to talking about what a particle’s position and momentum are simultaneously. They’re not simultaneous observables and so there’s no point arguing about what they “really” are at a given instant. He goes on to try to explain what amount to the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics and marries this to an interpretational framework that’s pretty much the consistent histories idea.

Like the Titanic steaming out of port, so far so good. The presentation is a little sketchy in places, but as far as it goes it’s nothing too wildly implausible. But the iceberg comes into view and Hawking orders ramming speed with the argument that in fact both the history of the universe and the laws of nature themselves are not observer-independent:

The idea that the universe does not have a unique observer-independent history might seem to conflict with certain facts we know. There might be one history in which the moon is made of Roquefort cheese. But we have observed that the mood is not made of cheese, which is bad news for mice. Hence histories in which the mood is made of cheese do not contribute to the present state of the universe, though they might contribute to others. That might sound like science fiction, but it isn’t.

Yikes. It gets worse. Those familiar with string theory may be aware of the fact that there’s something like 10^500 possible ways to construct string theory, with each of those possibilities allegedly leading to a different set of the laws of nature. Hawking explicitly rejects the idea that string theory should be able to predict, well, just about anything. Instead, he asserts that:

We cannot predict discrete features such as the number of large space dimensions or the internal space that determines the physical quantities we observe[...] Rather, we use those numbers to select which histories contribute to the Feynman sum.

We seem to be at a critical point in the history of science, in which we must alter our conception of goals and what makes a physical theory acceptable. It appears that the fundamental numbers, and even the form, of the apparant laws of nature are not demanded by logic of physical principle. The parameters are free to take on any form that leads to a self-consistent mathematical theory, and they do take on different values and different forms in different universes.

This theory, he tells us, is nonetheless testable. How? At risk of holing my Titanic metaphor below the waterline, he loads his passengers into the rickety lifeboats of the anthropic principle. Obviously, he tells us, we will observe a universe with the characteristics that allow life to exist. Because string theory postulates an effectively infinite number of universes, surely some of ‘em are bound to be like the one we’re in. We are in the universe we’re in, so presto! String theory correctly predicts that we exist.

Perhaps I’m not a fan of Barack Obama. Perhaps I think I can do a better job as president. If I go to the courthouse and change my name to The President of the United States, then presto! I’m now The President of the United States. But I think you’d agree that I’d rather spectacularly managed to miss the point. You might also agree that a physical theory misses the point if it predicts literally every possible universe and then claims victory for explaining the one that actually exists.

Honestly though, I don’t think I can damn the book any more effectively than by quoting its penultimate paragraph, the one that summarizes the answers to the questions I mentioned at the beginning of this review. I hope in doing so I’m not offending the truly very generous publisher who sent me this book free of charge. But I’d be derelict in my duties if I didn’t (numbers are my test markers for explanation below):

Why are the fundamental laws as we have described them? The ultimate theory must be consistent and must predict finite results for quantities we can measure. We’ve seen that there must be a law like gravity[1], and we saw in Chapter 5 that for a theory of gravity to predict finite quantities, the theory must have what is called supersymmetry between the forces of nature and the matter on which they act. M-theory is the most general super symmetric theory of gravity. For these reasons M-theory is the only candidate for a complete theory of the universe. If it is finite[2] – and this has yet to be proved – it will be a model of a universe that creates itself. We must be part of this universe, because there is no other consistent model.

In [1], his argument is that the total amount of energy in the universe must be 0, hence a requirement for an attractive force producing a negative potential energy. The book is not so clear (as far as I can tell) what [2] means.

So there you have it. Hawking has explained literally everything, with only the minor assumptions that there exist 10^500 universes that are unobservable even in principle, that the supersymmetric model of particle physics is correct despite the fact that there’s never been the slightest experimental evidence for it, the correctness of string theory/M-theory for which evidence is arguably not even possible, and a set of metaphysical assumptions which would strike Timothy Leary himself as ludicrously dippy.

You can grant those assumptions if you want, but don’t kid yourself that you’re doing science.

Comments

  1. #1 Michael F. Martin
    December 4, 2010

    Newton’s esoterica probably should not be read too literally. At least some historians argue that this was mostly obfuscation of the lab notes he took on alchemy, which he would have wanted to keep confidential for obvious reasons.

  2. #2 Peter
    December 4, 2010

    Ah, but does he claim his arguments are science or metaphysics?

    I think for many who react so negatively to his thesis, the reaction is not based on the science but the conflict of his metaphysics with their own religious beliefs.

    As I understand it, a theory which allows the existence of every possible self consistent universe would allow the one in which we exist and hence observe. That part is the metaphysics and needs no “God”.

    The leap is to try and define what are the neccesary and sufficient scientific conditions such a theory, ie one that allows EVERY possibility, must have to be both self consistent and consistent with what we observe. He concludes that “the theory must have what is called supersymmetry between the forces of nature and the matter on which they act.” “M-theory is the most general super symmetric theory of gravity” so for Hawkins that IS the best answer we are ever going to get.

  3. #3 SocraticGadfly
    December 5, 2010

    Not the first time his thinking has been muddled or worse. A couple of years ago, he was touting the idea of manned interplanetary travel and seemed totally clueless/ignorant about the possible effects of cosmic rays.

  4. #4 tcmJOE
    December 5, 2010

    10^500? Why that’s nothing! At least we’re not looking at 10^10^24 or something silly like that.

  5. #5 Ron Krumpos
    December 5, 2010

    In “The Grand Design” Hawking says that we are somewhat like goldfish in a curved fishbowl. Our perceptions are limited and warped by the kind of lenses we see through, “the interpretive structure of our human brains.” Albert Einstein rejected this subjective approach, common to much of quantum mechanics, but did admit that our view of reality is distorted.

    Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity has the surprising consequences that “the same event, when viewed from inertial systems in motion with respect to each other, will seem to occur at different times, bodies will measure out at different lengths, and clocks will run at different speeds.” Light does travel in a curve, due to the gravity of matter, thereby distorting views from each perspective in this Universe. Similarly, mystics’ experience in divine oneness, which might be considered the same “eternal” event, viewed from various historical, cultural and personal perspectives, have occurred with different frequencies, degrees of realization and durations. This might help to explain the diversity in the expressions or reports of that spiritual awareness. What is seen is the same; it is the “seeing” which differs.

    In some sciences, all existence is described as matter or energy. In some of mysticism, only consciousness exists. Dark matter is 25%, and dark energy about 70%, of the critical density of this Universe. Divine essence, also not visible, emanates and sustains universal matter (mass/energy: visible/dark) and cosmic consciousness (f(x) raised to its greatest power). During suprarational consciousness, and beyond, mystics share in that essence to varying extents. [quoted from my e-book on comparative mysticism]

  6. #6 ppnl
    December 5, 2010

    First let me say I have not read the book.

    But if I understand correctly the physical laws as we know them were formed as the universe cooled. They didn’t have to form as they did. Their exact structure depends on quantum fluctuations in the early hot universe. In this sense then the physical laws we see are observer dependent in the same way all quantum events are observer dependent. If you believe in some version of many worlds then all possible sets of physical law exists “out there”. Whatever “out there” means in this context. I have no real problem with this.

    Ok as a metaphor consider a microbe living on a snow flake. Lets say its life processes are intimately tied to the intricate structure of the snow flake. Never mind how, its just a metaphor.

    Now imagine that the microbes develop science to explain the world they live in. One problem with their science is that their universe seems so well designed for them. Change one tiny symmetry of their snow flake and microbial life is impossible. Working on an explanation for this they develop water molecule theory that seems to allow them to understand the structure of their snow flake.

    The problem is that water molecule theory cannot restrict the universe to one particular structure. There are billions of possible snow flake structures. Maybe they all exist out there in the snow storm somehow.

    Now the anthropic principle tells Them:

    1)The apparent fine tuning of the snow flake isn’t a problem. There are a vast number of snow flakes and you will find that the one you are in is fine tune to you. More accurately you are fine tuned to it.

    2)Surprisingly it makes no sense to obsess over why the snow flake is shaped exactly the way it is. Many shapes are possible and the details of the formation of one is irrelevant.

    Short of a method to melt ice it may be impossible to test water molecule theory directly. While water molecule theory can account for the snow flake it cannot predict any specific snow flake. It suggests that you shouldn’t expect any theory that exactly predicts the observable snow flake.

    Anyway that’s my understanding.

  7. #7 Dean
    December 5, 2010

    I was trained in some sciences that are more difficult and complex than physics, and a basic principle that I learned was that the best theory is the one that is most easily falisfied, not the most general one. Proponents of M-theory seem to have lost their grip on Occam’s Razor. I hope they don’t get cut too badly someday.

  8. #8 Matt Springer
    December 5, 2010

    The snowflake analogy is a good one – much better than anything in the book, in fact. But it’s still far, far too generous to what Hawking lays out. A critter living in a snowflake could indeed develop a complete physics for the laws of the snowflake, even if he couldn’t necessarily know the boundary conditions that caused the flake to develop the way it did. He’d still be able to calculate heat capacities, phonon structure, vibrational modes of the flake, and what have you.

    But M-theory doesn’t do that. It doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t numerically predict any observations we make, not one. It does nonspecifically predict the existence of supersymmetric particles, but they show no sign of actually existing. At this point I am at a loss to imagine any possible way for the theory to fail that it has not failed already.

  9. #9 dzdt
    December 5, 2010

    I think I follow the idea in the first quote (“…the universe does not have a unique observer-independent history…”), and your “yikes” response is undeserved. The physics is fine; just the example is a little on the extreme side. To make it simpler, consider a 2 slit quantum light experiment. Instead of “the moon is made of cheese” vs. “moon is made of rock” consider “the photon went through slit A” vs. “the photon went through slit B”:

    There might be one history in which the photon went through slit A. But (suppose) we have observed that the photon went through slit B. Histories in which the photon went through slit B do not contribute to the present state of the universe, though they might contribute to others. That might sound like science fiction, but it isn’t.

    This seems to me like a pretty straightforward example of the “many worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics. If you accept that observers are physical beings composed of matter that obeys the same laws of physics, then you must accept that observers become entangled (Schrodinger’s cat style) with the universe they observe. The whole state of the world is described by a wavefunction recording the superposition of different outcomes of events. When multiple histories are consistent with the observations, the laws of quantum mechanics say the wavefunctions of those histories must interfere — one cannot say that the photon went through slit A or slit B. From the perspective of an observer entangled with the event that the photon went through slit B, that is part of their history. There are alternate histories where the photon was observed to go through slit A. The history is observer-dependent, in the sense that on different branches of the many-worlds tree there are different observers who observed “slit A” vs. “slit B”. The history may also be indeterminate : an observer may not have knowledge which slit the photon passed through.

  10. #10 ppnl
    December 5, 2010

    Calculating the every day properties of ordinary substances from first principles is a very difficult problem. This is the domain of condensed matter physics. It is a field driven by empiricism. They can work out some of the properties of water because they can melt and refreeze water at will. Imagine if you had never seen water at more than a tiny fraction of a degree above absolute zero and only crystals less than a nanometer. Worse you have no prospect for seeing it much hotter or in bulk. How would you do basic materials science on something that you can’t even ever melt?

    Unless they can heat things up to a GUT temperature working out the basic materials science of strings becomes very very difficult.

    The connection between string theory and condensed matter physics is ironic given that one is seemingly pure theory while the other is very heavily empirical. Yet many people working in string theory eventually move on to make important progress in condensed matter physics. This means string theory is valuable even if it turns out to be false. It also means that even if it is true they they may need to rethink the idea that it is fundamental. Maybe the snow flake microbes just have no clue about nitrogen molecule theory.

  11. #11 Bee
    December 6, 2010

    Thanks for confirming me in my decision not to spend money on that book. I believe though we’ve observed that the moon is not made of cheese, not the mood. Though what do I know about your mood? ;-)

  12. #12 Annonymous
    December 6, 2010

    Newton’s interest in alchemy is frequently critized as “unscientic”. But this critism is invalid. There was
    nothing unscientific about Newton’s alchemical research
    given what was known in his time.

    We know today that gold and lead cannot be chemically
    interconverted because both are elements. Chemical conversions between compound substances are possible by
    rearrangement of the elemental atoms of which they are
    cpmposed. But atoms of diffferent elements cannot be
    chemically interconverted.

    However substances do not come with labels identifying
    whether thet are elements or compounds. Thus air and
    water were long thought to be elements but now we know
    that the former is a mixture and the latter a compound.

    So it was not obvious in Newton’s time that gold and lead
    were actually elements as opposed to compounds or mixtures.
    Phenomenally the conversion of gold into lead seems no more
    unlikely than many physicso-chemical conversions which are
    possible. Graphit may be converted into diamond and sodium
    and chlorine combined to form common salt.

    To rule out the conversion of lead into gold requires more
    chemical theory and knowledge than was available in Newton’s
    time. It was only much later that scientific knowledge
    advanced to the point that further pursuit of alchemy could
    be shown to be futile.

  13. #13 Uncle Al
    December 6, 2010

    “Symmetry breakings! Compactified dimensions! Magnetostrobic pseudofractulons!” Even physicists cannot reliably separate Shinola from crapola,

    http://snarxiv.org/vs-arxiv/
    http://snarxiv.org/vs-arxiv/highscores/

    Newton suffered poor approximations c = infinity, h = zero, k_b = 0. G = G was good. Assigning symmetries to theory then inserting symmetry breakings where the universe disagrees is crapola. Large scale terrestrial navigation is non-Euclidean. Nothing within Euclid detects its incomplete Fifth Postulate. Perhaps global failures of derived physical theory detect a weak postulate. The answers are excluded not undiscovered.

    Contemporary physical theory is derived from fundamental symmetries – classical and quantum gravitation, Standard Model and SUSY – that exclude chirality. Models are identical to their mirror images (reflected one axis) and parity inversions (reflected all axes). Hey fellas… universal biological homochirality, chiral beta-decay rate annual modulation (arxiv:1004.1761), divergence of chiral neutrino-antineutrino reaction channels (arxiv:1007.2923, 1007.1150v3), Weak interaction chirality, matter absent antimatter (Phys. Rev. Lett. 105 211304 (2010) is forced).

    Given: A massively chiral Big Bang (not toward photons). Decay of its pseudoscalar false vacuum powered cosmic inflation and birthed a fundamentally chiral universe. Generic weak interactions (including gravitation toward mass) are left feet differentially interacting with left and right shoes. Strong interactions blur chirality into socks. Existing apparatus can detect a remnant low amplitude massed sector chiral vacuum background:

    DO OPPOSITE SHOES VIOLATE THE EQUIVALENCE PRINCIPLE? Do chemically and macroscopically identical, inverse geometric parity atomic mass distributions locally vacuum free fall along non-identical minimum action trajectories?

    A periodic crystal lattice is densely filled, self-similar, and grows to arbitrarily large mass. 11 pairs of enantiomorphic space groups are mathematically chiral (inverse geometric parity), independent of chemistry. Each of P3(1)21 / P3(2)21, P3(1)12 / P3(2)12, and P3(1) / P3(2) contains no conflicting sense or racemic screw axes.

    Do single crystal test masses of P3(1)21 versus P3(2)21 alpha-quartz or P3(1) versus P3(2) gamma-glycine vacuum free-fall identically?

    http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/erotor1.jpg
    Two parity Eotvos experiments, 90 days each.

    Physics abhors the implications and despises the experiments. Pookie pookie. Physics has nothing but Hawking et al. as an alternative. Where are solar axions? There should be way enough of them, and emitted close-by.

  14. #14 Uncle Al
    December 6, 2010

    “Symmetry breakings! Compactified dimensions! Magnetostrobic pseudofractulons!” Even physicists cannot reliably separate Shinola from crapola,

    http://snarxiv.org/vs-arxiv/
    http://snarxiv.org/vs-arxiv/highscores/

    Newton suffered poor approximations c = infinity, h = zero, k_b = 0. G = G was good. Assigning symmetries to theory then inserting symmetry breakings where the universe disagrees is crapola. Large scale terrestrial navigation is non-Euclidean. Nothing within Euclid detects its incomplete Fifth Postulate. Perhaps global failures of derived physical theory detect a weak postulate. The answers are excluded not undiscovered.

    Contemporary physical theory is derived from fundamental symmetries – classical and quantum gravitation, Standard Model and SUSY – that exclude chirality. Models are identical to their mirror images (reflected one axis) and parity inversions (reflected all axes). Mass distribution chirality arises from aggregation – an external, extrinsic, emergent phenomenon. Inserted symmetry breakings are insufficient for 1) universal biological homochirality, 2) chiral beta-decay rate annual modulation (arxiv:1004.1761), 3) divergence of chiral neutrino-antineutrino reaction channels (arxiv:1007.2923, 1007.1150v3), 4) Weak interaction chirality, 5) matter absent antimatter (Phys. Rev. Lett. 105 211304 (2010) is forced).

    Given: A massively chiral Big Bang (not toward photons). Decay of its pseudoscalar false vacuum powered cosmic inflation and birthed a fundamentally chiral universe. Generic weak interactions (including gravitation toward mass) are left feet differentially interacting with left and right shoes. Strong interactions blur chirality into socks. Existing apparatus can detect a remnant low amplitude massed sector chiral vacuum background:

    DO OPPOSITE SHOES VIOLATE THE EQUIVALENCE PRINCIPLE? Do chemically and macroscopically identical, inverse geometric parity atomic mass distributions locally vacuum free fall along non-identical minimum action trajectories?

    A periodic crystal lattice is densely filled, self-similar, and grows to arbitrarily large mass. 11 pairs of enantiomorphic space groups are mathematically chiral (inverse geometric parity), independent of chemistry. Each of P3(1)21 / P3(2)21, P3(1)12 / P3(2)12, and P3(1) / P3(2) contains no conflicting sense or racemic screw axes.

    Do single crystal test masses of P3(1)21 versus P3(2)21 alpha-quartz or P3(1) versus P3(2) gamma-glycine vacuum free-fall identically?

    http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/erotor1.jpg
    Two parity Eotvos experiments, 90 days each.

    Physics abhors the implications and despises the experiments themselves. Pookie pookie. Physics has nothing but Hawking et al. as an alternative. Where are the solar axions? There should be way enough of them, and close-by.

  15. #15 Antonio
    December 7, 2010

    Matt, do you consider yourself a Christian?

  16. #16 NotMeNow
    December 7, 2010

    @Antonio: and why would that matter?

  17. #17 Drowned
    December 8, 2010

    Of course dzdt (comment #10) the book does explain at great length a slit experiment; the moon comment being a mere throwaway line for the non-scientific reader (one of many, which I feel rather hobble the book overall). But pulling it out as an example of muddled thinking is pretty unfair on the entire chapter in the book in which the line appears but once (I think it’s just the once, I don’t have the book to hand). I would have to say that this review is rather harsh on the book overall in fact, and would even venture that it’s more about the authors dislike of string theory than of the book itself. As a non-physicist, I enjoyed the book, even though I knew in the back of my mind that passionate debate over string theory exists. As for metaphysical assumptions, I’m not sure how you write a book like this without them, so at least I would give the credit for Hawking acknowleding them.

  18. #18 Jim Thomerson
    December 8, 2010

    The book is well and interestingly crafted. I have enjoyed reading through it as one would read a novel. I’m now going to go back through and read several sections for comprehension. Whether I will be convinced of them remains to be seen.

    There is, by the by, a good argument for spreading the human species through a larger chunk of the universe. The smaller a species range is, the higher the risk of extinction. On a cosmic scale, our range is pretty small. Unfortunately, physics, as we know it now, does not support a meaningful expansion of our range into the larger universe.

  19. #20 Matt Springer
    December 13, 2010

    “and would even venture that it’s more about the authors dislike of string theory than of the book itself.”

    I don’t dislike string theory qua string theory. It is true, however, that I view the anthropic principle interpretation of the string theory landscape as pseudoscience at best.

  20. #21 anuruddha
    December 19, 2010

    for newton god and laws of physics was not two things.that is why he strongly believed in the exsistence of an almighty creator.Einstein too grasped the same idea . he said he’d be looking forward to meet the creator of the universe .stephen i feel sorry for your condition dont let body take over your mind pal

  21. #22 Sweetwater Tom
    January 2, 2011

    I read the book knowing from the publicity his main conclusion, that god is not needed in his M-Brane universe. I bought the book because I wanted to know *why* Dr. Hawking decided it was the correct model of the universe. I chose it because, he says, it was the only one out there. That is not acceptable, IMHO.

  22. #23 Bob Roze
    January 5, 2011

    Hawkings does not claim that string theory has been proven. Instead he offers that his model of the origin of the universe(s) will be supported, or disproved, in accordance with the scientific method, when there is more detailed CMB data to be analyzed. This is a noble effort to use logic and data to hash out this difficult problem at the periphery of our understanding. Which is about 10^500 times better than accepting some religious fairytale.

    The Roquefort cheese moon idea is the result of trying too hard to entertain the lay-person. I agree it is unfortunate, but it is not the main gist of the book. I just grit my teeth through these patches, which are all too common, in science books intended for non scientists. There are many more examples of elegant explanations of difficult ideas, in this book. I think the book is worth reading, and expanding on.

  23. #24 ObsessiveMathsFreak
    January 15, 2011

    Theoretical physics is a discipline in disarray.

  24. #25 Wow
    January 25, 2011

    It has always seemed to me that any theory has to have some consequential outcome that isn’t part of how the theory was arrived at.

    E.g. mass-energy equivalence wasn’t AFAIR a part of special relativity’s proposal, coherent causality was, and the need for information (light) to arrive in cohesive order to create action/reaction in the correct order.

    Or Lamb shift that is a consequence of an electron that doesn’t exist as a particle but as a probability of existence in a distended region.

    The problem for this book seems to be that there’s nothing posed that would be consequential for 10^500 universes of vastly different causalities and evolution coexisting in a higher-order multiverse.

    As it is, we have a system that is proposed is completely outside our available experience and must take it on faith because there’s no way to see if we’re right.

    That sounds like woo to me.

    This is the problem with the book and may entirely be due to making a book that will sell rather than string theory itself. How many people who know Schrodinger’s cat also know of the Lamb shift? Worse, those who know about the cat think it’s a proof of the half-alive/half-dead quantum cat. That the cat idea is silly isn’t a problem with quantum theory, but a tale about quantum theory.

    May be the same with this book.

    PS anrhudda, the problem with a god is that there’s no need and every question answered removes him more and more. As for Einstein, I’d like to point out I’d rather like to meet Barbarella. That she’s fictional doesn’t mean I can’t want to meet her.

    Rowr!

  25. #26 vishwajeet
    January 31, 2011

    plz give me a funny poem on any physics experiment as early as possible its urgent.
    plz help me

  26. #27 chetan
    February 26, 2011

    Stephen Hawking and other titanic minds sir you maind you greet

  27. #28 krem
    February 27, 2011

    Theoretical physics is a discipline in disarray.

  28. #29 Udaybhanu Chitrakar
    June 26, 2011

    “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.”
    - Stephen Hawking in “The Grand Design”
    “As recent advances in cosmology suggest, the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”
    – Stephen Hawking in the same book.

    Here three questions can be asked:
    1) Which one came first, universe, or laws of gravity and quantum theory?
    2) If the universe came first, then how was there spontaneous creation without the laws of gravity and quantum theory?
    3) If the laws of gravity and quantum theory came first, then Hawking has merely substituted God with quantum theory and laws of gravity. These two together can be called Hawking’s “Unconscious God”. Therefore we can legitimately ask the question: Who, or what, created Hawking’s unconscious God?
    Not only this, but there are other problems also. If the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes spontaneously appearing from nothing, then initially there was nothing. Then wherefrom appear those laws of gravity and quantum theory to allow universes appearing spontaneously from nothing? In which container were those two laws of nature?
    Now regarding the M-theory: I have already written something on multiverse theory in Bengali. There I have come to the conclusion that if there are an infinite number of universes, then only within that infinite number of universes there will definitely be at least one universe in which life will emerge. If the number of universes is only 10 to the power 500, then it is very much unlikely that any one of them will support life, because no universe will know which set of values the other universes have already taken, and if everything is left on chance, then there is every probability that all the universes will take only those set of values that will not support life. There will be no mechanism that will prevent any universe from taking the same set of values that have already been taken by other universes. There will be no mechanism that will take an overview of all the universes already generated, and seeing that in none of them life has actually emerged will move the things in such a way that at least one universe going to be generated afterwards will definitely get the value of the parameters just right for the emergence of life. Only in case of an infinite number of universes this problem will not be there. This is because if we subtract 10 to the power 500 from infinity, then also we will get infinity. If we subtract infinity from infinity, still then we will be left with infinity. So we are always left with an infinite number of universes out of which in at least one universe life will definitely emerge. Therefore if M-theory shows that it can possibly have 10 to the power 500 number of solutions, and thus there might be 10 to the power 500 number of universes in each of which physical laws would be different, then it is really a poor theory, because it cannot give us any assurance that life will certainly emerge in at least one universe. So instead of M-theory we need another theory that will actually have an infinite number of solutions.

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