Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing?

IN the Chicago Tribune we read Fermilab test throws off more matter than antimatter — and this matters. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

By the logic of science, things simply shouldn’t exist. The best scientific minds of several generations have reasoned that shortly after the Big Bang created the universe, matter and antimatter should have wiped each other out.

Fortunately, the Intelligent Designer left a few scraps behind. Let’s read on:

So that explains the global chain reaction of excited e-mails among physicists this month, after scientists at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory “opened the box” — their jargon for taking a peek at newly crunched data — and raised hopes of some day solving the riddle of existence. “It’s like looking back to the instant where everything began,” said Joseph Lykken, a theoretical physicist at the sprawling research facility near Batavia.

If the riddle of existence is getting solved, your Curmudgeon is interested. Oh, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) is located in Batavia, Illinois, near Chicago, which may explain why this article is in the Chicago Tribune. We continue:

Simply put, the Fermi team sent protons and antiprotons around its underground Tevatron accelerator ring into a head-on collision, which produced slightly more tiny fragments called “muons” than tiny fragments called “antimuons.”

It was a laboratory victory of matter over antimatter, and a minuscule replication of what scientists believe must have happened shortly after the Big Bang, though exactly how matter won out has long confounded them.

We were cheering for matter to prevail. Had the outcome gone the other way, it would have greatly upset us. Here’s more:

[I]t could be one incremental step toward the holy grail of atomic physics: the long-sought discovery of the elusive “Higgs boson,” a theoretical particle assumed to be the fundamental building block of all matter.

For fans of the Higgs boson, this is a big deal. Moving along:

For decades, Fermilab was the world’s pre-eminent center for subatomic particle research. But increasingly, the expectation was that the next big breakthrough in physics would come from a new and more powerful European accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider outside Geneva, which has begun overshadowing Fermi and draining its talent. So scientists at the older facility just west of Chicago have expressed a quiet satisfaction with the home team victory, which could help its efforts to remain relevant and fund-worthy.

Three cheers for the home team! Another excerpt:

The question of existence is something that humans have wondered about ever since there were humans to wonder: “Why is there something rather than nothing?” as the 17th Century philosopher Gottfried Leibniz put it.

Frankly, we’ve never worried about existence, but maybe we should add it to to our list. On with the article:

Clearly, things do exist … .. But, theoretically, they shouldn’t.


The problem lies in what happened [after the Big Bang]. That energy condensed into matter but also into its opposite, antimatter. The two being mutually destructive, they should have canceled each other out. Instead, Lykken noted, matter joined together in ever larger concentrations — nuclei, atoms, stars, galaxies.

You’ve been wondering when the Intelligent Designer would make an appearance. Okay, here it comes:

The discovery someday could have practical spinoffs, but it could have immediate implications, among them in the clamorous intersection of politics and religion. Lykken hypothesized that proponents of “intelligent design” could seize upon the new findings to further support their argument that the laws of nature are so fine-tuned, they must be the handiwork of a creator.

There’s much more in the Chicago Tribune article. Click over there and read it all. Meanwhile, we’ll be expecting to hear from the particle physicists in the creationist camp. No doubt they’ll have something profound to say about this.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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3 responses to “Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing?

  1. “Why is there something rather than nothing?”

    I donno. Ask Heidegger, maybe? LOL!!! 😀

  2. longshadow

    According to Lubos Motl, these findings have already been refuted.


    At a flavor physics and CP conference in Italy, the CDF Collaboration just announced the results of their own analysis of the “B_0^s” decays, using a significantly higher number of events than what they had analyzed together with D0 in the past. And the result is that the Standard Model is doing fine.

    The discrepancy is 0.8 sigma only – a smooth consistency. So the 95%-confident result about the decays has been rejected. Because the likely underlying reason behind this anomaly was probably related to the cause of the dimuon CP anomaly, it’s probable that the latter – which is a 99.9% claim – is incorrect, too.

  3. Longie says:

    According to Lubos Motl, these findings have already been refuted.

    Wow! The pixels weren’t yet dry on my post, and look what happens.