Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Yet another weird SF fan

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A JavaScript Bug and Stephen Hawking's Theology

I just found that a JavaScript program I had been working on had a bug in it: Some of the variables had not been initialized and, instead of being empty strings, printed out “undefined” when I tried displaying them. I then realized I had made the same mistake Stephen Hawking had made when he said:

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. … It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going.
According to Stephen Hawking's theory, the universe as we know it can develop from the cosmological equivalent of an empty string. (Actually, I'm not so sure about that. His theory might involve the universe developing from zero, which requires even more to be defined.) Zero is not the same as undefined. If a physicist says he has evidence the universe started from zero, the question of how the zero was created is not meaningless.

I'm reminded of a famous anecdote about teaching statistics:

One of my college professors liked to ask his classes, “What is the difference between zero and nothing?” After allowing the students several minutes of metaphysical and sophomoric discussion he would write “0” and say, “That's zero.” Then, with a flourish he would erase the zero explaining, “And that's nothing.”
To a physicist, the differences between undefined, nothing, and zero might seem like quibbling. To a mathematician or a computer programmer, it's not.

Digression: The theory, by the way, is still speculative. If I recall correctly, the “no-boundary” condition requires a finite universe and it is currently unknown if the universe is finite or infinite. On the other hand, that really is just quibbling.

To return to the creation question: Some people have been claiming that it makes sense to assume this universe is a simulation running in a larger universe. I'd like to see a debate between those people and Stephen Hawking.


Blogger lightning bulb said...

While it's not necessary to invoke God, it's also not possible to exclude him.

10:49 AM  
Blogger lightning bulb said...

While it's not necessary to invoke God, it's still not possible to exclude Him.

10:50 AM  

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