Book Review: A Universe from Nothing — Why There is Something Rather than Nothing

1. Who Should Read This Book

A Universe from Nothing is a modern review of the latest theories in cosmology, with a special emphasis on answering the question “Why there is something rather than nothing”. The book tackles fundamental topics of cosmology, such as the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation, the flatness problem, inflation, dark matter, dark energy, and the universe’s expansion.

While these ideas have been presented in sufficient detail and with great insights, without assuming a thorough understanding of the Theory of Relativity or Quantum Mechanics, a basic knowledge of both on the reader’s side would go a long way in allowing some of the more difficult concepts to be readily assimilated.

If, like me, your ideas on cosmology were gleaned from Stephen Hawking’s masterful book, A Brief History of Time, then it’s time for a refresher, and A Universe from Nothing is a perfect fit.

2. Synopsis

A Universe from Nothing is a popular science book by Lawrence Krauss, focusing on cosmology and, more specifically, trying to show that the universe as we know it could be created from nothing. Krauss takes great pain to explain what “nothing” is in physics and how, through quantum fluctuations, empty space is neither empty nor fixed.

The title of the book “A Universe from Nothing — Why There is Something Rather than Nothing” seemed to promise a lot, and I was sceptical. However, like his other, equally great work, “The Greatest Story Ever Told So Far — Why Are We Here?“, I was pleasantly surprised.

The book has eleven chapters and 193 pages. The central topics over which the author spent the most time were as follows:

  • A review of mainstream ideas of cosmology, such as Hubble law, the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation, cosmological redshift, and the abundance of light matter in the universe.
  • The problem of dark matter is then fully explored, and its impact on the geometry of the universe.
  • The geometry of the universe, and particularly the flatness problem. Krauss’s explanation of how the universe’s geometry can be measured at cosmic scales was fascinating.
  • Vacuum energy, dark energy, or the cosmological constant are all interchangeable terms that physicists use to describe the lively state of affairs that occurs in what is supposed to be empty space, devoid of any matter. Krauss explores this topic from many angles, like hydrogen spectral lines, virtual particles, black hole radiation, and the structure of space at the Planck scale.
  • A chapter is then dedicated to cosmic expansion and its evolution. Krauss beautifully describes how the relative density of matter, energy, and dark energy caused the universe’s expansion to accelerate, decelerate, and accelerate again.
  • Perhaps the most fascinating idea in the whole book was Krauss’ presentation of why the total amount of energy in a flat universe is zero. The author then builds on this fact to stipulate how the universe could arise from nothing while respecting the energy conservation law.
  • The final chapters of A Universe from Nothing are where the author confronts the fundamental question of this book of why there is something rather than nothing head-on. The discussion is physical and philosophical, making it quite fascinating.

3. What I Did Not Like About A Universe from Nothing

Throughout the book, Krauss criticizes philosophy and religion, especially religious views of creation. While not very frequent, these intermissions detract the reader from the train of thought and, in my experience, make the book slightly less enjoyable.

Philosophy, religion, and anthropology belong to the domain of social sciences and mixing ideas from both worlds (either when trying to reconcile them or pitching them against each other) is almost never a good idea.

On a website whose primary theme is software development, philosophy and anthropology (as well as physics) are emphatically featured as they are invaluable in understanding group behaviour and psychology.

As Ilya Prigogine stated in his magnificent book Order Out of Chaos — Man’s New Dialogue With Nature, physics concerns itself with the infinitesimally tiny and the cosmic scales; everything in between falls in the realm of humanities (and more specifically, complexity science).

Even Krauss, at some point in his book, did admit the logical imperative of not being able to completely rule out the requirement of a supernatural deity when contemplating the universe’s origins.

“The apparent logical necessity of First Cause is a real issue for any universe that has a beginning. Therefore, on the basis of logic alone, one cannot rule out such as deistic view of nature.”

— Dr Lawrence Krauss, A Universe from Nothing

For a rich and engaging discussion of religion, see Core Concepts in Cultural Anthropology by Robert Lavenda and Emily Schultz.

4. Has the Book Achieved Its Aim?

A Universe from Nothing is highly recommended as it has achieved its aim of presenting a contemporary view of cosmology to the layman. It also explored in great depth the book’s central theme on the origins of the universe and its reason for existence.


5. Well Structured

The book is well-structured, with every chapter focusing on one idea and exploring it thoroughly and sufficiently. The book paints a crispy-clear picture of the author’s contemporary views of cosmology.

6. Original Content

A Universe from Nothing contains a wealth of new ideas and concepts that are either completely original or were only introduced in other works from a very high level. At least one or two new insights can be found in every chapter.

7. Writing Style

The text states that the author’s writing style is easy to understand, and the story is logically presented. The book can be read within a week with moderate effort. However, certain paragraphs require more attention, so it is not a light read. The explanations and storytelling in the book are captivating enough to keep the reader engaged.

8. Accessibility

The book is accessible; only a basic understanding of quantum mechanics and relativity theory is required.

9. Author

Lawrence Maxwell Krauss is an American-Canadian theoretical physicist and cosmologist. He previously taught at Arizona State University, Yale University, and Case Western Reserve University. He subsequently founded and directed ASU’s Origins Project, now called ASU Interplanetary Initiative, which examines the fundamental questions on the universe.

Krauss authored several bestselling books, including The Physics of Star Trek (1995) and A Universe from Nothing (2012).

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