Seemingly all children start out as budding scientists unafraid to follow a trail of questioning to exhaustion, even if the exhaustion is usually that of their parents. Curiosity drives children to ask why? And why? And why? hoping to arrive at some final destination, like the universe at the end of our cosmic address, a final answer beyond which there are no more whys.
'Why is there something rather than nothing?' asked the German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716), the question that any description of the universe must ultimately be able to address. Science attempts to answer 'why' questions with 'how' answers, invoking the dynamic of stuff in the world. But 'how' answers also converge on that same ultimate question: instead of asking 'why is there something rather than nothing?', scientists ask 'how did something come out of nothing?' In order to account for the everything-ness of the universe we must also account for the nothing-ness from which it seems to have appeared. But what could such material as the world is made of look like when it is nothing, and what possible actions could have transformed nothing into something, and something into the everything we call the universe?
For hundreds of years, and for as long as the word has meant anything, science has shown itself to be an evolving process of investigation into whatever it is that is Out There, a place of things that are in motion, and what we mean by the universe. So who better, we might think, than scientists to answer the question: Where - between the void and everything - are we?
The foregoing is excerpted from You Are Here by Christopher Potter. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
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