The more curious we get about the great cosmic unknowns, the more unanswered questions our investigations of the Universe will reveal. Inquiring about the nature of anything — where it is, where it came from, and how it came to be — will inevitably lead you to the same great mysteries: about the ultimate nature and origin of the Universe and everything in it. Yet, no matter how far back we go, those same lingering questions always seem to remain: at some point, the entities that are our “starting point” didn’t necessarily exist, so how did they come to be? Eventually, you wind up at the ultimate question: how did something arise from nothing? As many recent questioners, including Luke Martin, Buzz Morse, Russell Blalack, John Heiss and many others have written:
“Okay, you surely receive this question endlessly, but I shall ask nonetheless: How did something (the universe/big bang) come from nothing?”
This is maybe one of the biggest questions of all, because it’s basically asking not only where did everything come from, but how did all of it arise in the first place. Here’s as far as science has gotten us, at least, so far.
Today, when we look out at the Universe, the full suite of observations we’ve collected, even with the known uncertainties taken into account, all point towards a remarkably consistent picture. Our Universe is made of matter (rather than antimatter), obeys the same laws of physics everywhere and at all times, and began — at least, as we know it — with a hot Big Bang some 13.8 billion years ago. It’s governed by General Relativity, it’s expanding and cooling and gravitating, and it’s dominated by dark energy (68%) and dark matter (27%), with normal matter, neutrinos, and radiation making up the rest.
Today, of course, it’s full of galaxies, stars, planets, heavy elements, and in at least one location, intelligent and technologically advanced life. These structures weren’t always there, but rather arose as a result of cosmic evolution. In a remarkable scientific leap, 20th century scientists were able to reconstruct the timeline for how our Universe went from a mostly uniform Universe, devoid of