In December of 1973, the prestigious British scientific journal Nature published a two-page article titled, “Is the Universe a Vacuum Fluctuation?” by the 33-year-old American physicist Edward P. Tryon of Hunter College of the City University of New York.
It was a bold theory, maybe even too daring. For what he was saying no one had ever said. And what he was saying was quite easy for any physicist to understand, and yet still nearly impossible for any physicist to believe or accept.
For Tryon was advocating the surreal idea that our very large and very old universe had been a tiny particle that had spontaneously emerged from nothing because of the laws of physics; and because his theory accepted the Big Bang model, this would mean that he was also arguing that this tiny particle somehow came to grow to be our present-day universe.
And he was also making the argument that this “simplest and most appealing imaginable” of the Big Bang models could be understood within “the framework of conventional science.”
What existed before our universe existed? Tryon, like almost all physicists, assumes a vacuum existed. In regular words, an empty space, with nothing in it. Empty space is nothing to most people, but to a physicist empty space is never truly empty and actually has something in it.
And if the laws of physics are applied to this vacuum, then quantum field theory and quantum mechanics also come into play. And so Tryon will be transferring our knowledge of our quantum world to this quantum world that existed before our universe existed.
Quantum mechanics and quantum field theory deal with things at the atomic and subatomic level. And the rules that exist at or below the atomic level are very strange and almost even nonsensical. At this level everything is unstable, energy changes constantly. And because of the laws of quantum mechanics, virtual particles pop in and out of existence from the emptiness of space. These virtual particles exist and then disappear very quickly. And so in our present quantum world, wherever there is space, even empty space, “nothing,” these particles exist. And so even in “nothing,” something does exist.
Tryon believes that in the empty vacuum before our universe existed, virtual particles also existed. But a big difference is that in the vacuum before our universe came to be, virtual particles don’t just pop in and out of existence. Sometimes, one of these particles will pop into the vacuum and instead of instantly popping out of existence, grow into a universe like ours. But Tryon does admit “vacuum fluctuations on the scale of our universe are probably quite rare.”
Tryon doesn’t give a reason for “how a vacuum fluctuation could occur on such a grand scale.” But he does say “that the laws of physics place no limit on the scale of vacuum fluctuations.”
Tryon also mentions that this vacuum is actually “the vacuum of some larger space which our universe was imbedded.” He seems to be saying our universe is really part of a bigger universe, or maybe a multilayered universe. He does not go into any more details of what this thing is, leaving it vague to interpretation.
And this quantum fluctuation of the vacuum was without purpose, just an accident. It just happened because this is what occurs in the quantum world. He makes Aristotle’s Prime Mover a simple (but scientific) accident. And paradoxically, the basis of this accident without causality (or I should say seems without causality?) he believes is all grounded in the scientific laws of physics that seem to be based on causality! And this is why he ends up saying: “In answer to the question of why it happened, I offer the modest proposal that our Universe is simply one of those things which happen from time to time.”