Why is there something rather than nothing? If you’re a philosopher, this is a familiar question and one that can be considered from the comfortable confines of an armchair. However, according to a recent column in the New York Times, the answer, “may have been partially revealed in a recent experiment in the Tevatron — a particle accelerator — at Fermilab, in Batavia, Ill.”
The question addressed by the experiment was not about existence itself, of course, but rather about what we might call ‘conditional existence.’ Our universe is made up of anti-matter as well as matter and when the two collide, they annihilate. Thus, scientists have long wondered how so much matter could have escaped annihilation to go on to create the galaxies, stars, and planets we see today. The conditional question is: why, given that the universe started off with high energy particles that decayed into anti-matter as well as matter, is there (still) anything at all? Why didn’t everything annihilate, leaving only empty space?
This different question was answered, in part, by a novel experiment that was able to probe the difference in production of matter and anti-matter from B-mesons. The team, made up of over 500 scientists, concluded that for every 100 anti-muon pairs created, there are 101 muon pairs created. Thus, over a long period of time, there is a gradual accumulation of matter over anti-matter in these interactions. This result is much higher than predicted and could be a crucial part of the answer to why there is something (left after the early universe) rather than nothing.
By Matti Eklund, Cornell University
(Vol. 1, May 2006)
Perhaps the most fundamental questions about the concept of existence are what sort of concept it is, …
By s. g. williams
From A Companion to Metaphysics