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Lewis Lapham: Hacker May Have Created Our Universe

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Dec. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Raised a Christian, Jim Holt grew up thinking that God created the universe. After he stopped believing in an all-powerful deity, Holt set out to find an answer to the existential question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?”

(To listen to the podcast, click here.)

In talking to Stanford University physicist Andrei Linde, Holt found that it’s not so difficult to cook up a universe like ours. You don’t need supernatural powers or cosmic resources. All you need is a hundred-thousandth of a gram of matter.

“All the matter in the universe gets created from the negative energy of the gravitational field,” said Linde, who came up with the theory of chaotic inflation to explain the formation of galaxies.

So it’s possible someone in a civilization only slightly more advanced than ours created our universe in a lab -- a physicist hacker -- just for the hell of it.

I spoke with Jim Holt, author of “Why Does the World Exist?” on the following topics:

1. Something From Nothing

2. Existential Quest

3. Infinite Minds

4. Brute Fact

5. Simplicity Vs. Fullness

To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)

Muse highlights include Zinta Lundborg on NYC Weekend Best and Jeremy Gerard on theater.

To contact the writer on the story: Lewis Lapham in New York at lhl@laphamsquarterly.org.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.