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We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

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Why Is There a Universe?

July 27, 2011, 1:00 PM

What's the Latest Development?

Physicists believe it is the perfectness of nothingness, its perfect symmetry, that makes its existence impossible. Speaking on nothingness, Frank Wilczek of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says, "There's no telling one part from another, so it has total symmetry." This kind of balancing act is simply too unlikely given what we know about the quantum world: it is filled with a great deal of uncertainty. "And as physicists have learned over the past few decades, symmetries are made to be broken."

What's the Big Idea?

Wilczek's own specialty describes how quarks behave deep within atomic nuclei. It tells us that nothingness is a precarious state of affairs. "You can form a state that has no quarks and antiquarks in it, and it's totally unstable," says Wilczek. "It spontaneously starts producing quark-antiquark pairs." The perfect symmetry of nothingness is broken. That leads to an unexpected conclusion, says Victor Stenger, a physicist at the University of Colorado in Boulder: despite entropy, "something is the more natural state than nothing."


Why Is There a Universe?

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