The argument over whether the universe has a creator, and who that might be, is among the oldest in human history. But amid the raging arguments between believers and sceptics, one possibility has been almost ignored – the idea that the universe around us was created by people very much like ourselves, using devices not too dissimilar to those available to scientists today.
As with much else in modern physics, the idea involves particle acceleration, the kind of thing that goes on in the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. Before the LHC began operating, a few alarmists worried that it might create a black hole which would destroy the world. That was never on the cards: although it is just possible that the device could generate an artificial black hole, it would be too small to swallow an atom, let alone the Earth.
However, to create a new universe would require a machine only slightly more powerful than the LHC – and there is every chance that our own universe may have been manufactured in this way.
This is possible for two reasons. First, black holes may – as science fiction aficionados will be well aware – act as gateways to other regions of space and time. Second, because of the curious fact that gravity has negative energy, it takes no energy to make a universe. Despite the colossal amount of energy contained in every atom of matter, it is precisely balanced by the negativity of gravity.
Black holes, moreover, are relatively easy to make. For any object, there is a critical radius, called the Schwarzschild radius, at which its mass will form a black hole. The Schwarzschild radius for the Sun is about two miles, 1/200,000th of its current width; for the Earth to become a black hole, it would have to be squeezed into a ball with a radius of one centimetre.
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