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Author Topic:   Does the universe have total net energy of zero?
designtheorist
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From: Irvine, CA, United States
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 Message 1 of 404 (643671) 12-09-2011 9:45 AM

As I was reading The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking, I came across this passage:
"If the total energy of the universe must always remain zero, and it costs energy to create a body, how can a whole universe be created from nothing? That is why there is a law like gravity. Because gravity is attractive, gravitational energy is negative: One has to do work to separate a gravitationally bound system, such as the earth and moon. This negative energy can balance the positive energy needed to create matter, but it’s not quite that simple. The negative gravitational energy of the earth, for example, is less than a billionth of the positive energy of the matter particles the earth is made of. A body such as a star will have more negative gravitational energy, and the smaller it is (the closer the different parts of it are to each other), the greater the negative gravitational energy will be. But before it can become greater than the positive energy of the matter, the star will collapse to a black hole, and black holes have positive energy. That’s why empty space is stable. Bodies such as stars or black holes cannot just appear out of nothing. But a whole universe can." Stephen Hawking, The Grand Design, p. 180.
The concept that the total net energy is zero or close to zero seems to be widely accepted. Hawking states it like it is a law, others do not. I believe it was Paul Davies who said it was estimated to be within one percent of zero or something like that. Then, we have this comment on youtube from Larry Krauss.
Even though this concept seems to be widely accepted, I am extremely skeptical. If I am wrong, I hope someone can convince me.
Here are the facts as I see them. Please correct me where I'm wrong.
I understand that gravitational field energy can be negative, but the gravitational field energy between the earth and the moon is very small compared to the positive energy of the matter particles. Hawking says it less than a billionth of the positive energy. When can gravitational field energy be greater than the positive energy of the matter? If I read Hawking correctly, not until the matter is so dense it is a black hole. The entire universe would have to be a black hole for the net energy to be zero.
Second, there is nothing to offset the positive heat energy of the universe. The cosmic microwave background radiation is only ~2.7 kelvin, so not much above absolute zero - but there is no way to go below absolute zero. Plus we have the heat output of all the stars in the universe.
Third, the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. Theorists are postulating some type of "antigravity force" at work called dark energy. If a gravitational field has negative energy, then dark energy must be positive energy. Since the expansion is accelerating, the antigravity energy must be greater than the gravitational energy.
Someone is wrong here. Either it is Hawking, Krauss and Davies or it is me. Modesty would indicate it is probably me. What am I missing?

 Replies to this message: Message 2 by Admin, posted 12-09-2011 5:02 PM designtheorist has replied Message 259 by justatruthseeker, posted 05-07-2013 8:35 AM designtheorist has not replied

designtheorist
Member (Idle past 3535 days)
Posts: 390
From: Irvine, CA, United States
Joined: 09-15-2011

 Message 3 of 404 (643673) 12-09-2011 5:38 PM Reply to: Message 2 by Admin12-09-2011 5:02 PM

Does the universe have zero total net energy?
As I was reading The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking, I came across this passage:
"If the total energy of the universe must always remain zero, and it costs energy to create a body, how can a whole universe be created from nothing? That is why there is a law like gravity. Because gravity is attractive, gravitational energy is negative: One has to do work to separate a gravitationally bound system, such as the earth and moon. This negative energy can balance the positive energy needed to create matter, but it’s not quite that simple. The negative gravitational energy of the earth, for example, is less than a billionth of the positive energy of the matter particles the earth is made of. A body such as a star will have more negative gravitational energy, and the smaller it is (the closer the different parts of it are to each other), the greater the negative gravitational energy will be. But before it can become greater than the positive energy of the matter, the star will collapse to a black hole, and black holes have positive energy. That’s why empty space is stable. Bodies such as stars or black holes cannot just appear out of nothing. But a whole universe can." Stephen Hawking, The Grand Design, p. 180.
Joseph Silk, an astronomer at Oxford in a review of Hawking's book, wrote:
"Gravity accounts for negative energy, whereas the mass of a star is undeniably positive. On large enough scales, once one counts all the black holes, stars, and empty space, the overall energy of the universe is close to zero (as measured). If the universe has zero energy, then it could have been spontaneously created from nothing by quantum fluctuations."
Just a moment...
The concept that the total net energy is zero or close to zero seems to be widely accepted. Hawking states it like it is a law, others do not. I believe it was Paul Davies who said it was estimated to be within one percent of zero or something like that. Then, we have this comment on youtube from Larry Krauss.
Even though the concept seems accepted by leading authors, I am extremely skeptical. If I am wrong, I hope someone can convince me.
Here are the facts as I see them.
I understand that gravitational field energy can be described as negative, but the gravitational field energy between the earth and the moon is very small compared to the positive energy of the matter particles. Hawking says it less than a billionth of the positive energy. When can gravitational field energy be greater than the positive energy of the matter? If I read Hawking correctly, not until the matter is so dense it is a black hole. The entire universe would have to be a black hole for the net energy to be zero.
Second, negative heat energy does not exist. There is nothing to offset the positive heat energy of the universe. The cosmic microwave background radiation is only ~2.7 kelvin, so not much above absolute zero - but there is no way to go below absolute zero. Plus we have the heat output of all the stars in the universe.
Third, the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. Theorists postulate an "antigravity force" at work called dark energy. If a gravitational field has negative energy, then the antigravity force of dark energy must be positive energy. Since the expansion is accelerating, the antigravity energy must be greater than the gravitational energy.
Fourth, negative energy densities may exist according to quantum field theory but this is negligible and described in the literature as "potentially observable," so I doubt this was even considered in the calculations leading to the view of zero total energy.
Can anyone convince me I'm wrong?

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designtheorist
Member (Idle past 3535 days)
Posts: 390
From: Irvine, CA, United States
Joined: 09-15-2011

 Message 4 of 404 (643674) 12-09-2011 6:34 PM Reply to: Message 3 by designtheorist12-09-2011 5:38 PM

Re: Does the universe have zero total net energy?
I have sent emails to Paul Davies and Joseph Silk to ask for their comments (or for them to comment on this forum).

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designtheorist
Member (Idle past 3535 days)
Posts: 390
From: Irvine, CA, United States
Joined: 09-15-2011

 Message 6 of 404 (643676) 12-09-2011 7:23 PM Reply to: Message 5 by Admin12-09-2011 7:04 PM

Re: Does the universe have zero total net energy?
You're right. I didn't understand. I'm still not certain I understand. Are you asking me to remove quotes from the OP?

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designtheorist
Member (Idle past 3535 days)
Posts: 390
From: Irvine, CA, United States
Joined: 09-15-2011

 Message 8 of 404 (643678) 12-09-2011 10:10 PM Reply to: Message 7 by Admin12-09-2011 7:57 PM

Re: Does the universe have zero total net energy?
Perhaps I was not clear. I am using the quotes to present the evidence from the side I don't agree with. All of the authors (Hawking, Silk, Davies and Krauss) are on the same side. i asked if the authors were wrong or me.
I quoted Hawking because he provides the ratio of gravitational energy to the energy of earth's matter. But Hawking also did something unusual in that he presented the zero total energy idea like it was a law. Silk presents it like it is the result of measurement/estimation which is more usual. But Hawking and Silk do not disagree with each other.
I, on the other hand, would think the idea completely laughable if not for the fact so many people think it is true. So I presented my evidence after presenting the evidence from the authors.
At this point, I'm uncertain what I can do to make the OP acceptable to you. Let me know what you would like me to change and I will try again.
Edited by designtheorist, : Clarification

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designtheorist
Member (Idle past 3535 days)
Posts: 390
From: Irvine, CA, United States
Joined: 09-15-2011

 Message 10 of 404 (643680) 12-10-2011 9:54 AM Reply to: Message 9 by Admin12-10-2011 8:30 AM

Re: Does the universe have zero total net energy?
I was in a rush when I first wrote the OP. Let me try one more time. If you still think it needs editing, feel free.

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designtheorist
Member (Idle past 3535 days)
Posts: 390
From: Irvine, CA, United States
Joined: 09-15-2011

 Message 11 of 404 (643681) 12-10-2011 10:19 AM

Is the total net energy in the universe zero?
About a year ago I came across a Larry Krauss video clip explaining the concept of zero total net energy in the universe at
When I first watched the clip, I laughed out loud. I thought "Larry's lost it! No one is going to believe the net energy in the universe is zero or even close to zero!"
I was surprised to find out the viewpoint is actually quite common.
In The Grand Design, Stephen Hawking writes:
"If the total energy of the universe must always remain zero, and it costs energy to create a body, how can a whole universe be created from nothing? That is why there is a law like gravity. Because gravity is attractive, gravitational energy is negative: One has to do work to separate a gravitationally bound system, such as the earth and moon. This negative energy can balance the positive energy needed to create matter, but it’s not quite that simple. The negative gravitational energy of the earth, for example, is less than a billionth of the positive energy of the matter particles the earth is made of. A body such as a star will have more negative gravitational energy, and the smaller it is (the closer the different parts of it are to each other), the greater the negative gravitational energy will be. But before it can become greater than the positive energy of the matter, the star will collapse to a black hole, and black holes have positive energy. That’s why empty space is stable. Bodies such as stars or black holes cannot just appear out of nothing. But a whole universe can." Stephen Hawking, The Grand Design, p. 180.
This is a valuable passage because Hawking gives us a couple of examples of the ratio of energy from particle matter to negative energy from the gravitational field. But Hawking speaks of the zero net energy like it is a given or a law. This is unusual. Most authors speak of it like both the positive and negative energy has been measured/estimated and the total is zero or very close to zero.
In a review of Hawking's The Grand Design, Joseph Silk, an astronomer at Oxford, wrote:
"Gravity accounts for negative energy, whereas the mass of a star is undeniably positive. On large enough scales, once one counts all the black holes, stars, and empty space, the overall energy of the universe is close to zero (as measured). If the universe has zero energy, then it could have been spontaneously created from nothing by quantum fluctuations."
Just a moment...
So Krauss, Hawking, Silk, Davies - all of the leading authors in physics and astronomy - seem to agree that the net total energy for the universe is zero or close to zero.
I am extremely skeptical of this. The total net energy of the universe looks to be strongly, strongly positive.
Here are the facts as I see them.
I understand that gravitational field energy can be negative, but the gravitational field energy between the earth and the moon is very small compared to the positive energy of the matter particles. Hawking says it less than a billionth of the positive energy. When can gravitational field energy be greater than the positive energy of the matter? If I read Hawking correctly, not until the matter is so dense it is a black hole. The entire universe would have to be a black hole for the net energy to be zero.
Second, there is nothing to offset the positive heat energy of the universe. In addition to the heat output from all the stars, we have the cosmic microwave background radiation. CMB radiation is only ~2.7 kelvin, so not much above absolute zero - but when spread out over billions of light years in every direction - that's a lot of joules! Plus, there is no way to go below absolute zero. You cannot have negative thermal energy.
Third, the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. Theorists are postulating some type of "antigravity force" at work called dark energy. If a gravitational field has negative energy, then dark energy must be positive energy. Since the expansion is accelerating, the antigravity energy must be greater than the gravitational energy. The WMAP Project claims to have measured the amount of dark energy.
"WMAP's accuracy and precision determined that dark energy makes up 72.1% of the universe (to within 1.5%), causing the expansion rate of the universe to speed up. - 'Lingering doubts about the existence of dark energy and the composition of the universe dissolved when the WMAP satellite took the most detailed picture ever of the cosmic microwave background (CMB).'"
Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP)
Either Krauss, Hawking, Silk and Davies are all correct or I am. Modesty would suggest I am probably in the wrong. If so, explain it to me. What am I missing?
Edited by designtheorist, : Clarification
Edited by designtheorist, : Clarification
Edited by designtheorist, : Stricken due to a complaint from Dr. Adequate

 Replies to this message: Message 13 by Dr Adequate, posted 12-10-2011 10:47 AM designtheorist has replied Message 16 by nwr, posted 12-10-2011 11:42 AM designtheorist has replied Message 17 by kbertsche, posted 12-10-2011 11:48 AM designtheorist has not replied Message 38 by cavediver, posted 12-11-2011 6:55 AM designtheorist has replied

designtheorist
Member (Idle past 3535 days)
Posts: 390
From: Irvine, CA, United States
Joined: 09-15-2011

 (1)
 Message 14 of 404 (643687) 12-10-2011 11:05 AM Reply to: Message 13 by Dr Adequate12-10-2011 10:47 AM

I was not attacking Hawking. I just did not want people to think that some kind of firmly established physical law was at work.
The law of conservation of energy tells us if the total net energy was ever zero, it should stay zero. Perhaps that is what Hawking was alluding to, but it read as something slightly different to me.
If you like, I will strike through that one throw away line. But don't complain to me if people start talking like total net energy of zero is a physical law when it isn't.
Edited by designtheorist, : No reason given.
Edited by designtheorist, : Strike through not strike out

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designtheorist
Member (Idle past 3535 days)
Posts: 390
From: Irvine, CA, United States
Joined: 09-15-2011

 Message 18 of 404 (643693) 12-10-2011 12:35 PM Reply to: Message 16 by nwr12-10-2011 11:42 AM

Re: Is the total net energy in the universe zero?
I completely agree that zero is an attractive number to a theoretician. In fact, I am planning a thread on why mathematics works in the physical realm somewhere down the line. It is a very interesting subject.
If the net was close to zero, I could see how a theoretical physicist could assume it was zero. In this case, zero does not even seem to be close. The negative energy is absolutely swamped by positive energy at almost every turn. That is, of course, unless I'm missing something.
I have emailed Paul Davies, Joseph Silk and Lawrence Krauss about this question and also invited them to contribute on this thread. Perhaps they can point us to the paper where the original calculations were made. I have not been able to find that paper so far. If anyone else can, please let me know. I would love to read it.
As of right now, I have to believe they left something out of the equation.
Edited by designtheorist, : Just emailed Lawrence Krauss too.

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designtheorist
Member (Idle past 3535 days)
Posts: 390
From: Irvine, CA, United States
Joined: 09-15-2011

 Message 21 of 404 (643699) 12-10-2011 1:12 PM Reply to: Message 19 by NoNukes12-10-2011 12:53 PM

Re: Is the total net energy in the universe zero?
Great! Let's talk science. I have not been able to locate a paper on the topic which I think addresses the issues clearly.
We have TOTAL ENERGY OF THE BIANCHI TYPE I UNIVERSES but if you run a "find" on "negative" or "dark energy," you learn the paper does not even mention them. Not much help there.
We also have Energy Associated with the Bianchi Type VI0 Universe. This is somewhat more interesting because it contains the sentence:
"The energy due to the matter plus field is equal to zero."
If this is all they did, then the conclusion is wrong because they are not calculating the thermal energy or the dark energy.
I am hoping that either someone will show me where I am wrong or we can just drop this whole "total net energy is zero" meme.

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designtheorist
Member (Idle past 3535 days)
Posts: 390
From: Irvine, CA, United States
Joined: 09-15-2011

 Message 22 of 404 (643700) 12-10-2011 1:15 PM Reply to: Message 20 by Dr Adequate12-10-2011 1:08 PM

Re: Is the total net energy in the universe zero?
Yes, that was why I quoted Silk. The normal claim is that net energy is zero as measured/calculated/estimated (measured is not the best word because you cannot directly measure the energy of the entire universe).
I am asking for help in finding a persuasive paper which makes the argument Silk and the others are putting forward. i can't find it.

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designtheorist
Member (Idle past 3535 days)
Posts: 390
From: Irvine, CA, United States
Joined: 09-15-2011

 Message 25 of 404 (643719) 12-10-2011 11:49 PM Reply to: Message 23 by Modulous12-10-2011 2:12 PM

Thank you for the Berman paper. This is definitely a contribution to the discussion as I had not seen this paper before and it cites a number of interesting references.
A quick reading of the paper did not convince me the author is correct. For one thing, I'm not sure what pseudo-tensors are or how they might be helpful in estimating total net energy.
One portion of the paper I did find interesting was where he indicated Feymann was the first to conclude the total net energy was zero back in 1962/63. This was intriguing because back then, the CMB radiation had not yet been discovered. The steady state theory was still in play. And we did not know the universe was expanding at an accelerating rate due to dark energy. One would expect that learning these important facts would have a major impact on total net energy of the universe calculations. Yet this author did not think there was anything wrong with following earlier authors who did not know as much as we know now.
We are still faced with the fact that dark energy is positive and more abundant that gravitational field energy.
I have just found the website you mentioned and will see what I can find there of interest. I will probably have a separate comment on the website.
Edited by designtheorist, : too many words
Edited by designtheorist, : Regarding the Berman paper.

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designtheorist
Member (Idle past 3535 days)
Posts: 390
From: Irvine, CA, United States
Joined: 09-15-2011

 Message 26 of 404 (643720) 12-11-2011 12:17 AM Reply to: Message 23 by Modulous12-10-2011 2:12 PM

Re: Is the total net energy in the universe zero?
Regarding the website you linked, I believe the argument has a fatal flaw. The author writes:
"We can eliminate m from both terms (since it is a hypothetical particle anyway)..."
Not true. The m is not a hypothetical particle; the m stands for mass. E=mc2 is Einstein's equation for calculating how much energy you can get from matter or how much matter you can get from energy. The equation shows that mass and energy are two sides of the same coin and relates to the law of conservation of energy.
Without the m, the equation doesn't mean anything. The author is basically saying energy equals the speed of light squared so this is not a compelling argument.
Edited by designtheorist, : Typo!

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designtheorist
Member (Idle past 3535 days)
Posts: 390
From: Irvine, CA, United States
Joined: 09-15-2011

 Message 28 of 404 (643722) 12-11-2011 12:22 AM Reply to: Message 27 by DrJones*12-11-2011 12:20 AM

Re: Is the total net energy in the universe zero?
Yes, I do. Do you think you can just remove mass from Einstein's equation without damaging the equation?

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designtheorist
Member (Idle past 3535 days)
Posts: 390
From: Irvine, CA, United States
Joined: 09-15-2011

 Message 41 of 404 (643751) 12-11-2011 11:22 AM Reply to: Message 30 by Modulous12-11-2011 3:38 AM

Re: pseudo tensors
Anytime I am not persuaded because I don't understand something, I think the honest thing to do is to state what I don't understand. Perhaps someone can explain it to me and increase my understanding.
I also provided evidence to show why the portion I did understand indicates the author is wrong.

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