by Zoë Pollock

 Josh Rothman summarizes the origins of the universe from Peter Atkins' On Being:

The Big Bang merely separated out a uniform state of chargelessness into many individual instances of charge, positive and negative. The same goes for matter and energy generally: the total amount of matter and energy in the universe seems to be balanced out by huge amounts of "dark matter" and "dark energy," which express themselves in terms of gravitational attraction. The Big Bang didn't create all that energy, as such. Instead, it seems to have turned an initial Nothingness into a "much more interesting and potent" Nothingness — a "Nothing that has been separated into opposites to give, thereby, the appearance of something."

The main point is that the Big Bang doesn't mark, necessarily, the creation of something out of nothing. If that happened at all — and it may be, Atkins points out, that there was has never been absolutely Nothing, in a total sense — then it probably happened further back in the pre-cosmological past. Instead, it marks the emergence of texture, differentiation, and particularity out of even, unchanging featurelessness.

(Video: Timelapse from the Atacama Desert, in Chile, that has been digitally rotated so that the stars stay steady while the earth rotates, via NASA.)