Can the universe be created from nothing? It starts with initial conditions. In Einstein’s spacetime, the initial conditions of the universe are described by clumping together positive energy quantum states (particles) and negative gravitational energy into a single point of infinite density but perhaps zero energy. The content of the observable universe may have zero total energy because the gravitational potential energy between massive particles is negative. This is true even in the past, but the argument requires a finite universe and a physics-breaking singularity at the beginning of time. But what if these conditions were reversed? Let’s suppose that before the universe as we know it began, space was infinite and its properties were entirely uniform. In the absence of change, time could not be said to exist. Let’s refer to this as the proto-universe. Gravity, electromagnetism, and the nuclear forces would not have existed as we know them today. Rather, the physics of the universe must have been governed by a single, unified interaction whose laws are still unknown but would be characterized as repulsive. If there is only one fundamental force in the proto-universe, there would probably be only one fundamental particle. The universe began as an infinite sea of these neutral particles. Rather than occupying positive energy quantum states as does normal matter, the proto-particles of the proto-universe occupy all available negative energy states. In the initial conditions, for each negative energy state, there is an equivalent positive energy state. However, only the negative energy states are occupied. The proto-universe is actually empty in the sense that none of the positive energy states are occupied. In the negative energy sea of the proto-universe, the singularity is replaced by an infinite number of negative energy states (but not an infinite density) with positive potential energy. If the potential energy were gravitational in origin, this would not be possible. Since I am postulating a unified fundamental force, however, nothing prohibits me from both reversing the sign of the potential energy and doing away with the singularity altogether. For particles in the negative energy sea, therefore, the potential energy of the universe may well reverse its direction. The negative energy density created by these particles is offset by the positive potential energy of their mutual interaction. This would allow the uniform, finite negative energy density of the proto-universe to be offset by a positive contribution. As far as we are concerned, the important points are that the initial state of the universe is as simple as possible, and that it has zero total energy. And finally, after a disturbance in this zero-energy vacuum, the negative energy particles begin to decay. Some of the byproducts of this decay are forced into positive energy states, filling the universe with observable matter. This disturbance sets off a chain reaction throughout the vacuum. Rather than a cataclysmic explosion of space and matter, this results in a kind of implosion of the negative energy vacuum that spreads outward and fills regions of spacetime with ordinary matter. This highly energetic transformation produced a hot dense plasma that in the standard theory is the ultimate source of the cosmic background radiation. In this process of cosmic deflation, we might imagine two connected balloons – one with an infinite volume, representing the decaying negative energy states, and the other representing the finite, inflating space of positive energy states. This deflation of the negative energy balloon represents not only a change of volume, but the expenditure of its positive potential energy. In this process the decaying volume is shrinking. Inside the deflating balloon things are contracting and outside the balloon things are expanding. The decay process comes to a halt after several phase transitions. After the last phase transition, equilibrium is reached between the collapsing region of decaying negative energy states and the global expansion of the positive energy universe. Once a state of equilibrium is reached, the laws and constants of nature take on their current values and the universe continues expanding more normally. This would not be creation ex nihlo but would be the next best thing – creation from net nothing.