Tuesday, 16 October 2012

biological Interlude - What happened before the Big Bang?

It seems strange for my first post in a while (been constantly ill in some form or other of late) to be about cosmology but my mind was quite literally blown by it so I thought I'd draw peoples attention to it. For anyone with access to the BBC iplayer I'd urge you to check out one of their documentaries under the "horizon" umbrella asking "What happened before the Big Bang?".

Initially I thought it was a nonsense question as my preconception was that there couldn't be anything before the Big Bang because that's where everything started, including time. Turns out this theory is being challenged by many new ideas which think if the Big Bang even happened, it's either a cyclical event or something that occurred in a previous universe. It turns out it's quite a fertile time for alternative theories and the documentary gives each theory 5-10 minutes explaining the pros and cons. It's refreshing that the show allows the other cosmologists to comment on rivalling theories and it's fun to see how each one is convinced the others are seriously flawed.

After introducing the different theories, several of which overlap the show spends its remaining time looking at evidence that can back up, or more importantly disprove some of these theories. It's nice that the show spends some time to show this aspect of science as there's sometimes a tendency to present all these "out-there" theories as if they are accepted fact and this segment shows that these are all theories as of yet. In an attempt to draw a comparison to Biology, I think all these conflicting ideas mimic evolution in the sense that the strongest one will ultimately survive but i guess science as a whole has always been in service of natural selection in one way or other.

What was my favourite theory? I did like the idea of Big Bangs originating from a Black hole in another universe as it seemed to philosophically get round that whole "infinitely small/dense" problem. I also liked the cyclical arguments of either the universe condensing back in on itself until gravity becomes a repulsive force and the Big Bang is more a Big Bounce (Param Singh) or the similar argument that the end of the universe would actually mirror the environment before the Big Bang and therefore be fertile ground for another one (Roger Penrose). I wasn't so keen on the "Brane theory" (Neil Turok) largely because i couldn't wrap my head around it and it sounded too much like a fairy tale to a lay person like myself (although it makes excellent Sci-fi imagery). There was also a theory at the end that the shows makers and discover (Laura Mersini-Houghton) claimed worked perfectly with the mathematics in that it allowed there to be something from nothing as well as explained three observational findings in cosmology that are currently hard to explain using other models. Unfortunately I had to take their word on that as it wasn't explained why it worked. I imagine it was probably one of those things that couldn't be easily explained in a couple of minutes.

A great little documentary that ignited my imagination that took time to present multiple arguments and suggest ongoing experiments that may help prove which one (if any) is correct. The scientist's in the show all did a great job of getting across the point that even if they are wrong it's good to generate these theories to push the field forward. I was left with one remaining question though and that is whether hardcore mathematicians/physicists really do spend all day scribbling things down on a blackboard?


  1. What caused the Big Bang? What triggered it? And do we have any idea what was going on prior the Big Bang? Yes, there is a new idea, the answer about what was going on prior to the Big Bang, why the Big Bang happened and what was the reason?

    According to the new hypothesis, the geometric interpretation of the Lorentz’s radical says that the Big Bang happened in an incredible way. If the speed of light in the universe is maximal, a new hypothesis explains that the Big Bang is the cause of the collision of galaxies with the speed of light.

    Many theories suggest that when the intergalactic speed reaches the speed of light, then the universe is maximally expanded. But a new hypothesis about the universe talks back. When we think that the universe is maximally expanded, it is actually maximally compressed, the galaxies are in a singular state and at this moment they collide with the speed of light. The Big Bang is a result of the collision of galaxies with the speed of light.

    This is not mentioned in any theory of the Big Bang yet. This is an extraordinary idea with the proof.

    Ref: google – “ Релятивистская механика пространства времени разума “

    Ref: URL - http://nasha-vselennaia.ru/?p=10056

    1. I won't pretend to understand any of that in depth but it sounds like an interesting idea. Do both universes have to be moving at the speed of light? If so what happens if the other one isn't?