Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
Space News

What Happened Before the Big Bang? 394

The Bad Astronomer writes to tell us that a recent advance in Loop Quantum Gravity theory appears to allow the mathematics of cosmology to be extended to the time before the Universe underwent the Big Bang. Bad Astronomer also attempts to simplify things a bit with his own explanation of the new discovery.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

What Happened Before the Big Bang?

Comments Filter:
  • by peragrin ( 659227 ) on Monday July 02, 2007 @01:24PM (#19719461)
    says the man who failed to understand the analogy.

    you can not go north of the North Pole. Once you get to the north pole everything is quite literally south of you, no matter which way you go. If you leave the sphere in question(ie head into space) you no longer have a compass as the magentic field that the north pole is based on no longer exerts it's force on you.

    What you think Astral(space) Navagation uses compasses for heading and bearing? That we can use the sun's magentic field t find our way across this planetary system?

  • by porkThreeWays ( 895269 ) on Monday July 02, 2007 @01:31PM (#19719543)
    I think it's really hard as humans to comprehend things we have no ways of describing in English. Time is a dimension and I think we just can't comprehend the idea of time not existing or being able to manipulate it. It's possible time didn't exist before the big bang. But again, these words "before" and "after" have to do with time. The best we can do right now is describe things in mathematical models.
  • by WrongMonkey ( 1027334 ) on Monday July 02, 2007 @01:35PM (#19719575)
    The theory that is proposed in the article is that our universe came from a former "crunched" universe. But the current observations of our universe indicate accelerating expansion which in turn implies that our universe will end in a cold death rather than a big crunch. That seems to be an unresolved contradiction. Does these mean that loop quantum gravity is incompatible with observation (which would conclude that LQG is not correct)? Or did the previous universe have such different laws of physics that it's fate was different than the fate of our universe?
  • by Alzheimers ( 467217 ) on Monday July 02, 2007 @02:02PM (#19719867)
    I think that the problem we have is forming a mental image of time not as some quantity (5 minutes, for example) but as a scalar (the difference between 5 minutes ago and now, in the positive future direction).

    We just don't talk or think about time having some of the same properties as physical space since we only experience it in one direction. Our lives are a filmstrip that doesn't roll backwards. What happened before the beginning of the tape? That's like asking if there was a universe before I was born?

    I think we'd do a lot better to rename it something less associated with it's common useage, such as the Temporal axis. Then you can start to discuss what the properties of that axis are, without running into issues with metaphorical associations.

    (see also: Free Software, Free as in Libre, not as in Gratis)
  • by BytePusher ( 209961 ) on Monday July 02, 2007 @02:11PM (#19719977) Homepage
    "I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return." Ecclesiastes 3:18-20 (English Standard Version)
  • Re:The punchline (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mhall119 ( 1035984 ) on Monday July 02, 2007 @02:31PM (#19720241) Homepage Journal

    Just because something is testable means that God could not have played a role?
    No, being testable means that it doesn't matter whether or not God played a role.
  • MOD PARENT UP (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 02, 2007 @02:36PM (#19720297)
    Here is a "truth" that I find beautiful:

    Our best efforts at investigation have so far revealed that the principles that give rise to the world-as-we-know-it are so unlike the world-as-we-know-it that our brains have a very hard time grasping them.

    There is a common-sense notion of time which is firmly rooted in our common experience of it. Our brains evolved to experience it and understand it in a way that is useful to us. This understanding includes a level of absolutism: one second for me is one second for you, no matter where you are or how fast you are going. However, we have already experimentally verified that this notion is second for me can actually be two seconds for you, based on our relative velocities. While we can state this, and even make mathematical models describing it, we have a very hard time conceptualizing it.

    Our inability to "get our heads around" our observations makes some types of hypothesizing very dubious. Was there time before the big bang? Until we can really mentally grasp how we think time works we will not be able to determine whether or not this question is meaningful. Even when we think we have abandoned the common-sense understanding of time and are discussing it strictly within the context of our observation-based model, we will still make the mistakes of allowing our common-sense understanding to "infect" the statement of our hypothesis and lead us into very peculiar paradoxes.

    Aside from that, we will never really know if the principles we have observed are as accurate as we think they are. Some day we may discover new evidence that demonstrates that time operates even more strangely than we currently believe, and this new evidence will change the meaningfulness of the question about time before the big bang.

    We may swim ever-deeper, but we will never really know whether we have touched the bottom of the sea, or just another underwater plateau.

  • wrong (Score:3, Insightful)

    "Scientists have made false statements in the past. Scientists are making statements. Therefore, scientists are making false statements."

    should be

    "People have made false anthropocentric statements in the past. People are making anthropocentric statements about the Universe now. Therefore, people are possibly making false statements."

  • Re:The punchline (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Darby ( 84953 ) on Monday July 02, 2007 @05:08PM (#19722165)

    At the same time though science asks for as much if not more faith. Not of itself you are correct, but of the unwashed masses.

    We have things like clean water, roads, cars, planes, cities, computers, and fricking *space ships* all due to science.
    What exactly can you point to that god did?
    Oh, the universe. Any proof of that? Any evidence?

    No, huh?

    So apart from making yourself look very silly by telling lies so stupid a child could easily call you out on them, was there any point in making that entirely false and completely ridiculous statement?

  • Re:The punchline (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Darby ( 84953 ) on Monday July 02, 2007 @08:13PM (#19723937)
    Ask the devout what God did, and he will point to rivers, horses, birds, ants, you, me, and the stars.

    Ask them for evidence. They have not a scrap.
    Ask me who built the CPU in this machine?

    AMD corporation.
    They have a website here [].
    They maintain offices here:

    One AMD Place
    P.O. Box 3453
    Sunnyvale, California 94088-3453

    Now, this could all be an elaborate hoax, but the more hard evidence I pile up, the sillier you look trying to twist it around to the "religious belief" point of view.

    This is Seraphim_72's [author of this post's grandparent] point. Where is YOUR evidence?

    The evidence is in the result. We have computers. While I couldn't build one myself at any level beyond inserting tab A in slot A, that doesn't mean I haven't been in a chip fab and seen them being made. It doesn't mean that just because I couldn't assemble my own space shuttle starting from digging up rocks in my yard that it is equally likely that it was man made or assembled by elves in the night while the "rocket scientists" were sleeping, or created by a magical invisible fairy.

    That is the fundamental difference between those 2 views. The OPs argument was crap because it's just a variation of argument to incredulity. It's a fallacious argument from the get go.

    If you were, you wouldn't resort to insults to attempt to make your point.

    I didn't resort to insults to make my point. I made my point and then concluded, based on how blatant of a fallacy his argument is, that the insults were appropriate. In other words, they were part of the conclusion, not the argument. You fail basic logic just like the OP.

    And for much of it, I'll never prove it, and yet believe it for the rest of my life.

    "Believing" in Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation is nothing like "believing" that a magical invisible fairy made the universe and us so he could fuck with us.

    For the first, there was a massive amount of evidence and, much more importantly, it led to new conclusions which led to inventions and changed the world far more and far more positively than any ignorant beliefs about the probably unknowable. Further, it turns out that Newton was wrong. Now people mostly "believe" in Einstein's theory of General Relativity. The progress made using Newton's equations didn't crumble to dust, but expanded.

    The second adds nothing. It answers no questions. Any it claims to are just pushed back by, not answers, but by the same questions in different clothes.
    Further there does not exist a single scrap of evidence for *any* of the mystical nonsense and even quite a bit of the non mystical is either false or has nothing backing it up.

    So, no, there is nothing in common between the two things. All you've done is shown that you don't get the idea that one word can have different meanings depending on the context.

    "Belief" in a religious sense is, by necessity, belief in the extraordinary with no evidence.
    "Belief" in the sense you used it regarding technology you couldn't build by yourself is belief informed. I know an airplane is flying overhead. I also know that it does that in accordance with Bernoulli's law. I believe that it won't magically stop and drop straight down out of the sky, and what do you know? It's still flying.

  • by kestasjk ( 933987 ) on Monday July 02, 2007 @11:44PM (#19726223) Homepage
    Point me to a Buddhist document that predicts the outcome of collisions in particle accelerators, or predicts the properties of a compound. If none exist then what does Buddhism have to do with quantum physics? How did Buddhists unravel the mysteries of quantum physics before they had any experimental data to work with? How did they know, in a scientifically compelling way, that quanta existed without studying the photoelectric effect? Where are the 4th century BC Tibetan semiconductors, atomic bombs, and LCDs?

    Buddhism may work well as a moral code or lifestyle, but keep it the hell away from science and philosophy. (Which are two separate fields themselves; science doesn't "turn into" philosophy any more than astrology "turns into" botany.)

    I have to say I am totally at a loss to understand what thoughts could lead anyone to believe that a 2500 year old moral code could have something to say about modern physics..
  • by fractoid ( 1076465 ) on Monday July 02, 2007 @11:59PM (#19726339) Homepage

    It's not measurement that's the problem. It's existance. A quantum object does not have a well-defined position/momentum.
    More information, please? This assertion is the fundamental problem I've always had with quantum theory, and every time I ask someone who thinks they know what they're taking about to explain it, they wave their hands around a bit, say "Heisenberg" a few times, then claim it's lunchtime and they really must go. The uncertainty principle as I've always had it explained to me (for instance, in my university physics course) is that observation of (ie. interaction with) a particle affects that particle in a way that you can't determine, and hence it isn't possible to simultaneously measure some quantities. There seems to be a big jump from "can't measure" to "doesn't exist" and no-one seems willing to talk about it.
  • Re:The punchline (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RzUpAnmsCwrds ( 262647 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @04:19AM (#19727797)
    I don't trust the scientists, the research, or the theories. I trust the system and the results. The system has proven itself by providing real results, over and over again. From GMO crops to the laser to the refrigirator that most of us own, we can see that the results fit the model.

    No, I can't go and verify everything personally. But I would much, much rather have "faith" in a system that prides itself in retesting and modifying hypotheses than a system that says skepticism is wrong.

    Every time we find out that our conclusions were wrong, the religous laugh. I smile. Knowing and accepting that you are wrong is the first step towards getting it right. Such an attitude does not exist in most religions.

    I can't prove that quantum mechanics works. But I do know that a laser works. Ah, but what if quantum mechanics is wrong, and the laser actually works on a different principle? Irrelevent. We can never be 100% certain of anything. All we can do is to find the theory that best fits our obeservations, run experiments, and try to prove ourselves wrong. What's left over is meerly the model which fits the evidence we have collected thus far. That's all we can really hope for.

"If the code and the comments disagree, then both are probably wrong." -- Norm Schryer