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Space Science

Study Hints At Time Before Big Bang 408

canadian_right informs us that scientists from Caltech have found hints of a time before the Big Bang while studying the cosmic microwave background. Not only does the study hint at something pre-existing our universe, the researchers also postulate that everything we see was created as a bubble pinched off from a previously existing universe. This conjecture turns out to shed light on the mystery of the arrow of time. Quoting the BBC's account: "Their model suggests that new universes could be created spontaneously from apparently empty space. From inside the parent universe, the event would be surprisingly unspectacular. Describing the team's work at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in St Louis, Missouri, co-author Professor Sean Carroll explained that 'a universe could form inside this room and we'd never know.'"
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Study Hints At Time Before Big Bang

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  • by Alarindris ( 1253418 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:57AM (#23721451)
    Didn't string theory already predict something like this?

    Really though, what (in the background radiation) would point to no time before the big bang? A Kotch curve? A Hilbert curve? Complete order and continuity? I fail to see how 'blips' in the cosmic background radiation proves anything about time before the big bang.
  • by Alarindris ( 1253418 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:19AM (#23721605)

    Detailed measurements made by the satellite have shown that the fluctuations in the microwave background are about 10% stronger on one side of the sky than those on the other.
    I'm pretty sure that you could take any axis and get around 10% difference in fluctuations, it is fairly randomly dispersed after all, this should happen.

    I'm just saying it seems like quite a stretch.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:31AM (#23721687)
    By the way, just to avoid confusion, what I meant by the above is this: consider an experiment where you are blowing up a balloon and you measure time by something traveling in the balloon or by the rate that the balloon expands. How do you measure time before you started inflating the balloon (where it had a volume of zero) when your experiment can only be done inside the balloon? It only makes sense to define time as far as the balloon (or universe) is concerned after the inflation has begun and the volume enclosed by the balloon is greater than zero. There is no you can infer by any characteristic in the balloon how time worked before. From an abstract reference point, this could be the first time the balloon inflated, or maybe you pinched off a zero volume part of another balloon and started inflating, or maybe this balloon inflated from zero and then deflated to zero over many cycles. Your measure of time has no meaning in any case and none of them are related. The expansion could have been different or you could have used a different gas which would affect each potential measure of time in the balloon.
  • Alternatively... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:34AM (#23721717)
    Their model suggests that new universes could be created spontaneously from apparently empty space.

    I take that to mean that universes could also be destroyed spontaneously...

    There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the universe is for it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened. -- HHGG []
  • by AlecC ( 512609 ) <> on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:41AM (#23721755)
    But what they are saying is they have evidence rather than an idea. Not awfully strong evidence, buyt it adds weight to the idea, which was previously just hot air - interesting, but still hot mair.
  • Call me... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:48AM (#23721805) Journal
    Call me when they have observations, not hints and when it is reported by something else than BBC that wouldn't recognize a star from a galaxy
  • AFAIK (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:48AM (#23721809) Journal
    AFAIK, it didn't predict anything (experimentally measurable) yet that isn't already predicted by other, simpler theories. I.e., it still fails Occam's Razor. Miserably.

    Plus, AFAIK a lot of it has a lot of possible solutions, and for some they don't even have the equations (yet), so there's not much of a prediction you can do with it. So far the majority of it isn't even as much a theory, as in something where you plug your values in a clear formula and get a prediction, but more of a theory that a theory might exist.

    Or to put it otherwise, it's more of a mathematical construct than physics. Don't get me wrong, maths is a very very useful tool. Essential, even. But if I'm allowed a bad analogy, it's a bit like a painter's brush: it can be used to paint anything, regardless of whether it's real or outright impossible in the real world. You can use it to paint Mona Lisa or Escher's impossible pictures. So is maths. You can describe an infinity of possible universes with it, most of which have nothing to do with ours. You can use it to describe light propagation through ether, or the raisin pie atom model, or the ancient geocentric model, or even the counter-Earth ideas from waay back, all of which by now we know to be false. It becomes physics (or generally science) when you can test that formula against the real universe and see if it fits or not.
  • by amRadioHed ( 463061 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:57AM (#23721871)
    Not necessarily, at least in its current state. The universe today is quite a bit bigger than when it started.
  • Much of todays science really sounds more like philosophy than hard earned science. I want logic and data supporting scientific work and not just some coct up crazy theories thats more about debating skills than really proving something.
  • i don't see why the universe can't be endless in time and space, and the expansion and contraction we see is local, while somewhere else they are having a pinch. kind of like the choppy surface of the ocean on a windy day: troughs and peaks

    once we thought the earth was the center of the universe. we threw that centrism out the window. can't people see that the big bang theory is the same kind of centrism?: "this is all we know, therefore, that's all there is"

    if there is anything science teaches us, it is that we are not the center of everything
  • by Ai Olor-Wile ( 997427 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @05:15AM (#23721989) Homepage
    No. Universe more-or-less means "one verse" in Latin, as in "the whole thing in one verse." Universals in Idealist philosophy were things that were always present, regardless of where you went, and applicable to everything that was material. You are using a back-formation created by someone who does not know their language history because they wanted to sound more ominous than "universe."
  • by OzRoy ( 602691 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @05:21AM (#23722027)
    There is a big difference between someone expressing an idea, and someone actually saying "We have found evidence to suggest this is true."

    Just because you read about the idea 10 years ago doesn't make this any less significant.
  • by some old guy ( 674482 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @05:24AM (#23722039)
    Very well put. I might add that it is a fundamental error in logic to attempt to define the boundaries of, or apply measurements to the scope of our little bubble without presupposing a greater realm beyond. For something to have boundaries, it must exist within something to be bound from. "Everything" can't exist apart from or within something else. It means what it says: everything.
  • by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @05:28AM (#23722061)
    Yeah but your balloon is embedded in a larger universe. You could define time in balloon terms but you could also come up with a definition of time which works before the balloon was inflated.

    Similarly if our Universe is embedded a wider multiverse you could define time in such a way that you can have time before the big bang. But it's the fact that the universe is embedded in something else which is interesting to most people.

    To me it seems appealing that the multiverse is in some steady state even if the universe isn't because that avoids the Big Bang being some sort of unique, magic Act of Creation.
  • by martin-boundary ( 547041 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @06:49AM (#23722607)
    No, it's not evidence, it's an outlandish _interpretation_. We can only go by the BBC journalist's writeup of course, but here's how the scientific method (that they ought to be following) works:

    First, they (should) ask do the "ordinary" physical laws explain the fluctuations? Next, if they have shown that _none_ of the physical laws _can_ explain the fluctuations, they should ask can this be a _new_ physical law to be _added_ to the existing ones? Next, if they have shown that adding such a new law is _inconsistent_ with existing laws, they should ask whether some of the existing laws are _wrong_?

    If at the end of all that mountain of work, they still cannot fit the observation to a natural explanation, they should leave it at that and let somebody smarter go through their arguments to find what they missed.

  • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) * on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @07:13AM (#23722857) Journal
    There is nothing 'wrong' with string theory, it is simply a model of 'reality' that can describe a great deal of what we see around us. However there are other models that can do this and as numerous people have pointed out ST makes no novel predictions that can be tested.

    Mathematical models like this are worth pursuing for their own sake. History has shown that solving seemingly esoteric mathematical problems has lead to a huge number discoveries about 'reality' since Newton's time. Some examples of the mind-boggling acurate mathematical predictions from the last half century include the CMBR, Black Holes, and BE condensates.

    If think of the humand mind as a complex mathematical model of 'reality' that emerges from the computations of the brain and nervous system then it makes sense that maths is capable of describing what we perceive as 'reality' to such a degree that it leads to new discoveries about 'reality'.
  • Question (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dreamchaser ( 49529 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @07:45AM (#23723139) Homepage Journal
    What is the root and history of the word 'pedantic'?

    Languange and definitions evolve. Get over it. The term 'multiverse' has been around for a long time as has the concept of multiple 'Universes'. Relax. Have a beer.
  • Re:AFAIK (Score:3, Insightful)

    by virmaior ( 1186271 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @07:57AM (#23723263)
    which is why it's a really bad theory.

    but it remains a great piece of data.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @08:53AM (#23723891)
    No, if science teaches us one thing, is to go back to the evidence. Your hypothesis holds as much ground as horses running around in the universe. I see horses in my daily life, therefore the Universe must match my local observations, as must it match your observations of something as cosmologically meaningless as the sea.
    Our observations (Hubble) all tell us "everything is expanding". A simple backward (in time) extrapolation gives us the Big Bang. We don't have any other observations that would suggest any backing for your "sea-like universe", so why should we even consider it valid?

    This isn't centrism. Centrism would be "Earth is the center of the universe", or "this particular point is the center of the universe". In the Big Bang model, there _is_ no center, the singularity already _was_ the entire universe. We derived this from observations about the universe, not theological arguments or wishful thinking.
  • by pbhj ( 607776 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @09:01AM (#23723989) Homepage Journal

    someone actually saying "We have found evidence to suggest this is true."
    I think that's a bit strong. They've found a way to fudge the theory to be consistent with the CMB. That's a long way from evidence and the reverse of suggestion, IMHO.

    Interestingly if they've found evidence of something from before the Big Bang then our entire notion of spacetime having being created at that point are mute, it's not a Big Bang, perhaps a Cosmic Strangulated Hernia?. This then is the biggest news in physics since, well, since forever. To have then described something of the nature of that preexisting universe ... it will be interesting to see what the peer reviewers make of it.

    [Article on a pre-review paper:] Professor Carroll urged cosmologists to broaden their horizons: "We're trained to say there was no time before the Big Bang, when we should say that we don't know whether there was anything - or if there was, what it was."
    Apart from the obvious internal contradiction of using the term "Big Bang" which by definition has no "time before" then I say amen to that!
  • Listen; (Score:3, Insightful)

    by J_Omega ( 709711 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @09:34AM (#23724559)
    "Listen; there's a hell of a good universe next door: let's go."

    ~ e.e.cummings
  • FSM (Score:3, Insightful)

    by street struttin' ( 1249972 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @10:26AM (#23725573)

    Sean Carroll conceded that this might just be a coincidence, but pointed out that a natural explanation for this discrepancy would be if it represented a structure inherited from our universe's parent.
    It could also be that that is the direction the cosmic fork, twirling the noodles is spinning.
  • Re:Object naming (Score:2, Insightful)

    BetterUniverse better = UniverseFactory.getUniverse(oldUniverse);
  • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @06:10PM (#23737001)
    If the joke is "Mary and Joe went into Fred's tavern to call the police but the line was busy" I might very well wonder if you were screwing up the joke by not telling me the first part.

    If there are no observable effects of a time before the big bang, then it's not particularly interesting to talk about it. If there ARE observable effects, then it's VERY interesting to talk about it.

A committee takes root and grows, it flowers, wilts and dies, scattering the seed from which other committees will bloom. -- Parkinson