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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 reydeyo ( 1126459 ) <`reydeyo' `at' `gmail.com'> on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:06AM (#23721513)
    Alan Guth described this sort of thing, and many other possible origins of the universe, in his book [amazon.com] written in 1998. I think I even remember him hypothesizing that a universe could possibly be its own parent. Definitely old news.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:21AM (#23721621)
    How can we define time independently of space? Can anybody devise an experiment that can measure time in some fundamental way without needing a displacement and a velocity?

    This almost sounds like pseudoscience. Time as we know it can only be defined in our universe because this is the only place we can measure it. There is no logical reason whatsoever to believe that there was a 'before' the Big Bang because you can't assign any physical meaning to 'before' (as in 5 s before or 10 years before).
  • by Ai Olor-Wile ( 997427 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:54AM (#23721859) Homepage
    Although the word "universe" is now accepted to mean "the membrane of space that was created by the Big Bang," this is etymologically inaccurate. Outside of playful uses (such as "off in one's own universe" or a TV serial's universe) the word "universe" should be synonymous with "absolutely everything ever," and we ought to come up with some intermediary term (like "brane" if you feel like you require more than ten dimensions in order to explain quantum phenomena) to refer to this nice big bubble of matter-energy we've found ourselves encapsulated in.

    Good show about the microwave radiation, though. Now, let's hope that there isn't a film of Angels & Demons that is conveniently timed or anything.
  • by GISGEOLOGYGEEK ( 708023 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @05:03AM (#23721899)
    Absolutley everything ever = Omniverse

    Not to be confused with Multiverse.

    Our pocket is but one Universe.

  • by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @05:20AM (#23722015)
    I always rationalised the Tardis in Doctor Who as some sort of pocket of universe that sprouts wormholes to different points in spacetime. Bigger on the inside than out would be no problem since the inside is a different spacetime connected to the Tardis's destination via a thin neck that is hidden by some sort of hologram. Come to think of it, since the outside of the Tardis is some sort of hologram hiding a wormhole entrance that explains how the Tardis can change shape to disguise itself. An if someone attacks outside of the Tardis you just turn of the hologram and break the thin neck to that part of spacetime and reconnect a bit later to make the thing appear indestructable.

    And a civilisation like the Time Lords that's had spacetravel for thousands or millions of years and knows how to harness the power of blackholes would be plausibly be capable of this sort of thing. I certainly wouldn't expect them to be flying around in the sort of spaceships we'd design based on our current knowledge of technology.

    So I'm not surprised either ;-)

    Actually the odd thing about Doctor Who is that there is no evidence that the people that wrote it knew anything about physics, so the Tardis isn't supposed to be a pocket universe, but I can quite see explaining all the Tardis's odd properties using this model.
  • by pstaight ( 1304975 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @05:23AM (#23722035)

    As Hawking put it; asking what happened before the Big Bang is like asking what's north of the North Pole.

    What I take from his statement is that the universe can possibly map to a system with complex numbers where concepts similar to north of the North Pole exist. However, time does not apply until there are particles interacting with each other at rates that can be described with probability functions.

    The rates must be non-zero otherwise the universe would be over instantly. Going faster than the speed of light would be the same as going faster than the speed of time. Is this article claiming otherwise?

  • Re:AFAIK (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @05:47AM (#23722163)
    The existence of the universe fails Occam's razor pretty miserably.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @05:54AM (#23722193)

    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.
    A physical balloon is enclosed in our Universe were we can measure independently outside of it, but the balloon in the example only has the equipment for measuring time inside of itself. How do we know that our Universe is embedded in anything when like the balloon, we can only measure time here? We have to be strict on defining time in a physical sense, not a human sense. Displacement and velocity have meaning inside the balloon and we can use them to define time. How do you define displacement and velocity outside of the balloon? Do we have any reason whatsoever to believe that the physical laws that work inside the balloon are the same that would work outside the balloon?

    What we are doing is conjecturing. We know there is no experimental way to find out about meta-universes a posteriori, so we theorize a priori. One of my favorite a priori meta-universes that is completely consistent with our own universe is a computer simulation. In the same way that a computer on Earth can simulate the Universe in the game Pong without the physical laws being even remotely similar, our Universe could be simulated with the physical laws different from the simulator. That is, of course, if a simulator exists, which I don't know nor do I think we can ever know (unless the programmers put in Matrix-like quirks).

    I like the Pong example because you have a definite way to measure time (via position and velocity in the game, where velocity is the position increment per for loop). You can even pause the game in our Universe and it won't affect the time measurement in the game. If you paused the game for 1 second, let it continue for 5 s, and the paused it for 10 years, and then let it continue, the in game time would only be due to the position and velocity of the ball in the game. This is a great illustration of how even time isn't connected in the Pong Universe and our own.

    Why do we think that our concept of time in our balloon-like universe necessarily has to be the same as that of some conjectured universe that we might have come from?
  • by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @06:09AM (#23722277)
    It's an interesting idea but I don't believe that we're living in a simulator where the laws of physics are different anymore than I believe that God who was somehow outside the Universe created it. Mostly because there is no evidence that either are true, but for the deeper reason than it would open a whole new question of who or what made God or the simulator.

    Fred Hoyle proposed Steady State theory because you don't have a "moment of creation" that you need to explain. It didn't work, but if our universe was created out of another then the big bang wasn't a moment of creation. It seems like if this research produces a theory which is consistent with observations and where the multiverse has always existed it would be very elegant.

    And I believe that a correct theory of everything would be elegant.
  • by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @06:22AM (#23722377)

    That's fine, but then you have to explain the multiverse in terms that are appealing (and by appealing I assume you mean some way that will not require any power, intelligence or authority greater than your own..).
    Well no power that wasn't described by equations and in someway hardwired into reality. Certainly no intelligence. If the theory was complete it would explain the Big Bang.

    I don't have a problem with the Universe having been created, I think it's just as plausible that something created this Universe - though I don't know how whatever created it managed to come into existence, or always was in existence.
    Well our local bit of spacetime came into existence in the Big Bang. I just want an explanation for how that happened.

    It's like the water cycle. Once you read that you know people understand this stuff properly. If people told you that it rained because God wanted it to or that there is a singularity at the bottom of the drain where the laws of physics broke down, that would just be a verbose way for them to tell you they didn't have a clue.

    I want a theory that explains why the Big Bang happened. It would be some sort of cosmological matter cycle that explains what happens inside black holes and where the matter in the Big Bang came from.

    Whether science will progress this far in my lifetime is a bit doubtful of course.

    It would be nice to think that there is another plane that we will still exist on when we die, but then again
    I seriously doubt that.

  • by MickLinux ( 579158 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @07:24AM (#23722965) Journal
    My brother, Joseph D. Rudmin, expected to see this. He's done a lot of work with space tensors, and has basically concluded that space-time is 3x3t (6 dimensions), with the 3 time dimensions mistaken for one for massive objects (and, ironically, it's quite possible that low-mass objects like electrons can mistake the 3 space dimensions for one). Right now, he's trying to use these equations to calculate / predict the electron's charge/mass ratio. It's a huge calculation, so it's been taking him many years.

        However, if I remember right, he regularly publishes at the Virginia Academy of Science annual meetings, and has also written a small (90 pg) book that he self published, just to get the ideas out there (ISBN 0976894726 - Thoughts on the Electron Mass).

        To the point of what he's expected to see here: he's pointed out that if you have a galaxy at the center of a collapsing black hole, and are in the galaxy, you cannot tell the difference between that event and a big bang. Moreover, once the SC-radius has formed, you cannot tell whether you are inside the black hole, or outside it as the rest of the universe collapses into it's own black hole. Moreover, because light that goes out from the universe / black hole gets redirected back inwards, you cannot tell the boundary of a black hole from the boundary of a universe. They are, by dual definition, identical.

        However, initial formations of the universe are seldom for every formation of a black hole. Therefore, it is more probable that our big bang was nothing more than the collapse of a black hole.
  • by PFI_Optix ( 936301 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @08:41AM (#23723741) Journal
    Therein lies the problem. Once you support string theory, you become a string theorist. It would be quite a paradox for a non-string theorist to support it, don't you think?

    Hell, it might even pinch off a new universe...
  • by pbhj ( 607776 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @09:19AM (#23724315) Homepage Journal
    By definition the Big Bang is the singular point at which spacetime was created ex-nihilo. Thus to talk of a time before the Big Bang is wrong.

    What they mean is a time before the point in time at which proponents of Big Bang theory consider a singularity to have existed ... I guess that may be a bit of a mouthful.

    Incidentally the report of having form at it's start is rather reminiscent of running start theory popular in ID, or possibly creatio-ex-materia.
  • No it isn't. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by spun ( 1352 ) <loverevolutionary.yahoo@com> on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @10:31AM (#23725659) Journal
    Olber's paradox says that if time stretches back infinitely, the sky would be uniformly as bright as a star.

    In this theory, the parent universe is not visible. Our universe separated from it at the Big Bang. There was a time before, but that doesn't mean you can see an infinite number of stars
  • by Fred_A ( 10934 ) <fred@fredshom[ ]rg ['e.o' in gap]> on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @11:52AM (#23727487) Homepage

    Didn't string theory already predict something like this?
    Um, did string theory predict something that anyone now could verify experimentally ?

    Not a flame, just asking...

    I've read the Elegant Universe (I think that was the title -- which incidentally has a very good exposition of relativity) and while it's all nice and dandy on paper, I'm waiting for some kind of real life validation.
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:50PM (#23731801)
    Distinguished astrophysicist Fred Hoyle invented the term "big bang" to deride the idea of a universe with a compact origin. But the term caught on as standard.

    Lets now call pre-big bang time "foreplay".
  • Hmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @06:30PM (#23737371) Journal
    Hmm. I'd assume it's a lot harder to answer something like, "how do big bangs typically work?" since we only have a sample of one. For all we know, it could be a very unusual big-bang, and they usually produce universes very different from ours.

    We can reconstruct the way ours seems to have worked. Sorta like looking at where the shrapnel went, scratching our heads, and going, "the bomb must have been _there_." But even with bombs, you can't really extrapolate much from a sample of one. If you did, you could get a conclusion like that the fragments go in all directions because your sample was a grenade, and never know that there are such things as Claymore mines.

    I also wouldn't worry much about the possibility that the Flying Spaghetti Monster created it all, including relics and data pointing out all the way to the Big Bang. Even if that's the case, way I see it:

    1. If he went through all that trouble, maybe He's trying to tell us something. Dunno, sorta like the back story of a MMO, for example. Might as well study it anyway. Maybe he _wants_ us to act like in a universe which wasn't created by His noodly appendage, if He tried to hide all inconsistencies and traces of divine intervention.

    2. The laws we discover around the way, may be useful anyway. I mean, however it may have been created, it seems to act quite predictably each time we observe it. E.g., if you drop a cannonball from the tower of Pisa, it falls in the same place and after the same time, every time. Duly noted, stuff involving individual particles, atoms and molecules (e.g., the cancer that you mention) are rather probabilistic, but it turns out that there is a method even to that madness. E.g., even if you don't know exactly which electrons will tunnel, you can calculate a Zener diode anyway.

    3. Well, does it matter? Basically those rules act the same, and those predictions are the same, regardless of whether you are a devout Pastafarian or not. Regardless of whether those rules and constants of the universe are created by His noodly appendage, or just are, you can predict the same things and expect them to be just as true or not.

    That alone is reason enough to leave Him out of the explanation. It just doesn't change those equations, so you can simplify Him out with impunity.

    4. Dunno, if I had went through all the trouble of creating an universe that's so internally consistent and where a small elegant set of equations keep it all going, I'd actually want people to notice those equations and stuff. You know, instead of a thoroughly mumbo-jumbo story about creating Adam with His noodly appendage.

    Anyone can make a shoddy rigged demo, basically, which works only due to the support guys (or one support deity, same deal) intervening all the time, and with a bunch of disjointed things that don't share anything except their creator. Anyone can make each animal be a completely different NPC, created arbitrarily on a whim and without any common code or principle.

    Making a system this complex which worked on its own without a major glitch or player wipe since the Flood, now that's something to be proud of. Making something where the same building blocks can encode anything from Amoeba to Human, and make it work too, doubly so. Boiling it down to something as simple and elegant as a handful of equations which say why carbon makes chain like that, or for that matter where it can form in stars in the first place, now that's pure genius. That guy coded in a few equations what we can't make with terrabytes of code.

    Regardless of whether, say, evolution actually happened, or the whole world started yesterday, the amazing fact is that those chemical reactions in a cell _can_ allow just that. It's a machine as perfect as to be able to adapt itself and produce anything from Cyanobacter to Human, starting from just the basic ribosome. It's _amazing_ work that. Or even just looking at the end result, a human is encoded in just 3 billion nucleotids, or about 750 megabytes. Including code, data
  • by arodland ( 127775 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @11:38PM (#23741859)
    this seems to be very similar to an idea that Penrose had in the 70s and has been discussing a little bit recently, called the Weyl curvature hypothesis. The thing that seems to be novel about the hypothesis of Erickcek et al. is that apparently they have a mechanism for a new universe to pop up in a non-empty "parent" universe; Penrose's idea depends on the parent universe being completely devoid of massive objects, which depends (among other things) on proton decay and a truly huge amount of time.

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