Dec 6, 2010

What happened before the Big Bang?

The big bang mystery (what happened before the big bang?)
may have been solved by Roger Penrose (an old friend of FF) and his coworkers at Oxford University. Penrose starts with established notions about an ever-expanding universe subject to the laws of thermodynamics, i.e. entropy.

"At first the universe becomes less uniform as it evolves and objects form within it. Once enough time has passed, however, all of the matter around will end up being sucked into black holes. As Stephen Hawking has demonstrated, black holes eventually evaporate in a burst of radiation. That process increases uniformity, eventually to the level the universe began with."

Now---this is Penrose's creative assumption---past a certain level of uniformity, the Higgs field may disappear. The Higgs field imbues particles with mass; without it, all particles would be massless and, by Einstein's relativity theory, forced to travel at the speed of light (as behooves photons, for example).

"That (as Einstein showed) means that from the particle’s point of view time stands still and space contracts to nothingness. If all particles in the universe were massless, then, the universe would look to them to be infinitely small. And an infinitely small universe is one that would undergo a Big Bang."


Even better, Penrose's new theory comes with testable predictions. Black holes would occasionally collide during the later stages of the universe's evolution, and gravitational waves would result. These waves would survive the big bang à la Penrose; they would be witnesses of the bing bang's prehistory.



Corresponding gravitational waves have now been found (pictured above).

"KASSA! KASSA!" would Samuel Fisher say.

-"This is such a good idea, it must be true."

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