Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Was There Only One Big Bang?

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the irrational-universe dept.

Space 295

goldaryn writes "Physorg.com is running an interesting story about the work of Oxford-based theoretical physicist Roger Penrose. Penrose has been studying CWB radiation and believes it's possible that space and time did not come into being at the Big Bang but that our universe in fact continually cycles through a series of 'aeons.' He believes that he has found evidence supporting his theory that the universe infinitely cycles."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered


No...this is the third matrix. (1)

Saint Gerbil (1155665) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341312)

...and its still lost the plot.

Re:No...this is the third matrix. (1)

worip (1463581) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341510)

Did anyone else get the same hilarious Google ad with the article?:
Men- Treat Dark Circles - Combat Severe Dark Circles. New Eye Gel with Award Winning Technology. - www.manceuticals.co.uk
Black holes and concentric circles will get you there...

Old hat (1, Interesting)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341326)

This is hardly a new idea... My understanding was that it had been proven to be impossible to see any detailed information about the previous universe, as the big bang effectively destroyed almost all information about it.

Re:Old hat (5, Informative)

weorthe (666189) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341364)

According to the article, concentric circles of temperature variation in the cosmic background radiation were caused by successive massive black holes, some of which supposedly predate the big bang.

Re:Old hat (1, Informative)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341426)

Mm, but I meant detailed information as in "oh, there was a planet full of wonky aliens over there" or "there was another Earth in the previous universe!"

Consider that a black hole can be classically described by only 3 parameters: its mass, its charge and its angular momentum ... there ain't much detailed information there.

Re:Old hat (5, Informative)

epiphani (254981) | more than 3 years ago | (#34342344)

I saw Penrose speak on this topic at the Perimeter Institute about two years ago. He has been working on this for quite a while.

You captured the essence of his hypothesis. The idea is that in the latter stages of a universe, you eventually get two supermassive black holes orbiting each other - each containing half of the matter in the universe. As they rotate around each other, they're effectively ripping each other apart from the massive gravity wells. His theory is that the point at which they finally coalesce after billions of years of orbit, space and time "reset", and in that same instant the big bang takes place.

His premise is that not all of the energy has been completely contained within the singularity. When the big bang happens, the outlying energy causes rings in the background radiation.

Funny thing was, two days before his talk he got the first results back from the radiation survey. They didn't find rings, they found ovals. And in his words "we have no idea what that means".

It's great to see that he's making progress.

Re:Old hat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34341390)

I remember reading an Isaac Asimov essay entitled "I'm Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover" that proposed this same idea. I first read the article in the early senventies, and it wasn't new then.

Re:Old hat (1)

niebie (677835) | more than 3 years ago | (#34342124)

He also wrote a short story with a similar idea in 1956. You can read it online. [multivax.com]

Re:Old hat (1)

metrix007 (200091) | more than 3 years ago | (#34342478)

That story has nothing to do with this story, or asimovs' essay cited in GP's post. In fact, from that story there is absolutely no reason to assume that there was more than one big bang as per the commonly held theory. Certainly nothing to even imply multiple big bangs. A great story though.

Re:Old hat (5, Interesting)

zr-rifle (677585) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341428)

Proven with what? Our grasp of physics can only let us understand what probably happened minutes after the Big Bang occured. According to this model, complete removal of information occurs at the end of the cycle, or aeon, when black holes evaporate and the universe returns into a pristine state, just like a blank slate.

I think it's easier to understand what we are talking about if you imagine the universe as a white blanket.

Before the big bang occurs, the blanket perfectly smooth, just like it was well ironed. Then, a massive jolt causes it to fold, crease and wrinkle: this is information, i.e. matter. Entropy could probably act as a gradual, unstoppable force that gradually puts the blanket under tension again.
The end of universe, therefore, is the return to a pristine state completely devoid of information. Suppose you spill a cup of coffee over the blanked: it is now tainted, but this doesn't necessary interfere with the distension process of prohibit the blanket from returning to a perfectly smooth state. However, if you take a look at the tainted blanket, it obviously isn't perfectly white as before.

Therefore, the Big Bang acts as a creator of new information, not as a destructor of previous information.

Re:Old hat (4, Informative)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341812)

Proven with what? Our grasp of physics can only let us understand what probably happened minutes after the Big Bang occured. According to this model, complete removal of information occurs at the end of the cycle, or aeon, when black holes evaporate and the universe returns into a pristine state, just like a blank slate.

Milliseconds, not minutes, but yeah. At about t+4ms, the strong forces came into existence. Before that, the math completely falls apart, and we have no idea what was happening. We don't even know if time itself was constant, and as we percieve it those first 4ms could have taken a billion years or more.

This isn't, by any stretch, a new idea, though. It's very similar to the Hindu/Buddhist cosmologies, which have been around for thousands of years. Sure, the hindus do use the notion of Brahma and the Manus to explain the passing of cycles, but both faiths teach that the universe goes through an infinite cycle of expansion, stability, and collapse, and that time goes off into infinite in either direction from here. This scientist's "new idea"? It's been around for at least 5,000 years.

Re:Old hat (1)

azalin (67640) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341912)

I can already see the headline: "Science proves religion was right"

Re:Old hat (2, Funny)

hey! (33014) | more than 3 years ago | (#34342186)

I see a different front page headline: "Science decodes message from God." Below the fold:

Oxford, UK. Physicist Roger Penrose has deciphered a hidden message from the creator Deity, encoded in subtle variations of the universe's background radiation. The message consists of a single word sentence: "Suckers!"

logic (2, Insightful)

t2t10 (1909766) | more than 3 years ago | (#34342404)

Buddhist cosmology isn't really "religious"; whether it is true or not has little bearing on whether you're a Buddhist. The cyclic model in Buddhist cosmology simply makes sense and avoids issues of first causes and the end of time.

In contrast, Christian cosmology is used to justify Christianity: if Christian cosmology is wrong, the whole theological edifice of Christianity comes crashing down. Christian cosmology also fails to address the question of where God comes from.

Re:Old hat (1)

metrix007 (200091) | more than 3 years ago | (#34342490)

How would you know it was milliseconds and not minutes? Would time even existed in any meaningful state then?

Re:Old hat (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341970)

You imagine a large blank space where suddenly big bang happens and matter gets created. But Big Bang is when the space itself gets created. It is difficult to imagine, very difficult to describe using plain ascii text, and would be whoosh over my head even if the best presentation media is used. Best thing to do would be to ignore these speculation by the physicists. If they eventually come up with something that is accepted by large number of other physicists and come up with experiments or astronomical observations to back it up, that is when we laypeople should pay attention. Else we will be wasting our time following them barking up the wrong tree, er, spurious solutions.

Analogy not relevant? (1)

turkeyfish (950384) | more than 3 years ago | (#34342214)

"Suppose you spill a cup of coffee over the blanket: its now tainted".

Since you are talking about the universe, the above statement would imply that something outside of it is having an effect, which is by definition not possible. Likewise the "stain" would seem to imply that some matter would or could be differentiated at some fundamental level from other matter as part of the process. This seems to make any mathematical model of the universe an intractable potentially infinite number of "unique" terms with special properties, and hence probably outside of experimental science to establish.

But don't listen to me. I tried to read Penrose's book the Road to Reality, but I had to give up after a couple of hundred pages. The math curve got too steep for me and I couldn't tell if I understood what I was reading. I've had to lock myself in a math library ever since. Kind of like being trapped in a black hole of increasing density and no chance to escape.

Re:Old hat (1)

ixtapa (903468) | more than 3 years ago | (#34342264)

I really like your sheet analogy. But if matter and energy are the wrinkles on the blanket, what does the coffee represent? What does this information consist of if not matter and energy? Maybe in the alternate world matter and energy are the stains from colored liquids on the sheet. But if that were the case, wouldn't the stains slowly fade back to white, in the same way the wrinkles get pulled out flat in this world? Further, even if a stain survived the fading process, since it is neither matter nor energy, how would we perceive it? If we can't perceive it is it really there? It is a nice twist of ideas, but I don't think the coffee part holds up as well as the wrinkles.

Re:Old hat (1)

t2t10 (1909766) | more than 3 years ago | (#34342342)

Wow, you say all that with such certainty as if all of that were known.

Fact is that nobody can say even with any confidence what happened around the big bang, how the universe is going to end, or whether any information survives the/a big bang/crunch. Even non-big-bang models of the universe can't be excluded based on what's known.

Re:Old hat (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341644)

Sure, the idea is not new, in fact there's probably some ancient religions with the same notion. The news is that these scientists appear to have measured something that corroborates this idea.

Re:Old hat (2, Interesting)

SenseiLeNoir (699164) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341778)

Hindu Philosophy (Or More Specifically Dharmic Philosophy, which coveres a than just Hinduism/Religion) Has always seen the universe as a creation/destruction cycle, with multiple cycles of creation/destruction.

Re:Old hat (1)

thedarkchaos (1947234) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341868)

"his theory that the universe infinitely cycles"

His theory? I thought of this when I was 12. Is this such a hard thing to fathom that we all have to claim each possible outcome as our own theory?

Pretty old theory (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34341342)

Pretty old theory, that gave rose to various philosophical question, like if it is recurring, is the outcome always the same, or different every time?


Indians first came this theory to light, Nietzsche spend quite sometime thinking about this, Kundera wrote a book around it: The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Re:Pretty old theory (1)

Dutchmaan (442553) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341394)

Well let's assume that it's different every time and is infinitely repeatable, like rolling near infinitely sided dice. Then a person, place etc.. will exist at some point in every conceivable way it CAN exist. and IF by some chance we have no perception of time when we die, then in fact we will exist again in what would be to us, an instant, in every way we CAN exist.

Re:Pretty old theory (0)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341436)

We sort of will anyway, without such stunts. There are almost 7 billion people around. 100+ billion dead, most likely countless more will be alive. We're not that unique as we like to think... (though how we can barely actively keep track of more than few dozen people helps with such perception)

Yes, not the holy "unbroken continuity" wished for by many. But it itself is a myth even on the scale of one individual. Recollect all the thoughts, wishes, desires, emotions, events which happened during the last week.

Now do the same for the 17th week of 1995.

Re:Pretty old theory (2, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 3 years ago | (#34342064)

You need to brush up on summation of geometric series. More people are alive today than all humans who have ever died. 75000 years ago we were down to 5000 people, just 1000-1500 breeding pairs. The growth was very slow, not that many people died in the prehistory.

World population passed the 4, 5, 6 and now 7 billion mark in our lifetime. Population of India was just 300 milliom in 1920s (Poem by Barathi referring to Mother India with 300 million faces comes to my mind). Population of USA was just 85 million during WWII.

Yes more people are alive today than all the dead combined. Seven eighths of scientists are still alive. Dont feel bad. Human mind is not evolved to comprehend exponential growth and geometric series well.

Re:Pretty old theory (5, Informative)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34342134)

More people are alive today than all humans who have ever died.

That's an urban myth (how you defend it with flawed math probably nicely demonstrates our propensity to attaching to ourselves undue importance). 100+ billion homo sapiens dead already:

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=fact-or-fiction-living-outnumber-dead [sciam.com]
http://www.prb.org/pdf/PT_novdec02.pdf [prb.org]
http://www.prb.org/Articles/2002/HowManyPeopleHaveEverLivedonEarth.aspx [prb.org]

Re:Pretty old theory (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341442)

Well let's assume that it's different every time and is infinitely repeatable, like rolling near infinitely sided dice. Then a person, place etc.. will exist at some point in every conceivable way it CAN exist. and IF by some chance we have no perception of time when we die, then in fact we will exist again in what would be to us, an instant, in every way we CAN exist.

That makes a lot of assumptions about the nature of consciousness. Would we exist in every way, or would consciousness follow a thread to one of the possible ways so that we experience them one at a time? Would we experience them at all or would it be someone else? Why does everyone here seem to be on the very first life? (I know in infinite possibilities it has to happen somewhere, but there must be a lot more first lives that are on worlds where some are on later lives.

Re:Pretty old theory (2, Funny)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341550)

Then a person, place etc.. will exist at some point in every conceivable way it CAN exist.

Wow, who needs Thought Police. Everyone should now be imprissoned because they must, in some instantiation of themselves, have committed some awful crime. Why worry about whether it is in this universe or another? Safer to just lock them all up anyway.

Not original (1)

Ceriel Nosforit (682174) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341352)

I proposed the same idea while visiting CERN with a student group when I was 17. My reasoning involved the anthropic principle, since the time between big crunches and big bangs could approach infinity. I was told me my idea was as good as theirs'.

Now I think that space may be infinite and that vacuum may fluctuate in places with no matter to such a degree that time slows down from the presence of so much mass. My generalization is that if stuff isn't expressively disallowed, they are true and there is a real world example of it.

Before the Big Bang (4, Informative)

Narpak (961733) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341354)

There is a BBC Horizon episode up on youtube called What Happened Before the Big Bang [youtube.com] . Interviews with several physicists about different ideas on the topic of what might have preceded our universe.

UNfortunately like most BBC documentaries now.. (4, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341568)

... it was rather dumbed down with lots of silly graphics and other dicking about from the guy in the editing suite, shots of people walking backwards and forwards and a narrator asking loads of questions that the program didn't really give the interviewees enough time to answer properly. And when they did it was obvious they'd been told to keep it simple. Which was a shame , it had great potential but there seems to be a line of thought in British TV at the moment , not just the BBC, that people just can't handle difficult science in more than 30 second dollops before the viewing needs a break. Thank heavens for TED.

Re:Before the Big Bang (3, Funny)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341572)

I just watched the first two parts. Absolute garbage. They try to compare synonyms, such as why do "regular explosions" produce chaos, but the "big bang explosion" produced order. It's not the same idea of explosion!?!

They even mention that the early exponential expansion of the universe was "unprecedented". Really? The universe was 10^-30 seconds old when it happened!

I'll not waste time on the remaining parts.

Re:Before the Big Bang (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34342154)

What happened in The Bang stays in The Bang.

Re:Before the Big Bang (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 3 years ago | (#34342202)

interesting video, but that aluminum vacuum chamber has one flaw, even though they can pump out all the atmosphere and molecules there is something that can not be pumped out and that is earth's gravitational pull.

The Matrix Vs. Carl Sagan [youtube.com]

As they say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34341372)

It's turtles all the way down

Re:As they say (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341766)

Yes, but this turtle, you see, has concentric rings. And a very large black hole. Which, if you ask me, it should probably get looked at.

Yet another believe based theory from Penrose (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34341384)

Some of his theories seems to be too believe based, such as the Quantum Consioucness and his view of the existence of universe with purpose. Is this one of those also?

no to big-bang-centricity ! (2, Insightful)

polar red (215081) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341402)

no to big-bang-centricity ! your universe is not the center of the multiverse !

Yes to big-bang-centricity ! (4, Funny)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341662)

no to big-bang-centricity ! your universe is not the center of the multiverse !

You bastard! You're trying to make us humans even more insignificant than we already are??

We already admitted that Europe isn't the center of the world.
We already admitted that the world isn't the center of the solar system/universe
We already admitted that the sun isn't the center of the galaxy
We already admitted that our galaxy isn't the center of the universe

You're trying to make us admit that even our universe isn't the center of the multiverses?

Damn you!

Re:Yes to big-bang-centricity ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34342374)

f*ck that. we all know that I, anonymous coward, am the center of everything.

Probably (1)

bytesex (112972) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341416)

It would make sense, given that all its sub structures behave in that way. The universe as one huge-ass string.

Re:Probably (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341464)

It would make sense, given that all its sub structures behave in that way. The universe as one huge-ass string.

By huge-ass string I think you are saying that the universe is a piece of shit. No argument there

Expansion (2, Insightful)

Altesse (698587) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341418)

I don't understand. I thought the consensus between scientists was that the universe is expanding indefinitely, and that there won't be a big crunch ?

Re:Expansion (5, Insightful)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341702)

That's not really so much "consensus" as "the result of the model we're currently using". No-one *likes* the standard model of cosmology; it's obviously just phenomenology, but it happens to fit all the data at least as well as any alternative. The standard model of cosmology is "lambda CDM", the lambda being a cosmological constant which drives an accelerating expansion in the current universe, and the CDM being cold dark matter which was responsible for the clustering of matter and the formation of galaxies and so forth.

The problem is that if it *is* just a cosmological constant then it will grow to dominate the universe and things will, indeed, expand forever.

But it's probably not a cosmological constant. The "best" prediction from quantum field theory -- and it's not really a prediction so much as the only way of estimating the size of the constant -- comes from evaluating the vacuum energy. Doing this suggests that it should be about 10^120 times bigger than we see in reality. That's a pretty big difference. Weinberg described it as the most embarrassing mismatch between theory and observation in the history of science, and he's got a point. The conclusion is that there's probably some mechanism (coming from trans-Planckian physics, maybe, or something else) that cancels the cosmological constant. If that's true, then it's almost certain to cancel it perfectly because the fine-tuning necessary to produce the *observed* constant is horrific, whereas a symmetry principle could wipe the whole thing much more easily.

That leaves you open to more general dark energy models to explain the accelerating expansion and that's where you have more fun. There are plenty of ways to get an observed acceleration. Some of them lead to big rips, which is where eventually the universal expansion will tear galaxies, then solar systems, then stars, planets and eventually even atoms and nuclei apart. Others lead to the decay of whatever field is responsible for acceleration -- like if you couple a scalar field into dark matter you can tune it such that the scalar field grows to dominate and then starts transferring its energy into dark matter, which would cause the universe to reclump again (and then probably the dark matter would dump energy back into the scalar field causing more acceleration). Those models are horribly contrived and unrealistic, but at least they're alternatives.

And the cosmological constant is pretty contrived and unrealistic in the first place...

Anyway. Before I got side-tracked my point was that there isn't really a consensus so much as a model that fits observations and predicts eternal expansion, but that it's not the only model and it's not even the best motivated model, merely the simplest. Other models can still lead to crunches while fitting pretty much all the data as well. And others can lead to cyclic universes, which is ultimately what Penrose is talking about in one form or another.

Disclaimer: I am a cosmologist but I've not actually read the article. This is Slashdot, after all.

New? (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341420)

My brother is an astrophysicist. The way he explained it to me is thus (and I believe this is pretty accurate, but dumbed down for the non-physicist in me):

There's a variable in the calculations that determine what happens in between "Big Bangs".

If the variable is less than 1, then the universe contracts to a point, and then explodes again, forever exploding and then crunching.

If the variable is more than 1, then the universe expands forever, getting cooler and cooler and never shrinks back even when there's a billion billion light years between the nearest two particles.

If the variable is exactly 1, then the universe expands to a point and stops expanding, staying at that size / temperature forever.

All current measurements put that variable at 1. With an error margin of about 5.

To me, that just about sums up human understanding of the universe perfectly (i.e. the amount of a potentially-infinite space-time entity - of which we inhabit precisely nothing - that can be understood by a short-lived squelchy collection of cells, most of which are dedicated to staying alive for a handful of decades, and that would fit into a small handbag).

Re:New? (3, Informative)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341730)

Basically. You're talking about the critical density of the universe. This is about 1, meaning that the universe is "flat" -- so it's infinite in extent and basically composed of a load of flat sheets rather than saddle shapes or spheres. So far as we can tell it's exactly 1. (It's pretty easy to tell, actually. We can look at the ripples in the universe back from when it was 370,000 years old, and then look at *those same ripples* from when the universe was about 10 billion years old. Those ripples have a particular wavelength, so from that we can tell how much the universe had to expand. It pins things down really quite nicely.)

Our problem comes from counting how much actual normal ("baryonic" though it includes more than just baryons) matter there is, by looking at everything that glows (and also by looking at the amount of hydrogen and helium, which was produced in the first few seconds of the universe's life; the ratio between the two is extremely sensitive to how much baryonic matter there was). It gives us a density parameter of about 0.05. Shit. So we then look at how much clumping matter we need, which would include "dark matter", whatever form that takes. We find that we need about a density parameter of 0.3 -- so 25% of the universe is dark matter.

Shit. We *still* only have 30% of the universe even accounting for dark matter.

So we're forced to add about 70% of the universe in something else. That can't clump and for other reasons it has to act as an "anti-gravity". That's called "dark energy".

Rather surprisingly, this model fits all the available data...

Re:New? (2, Interesting)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341802)

Since our physics don't apply anywhere near the big bang, there are no calculations that can tell you what goes on if such an event were to occur; likewise, while projecting backwards until you get to something ridiculous (cosmologists call the ridiculous point a singularity, but what they mean is that nothing we know applies there, which is ridiculous from the standpoint of continuing with any attempt at explanation (no framework).) Once you've reached the ridiculous, traipsing onward and trying to imagine what led to this undefinable, non-rule-following thing you're talking about, not jsut multiple times, but even once, is absurd. Without a working physics model, it's all hand waving.

Cosmology at this level is about as sensible as religion. That is to say, not at all.

Re:New? (3, Insightful)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341862)

I'd try and defend my profession but I won't because you're quite right. We can happily build models for pre-big bang theories but until we've got a good reason to believe in a way to go with high-energy physics, it's all just phenomenology -- a mathematical way of waving your hands, basically. No-one's actually denying this; if you read the papers on this kind of model they'll tend to wave their hands madly and talk about modifications arising from M theory and low-energy effective field theories. All that is just gloss, motivations for your own model which you'll never seriously pretend is fundamental.

What I would say though is that putting the bounds on your effective theory at least gives you a handle on your inaccuracies. Not many religions do that...

Re:New? (2, Insightful)

node 3 (115640) | more than 3 years ago | (#34342074)

That's like saying it's absurd to study black holes because we can't fully model them. We don't have to, because viewing them gives us enough information to understand quite a bit about them and use that to adjust our models. For the big bang, we can't tell mathematically what happened before it, but observation can yield data to form more seemingly accurate models.

All done through science, no religion required.

The absolute beginning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34341440)

Isn't the whole big-bang, absolute beginning thing mainly rooted it Judeo-Christian belief?

It's never sat well with me since it violates the laws of thermodynamics -- you don't get something from nothing.

Re:The absolute beginning (1)

lxs (131946) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341518)

I doubt that there are people who think that the Universe came from nothing. It's just that it's more or less impossible to look back beyond the Big Bang, so the cause is a big question mark. Then again, the laws of thermodynamics may be local to this Universe, so violation at the boundary (in time) isn't a deal breaker per se.

Re:The absolute beginning (1)

varcher (156670) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341888)

It's never sat well with me since it violates the laws of thermodynamics

Well, it doesn't. The Big Bang appears to be a local minimum of entropy, but the whole picture might be very complicated.

I can suggest this book [amazon.com] as a good layman book on the topic. It's clear, delves in all the current cosmological problems around the problem of our universe, and doesn't have a single equation until at least mid-book.

Of course, Sean is biased - he has his own pet theories - but you do get a good idea of the various problems on the origin of the universe.

(and, of course, Penrose himself had something to say about it)

Well, that's just grand ... (0, Offtopic)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341468)

... next Slashdot will tell me that the universe has AIDS, and that whoever has been banging the univerise has AIDS now too.

I'm looking at you, God! Couldn't you have created a pair of pants to wear on the eighth day, to keep you out of trouble?

Isn't time just infinite cycles? (1)

elucido (870205) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341504)

Isn't time just infinite cycles?
I don't understand his point. Time itself is just the measurement of infinite change in states. The universe is infinite because it expands as we measure it, just like Pi.

Re:Isn't time just infinite cycles? (1)

quitte (1098453) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341836)

The universe is infinite because it expands as we measure it, just like Pi.

Weird. I never noticed an increase in Pi.

Re:Isn't time just infinite cycles? (1)

samjam (256347) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341962)

You possibly weren't looking, or at least carefully, or perhaps not at all of it..

Does it have to be just one universe? (1)

miffo.swe (547642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341524)

It could just as well be multiple universes. The thing that triggers a big bang could be a certain mass in a black hole. That is, when enough of our know universe accumulates in a black hole, boom headshot! Could just as well happen all over in places we havent seen or that are just to far away.

I will say this only once (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34341574)

No, there were 42, silly.

Pulse (4, Interesting)

programmerar (915654) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341648)

It may even be that "our" big bang and "our" universe is one of many in the great infiniteness of the.. universe. Just like there are more planets, more solar systems, more galaxies other than our own. Just like cells in the human body, and atoms within the cells...

Time is irrelevant unless measured, eg by a human. So this pulse may be as normal as any pulsating object, large or small.

The mind wanders..

In other news... (1)

thrill12 (711899) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341694)

...scientists discover faint traces of music using the latest telescope technologies. In a reaction, one of the scientists who discovered the phenomena explained: 'It is strange, but somehow a distant background soundwave, transported from the beginning of the big bang into the now, appears to be omnipresent in our universe.'
After further research, the soundwave was found to actually be a song, namely "I got you babe" from Sonny&Cher.
Additionally, the scientists discover that the universe must have started at 5:59am, approximately. It is unclear what this discovery means.

In other news, Bill Murray said some of his repetoire is based on true facts, although he did not explain which of that.

Why is it so difficult to understand infinity? (1)

yesiree (1630527) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341714)

There has never been a beginning and there will never be an end of "time" or the universe itself. What is the problem about that? It seems logical. If you HAVE a beginning, what was before that? And so on, and so on.....

Re:Why is it so difficult to understand infinity? (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341964)

Tell me what is deeper than the center of the Earth. Or what is to the north of geographic North Pole.

Re:Why is it so difficult to understand infinity? (1)

oranGoo (961287) | more than 3 years ago | (#34342132)

Yes, we can 'understand' infinity, but that is not the point.
The point is weather your belief(!) that time is infinite is correct or not (btw, is it circular or not?).
At the end, even though you are imprecise, it might be that you are correct and it might be that you are wrong.

Science is trying to get us closer to answers to such questions.

I would say that you are confused due to your incapacity or unwillingness to imagine a realistic concept of finite time (or you dismiss it as 'obviously' false), which is hardly objective.... for example, under current calculations we have no reason to believe that anything existed before 13.7 * 10^9 units of time (which happen to be very close to current rotation period of Earth). Few billions are hardly infinity and if you were trying to be objective it seems reasonable that you would opt for the finite model of time. But then you would probably have to deal with the question such as 'What caused the Big Bang?' and that is difficult. However, resorting to 'infinite model' is not significantly different - the questions change to: 'how the infinity came to exist?' and 'why is it infinite?' or 'how can it be infinite?'.

if there are several Black Holes, why notBigBangs? (1)

kubitus (927806) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341726)

the theorie of Black Holes gave the idea to the BigBang theory - they just applied time-reversal!.

So if several Black Holes can co-exist - why not several Big-Bangs?

When looking at the jets BackHoles and other cosmic entities emit - I ask myself if this jet at its exit point looks just like after a BigBang?

If some cosmic theories postulate that gravity gets weaker and weaker - maybe that is the trigger which makes the mass concentrations in Black-Holes decide that it is time to leave the nest *g*

and Bang again Big?

This would also make the Event Horizon spread out farther and farther - wouldn't it?

Re:if there are several Black Holes, why notBigBan (3, Informative)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#34341764)

"the theorie of Black Holes gave the idea to the BigBang theory - they just applied time-reversal!."

No 'they' didn't. Black holes are based on inhomogeneous solutions to Einstein's equations -- the first being the Schwarzschild solution describing a spherical, uncharged body embedded in flat spacetime, with Reisser-Nordstrom, Kerr and Kerr-Newman adding in electromagnetic fields, rotation and then both respectively.

Cosmology is based on Friedman-LeMaitre-Robertson-Walker solutions, which impose maximal symmetry on spatial surfaces of constant time. You might be interested to note that no black hole solution can be maximally-symmetric since only three surfaces are -- normal flat space, a (hyper)sphere and a (hyper)saddle.

There really isn't much connection. "Reversing" time on a black hole solution (which happen when you take, for example, a Schwarzschild solution and allow it to exist all the way to the centre of the system instead of cutting it off with a stellar surface partway down, which is what happens in the solar system) gives you a white hole.

Re:if there are several Black Holes, why notBigBan (1)

kubitus (927806) | more than 3 years ago | (#34342072)

thanks, do you have URL(s) to easy reading on getting an idea about Friedman-LeMaitre-Robertson-Walker cosmology?

the white hole sounds plausible to me.

Any comment on the assumption that gravity gets weaker and my imagination of the consequences of such an event?

Re:if there are several Black Holes, why notBigBan (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#34342204)

Gravity getting "weaker" is probably referring to a scale-dependent Newton constant (or however else they've phrased the strength of gravity). Something like Horava-Lifshitz gravity is perhaps worth a look if you're interested in things like that and can find a popular-level thing on it (I think I read a survey of Horava-Lifshitz gravity on the New Scientist website a month or two back which was OK if a bit... undercited, shall we say). That's basically a theory of gravity that modifies the Newton constant on very small scales to make it easier to link with the other three forces. Failing that you could hunt out things on "Brans-Dicke" gravity, or "Scalar/Tensor" gravity, which are effectively theories with a *space*-dependent (rather than scale-dependent) Newton constant.

Easy reading on FLRW cosmology? Hmmm. For whatever flaws he might have, Sean Carroll's a very good communicator. http://preposterousuniverse.com/writings/cosmologyprimer/index.html [preposterousuniverse.com] is worth a look. (He might not use the words "FLRW" anywhere in it, which if so proves he's smarter than me when he's talking with non-specialists...)

This sounds familiar (1)

Jay L (74152) | more than 3 years ago | (#34342000)

that our universe in fact continually cycles through a series of 'aeons.'

There's a restaurant, too, isn't there.

already said so in hindu scriptures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34342028)

Hindu (Indian) scriptures already say that world ends and starts again after every 4320000 years.
This process is repeated again and again, forever.

About the author... (3, Informative)

FrootLoops (1817694) | more than 3 years ago | (#34342096)

Sir Roger Penrose [wikipedia.org] is one of the more prominent living physicists. Penrose tilings [wikipedia.org] were named after him (in a nutshell, they generate infinitely complex mosaics with only a few tile types). These tilings later came up in quasicrystals [wikipedia.org] . He also invented twistor theory [wikipedia.org] in the 60's, which is another way to view spacetime. Ed Witten [wikipedia.org] of string theory/M-theory fame--perhaps the second most famous living physicist behind Hawking (my opinion)--applied twistor theory to string theory in 2003. Penrose has controversial views on human consciousness and has suggested our brains must work by a quantum mechanical process. He's written several books on the subject including The Emporer's New Mind [amazon.com] . He won the Dirac Medal and Prize [wikipedia.org] in 1989 (Hawking won in 1987; Witten won a similarly-named award in 1985) and has won a laundry list of other awards for theoretical physics. He was knighted in 1994 for his contributions to physics, is an emeritus professor at the University of Oxford, and is 79.

Turok and Steinhardt also postulate this (1)

DaveyJJ (1198633) | more than 3 years ago | (#34342196)

Professors Paul J. Steinhardt and Neil Turok (the later now the head of the Perimieter Instititute here in Waterloo, Ontario and a former student of Hawking) have postulated this theory as well. In their book, Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang, they provide a simple and extremely elegant theory that explains how this happens, and more importantly, that their endless, cycling universe theory is the best way to explain away all of the fudges and math fixes needed to explain traditional Big Bang theory. If we need to have hacks and fudges in the standard inflationary Big Bang theory, and we do, then it's probably wrong. Turok and Steinhardt's theory will, within a decade, have the necessary experimental evidence to be shown right or wrong so we'll soon know. The elegance of their theory, despite its reliance on some string theory that has yet to be experimentally demonstrated, is that it explains all of our observational evidence, without additions or fudges, as well as tying in our fundemental knowledge of things like conservation of energy, etc. I, for one, welcome our balloon-like universe overlords.

Re:Turok and Steinhardt also postulate this (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#34342266)

To be fair, there are a lot of fudges in ekpyrosis. They just might be more acceptable than are in inflationary cosmology, depending on your point of view. (My view is that both are just phenomenology.) In inflation you have to postulate the existence of one or more inflationary fields (typically scalar fields, as yet unobserved in nature which is a problem since the Higg's is a scalar field) and a specific form of potential. In ekpyrosis you have to postulate two *perfectly parallel* 5D branes, and a very specific form of potential governing their interaction. That potential was pulled out of a hat to give the dynamics they want, just as inflationary potentials are pulled out of a hat; and that setup is pretty contrived and unlikely, just as the existence of, say, one single scalar field in addition to the Higg's is pretty contrived and unlikely.

Horses for courses, really. If we see a nice signature of gravitational waves on the CMB with Planck then ekpyrosis is dead until Neil can find a way of arguing that actually there *should* be a signature. If we don't, then neither inflation nor ekpyrosis is dead because we can tune inflationary models to make the signal vanishingly small anyway.

Re:Turok and Steinhardt also postulate this (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34342362)

Professors Paul J. Steinhardt and Neil Turok (the later now the head of the Perimieter Instititute here in Waterloo, Ontario and a former student of Hawking) have postulated this theory as well

This is also what is described in Hindu and Buddhist cosmology -- the universe itself being cyclic in nature, going through an endless series of destruction and creation; not to mention vast and full of other planets and the like, not some unique playground made just for us by "God".

Of course, "modern" science has more or less ridiculed this for the last couple of hundred years. As I recall, they also have astronomical references in some of their texts which place them being several thousand years ahead of where we think civilization evolved.

It always amuses me to watch "advanced" Western science catch up with what some of the Eastern systems have known since before the rest of us were doing much more than rooting about in the muck. Some days, it seems like it takes us hundreds of years to "re-learn" what some of the ancient civilizations knew thousands of years ago.

The reason (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 3 years ago | (#34342388)

I think the reason why some people thing there was another big bang is because some of the same actors appeared in a different series, but it wasn't big bang, is was Roseanne.

Re:The reason (1)

MRe_nl (306212) | more than 3 years ago | (#34342498)

So after the Big Bang we get Roseanne again?
I'm not entirely comfortable with this hypothesis.
As one AC once printed "There is as yet insufficient data for a meaningful answer".I think I'll just grab that straw thank you very much.

Problem with Penrose's suggestion (1)

GallopingGreen (183511) | more than 3 years ago | (#34342462)

I have a problem with Penrose's hypothesis - maybe someone can clarify.
[Note IANAastrophysicist - so this may display blatant misunderstanding]

If the Universe goes through cycles of:
Big Bang-->Lots of matter (baryonic particles)-->No matter, just energy (photons) --> BB --> ...
then this suggests that space was not created at BB only matter - so universe is spatially infinite but matter expands into it following BB and then breaks down (eventually) and then we have a big-bang event again and the cycle repeats.

I thought one essential component of traditional big bang theory was that both space and time were created at the big bang. [I have no problem with the time creation - as time is a function of mass. i.e. no mass => no time]. But how do we get rid of all the space in time for the next BB??

ObRobertJordan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34342496)

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.

Mark Edwards

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account