How did the Universe begin? (Synopsis)

“In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.” -Douglas Adams

So, you think you know about the beginning. About where everything came from, about how our Universe got its start. As my very blog is titled, it "Starts With A Bang," right?

Image credit: wiseGEEK, © 2003 — 2014 Conjecture Corporation, via; original fromShutterstock / DesignUA. Image credit: wiseGEEK, © 2003 — 2014 Conjecture Corporation, via; original fromShutterstock / DesignUA.

Except that's not truly the beginning of everything. The Big Bang was preceded by an epoch of cosmic inflation, and started off with space, time, and (to the best of our knowledge) the laws of physics already firmly in place. So if we really wanted to answer the question of where everything came from, we may want to consider an even more fundamental question about the beginning: where did time come from? Or, perhaps more fundamentally, was there a beginning to time at all?

Image credit: me. Image credit: me.

Go read about the possibilities, and the limits of what we know.


More like this

42 :)

Excellent post. I've been bitchin' a bit about past couple of articles. But this one is spotless.

This IS the current summary of modern Cosmology. And is precise, detailed and philosophical at the same time. 5 stars all the way.

This should be the article to replace "general public" articles about what is BB and inflation and everything else.

All praises deserved!

By Sinisa Lazarek (not verified) on 22 May 2014 #permalink

p.s. as for 3 standing questions. IMO, only the 3rd has some signs of being answerable, being that DE is most likely a remnant of inflation field.

But that brings me to something I find important. There is a need to study DE in much more detail than it is at the moment. The number of good papers on it are few and in general the state of mind is "ok it's here, it's weird, we have no clue how to test it or isolate it"... and that's it for almost a decade now. The reality is, we do have an unexplored, uncharted, unknown force of nature. That's huge. I mean, that's a dream for most physicists. Here is something real that noone understands it properly, yet the paradox is there is very little coming out, or not many people dealing with it serious DE research both theoretical and experimental "in principle" . :(

By Sinisa Lazarek (not verified) on 22 May 2014 #permalink

Hmmm, I sometimes wonder what scale of time we would have discovered on a different planet - a year is 429 days; a day is 27hours & 13 minutes long etcetera ........

Hopefully in the next decade we will have better data on black holes and maybe understand gravity/time a little more.

By David Hurn (not verified) on 22 May 2014 #permalink

PJ, But in space opera, every planet has 365day years, and days are always 24hours (as are count down timers for reactor explosions).

By Omega Centauri (not verified) on 22 May 2014 #permalink

Ethan, Ethan, Ethan. For the past 40 years the term "the Big Bang" has been used for the event at the very beginning of the universe, the event beginning at TIME ZERO. So no, according to the thinking of modern cosmologists, a period of inflation did NOT occur "after" the Big Bang, but occurred after that event (or as part of that event). You are confusingly modifying the term "Big Bang" if you redefine it as anything occurring after time zero. The Big Bang is the beginning, not something after the beginning. This post is a prescription for confusion (in contrast to your many other very helpful and clarifying posts).

@ Mahin, Mahin, Mahin

the whole point is that THERE IS NO time 0. Or if you will, there is no big bang at t=0.

Big Bang is 50 year old term for something that didn't bang and which had t=0 somewhere where we can't probe (if it did have t=o in the first place).

The old definition doesn't hold water. Period. That's the point of the post.

By Sinisa Lazarek (not verified) on 23 May 2014 #permalink

Something, anything, can't come from nothing. We all know our Lord started the whole thing at some time.

So what's confusing me is that in the beginning of the article you say that the big big isn't where time began, but later you have a plot that has an x-axis with t=0 and stuff happening before t=0. I suppose you're marking t=0 as the time when the big bang happened, but when the big bang happened can't be t=0. I see that you put it in quotes, but then you don't really explain what you mean.


Not only is that proof by blatant assertion, but by your own logic either your "Lord" does not exist (if it isn't "anything" it's nothing) or it was part of an earlier something that was started at some time. Because your axiom is that nothing can come from nothing, not "nothing that isn't given a capital letter can come from nothing."

I don't expect that to have convinced you, but ask yourself this: "So what?" Everyone else is asking what happened in the very earliest moments of the universe, and you're saying "I don't know or care how it happened, all that matters is that this guy here pushed the button to make it happen." It's not a useful answer to people who are actually curious about reality and the history of the universe. (It's like answering "who is the president of the United States?" with "someone who works in the White House.")

@ Juice

t=0 is where we put the line in the chart. It happens to be the moment where matter and radiation of our universe started. But not space and time. Yes, 40 years ago we thought it was the moment where even spacetime began, but now we know better or different, however you want to phrase it. The fact is people were thought for half a century that the moment matter began and spacetime began where one and the same. That's the reason why it's hard to "un-learn".

You can think of it as this, t=0 is where OUR ability to MEASURE time as we know it began. As our theories evolve and our experiments progress, that line will be moved.

By Sinisa Lazarek (not verified) on 24 May 2014 #permalink

I don't follow any religion but you've got to admit if the Big Bang theory is right it does sound pretty God-like. Everything just popped into existence from a single point and there was nothing before? If I learn how to run a papermill I can create a sheet of paper, (expansion phase). I can draw a landscape and little people on it. I am now their creator, their God. I can view the entire sheet of paper at once so I am omnipresent in a way these 2 dimensional beings cannot understand. If God does exist, he might be a multi dimensional being that created our 3 dimensions in the Big Bang. From our perspective there was nothing before because our dimensions didn't exist and we can't observe anything outside of them. Now ask yourself, how would you explain this to a primitive society thousands of years ago. You'd probably have to make up a story, like Adam and Eve.

In conclusion if there is a God, he's a multi dimensional alien and we are his science experiment. He also has one heck of a strong non-interference clause so don't bother asking him for things. Just take care of your own problems and say thanks if something goes right just in case.

I think this logic still agrees with the article. It just means someone pushed the button to make it happen.