Page 1 of 2

Before The Big Bang

Posted: Sun Jan 20, 2013 4:18 am
by jonnyfar89
I am new to this forum and relatively new to Atheism in general. I've always had major doubts about organised religion and the concepts that come with it. I've recently been reading God is not Great by Christopher Hitchens and I found it very insightful.
We all know (or at least most of us) that the Big Bang is a real thing and the evidence for it is solid. However, have you any ideas or thoughts on what was there (or not there) beforehand?

I find it difficult to think of any reasonable explanation and I'm not entirely sure there is one definite answer, at least not at this stage of our evolution. I also find it funny how creationists are beginning to claim ownership of evolution, now that it's an accepted and factual thing. What was outside of the condensed mass that exploded into existence?

Obviously, this is a hard question to answer and I am no scientist or theorist with any knowledge of physics or cosmology.
But, I am interested to hear/read any theories that you might have, if any at all.

Re: Before The Big Bang

Posted: Mon Jan 21, 2013 11:55 pm
by canasta42
My limited understanding of the big bang, is that the space was created then also. It is not the case that there was a huge space and then all the matter exploded into it: the space expanded as well. It is difficult enough to get our heads around the real history of the universe, never mind what was there before. Perhaps there was nothing there 'before'. (Time also began at the big bang.) But then, what is 'nothing'? So you see how strange the problem is?

I'm not much help I'm afraid, but I think the best way to get some conceptual grasp of the currently fashionable models it to read a lot of physics. The reality, as explored using the scientific method, is so amazing, it puts all religions in the shade.

Having an 'idea' of what was 'there' before the big bang is probably even the wrong perspective on the problem. It is far outside of what evolution brought us to be able to cope with. For example, an understanding of what an electron is, and quantum electrodynamics, probably cannot be 'understood' in the same way that we 'understand' (for another example) how airplanes can fly - we have not evolved to be able to cope with the concept of an electron. Of course, I'm just speaking for myself. It is probably well to remember that we evolved within this universe - it's pretty amazing that humans have discovered so much about it - although we have taken a long time.

Sorry I'm not much help, just my two cent.

Re: Before The Big Bang

Posted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 7:22 pm
by bipedalhumanoid
There are loads of views on the "before the big bang" question.

Here's a few off the top of my head:
Hawking regards the question as meaningless as asking "what's north of the north pole?". The universe was the beginning of space-TIME and there therefore was no "before" the big bang.

Fecund suggests that the the singularities at the centre of black holes could cause the creation of new universes. In the fecund univese, universes can reproduce and black holes in our universe create big bangs that result in other universes coming into existence. This of course is very speculative, but a nice internally consistent rationalisation of what we do know and understand.

There are various other multiverse theories that suggest that ours is not the only universe. Pick any one of them and suddenly you have an alternative to the view that the big bang was the creation of everything that exists or indeed that anything was necessarily "created" by the big bang.

What we do know is that the universe is expanding. That is, the space between galaxies has been observed to be expanding in all directions. With the exception of a few galaxies in our local group that are tied by each other's gravitational influence, every galaxy in the universe is moving away from us. What that tells us is that, if you wind the clock backwards, the galaxies are all getting closer to each other. Wind it back 13.7 billion years or so and they are all occupying the same space. We call that a singularity and that singularity is what expanded to become the unvierse we inhabit. There are enormous bodies of evidence pointing to this, the most significant being the measured redshifts of galaxies and the cosmic microwave background radiation which was recently mapped by the Chandra x-ray space-telescope.

As for whether the big bang is actually a creation event in the sense that religious people understand a creation event, nobody can answer that and it would be wrong to assume it is. The event could be the result of a previously existing, infinitely dense singularity expanding (no creation required). It could be the space-time and energy leaking in from another, previously existing universe (no creation required). We do know that the laws of physics as we understand them don't apply to a singularity. For all we know, matter can be created and destroyed inside a singularity. Quantum mechanics tells us this can and does happen all the time at the quantum scale.

What we do know is that when we don't know the answer to the question, a rational response is not god dunnit. "I don't know" is a perfectly reasonable answer to questions we don't know the answer to. To assume god on the grounds that we don't have an alternative answer is what is known as argument from ignorance fallacy or the god of the gaps argument.

Re: Before The Big Bang

Posted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 4:45 pm
by Tulip1
Great post Bip! Very interesting.

You made me understand things in that post that normally make my head spin .

I hope you are teaching this stuff?

Re: Before The Big Bang

Posted: Thu Jan 31, 2013 11:46 am
by bipedalhumanoid
Thanks Tulip.

No I'm not a teacher, just a science nerd who reads a lot of pop science books.

Re: Before The Big Bang

Posted: Thu Jan 31, 2013 1:31 pm
by kae
there are lots of ideas about what happened before.

some people think that time itself started at the moment of the big bang.

other people think that the big bang is a consequence of a previous universe which "crunched" into a single point and rebounded into another universe.

it's not currently possible to say what is the truth because the big bang event was a singularity. In physics, a singularity is not (as some people say) an event where physics breaks down. instead, it's an event where the values are so immense that they are practically infinite, and incredibly hard to calculate.

yet another idea, is that the big bang is not an isolated event. that this observable universe is just one of many located all within the same manifold but so vastly distant that we don't "see" any other universes because their light has not reached us (we can't even see the entirety of our /own/ universe, it's that big!)

and another idea is that the universe was created when higher-dimensional "branes" overlapped, the overlapping parts breaking down to form a big bang.

I guess in short, I'd have to agree with bipedalhumanoid - we don't know, but it's okay not to know, as long as we have our eyes open and are willing to look

Re: Before The Big Bang

Posted: Thu Jan 31, 2013 7:30 pm
by Tulip1
bipedalhumanoid wrote::oops:
Thanks Tulip.

No I'm not a teacher, just a science nerd who reads a lot of pop science books.
Well you are very good at explaining it.

Re: Before The Big Bang

Posted: Sun Feb 03, 2013 6:03 pm
by jonnyfar89
Thanks guys, this was a very interesting read. Physics is definitely not my strong point and I wish that I had studied it when I was younger so that I could have a better understanding of it now. However, I'm glad that there are people out there who are trying to discover new things about the universe and I can live vicariously through them in that sense!

I completely agree that saying 'I don't know' is a much better answer than handing ownership over to some higher power. I can understand, years ago, when we didn't have the equipment or mental capacity to comprehend the universe the way in which we do today, that we might have put it all down to supernatural causes. However, in this day and age I find it scary that we are still controlled so much by fantasy and mythology.

Re: Before The Big Bang

Posted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:32 pm
by paolovf
I read 'Why Does E=mc^2?' by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw. It explains Einstein's theories of relativity but moreover gives a good summary of the universe as we understand it today, how we attempted to understand it over the years and contemporary research in the field (testing around the Standard Model, i.e. what they're doing at CERN).

Brian Cox has featured in some good shows on BBC recently where he talks through all this. Personally I think he is very good at clearly explaining himself and I think while the book deals with some material that in parts is very difficult to understand, he does a good job. He's also quite passionate about physics and can talk passionately about it which certainly helps. There's a review of the book here for your convenience... ... ook-review

At the very least you will learn some interesting facts about the universe, space-time, the life of a star and how elements are created. In fact, some of the things covered are nothing more than beautiful - the iron that is in your blood, which makes it red was produced in stars billions of years ago.

I have to say that I find the simplicity in physics quite amazing. There's something about the fact that all elements are composed of different arrangements of the same stuff (atomic particles) yet all exhibit very different, yet clearly defined and predictable properties. Furthermore they interact with each other to provide a much wider catalogue of compounds and materials. I also find the fact that universal constants exist (speed of light, Planck's constant, Stefan-Boltzmann constant) brilliant in their simplicity too. Maybe I'm easily impressed.

Re: Before The Big Bang

Posted: Wed Feb 27, 2013 9:28 pm
by fishywiki
In Laurence Krauss' book, A Universe From Nothing, he postulates that the Big Bang is merely a stage in a cycle of bang-expansion-contraction-next bang-next expansion etc. I can't say that I understood it fully, but it's intertwined with theories of Dark Matter, multiple universes, and more. It is, despite the complexities of its content, a great read.