"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Saturday Science: No Big Bang?

So, what if the universe actually didn't have a beginning?

The universe may have existed forever, according to a new model that applies quantum correction terms to complement Einstein's theory of general relativity. The model may also account for dark matter and dark energy, resolving multiple problems at once.

The widely accepted age of the universe, as estimated by general relativity, is 13.8 billion years. In the beginning, everything in existence is thought to have occupied a single infinitely dense point, or singularity. Only after this point began to expand in a "Big Bang" did the universe officially begin. . . .

"The Big Bang singularity is the most serious problem of general relativity because the laws of physics appear to break down there," Ahmed Farag Ali at Benha University and the Zewail City of Science and Technology, both in Egypt, told Phys.org.

Ali and coauthor Saurya Das at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, have shown in a paper published in Physics Letters B that the Big Bang singularity can be resolved by their new model in which the universe has no beginning and no end.

This will, of course, cause creationist/literalist heads to explode all over the place -- after all, they have enough trouble with the Big Bang, since it contradicts their idea of creatio ex nihilo. I find it fascinating as a commentary on how our way of looking at the universe depends on our preconceptions. The prevailing mode of thought in the West, which has been largely shaped by Christianity, sees history as linear: it has a beginning, it runs its course for a certain period of time, and then it ends. Existence becomes a one-off.

Most other traditions see the universe and its history as cyclic, this existence one of a series of similar existences stretching through time with no real beginning and no real end. Granted, some of them see the cycle in more or less dramatic terms -- Hindu mythology foresees a cataclysm that marks the end of our existence -- and then it starts all over again. The Indians of the American Southwest, on the other hand, see a much more peaceable transition: we all came here from another world, probably underground. Even the Norse, as grim as their mythology could be, foresaw Ragnarok, the final war, as the beginning of the transition to the next cycle: Baldur would be resurrected and would lead the few human beings who escaped the destruction into a new, peaceful world.

At any rate, the article is fascinating, if you're into theories on the origin of the universe -- or even if you're not.

Here's a nice refresher on the Big Bang Theory:

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