“Quantum Hell” –The Universe Before the Big Bang (Week’s Most Popular)





Martin Bojowald, a professor of phycics at Penn State University, presents his fascinating ideas about “Loop Quantum Cosmology” in Once Before Time: A Whole Story of the Universe. "Will we ever," Bojowald asks, "with a precision that meets scientific standards, see the shape of the universe before the big bang? The answer to such questions remains open. We have a multitude of indications and mathematical models for what might have happened. A diverse set of results within quantum gravity has revealed different phenomena important for revealing what happened at the big bang. But for a reliable extrapolation, parameters would be required with a precision far out of reach of current measurement accuracy.

"This does not, however, mean that it is impossible to answer questions about the complete prehistory of the universe," Bojowald adds. "Cosmology as well as theoretical investigations are currently moving forward and will result in unforeseen insights. Among them might well be experimentally confirmed knowledge of the universe before the big bang."

"Now the theory is poised to formulate hypotheses we can actually test," Bojowald concludes.




In the image above, a model universe, spirals out of nothingness (the so-called “State of Hell” of Loop Quantum Gravity) and then rapidly expands to the right. The figure overlays states of the early universe at all times, characterized by its extension (vertical axis) and expansion rate (horizontal axis). 

"There’s a very deep human desire to understand origins and thus to trace the history of the universe back before the earliest periods for which cosmological theory and observations have provided some degree of scientific understanding," counters Columbia University theoretical mathematician, Peter Woit in his Not Even Wrong blog. "Unfortunately this has led in recent years to a flood of over-hyped claims by physicists claiming to have a scientifically viable theory of what happened “Before the Big Bang”.

"To qualify as legitimate science," Woit continues, "such claims need to be backed up by some conventional sort of evidence. This might take the form of experimental predictions, testable either now or in principle in the future. It might also take the form of a highly constrained and beautiful theory whose success in other realms makes a compelling case that it could also explain experimentally inaccessible phenomena. I don’t know of any example of such pre-Big Bang scenarios now being sold to the public that comes even close to having such backing."

Image credit top of page: With thanks to imgkid.com


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