60-Second Science

Math Says Big Bang Was Big Bounce

By combining General Relativity with quantum physics unknown to Einstein, a Penn State physicist shows the mathematical viability of a collapsing universe before the Big Bang. Steve Mirsky reports.

It’s a question that’s been asked by kids, adults and professional physicists—what if anything was there before the Big Bang, the ginormous explosion that marked the beginning of the universe.  Or possibly just the current universe?  Because one physicist has published a new model that at least gives mathematical credence to the idea that before we were here another universe collapsed.  And the Big Bang was more like a Big Bounce.

That’s according to Penn State’s Marin Bojowald, whose paper appeared in the online edition of the journal Nature Physics on July 1st and will be published in the print edition’s August issue. 
In Einstein’s General Relativity, the Big Bang is a singularity—zero volume, infinite density and infinitely large energy.  Which is kind of annoying mathematically.  Bojowald and other physicists combined General Relativity with quantum physics unknown to Einstein.  They then get a starting point for this universe with a non-zero volume and a non-infinite energy.  So you get valid math results before the point of the Big Bang.  Which would have been a contracting universe with space time geometry similar to our own.   

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