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KateTheGreat's avatar

What was there before the Big Bang happened?

Asked by KateTheGreat (13610 points ) May 17th, 2011

I know that there was matter and energy, but what sort of space did it occupy. What makes this space able to hold matter and energy? What would something be like if it couldn’t? This is something that has been rocking my brain lately.

I know that this is a hard question to answer, giving that nobody knows the true answer. I’d enjoy to read some opinions, theories or common reasoning about this situation.

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36 Answers

laureth's avatar

This article describes my current favorite hypothesis.

KateTheGreat's avatar

@laureth Wow! That article very similar to what I was thinking.

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laureth's avatar

In my head, the collision of the ‘branes is a bit like when you accidentally hit the clamps of active jumper-cables together. There’s a mad sparking, which shoots out, fizzles, and disappears. Only in this case, it’s very slow-mo from our point of view. Everything we know of – stars, planets, us, etc., is the result of that sparking collision, and someday the universe will reach essential emptiness again as the spark fizzles out and dies.

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Hobbes's avatar

My current favorite theory is that this universe is actually within a black hole which is inside another universe. The idea is that space-time actually exerts a force against gravity which allowed the universe to expand rather than exist indefinitely as a singularity. The implication, of course, is that every black hole in our universe also contains another universe, and that those ones contain more black holes, which contain… reality as an infinite fractal recursion.

ragingloli's avatar

Time and space itself emerged with the big bang, so there is no “before” the big bang, technically. Unless of course the hyperverse has a temporal dimension.

El_Cadejo's avatar

I just read that article and I may have missed it entirely but to me that didnt answer much. Its just seemed like a bunch of well this is possible to explain it but we dont have a lot of real proof to say its the case but it cant be proved wrong soooooo. That and ok fine our universe came from the colliding of the two branes but still it all had to start somewhere…..

Im also curious how they can say the branes collide every trillion years or so. Like where the hell did that number come from?

Zaku's avatar

The Big Dud.
But then it turned out to be The Big Fuse.

mazingerz88's avatar

A single DOT. Seriously.

everephebe's avatar

This TEDtalk has an interesting theory. But… it’s non-vegan sadly. It involves an egg. :D

john65pennington's avatar

Only God knows.

Also, what about light years? Does the moon qualify for light years like the stars?

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Hobbes's avatar

I think the most incredible thing about the universe before the big bang is that, not only was the entire universe packed into a space the size of the head of a pin, it was completely smooth. There were no imperfections, no part was more dense than another. Everything was absolutely uniform until it all exploded outward.

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flutherother's avatar

The Big Bang is still a theory and we don’t know the details of why it happened or what, if anything, preceded it. The question of what existed before existence is perplexing as it doesn’t seem logical that something can emerge from nothing. If nothing held the potential of being something then it wasn’t really nothing to begin with. If nothing didn’t hold the potential of being something then the Universe could never have got started.

jasper1890's avatar

I like the theory that there was never a beginning of time. Matter has always existed and always will. I cannot make sense of the way something can be made from nothing.

cazzie's avatar

@SeaTurtle all the way down?

Read stuff by Roger Penrose. He’s not a supporter of String Theory, so you don’t have to try to get your head around all the new math that camp are jumping though hoops to concoct. And nor is he a believer of what Greene is writing with all those parallel universes. String theory forgets one very basic and amazing thing about the Universe and that is Entropy.

Just read the cliff notes from Cycles of Time by Penrose and it could give a bit of a concept to hold on to. OOOH! I just found an audio lecture, if you’d like to listen to it. I’m going to now!

http://www.newton.ac.uk/webseminars/pg+ws/2005/gmr/gmrw04/1107/penrose/

Qingu's avatar

Your question demonstrates the difficulty of talking about this topic.

the word “there” is dependent on a concept of space.

The word “before” is dependent on a concept of time.

It’s entirely possible, and even likely, that space and time, as we know them, only exist within our own universe—after the Big Bang. If this is the case, there is no such thing as a “there” before the Big Bang, or outside our universe.

To put it another way, your question is like asking “what is north of the north pole?” The answer is nothing, or more accurately, that the question doesn’t make sense. Because the concept of “north” only exists in relation to the surface of the earth. The north pole is the “northernmost point” of that surface, like the big bang is the “earliest point” in spacetime. The surface of Earth, like spacetime, can be both finite and smooth/boundless.

cazzie's avatar

@Qingu Have you read the latest Penrose stuff?

Qingu's avatar

I haven’t. That illustration is pretty cool, though.

A cyclic universe would be similar to the surface-of-the-earth comparison. If you try to go “before” the big bang you just end up going in the circle, just like walking “north” of the north pole leads you south.

cazzie's avatar

@Qingu, it’s not just an illustration but a bunch of them in a power point presentation that goes along with his lecture. Did you not get to that part? Did the link not work? There is a very long audio that goes along with some 30 illustrations or so.

Qingu's avatar

Stuff like that doesn’t work so well on my current computer. I’ll try to remember to look at it when I get home…

LostInParadise's avatar

There are two possibilities, each of which is difficult to conceive. Either the Universe had a beginning or it is infinite in time (or part of a multiverse which is infinite in time). Of the two, the infinite Universe seems much more plausible to me.

An infinite Universe would seem to imply that everything that can possibly happen has already happened and will continue to happen over and over again. This gives an interesting interpretation of the line from Ecclesiastes that there is “nothing new under the sun.”

blueberry_kid's avatar

Well, in religious talk, it was just God. He was planning the “Big Bang” and that’s where the 7 days of creation come in.

This might be wrong In scientific talk, I think I read somewhere that it was a lot of Nitrogen, Oxygen, and Hydrogen gas. Then I believe another gas came in, which caused the reaction of “Big Bang.”

cazzie's avatar

No, @blueberry_kid you got the science part wrong. I won’t even touch the ‘god’ part.

blueberry_kid's avatar

@cazzie Well, I read that somewhere. I thought it might be wrong.

But, about the God part, I read that in a bible. Just saying…

cazzie's avatar

I don’t remember seeing the bible on the syllabus of any astrophysics/cosmology courses.

tacres's avatar

No I don’t think the bible is included in those courses but it is still remarkable that the concept of the big bang was descibed in Genesis albeit in a primitive form. .

cazzie's avatar

@tacres many cultures have similar stories of ‘the beginning’. Genesis of the Abrahamic bible is in no way unique.

Ron_C's avatar

I like the theory that the expansion of the universe is finite, After a certain point it begins to contract until it reaches a critical mass then it explodes again.

This has probably happened a near infinate number of times. Who know how many universes and intelligent races began, rose, then were destroyed?

ragingloli's avatar

@Ron_C
Except that theory is pretty much dead, because the universe’s expansion is actually accelerating, and not slowing down.

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