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Did Time Start at the Big Bang?

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Did Time Start at the Big Bang?

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Our universe started with the big bang. But only for the right definition of “our universe”. And of “started” for that matter. In fact, probably the Big Bang is nothing like what you were taught.
A hundred years ago we discovered the beginning of the universe. Observations of the retreating galaxies by Edwin Hubble and Vesto Slipher, combined with Einstein’s then-brand-new general theory of relativity, revealed that our universe is expanding. And if we reverse that expansion far enough – mathematically, purely according to Einstein’s equations, it seems inevitable that all space and mass and energy should once have been compacted into an infinitesimally small point – a singularity. It’s often said that the universe started with this singularity, and the Big Bang is thought of as the explosive expansion that followed. And before the Big Bang singularity? Well, they say there was no “before”, because time and space simply didn’t exist. If you think you’ve managed to get your head around that bizarre notion then I have bad news. That picture is wrong. At least, according to pretty much every serious physicist who studies the subject. The good news is that the truth is way cooler, at least as far as we understand it.


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What Happened Before the Big Bang?

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We actually have a pretty good idea of what might have happened before the Big Bang. That is, as long as we define the Big Bang as the extremely hot, dense, rapidly expanding universe that is described by Einstein’s equations. That picture of the universe is very solid down to about a trillionth of a second after the supposed beginning of time. We can make good guesses down to about 10^-30th of a second. But before that?

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What Came Before the Big Bang?

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Modern science seems to agree that our universe began with a monumental explosion, but do we know what came before the Big Bang? Watch to find out!

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Did Time Exist Before The Universe?

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The Beginning of Everything -- The Big Bang

How did everything get started?

Has the universe a beginning or was it here since forever? Well, evidence suggests that there was indeed a starting point to this universe we are part of right now. But how can this be? How can something come from nothing? And what about time? We don't have all the answers yet so let's talk about what we know.

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The Beginning of Everything -- The Big Bang

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Did time begin at the big bang?

The question of what happened before the Big Bang is an interesting one: Did time actually start then or was there a pre-Big Bang universe? Brian Greene explores some possible answers to this question.

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What came before the Big Bang? How to get a Universe from no space, no time, no matter

Quantum Creation – what came before the big bang - the mechanism of a universe out of NO-thing - no matter, no space, and no time. Ancient Greek cosmologist Parmenides said “Nothing comes from nothing.” He was likely referring to the law of conservation of energy, that no new energy can be created. This is true and is a scientific fact even today. So how could the Universe come from nothing?

Since the discovery of quantum physics and relativity, we have discovered a flaw in this argument that allows the creation of something from truly nothing. The Universe indeed had a beginning about 13.8 billion years ago, with the Big Bang. But what was there before the Big Bang? How did the universe come about from nothing. The flaw that we have uncovered in Parmenides original argument of “nothing comes from nothing” is that gravity has negative energy. And matter has positive energy.

In a closed universe, a spontaneous splitting of 0 energy into an equal amount of positive energy and negative energy would not violate any conservation laws, because no new energy would have been created. And in quantum mechanics, anything that is not forbidden by conservation laws has a non-zero probability of occurring.

But then we did not start with nothing. We started with the vacuum of physics, which has virtual particles that come in and out of existence, over very short periods of time. it has a weight and can be scientifically measured. So this is not nothing.

So a more fundamental question is can a universe really be created with truly nothing – that means no-thing – no space, no matter, no time, no nothing? To answer this question, let’s work our way back from where we are now.

If you solve Einstein’s equations for a universe like ours, you discover that it describes a universe that is either contracting or expanding. At the beginning of the big bang, it has a finite size, below which you cannot go any smaller. How does an explosion like the big bang occur from this finite size universe? In late 1979, a Stanford physics postdoc named Alan Guth offered an explanation for this bang or explosion. He showed that using the theories in particle physics, at extremely high energies — much higher than we could ever create in a lab — a special state of matter turns gravity upside down, causing it to be repulsive rather than an attractive force.

A patch of space that contains even a tiny bit of this unusual matter, much smaller than the size of an atom, could repel itself so violently that it would blow up. And expand to a huge size. This would have happened for a very short time, a tiny fraction of a second, because this repulsive force quickly decays into the attractive force of gravity we see today. But this short period of time is enough to cause the “bang” in the big bang.

So now we are at the Big Bang. We have a finite size universe with extremely high energy density that exploded in a brief inflationary period, and caused the big bang. Now, let’s go back further…the question now is how did a zero-size universe (a nothing) become Guth’s finite size universe.

Physicist Alexander Vilenkin of Tufts University published a paper in 1984 that showed how this was possible using currently known laws of quantum mechanics. And he originated the idea of something called Quantum Creation. He showed that there is some energy barrier that the zero-size universe had to overcome in order to become finite size. This is where a phenomenon called quantum tunneling comes into play. It turns out that there is a probability, not very large, but a non-zero probability.

Quantum tunneling is a real phenomenon that can be measured and is known to exist. Quantum mechanics shows that particles are waves of probabilities – and these waves have a non-zero probability of showing up spontaneously outside a barrier. This is how for example, an electron or even atom behind a barrier has a small probability of showing up on the other side of the barrier. Our zero-size universe can, through the process of quantum tunneling, become a finite size universe.

And once it does that, then Guth’s cosmic inflation occurs, triggering the Big Bang. Then Einstein’s laws take over, and the universe’s expanding journey begins. And 13.8 billion years later, we observe the universe as we do today. So quantum mechanics gets you from zero size to a finite size, and then to the Big Bang. And then general relativity can get you from there to where we are today.

And what triggered all this? In quantum physics, events do not necessarily have a cause, just some probability.
So there is some probability for the universe to pop out of “nothing. If it is true, our existence had the humblest beginning of all - from nothingness itself.

But you are still not starting with nothing, because you have to start with the laws of quantum mechanics. Where did these laws come from?

#somethingfromnothing
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What Was Happening Before the Big Bang? w/Brian Greene | Joe Rogan

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Now that we have a primer on the aspects of the Big Bang Theory that we know definitely happened, let’s look further into what we don’t yet know, and how the theory could progress in the future. Since there is a discrepancy between general relativity and quantum mechanics, we continue to search for a grand unifying theory... one which may finally lead to a description of the actual moment of the Big Bang! On this week's Space Time, Matt describes what specifically needs fixing within the current theory, and the reasons why.

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What happened before the Big Bang?

Understanding how the universe began has been a goal for scientists, philosophers, and theologians for millennia. In this video, Fermilab’s Dr. Don Lincoln describes the scientific view on this topic. He covers what we know, what we think, and what we may forever never know.

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Where did the Big Bang originate?

Where is the centre of the universe? Where do astronomers look in space to see where the Big Bang originated?
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EXCLUSIVE: Stephen Hawking on What Existed Before the Big Bang

In this exclusive clip, Tyson asks Hawking your standard softball interview question: what was around before the big bang? In other words, what happened before the moment the universe began? Check out Hawking’s answer:

“The boundary condition of the universe...is that it has no boundary,” Hawking says.

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Every astronomy textbook tells us that soon after the Big Bang, there was a period of exponentially accelerating expansion called cosmic inflation. In a tiny fraction of a second, inflationary expansion multiplied the size of the universe by a larger factor than in the following 13 and a half billion years of regular expansion. This story seems like a bit of a … stretch. Is there really any mechanism that could cause something like this to happen? What what we’re covering today – the real physics of cosmic inflation.

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Most cosmologists buy some variation of the inflation hypothesis. It seems to very neatly solve some of the biggest questions in cosmology. Those being: why is matter and energy so smoothly spread out across the entire observable universe? And why is the geometry of the universe so flat? Neither should be expected unless the universe expanded much more rapidly early on. We explored these problems in an earlier video – worth a look if you really want to get inflation. Another problem fixed by inflation is the absence of magnetic monopoles – strange particles predicted to have been produced in the early universe. We’ll come back to those another time.


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Explaining The Big Bang One TRILLIONTH Of A Second At A Time

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The universe is everything we can see and as far as we can see. For years we've been trying to figure out how it all began, but have we finally figured out how everything came to be?

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“The Planck time: 10-43 seconds. After this time gravity can be considered to be a classical background in which particles and fields evolve following quantum mechanics.

What Is the Big Bang Theory?:


“The Big Bang Theory is the leading explanation about how the universe began. At its simplest, it talks about the universe as we know it starting with a small singularity, then inflating over the next 13.8 billion years to the cosmos that we know today.

How Are Light And Heavy Elements Formed?:


“The lightest elements (hydrogen, helium, deuterium, lithium) were produced in the Big Bang nucleosynthesis. According to the Big Bang theory, the temperatures in the early universe were so high that fusion reactions could take place.

Planck Mission Brings Universe Into Sharp Focus:


“The Planck space mission has released the most accurate and detailed map ever made of the oldest light in the universe, revealing new information about its age, contents and origins.

How the Big Bang Theory Works:


“Because of the limitations of the laws of science, we can't make any guesses about the instant the universe came into being. Instead, we can look at the period immediately following the creation of the universe.

The Universe Is 13.82 Billion Years Old:


“The Universe is a wee bit older than we thought. Not only that, but turns out the ingredients are a little bit different, too. And not only that, but the way they’re mixed isn’t quite what we expected, either.

The Big Bang:


“Astronomers combine mathematical models with observations to develop workable theories of how the Universe came to be.

First Light & Reionization:


“Why is a powerful infrared observatory key to seeing the first stars and galaxies that formed in the universe? Why do we even want to see the first stars and galaxies that formed?

Our Expanding Universe: Age, History & Other Facts:


“The universe was born with the Big Bang as an unimaginably hot, dense point. When the universe was just 10-34 of a second or so old — that is, a hundredth of a billionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second in age — it experienced an incredible burst of expansion known as inflation, in which space itself expanded faster than the speed of light.

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What Came Before The Big Bang? A Time Before Time

Astronomers are pretty sure what happened after the Big Bang, but what came before? What are the leading theories for the causes of the Big Bang?

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About 13.8 billion years ago the Universe started with a bang, kicked the doors in, brought fancy cheeses and a bag of ice, spiked the punch bowl and invited the new neighbors over for all-nighter to encompass all all-nighters from that point forward.
But what happened before that?

What was going on before the Big Bang? Usually, we tell the story of the Universe by starting at the Big Bang and then talking about what happened after. Similarly and completely opposite to how astronomers view the Universe... by standing in the present and looking backwards. From here, the furthest we can look back is to the cosmic microwave background, which is about 380,000 years after the big bang.

Before that we couldn't hope to see a thing, the Universe was just too hot and dense to be transparent. Like pea soup. Soup made of delicious face burning high energy everything.
In traditional stupid earth-bound no-Tardis life unsatisfactory fashion, we can’t actually observe the origin of the Universe from our place in time and space.

Damn you… place in time and space.

Fortunately, the thinky types have come up with some ideas, and they’re all one part crazy, one part mind bendy, and 100% bananas.
The first idea is that it all began as a kind of quantum fluctuation that inflated to our present universe.

Something very, very subtle expanding over time resulting in, as an accidental byproduct, our existence.
The alternate idea is that our universe began within a black hole of an older universe.
I’m gonna let you think about that one. Just let your brain simmer there.

There was universe “here”, that isn't our universe, then that universe became a black hole… and from that black hole formed us and EVERYTHING around us. Literally, everything around us. In every direction we look, and even the stuff we just assume to be out there.

Here’s another one. We see particles popping into existence here in our Universe. What if, after an immense amount of time, a whole Universe’s worth of particles all popped into existence at the same time. Seriously… an immense amount of time, with lots and lots of “almost” universes that didn't make the cut.

More recently, the BICEP2 team observed what may be evidence of inflation in the early Universe.
Like any claim of this gravity, the result is hotly debated. If the idea of inflation is correct, it is possible that our universe is part of a much larger multiverse.
And the most popular form would produce a kind of eternal inflation, where universes are springing up all the time. Ours would just happen to be one of them.


It is also possible that asking what came before the big bang is much like asking what is north of the North Pole. What looks like a beginning in need of a cause may just be due to our own perspective.
We like to think of effects always having a cause, but the Universe might be an exception. The Universe might simply be. Because.

You tell us. What was going on before the party started? Let us know in the comments below.


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Science, Religion, and the Big Bang

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Ripples From The Big Bang: Listening to the Beginning of Time

In March, a major breakthrough in understanding the origin of universe took the scientific community–and the general public–by storm. A team lead by astronomer John Kovac, using a powerful telescope at the South Pole, reported evidence of ripples in the fabric of space time produced by the big bang, a long-sought prediction of our most refined approach to cosmology, the inflationary theory. Amidst the worldwide celebration, though, some have been quietly suggesting that the champagne has been uncorked prematurely. Join a singular conversation, among the world’s most respected pioneers in cosmological theory and observation, that will explore the state of the art in the ongoing quest to understand the beginning of the universe.

This program is part of the Big Ideas Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.

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Original Program Date: May 30, 2014
Host: Brian Greene
Participants: Andrei Linde, Alan Guth, Amber Miller, John Kovac, Paul Steinhardt

Brian Greene's Introduction. 00:12

Participant Introductions. 20:34

Can we confirm that there are ripples in the fabric of space? 22:19

What did you find with BICEP2? 26:05

What is the inflationary theory? 31:46

What is making the universe accelerate? 37:33

What were the main issues with the inflationary theory? 44:42

What is chaotic inflation? 51:22

How do we calculate density motivations? 59:00

Looking for cosmic fluctuation. 1:03:40

How close were the predictions to the observations? 1:09:03

How confident are you that the swirls are coming from quantum fluctuations? 1:14:40

What are the concerns about the inflationary theory? 1:23:49

Final thoughts. 1:29:33

'The Big Bang Theory' Cast Together For One Final Time

The cast of 'The Big Bang Theory' sits down with Stephen after the series finale of their iconic show to talk about their first impressions of each other and their last group scene together. Featuring Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Kunal Nayyar, Mayim Bialik, Melissa Rauch, and Simon Helberg. #BIGBANGonLSSC #BigBangTheory #Colbert

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