The greatest discovery in the history of science is that there was a day without a yesterday. The Universe has not existed forever. It was born. All matter, energy, space and even time, burst into being in a titanic fireball we call the Big Bang, 13.82 billion years ago. The fireball expanded and, out of the cooling debris, there congealed the galaxies – great islands of stars; two trillion of them, of which our Milky Way is but one. Whatever way you look at it, the idea of the Universe popping into existence like a rabbit out of a hat is bonkers.
The Big Bounce describes the idea that the Universe’s rapid expansion was a reaction to a period of rapid contraction For this reason, scientists had to be dragged kicking and screaming to it. The last thing they wanted to answer was the awkward question: what happened before the Big Bang? In recent decades, the idea has taken hold that the Universe began with an ultra-brief burst of super-fast expansion. So violent was this ‘inflation’ that it’s been likened to the explosion of an H-bomb compared with the mere stick of dynamite of the more sedate Big Bang expansion that took over when inflation ran out of steam. But now a prominent American astrophysicist is questioning the inflationary orthodoxy and advocating a fresh look at alternative models in which the Big Bang was actually a ‘big bounce’ from an earlier, contracting, phase of the Universe. “Crucially, my colleagues and I are proposing an observational test capable of distinguishing between the possibilities,” says Prof Abraham Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
INEXPLICABLY BIG GAPS
WHATEVER WAY YOU LOOK AT IT, THE IDEA OF THE UNIVERSE POPPING INTO EXISTENCE IS BONKERS
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