In early 2015, a new idea began circulating in popular science media: that the Big Bang never happened. Is this true? No. The evidence for the Big Bang theory is still very strong. A new concept has simply emerged and changed our understanding of the Big Bang, leading to some interesting discussion.
The idea that the Big Bang never happened actually has its origins in good science. A paper called “Cosmology from quantum potential” was published in the February issue of Physics Letter B by Ahmed Farag Ali and Saurya Das. Ali and Das propose a new mathematical solution to one of the fundamental issues in physics.
So Was There a Big Bang After All?
The Singularity Problem
Basically, in the classical Big Bang model, if you go back far enough in time (around 13.8 billion years), the universe existed as a singularity: an infinitely small, infinitely dense point of matter smaller than any subatomic particle.
This concept of singularities causes issues with physics, because it crosses two realms that usually don’t mix: quantum mechanics (which describes the behavior of tiny low-mass particles) and special relativity (which describes the behavior of large and more massive objects, up to the size of the biggest stars and galaxies).
With a singularity, you have some of both: a miniscule object with extremely high mass. This makes the math go haywire. Neither quantum mechanics nor relativity can fully describe what happens in a singularity.
Eliminating the Singularity
Ali and Das, in their recent paper, attempt to solve some of these issues by eliminating the initial singularity predicted by the classical Big Bang theory. Instead, they predict that the universe existed as a “quantum potential” before collapsing into the Big Bang. It’s similar to the classical Big Bang theory, but without the singularity bit.
It’s a subtly different approach, and scientists are calling it more of a “proof of concept“—a simplified model that proposes a different solution to these fundamental problems—than a new, firmly-established theory.
Ali and Das aren’t truly proposing that the Big Bang never happened. Instead, that idea comes from overzealous popular science writers making grandiose claims to boost readership. The scientific evidence that there was a Big Bang is still darn strong at this point (for example, cosmic microwave background radiation).
Of course, this is all a simplification of the discussion that’s going on. To really understand all the details, we’d have to brush up on our quantum theory, advanced mathematics, and theoretical physics! A good place to start is with Brainscape’s Physics 101 deck. We promise it won’t be too much to get you going!
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