The black hole at the birth of the Universe

Aug 9, 2014

By Science Daily


The big bang poses a big question: if it was indeed the cataclysm that blasted our universe into existence 13.7 billion years ago, what sparked it?

Three Perimeter Institute researchers have a new idea about what might have come before the big bang. It’s a bit perplexing, but it is grounded in sound mathematics and is it testable?

What we perceive as the big bang, they argue, could be the three-dimensional “mirage” of a collapsing star in a universe profoundly different than our own.

“Cosmology’s greatest challenge is understanding the big bang itself,” write Perimeter Institute Associate Faculty member Niayesh Afshordi, Affiliate Faculty member and University of Waterloo professor Robert Mann, and PhD student Razieh Pourhasan.

Conventional understanding holds that the big bang began with a singularity — an unfathomably hot and dense phenomenon of spacetime where the standard laws of physics break down. Singularities are bizarre, and our understanding of them is limited.

“For all physicists know, dragons could have come flying out of the singularity,” Afshordi says in an interview with Nature.

The problem, as the authors see it, is that the big bang hypothesis has our relatively comprehensible, uniform, and predictable universe arising from the physics-destroying insanity of a singularity. It seems unlikely.

So perhaps something else happened. Perhaps our universe was never singular in the first place.

19 comments on “The black hole at the birth of the Universe

  • 2
    Howard Brittain says:

    Beautifully said. When people who use their positions as ‘serious scientists’ launch themselves down the path of this kind of this kind of totally groundless flight of fancy, claiming to base their flights on ‘mathematics’, it is yet more of the kind of science that is disillusioning the public about all of science.
    Perhaps this perhaps that. Why not abandon this kind of media coverage pimping and stick with what science is all about. Where is the evidence ?

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  • Huh?

    Just askin’:

    Is sombody trying to state without evidence that the big bang wasn’t evidence of, and didn’t result from, the Holy Lord God’s climax and ejacuation?

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  • Hi Howard Brittan,

    I agree with you part way. This is clearly highly speculative and that it seems to me is where a lot of science starts. Do you suggest that we should ignore or hide the likes of Issac Newton who clearly discovered much that is correct about the nature of the universe because he believed in Alchemy? and other spiritual mumbo jumbo? I suspect the ability to imagine up all sorts of nonsense is essential to gain the few grains of genius out of the dross. The problem and largely your point as I see it is that the general public has been painted a view of science that is letting them down.

    I suspect that what is really required is that the public should understand the nature of the stages of science so they can understand where on the spectrum of development these ideas fall. I would think these wild ideas are essential, but that the vast majority will be rubbish and will not survive the process of peer review or experiment if they are indeed rubbish. I read these things with interest they make me think about their possibilities but I know that until they are confirmed by observation or experiment they are very probably going to be like most ideas simply wrong. However I suspect that without the sorts of minds prepared to sprout them we wouldn’t have a quarter of the fundamental science we rely on now.

    When properly educated the public when it hears there is some interesting new potential cure for cancer will know, this is speculative, will probably not be Bourne out and if it is we won’t see it clinically for a couple of decades. In the meantime it gets you thinking. The public has to stop seeing things in simple black and white. Science is not always right it rarely is but the process weans out the bad and over time re-enforces the good stuff.

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  • It does sounds like pure speculation. Where’s the science behind this? Where’s the testable hypothesis? Where is the experiment? The terminology is suspect. I don’t really mind the work itself, gotta keep those mathematicians and theoretical physics on their toes (Hell, that’s why the Three Perimeter Institute exists in the first place), I resent the sensationalism slant. And it’s not even a new idea at all.

    Reminds me of this though 🙂

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  • 6
    aplinthjr says:

    “Let’s stick to what we know.” ? No! That way we never learn anything new. Speculate! Speculate wildly! Just be sure to label it “WILD SPECULATION!” Then ponder it, think about it, devise ideas about what the implications are, how they can be tested. Design experiments to do those tests. Throw away failed ideas. Speculate more!

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  • This is how everything in science starts, a hypothesis, which is then tested. Whilst I am sceptical of this report we much remember that until something is proven its not fact. This is by no means fact but just another of the many scenarios scientists come up with as potential answers to the question “how did the universe begin?” And there may be evidence backing this up but it may be simply too complicated for most to comprehend without a very lengthy explanation. for example we don’t ask for the evidence of quantum science because the chances are we still wouldn’t understand at the end. By the looks of things this hypothesis is yet to be seriously tested but I like to keep an open mind of all the possible beginnings.

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  • Just wondering how they describe 5-manifolds and according vector-bundles. Perhaps not a nice model, this requires a complete new quantum theory as well where positions and momenta make any sense in a 5 dimensional spacetime, because at least one (collapsing) star exists there. Maybe it’s just a mathematical analogue to something else.

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  • Hi Obzen,

    All to come, I agree (well as I haven’t read their paper and the article doesn’t go into much detail I have little to judge- and little enough understanding personally to do so anyway) however, I’m fine with highly speculative stuff being put out there, so long as it is reported as such.

    The real problem we have IMO is a high level of ignorance in the broader community about where a particular idea is in the spectrum. This one it appears is highly speculative and therefore statistically likely to be wrong (of course if it is right statistics has nothing to do with it – its just until there is some evidence I have to judge it on this basis). I don’t think we undermine science by giving voice to ideas but as you say the sensationalist slant is a problem. If people understood the processes of science a little better they would see this for what it is.

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  • It’s because time exists inside, and the only force that exists outside of our universe.
    at the end point of the last black hole when all matter is consumed, we are in a kind of stalemate, time is frozen at the event horizon, but time outside of the universe allows for a big bang, and so and so on..

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  • I couldn’t agree more. Extreme flights of fantazy is what is required by both artists and scientists. Without it, no new ideas would come to pass. If one was to have a thousand so-called ridiculous ideas a day, and one of those had some truth to it, it would all be worth it. Later for writing and testing.

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  • “Perhaps pigs could fly” I’m certain they, or more accurately, their distant descendants could, if there were an evolutionary pressure for them to do so. The lineage of the sparrows in my garden can be traced back to the Tyranosaurs, who would have thought they would one day fly? I’m sticking to what we know. What happened at the begining of the universe is only ever going to be a hypothesis, as we can’t recreate the process through anything other than reason and logic. If an explanation fits what is observed then it is at least on the way to meeting the criteria required for it being accepted as fact. If you accept the premise that an event must have a cause, then something started the universe. If you don’t, then nothing started the universe, but there’s still no denying it happened, so what were the conditions that prevailed? That is the question.

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  • But this isn’t really wild speculation, it’s speculation that is informed by a theory. Here is an example of wild speculation: “maybe the brain is a quantum computer” Now THAT is wild speculation because there is absolutely no evidence that the human nervous system represents information at the quantum level. I’m against wild speculation, it’s a waste of time, but informed speculation I’m all for.

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  • Red Dog

    Here is an example of wild speculation: “maybe the brain is a quantum computer” Now THAT is wild speculation because there is absolutely no evidence that the human nervous system represents information at the quantum level.

    Maybe not quite so “wild” Red Dog ! Allow about an hour for a very interesting lecture from Jim Al-Khalili. OK, I admit off topic, but, as Jim says, he wouldn’t have dared give that lecture 10 years ago.

    For those who don’t want to watch the link or who have no time, the lecturer is suggesting that quantum effects are used by European robins to navigate as they migrate around.

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