The expanding cosmos all began with the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago. To discover what caused the Big Bang, we would need to know what preceded it. But that would involve the impossible task of estimating through the initial instant to when the entire universe was squashed down to a point of infinite density. Our physics cannot handle such situations.
And the problem actually goes deeper. The Big Bang saw the coming into existence of not only the contents of the universe, but also of space and time. Without any pre-existing time, there could not have been a cause of the Big Bang.
So it is not a case of us failing to answer the question ‘what caused the Big Bang?’ because the question itself is meaningless.
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George Dishman - 11 August 2010 9:57pm
While overall the piece is a reasonable summary at a very basic level, sadly it continues to promote what is probably the biggest misconception about our understanding of the model that is known as the Big Bang. The animation shown around 1:27 into the piece shows an expanding ball of plasma but that is wrong, the model says that the whole of space was filled with plasma and in fact the primary evidence for a period of inflation is the remarkable uniformity of the plasma at that time.
Screengrab if the graphic above is not visible.
Perhaps something like the mottled picture we have from WMAP being stretched as the contrast reduces would be more accurate, though less spectacular.
IMHO, it would also have better to include a little more on the timeline and in particular the period between inflation and the surface of last scattering at 378k years from which we see the CMBR includes the period of nucleogenesis between roughly 1 second to 1 minute, but for such a short piece, I accept the majority has to be left out.
George Dishman - 9 August 2010 3:28pm
This comment is a reply to a previous related discussion on the Open2.net forum.
[QUOTE=CJ33;56425][QUOTE=Fleetfoot;56242][QUOTE]Had he maintained it he would not have been condemned by the Church. So to speak of "mathematical truth" actually undermines the point you are making, and underlines the point I am making!! [/QUOTE]
I have never mentioned "mathematical truth" before and that is a distortion of what I was saying. My point is that measurements are numerical ratios of actual values to a defined unit, hence are as regular as the real numbers. The inaccuracy of actual measurements is a practical limitation, not theoretical.[/QUOTE]
Yes you did, implicitly :-
[QUOTE=Fleetfoot][QUOTE=Newton]2. Absolute, true, and mathematical time, of itself, and from its own nature ... [/QUOTE][/QUOTE][/QUOTE]
As I said, to say I was speaking of "mathematical truth" is a distortion. I clearly attributed the quote to Newton and he was not talking of "mathematical truth" either. What he said was that in science we should not confuse the [U]true[/U] nature of time which exists in its own right and is "equable" or regular as Aristotle said (at least in translation) with [U]practical[/U] approximations derived as measurements based on motion which are inevitably subject to random variations and are thus irregular.
[QUOTE]On Prof. Stannard's piece, he also reflects my opinion. Translating what he says into the terms I have been using, it is meaningless to speak of a physical or natural "cause" of the Universe (the question is ill-posed), but the question "[I][B]why is there something rather than nothing[/B][/I]" is well-posed and not necessarily meaningless. Such a question cannot have a naturalistic answer in principle : any answer must be supernatural.[/QUOTE]
Not at all, we have already touched on one potential physical answer through the conservation laws. If the net energy is to be zero and gravitational energy is negative, there must be some form of positive energy to maintain the total.
You can also invoke the weak anthropic principle, we could not find ourselves in a universe in which nothing exists as that would include us!
[QUOTE]Only if we know [I][U]on other grounds[/U][/I] that the supernatural does not exist can we rule the questiion out as meaningless.[/QUOTE]
Not at all, if the supernatural does not exist then it merely means any answer must be physical or equally that the question may be well posed but has no answer, it is simply the way the universe is.
[QUOTE].. [Augustine] explained that time iteslf [U]was not[/U] "before" the Creation. "Before" in this context has no meaning.[/QUOTE]
Exactly, which is why precisely the concept of "creation" is inapplicable in that model as we have covered before. For those that weren't reading the old forum, we have also discussed a paper by Alan Guth (who originated the idea of inflation).
Time Since the Beginning
Section 5 of that paper considers a possible prior "false vacuum" state of continuous inflation within which our universe starts as a quantum event. In that model, there would be a creation event and the question of what happened before the big bang is not only meaningful but is answered.