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The Universe Before Creation

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Nimbus
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« on: September 16, 2012, 11:50:20 pm »

Model #2: The Universe gave birth to itself

In 1998, J. Richard Gott and Li Xin Li, both then at Princeton, proposed a model in which the universe arose from what can only be described as a time machine. Gott and Li showed that it was possible to solve Einstein's equations of general relativity in such a way that a universe started off going around and around in a continuous loop, and that that loop could serve as the "trunk" of a tree that sprouted, giving rise to our own universe. Since a picture says a thousand words, let's illustrate with their own figure.

What happened before the Big Bang?Credit J.R. Gott and L.-X. Li

The way to read this image is that for the most part, time travels from bottom to top, and that everything begins with the little loop at the bottom. That is the origin of the universe. This means that the universe has no beginning, since the loop goes around and around infinitely.

We can talk about the "time after the Big Bang" as the time after the loop sprouted off into the future and a universe was born. You'll also notice that there isn't just a single horn coming out of the initial time loop, but many. This is totally consistent with the concept of a multiverse, just to add another level of speculative awesomeness to the discussion.

Model #3: This Is Not the First Universe

For a long time, cosmologists played around with the idea that the universe might ultimately collapse on itself. Then, in 1998, two teams discovered that the universe was accelerating, essentially demonstrating that we were way off base. You may also recall that these folks won the Nobel prize this year for their discovery.

Even though on the surface it doesn't look as though our universe will ultimately collapse under its own weight, there is still a great deal of allure to this picture. If the universe were somehow to end in a big crunch, then maybe what's really happening is that we'll eternally undergo a series of expansions and contractions, on and on for infinity. Our universe, in this case, is just one in an infinite series.
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