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Bang Goes the Big Bang:

Is it possible that the Big Bang is a mistake?

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  • The Debate

    Bang Goes the Big Bang

    We take it for granted that the Universe began with the Big Bang. But there are problems with the theory. Is it just possible that the Big Bang will turn out to be a mistake? Since our whole account of the Universe depends on this theory - can we contemplate giving it up and what might replace it?

    The Panel

    Leading cosmologist Laura Mersini-Houghton, CERN particle theorist and coiner of the term ‘Theory of Everything’ John Ellis, and mathematical physicist Roger Penrose go back to the beginning.

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lewmay on 29/12/2014 10:01pm

This debate was a beauty. Laura Mersini-Houghton is a treasure.

David Kitching on 06/08/2014 10:28pm

I'd like to offer a few thoughts on this conversation, as a non physicist, with no training in this field, but simply as a layman who wonders and ponders. After all, is it not the point of these public debates to make people like me more aware?

It seems to me that a problem with the explanations of the nature of everything that derive from the great minds in this video is that they're always pushing the 'question boundary' back another step, in a way that simply generates new questions. So we live in a multiverse. The question now isn't what preceded the universe and it's BB, but what preceded the BB in all those other universes? Or what preceded the state where a multiverse came to be. And understanding where it came from means little without understanding what that means for where it's going. How can one believe a curve on a graph that has a starting point but no line and no end? If the beginning doesn't relate to a mid point or an end, it doesn't mean anything, surely.

It seems to me that human intuition plays a part - a small part perhaps but a part - in feeling our way forwards towards greater understanding. I'm sure, although I've never had the honour of talking with any of them, that many of our greatest scientists would accept that the path that led to the understanding they eventually found a way to proving through mathematics started with an intuitive insight. To those of us less blessed with an ability to translate such insights into a mathematical model that supports it, and of course speaking personally, there's a sense of frustration. Because I, and I'm sure others too, also have intuitive insights. The trouble is they tend to be nebulous and ephemeral and hard to put into words. Or numbers.

Although I personally have no time for religious perspectives as they seem based upon presumption and blind faith, and serve merely to pitch people against each other, I do have some small sympathy with their perspective here.

It really depends upon what one means by the word 'God', a question that rarely if ever gets discussed - rather proponents and opponents set about each other with an assumption that 'God' is some Bird's Eye fishing boat Captain lookalike sitting on a cloud with a remarkable propensity for multitasking. It's just a word. It could reflect any depth or variety of understanding.

Ever since I was young (I'm now 54), I've felt easier with the idea that everything happens at the same time and at the same point, simultaneously. That three dimensions are an illusion. That being, in the way we experience it, is a transitory phase, and that the interpretation we place on how we perceive events and things in this phase are a subject of that illusion.

What purpose being in such a state serves, I have no idea. But in an infinite number of multiverses, ours might be a state that's unique and privileged... an honour, maybe even a reward... namely a state where we're able to comprehend the nature of our circumstances, as we're able to perceive them.

If, within these conditions, we use the word 'God' to refer to a wider perspective that's above our condition, that plays a part in determining and helping us to understand, the logic of the multiverse, then perhaps that's why various religious icons have referred to us as 'children of God'. (frankly such references are not quite irrelevant but are little more than a historic relic, of human communication in less aware times).

My point is, and I'm sure I'm not expressing it well because as I said, intuitive insights are not easy to describe, is that our condition of being alive is largely illusory, and real understanding of the nature of things would come from realising this and theorising on what our condition might be if we were to have a much wider perspective, unconstrained by what we merely experience through our senses and what works mathematically in our physical universe.

The problem with this, I suppose, is that if any perspective can't be reflected in terms that make sense within our universe, then how can we develop any narrative that's true? For us, now?

Perhaps we can't. And the pursuit of knowledge in terms of greater and greater harvesting of facts that seems to reflect theories that are in themselves subject to our experiential perspectives is merely to chase our own tails. Perhaps there is no way of knowing the truth. To know the truth would be to have an understanding of the nature of things that would render that very nature redundant. Because we're part of that nature, that state, that condition.

I think I've expressed my thoughts here, but even I'm not sure of that, so if what I'm saying seems like gobbldegook, I have every sympathy! But the upshot is that I always find deeply thought, scientific analyses fundamentally and intuitively unsatisfactory somehow, in a way that's hard to define,and this rant is an attempt and explaining why.

Vincent Sauve on 23/06/2014 6:28am

What kind of debate is this that only features three Big Bang theorists and no Big Bang critics? It's just a love fest with some discussion of some of the problem issues of the theory.

The theory is fundamentally flawed but is popular because the idea of a beginning to the universe resonates so well with the creationist culture that it sprang out of. Many think that creationists are just those who think the universe is only about 6,000 years old, but in my book it also includes those who believe it is 13,800,000,000 years old as well.

There are real scientists who don't believe in the whole Big Bang paradigm. Even Edwin Hubble did not favor the interpretation that the cosmological redshift was Doppler-like. His view was that redshift increased with distance in a linear way when no recession factors were applied. Big Bang supporters either don't know Hubble's views, or when confronted, will say Hubble doesn't matter or he was weak on theoretical issues.

I argue at my web site that the three main pillars of support are wrong. If interested google "bigbangcosmythology."

Most of the problems in the BB theory don't even exist as problems if one abandons the theory. We should learn to start interpreting the data from the perspective of an infinite non-expanding universe. Because not everyone understands what infinite means, it means no beginning and infinitely large. An infinite universe would be roughly homogenous and isotropic, just as it is observed to be. Distant galaxies will look different, not because they are different than the nearby populations, but because the cosmological redshifting effect changes what can be observed over great distance.

Mike Cavedon on 09/06/2014 4:30am

Our Universe is a larger version of a black hole polar jet is not the same idea as the cosmic continuity post.

'Was the universe born spinning?'

"The universe was born spinning and continues to do so around a preferred axis"

The Universe spins around a preferred axis because our Universe a larger version of a black hole polar jet.

'Mysterious Cosmic 'Dark Flow' Tracked Deeper into Universe'

"The clusters appear to be moving along a line extending from our solar system toward Centaurus/Hydra, but the direction of this motion is less certain. Evidence indicates that the clusters are headed outward along this path, away from Earth, but the team cannot yet rule out the opposite flow. "We detect motion along this axis, but right now our data cannot state as strongly as we'd like whether the clusters are coming or going," Kashlinsky said."

The clusters are headed along this path because our Universe is a jet.

The following is an image analogous of the Universal jet.

Dark energy is dark matter continuously emitted into the Universal jet.

It's not the Big Bang; it's the Big Ongoing.

Ian Glendinning on 08/06/2014 11:50pm

the big ongoing is the same idea as this cosmic continuity post ....

Mike Cavedon on 05/06/2014 4:41pm

Our Universe is a larger version of a black hole polar jet. Stuff is moving outward and away from each other in three dimensional space.

It's not the big bang; it's the big ongoing.

Ian Glendinning on 05/06/2014 12:32pm

So, yes, CERN Science really does need a health check.

Ian Glendinning on 05/06/2014 12:29pm

Actually Hannah, that's the "argument from authority", not science. John was honest enough to say current theory was good enough for his own lifetime only. In fact I think Laura and Roger are more on the right track here.

Hannah Carter on 04/06/2014 2:14pm

You've just got to love John Ellis and his unflappable attitude. I particularly enjoyed his comments on the multiverse theory. If the CERN scientist can't be trusted about the strength of evidence for multiverse theories, then science really does need a health check.

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