Last week I started these science posts by questioning whether a Big Bang ever happened.
But even if it happened, I’m also sceptical of the associated idea that this all began with a singularity, that the universe emerged from a single point.
Because all the galaxies appear to be moving away from each other, all receding from a central point, theorists extrapolate backwards and assume that it was once much smaller. But why extrapolate all the way back to a singularity?
The known laws of physics can’t operate inside an infinitely small point, or even in an atom sized point. Why most scientists don’t see this as evidence that their theory is wrong I don’t understand.
If a big bang actually occurred, there’s no reason that whatever expanded couldn’t have been a sphere the size of a basketball. If at the end of 13.7 billion years we extrapolated that expansion backwards we might still extrapolate all the way back to a singularity, which we might do since we don’t know what expanded, but we would be wrong. We should stop at the basketball.
I’m only using a basketball as an example. It could have been the size of the moon, or a thousand light years across, or as small as a pea. As long as it was spherical it would still appear to be expanding from a central point.
This is important. If the universe started from something, the nature of reality is profoundly different than if it started from nothing.
This idea isn’t new. It usually includes the notion that the ‘basketball’ is the result of a ‘Big Crunch’, a previously contracted universe rebounding in a ‘Big Bounce’, the whole thing recurring in cycles. Two physicists, Paul Steinhardt and Neil Turok, have promoted this for some time. Here is a presentation of their idea on a web page of the University of Pennsylvania:
So when you hear talk again about the singularity at the beginning of the universe, remember that it could just as easily have been a basketball.