Looking Beyond the Garden: What Came Before the Big Bang?

By Larry Rettig (LarryR) on July 7, 2013

This article concludes the series, "Looking Beyond the Garden." As we’ve seen in two of the previous articles, a tiny portion of something exploded into space and grew to an enormous size. It created a universe of matter and energy, from which grew nebulas, stars, and planets, among other things. And eventually it produced abundant life on the planet Earth. The universe is still expanding today, a phenomenon that can be measured scientifically. But what came before this Big Bang?

Parallel universes

The short answer is simply: We don’t know.

Here is a sampling of some current theories or aspects of theories as I understand them.  I’ve tried to state them as simply and concisely as possible.

What came before the Big Bang?

1.      Nothing

According to Einstein’s work there was nothing before the Big Bang.  Period.

2.      Hartle-Hawking theory

There was no time before the Big Bang.  It didn’t exist before the formation of “spacetime” associated with the Big Bang.  James Hartle and Stephen Hawking theorize that since beginnings have to do with time, the concept of a beginning of the universe is meaningless.  Before the Big Bang there was just a “singularity,” a point at which something cannot be defined because it is infinite.

3.      The inflationary universe

Just before the Big Bang, space was filled with some sort of unstable energy, which exploded and created the ever-expanding universe.

4.      Self-creating universe

Before the Big Bang there existed a loop of “something.”  Because it was a loop, it had no beginning and no end.  At some point, a “branch” popped out of the loop, and that was the beginning of our universe.

5.      Universes expand and collapse (Big Bounce Theory)

Since everything in nature is cyclical, universes are continually expanding and collapsing.  Therefore, before the Big Bang there was another expanding universe.

6.      The Multiverse theory

Sometimes called the meta-universe, the multiverse is a set of either infinite or finite possible universes (including ours) that taken together encompass everything that has ever existed, including all of space, time, matter, and energy as well as the physical laws that describe them.  The various universes within the multiverse are sometimes also called parallel universes.

7.      Ball of gravity and energy

Before the Big Bang there was a ball of gravity with energy trapped inside it.  No mass or particles existed.  There was a lot of activity inside the ball as the energy tried to escape gravitational pull.  Finally, weak points developed in the ball and energy was able to escape via a giant explosion.

8.      String theory

The basic particles in the universe are not small points but rather shaped like strings.  We can only see three dimensions, but space can have more than that.  Events before the Big Bang could have included a collision of our own universe with a parallel universe that was made of extra dimensions.  These universes exist as membranes, connected by gravity.  The science behind these ideas is complex and beyond the grasp of most of us, but now occupy some of the greatest minds in physics.

Ultimately, no matter what the theory—and despite the fact that there are theories that say there was nothing before the Big Bang—we still tend to wonder:  And what came before that?  From a scientific point of view, it’s hard for us to get our heads around a concept like:  It just is, period.  There is no precursor.  To our earthbound sensibilities it just doesn't make sense to get something from nothing.  There must be an agent.  If we believe in an ultimate power (God, Supreme Being, Higher Power, Buddha, Great Mystery—the list goes on) the it-just-is concept may be a bit easier to accept.  In the end, religion and spirituality fill the void left by science. ☼

Other articles in this series

Looking Beyond the Garden: A Convinced Gardener Considers Climate Change

Looking Beyond the Garden: How did all those plants come to be?

Looking Beyond the Garden: The Higgs Boson

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Parallel universes graphic is courtesy of wikipedia.org and used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

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About Larry Rettig
"An enthusiastic gardener for over 50 years, my first plant was a potted Ponderosa Lemon tree ordered from a comic book ad at age 15. I still have it, and it’s still bearing lemons! My wife and I garden on 3/4 of an acre, both flowers and vegetables. Our garden, named Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens, is private and is listed with the Smithsonian Institution in its Archives of American Gardens. It is also on the National Register of Historic Places. We garden organically and no-till. Our vegetable garden contains a seed bank of vegetables brought to this country from Germany in the mid-1800s by my ancestors. My latest book, Gardening the Amana Way, is available at Amazon.com.

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The end Sharon Jul 12, 2013 12:25 AM 19

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