What Big Bang?
We might learn from the "universe breakers" that the big bang never happened.
There is a well-known party conversation prompt: “what’s something you know to be true that nobody else believes?”
For the last six months, the eyebrow-raiser I’ve been going with is that there was probably no big bang to start the universe. This idea first snagged me eight years ago, when this paper was published in Physics Letters B. To quote the abstract:
In this article we derive the second order Friedmann equations from the QRE, and show that this also contains a couple of quantum correction terms, the first of which can be interpreted as cosmological constant (and gives a correct estimate of its observed value), while the second as a radiation term in the early universe, which gets rid of the big-bang singularity and predicts an infinite age of our universe
Now I am not a physicist, and I certainly don’t understand the detailed math in this paper, but I showed it to a few friends of mine who are physicists, and they said: “wow, that’s a ballsy paper.”
But they didn’t say it was wrong…
The rough idea, as I understand it, is that the math behind quantum mechanics requires some geometry. But you can replace that classic geometry with a different type of geometry designed for curved shapes and you get all the same answers to the experimentally-proven questions… but you also get an infinite age for the universe instead of a big bang.
Fast forward to last August, and the launch of the James Webb telescope allowed us to look way back in time to distant objects in the universe that would have been present just shortly after the theoretical big bang. Right away, we spot galaxies that don’t quite seem to fit the theory, because they’re too big to be part of a brand new universe.
Last month, the results of those observations were published in Nature, along with a warning that we might be about to upend a big portion of what we understand about the universe:
“The revelation that massive galaxy formation began extremely early in the history of the universe upends what many of us had thought was settled science,” said Leja. “We’ve been informally calling these objects ‘universe breakers’ — and they have been living up to their name so far.”
Mainstream scientists haven’t yet decided to start questioning the big bang itself, instead deciding to examine the models for how galaxy formation would work in the early universe:
Accounting for such a high amount of mass would require either altering the models for cosmology or revising the scientific understanding of galaxy formation in the early universe.
But I’m starting to think the there’s a real likelihood that five years from now we’ll discover the The Big Bang Theory is like Pluto the Planet: that thing we were all taught for years that turns out to have been wrong after all.
The beautiful thing is that this is how the scientific method works: develop of theory, test it until it breaks, and then get a better theory.