Long ago, medieval religious philosophers in India taught that the universe goes through an endless cycle of creation and destruction, in which it evolves from an undifferentiated mass unto the complex reality the we see around us, before destroying itself and starting anew [source: Davis].
Some contemporary scientists have arrived at an idea with striking parallels. They believe that instead of a Big Bang, the universe expands and contracts in a cycle, bouncing back each time that it shrinks to a certain size. In the Big Bounce theory, each cycle would begin with a small, smooth universe that wouldn't be as tiny as the singularity. It would gradually expand, and become clumpier and more warped over time. Eventually, it would reach a point where it would start to collapse and gradually smooth itself out, as it shrank to the size of the starting point. Then, the cycle would begin anew [source: Wolchover].
For the Big Bounce idea to work, it has to find a way around the singularity theorems developed by British physicists Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking, which suggest that a contracting universe would shrink all the way down to a singularity, in the fashion that a massive dying star eventually condenses to form a black hole. To do that, Big Bounce models depend upon the idea of negative energy counteracting gravity and reversing the collapse, so that that the universe and time-space would be driven apart again and again [source: Wolchover].
These cycles of contraction and expansion would repeat themselves, about once every trillion years [source: Taylor].
The Big Bounce would make a departure from western civilization's view of reality since St. Augustine, because it would recognize that time actually existed before the universe as we know it.
But whether it as a Big Bang or a Big Bounce, the question of what existed before our present universe remains an open question. Perhaps nothing. Perhaps another universe or a different version of our own. Perhaps a sea of universes, each with a different set of laws dictating its physical reality.
Explore the links below to tackle other lofty, cosmological questions.
More Great Links
- Atkinson, Nancy. "Thinking About Time Before the Big Bang." Universe Today. June 13, 2008. (Nov. 12, 2018) http://www.universetoday.com/2008/06/13/thinking-about-time-before-the-big-bang/
- Britt, Robert Roy. "'Brane-Storm' Challenges Part of Big Bang Theory." Space.com. April 18, 2001. (April 28, 2010) http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/astronomy/bigbang_alternative_010413-1.html
- Choi, Charles Q. "Our Universe Was Born in a Black Hole, Theory Says. " Space.com. April 27 2010. (Nov. 12, 2018) https://www.space.com/8293-universe-born-black-hole-theory.html
- Davies, Paul. "What Happened Before the Big Bang?" Beliefnet. January 2001. (Nov. 12, 2018) https://www.beliefnet.com/news/science-religion/2001/01/what-happened-before-the-big-bang.aspx
- Davis, Richard H. "Worshiping Śiva in Medieval India: Ritual in an Oscillating Universe." Ntilal Banarsidass Publishers. 2000. (Nov. 12, 2018) http://bit.ly/2qJ8cbF
- Jones, Andrew Zimmerman. "Description & Origins of Inflation Theory. " ThoughtCo. Dec. 3, 2012. (Nov. 12, 2018) https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-inflation-theory-2698852
- Lintott, Chris. "Hints of 'time before Big Bang.'" BBC News. June 6, 2008. (Nov. 12, 2018) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7440217.stm
- Marquit, Miranda. "The Branes Behind String Theory." Physorg.com. Oct. 2, 2006. (Nov, 12, 2018) http://www.physorg.com/news79009171.html
- Moskowitz, Clara. "Glimpse Before Big Bang Possible." Space.com. Jan. 13, 2009. (Nov. 12, 2018)) https://www.space.com/6303-glimpse-big-bang.html
- NASA Universe 101. "What is the Inflation Theory?" April 16, 2010. (Nov. 12, 2018) http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/universe/bb_cosmo_infl.html
- NASA Universe 101. "Test of Big Bang: The CMB." April 16, 2010. (Nov. 12, 2018) http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/universe/bb_tests_cmb.html
- Overbye, Dennis. "Before the Big Bang, There Was... What? " New York Times. May 22, 2001. (Nov. 12, 2018) https://www.nytimes.com/2001/05/22/science/before-the-big-bang-there-was-what.html
- "Probing Question: What happened before the Big Bang?" Aug. 3, 2006. (Nov. 12, 2018) http://www.physorg.com/news73844848.html
- Redd, Nola Taylor. "Einstein's Theory of General Relativity." Space.com. Nov. 7, 2017. (Nov. 12, 2018) https://www.space.com/17661-theory-general-relativity.html
- Soter, Steven and Tyson, Neil deGrasse, (editors). " Profile: Georges Lemaître, Father of the Big Bang. " Excerpted from "Cosmic Horizons: Astronomy at the Cutting Edge. " New Press. 2000. (Nov. 12, 2018) https://www.amnh.org/explore/resource-collections/cosmic-horizons/profile-georges-lemaitre-father-of-the-big-bang
- Stephey, M.J. "What Came Before the Big Bang? " Time. Aug. 13, 2009. (Nov. 12, 2018) http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1916055,00.html
- Taylor, Heather. "The Big Bounce Theory: What is it? " Astronotes. Feb. 10, 2017. (Nov. 12, 2018) http://www.armaghplanet.com/blog/the-big-bounce-theory-what-is-it.html
- Science Daily. "Universe Offers 'Eternal Feast,' Cosmologist Says." Feb. 22, 2007. (Nov. 12, 2018) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070221093222.htm
- Than, Ker. "Every Black Hole Contains Another Universe?" National Geographic. April 9, 2010. (April 28, 2010) http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/04/100409-black-holes-alternate-universe-multiverse-einstein-wormholes/
- Villanova University. "St. Augustine and Cosmology. " Villanova.edu. (Nov. 12, 2018) https://www1.villanova.edu/villanova/artsci/anthro/Previous_Lectures/sustain/AugustineCosmology0.html
- Wall, Mike. "The Big Bang: What Really Happened at Our Universe's Birth? " Space.com. Oct. 21, 2011. (Nov. 12, 2018) https://www.space.com/13347-big-bang-origins-universe-birth.html
- Wolchover, Natalie. "How the Universe Got Its Bounce Back." Quanta. Jan. 31, 2018. (Nov. 12, 2018) https://www.quantamagazine.org/big-bounce-models-reignite-big-bang-debate-20180131/