for National Geographic News
We may be able to get a glimpse of what happened before the big bang, thanks to a new study—but only a glimpse.
The big bang has traditionally been seen as the beginning of everything—space, time, matter, and energy.
But researchers are developing sophisticated new theories to look ever further back in time, to what happened just fractions of a second after big bang itself.
In the new research, Martin Bojowald of Pennsylvania State University pushes one of these theories back even further—to the time of a purported previous universe that contracted and "bounced" to form our own.
The new study comes with some bad news, though.
It suggests that the universe suffers from "cosmic forgetfulness," so that we can never be able to find out too much about what came before our big bang.
The new study appeared online this week in the journal Nature Physics.
Theory of Everything
Our universe is expanding outward in every direction, implying that it originally exploded out from a single point about 14 billion years ago.
The further we look back in time, the smaller and hotter the universe gets. At the beginning of time, most traditional theories speculate, the universe was infinitely hot and had no size at all.
But no one knows for sure, since textbook physics suffers a meltdown and gives nonsensical answers when used to describe what the universe was like at moment of the big bang, Bojowald says.
These theories "tell us energies were infinitely large," Bojowald said. "It doesn't have any meaning for us."
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