Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Scientifically this is big news. In the January 2012 edition of New Scientist Magazine it was stated that scientists are now facing up to the problem of the universe having a beginning – until recently they could postulate that it was eternal and the main theories to support this were “eternal inflation” and “multiverses”.

However, as the article reports, the problem (for them) is that the equations didn’t work when tested and they are now back where they started with a creation event!

The New Scientist article is here (but you will need a log in so I have supplied the article below).

Why Physicists Can’t Avoid a Creation Event

The big bang may not have been the beginning of everything – but new calculations suggest we still need a cosmic starter gun. You could call them the worst birthday presents ever. At the meeting of minds convened last week to honour Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday- loftily titled “State of the Universe” – two bold proposals posed serious threats to our existing understanding of the cosmos. One shows that a problematic object called a naked singularity is a lot more likely to exist than previously assumed (see “Naked black-hole hearts live in the fifth dimension“). The other suggests that the universe is not eternal, resurrecting the thorny question of how to kick-start the cosmos without the hand of a supernatural creator.

While many of us may be OK with the idea of the big bang simply starting everything, physicists, including Hawking, tend to shy away from cosmic genesis. “A point of creation would be a place where science broke down. One would have to appeal to religion and the hand of God,” Hawking told the meeting, at the University of Cambridge, in a pre-recorded speech.

For a while it looked like it might be possible to dodge this problem, by relying on models such as an eternally inflating or cyclic universe, both of which seemed to continue infinitely in the past as well as the future. Perhaps surprisingly, these were also both compatible with the big bang, the idea that the universe most likely burst forth from an extremely dense, hot state about 13.7 billion years ago.However, as  cosmologist Alexander Vilenkinof Tufts University in Boston explained last week, that hope has been gradually fading and may now be dead. He showed that all these theories still demand a beginning. His first target was eternal inflation.

Proposed by Alan Guthof the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1981, inflation says that in the few slivers of a second after the big bang, the universe doubled in size thousands of times before settling into the calmer expansion we see today. This helped to explain why parts of the universe so distant that they could never have communicated with each other look the same. Eternal inflation is essentially an expansion of Guth’s idea, and says that the universe grows at this breakneck pace forever, by constantly giving birth to smaller “bubble” universes within an ever-expanding multiverse, each of which goes through its own initial period of inflation.

Crucially, some versions of eternal inflation applied to time as well as space, with the bubbles forming both backward. But in 2003, a team including Vilenkin and Guth considered what eternal inflation would mean for the Hubble constant, which describes mathematically the expansion of the universe. They found that the equations didn’t work “You can’t construct a space-time with this property,” says Vilenkin. It turns out that the constant has a lower limit that prevents inflation in both time directions. “It can’t possibly be eternal in the past,” says Vilenkin.”There must be some kind of boundary.”

Steve Ray here: I have always said that when scientists finally get back to the final, final beginning and break through the last mystery to the first cause, they will peer around the last corner and be surprised to see God smiling at them saying, “Yes it is Me. I created everything from nothing and made you in My image!”