The Big Bang theory is arguably the most accepted scientific origin story for our universe. Too bad it might be a work of total fiction.
European astrophysicist Sunny Vagnozzi, of the University of Trento and the University of Cambridge, together with Israeli-American researcher Avi Loeb, of Harvard University, today published a (potentially) landmark research paper showing that everything we think we know about the origin of universe can be completely wrong. .
According to their work, the Big Bang was more a Big bounce. Their paper details a scenario where our universe as we observe it is simply the result of a previous cosmological phase ending and a new beginning.
To test their theory, the duo propose looking deeper into the universe’s background radiation than ever before in order to find primordial heat signatures that might give us a clearer picture of what happened right after the Big Bang. If they are able to confirm their suspicions, we may finally be able to understand how inexplicable features of the universe, such as dark energy and time warping, really work.
Finding the absolute truth about the origin of our universe could also revolutionize our understanding of what a “universe” actually is. Current theories surrounding the moments immediately after the Big Bang support the idea of a “multiverse” where various pockets of massive inflation and gravitational wells could support a cosmological paradigm full of infinite universes. But a model where the Big Bounce theory was proven would show a smoother, more functionally simple universe.
Big Bang, rapid expansion
The long and the short include something called the Big Bang inflation theory, a hypothesis that predicts a period of massive expansion immediately after the Big Bang event. Unfortunately, due to the physical limitation of how far light can travel in a given period of time, the Big Bang happened further back in the history of the universe than we can “see”.
In 2014, however, a group of physicists performing a study of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) believed they would come across data that confirmed the theory of inflation.
Loeb himself commented on the discovery in an article for Space.com, although he was not involved in this particular study. According to him, at the time, if the Big Bang inflation theory was really confirmed, “it would be the most important discovery since the discovery, I think, that the expansion of the universe is accelerating.”
A lot can change in eight years. Today, Vagnozzi and Loeb published research that strongly suggests that the 2014 interpretation was wrong.
Called “The challenge of ruling out inflation via the primordial Graviton background,” the new paper outlines a number of problems with the theory of rapid inflation. It also presents some very interesting speculations about what really happened in the earliest moments of our universe and, perhaps most interestingly, describes what might have happened before the big bang
The authors take great care to frame the period of massive, rapid inflation encompassed by the current Big Bang theory as part of an unfalsifiable hypothesis. In scientific parlance, this means that it cannot be described as part of a working model of the universe, it is just a possible example that can be imagined.
Big jump, better science
Making falsifiable assumptions is crucial to understanding large-scale physics. For example, scientists believe in the theory of gravity because it can be falsified: if you jump in the air on Earth, you fall back down. In a spaceship moving away from the planet’s gravitational field, you keep going until you hit something with enough mass to stop you.
According to opponents of the Big Bang inflationary theory, it cannot be falsified. But Vagnozzi and Loeb believe they have a solution that could answer all the same questions the theory does, without the need for the rapid expansion period, while also meeting the requirements of the scientific method by being falsifiable.
Unfortunately, their idea involves the use of futuristic radiation detectors based on technology that does not currently exist. So, to summarize, they have theoretically debunked the Big Bang theory as it stands today by providing an alternative theory that, at present, is not much more testable than the old one.
It will be interesting to see what kind of responses the paper gets from physicists still in the inflationary zone. But in the meantime, it looks like Vanozzi and Loeb have found a much more elegant, simple solution to many of the universe’s biggest mysteries than the convoluted status quo.
Personally, I like the idea of a Big Bounce instead of a Big Bang. As the band Semisonic put it in their hit song Closing time“every new beginning comes from the end of some other beginning.”