The Big Bang is a) weird and b) has been the subject of heated discussion for decades. So, what exactly was it, and how did it happen (we’ll leave ‘why’ for another time).
The first question about the Big Bang is ‘what happened before it?’ You can’t, surely, have nothing and then, magically, something. And something so energetic it expands for billions of years and becomes the biggest thing ever, in fact slightly bigger than that.
The whole Universe and the Big Bang theories really make us feel small and a bit silly. Now scientists are re-examining the issue, and some are even back to the basic question of ‘does the Universe have an edge?’ This theme has a habit of becoming as infinite as the Universe because we can’t see beyond the edge; therefore, it has no edge, and anyway, if it had an edge, it wouldn’t be infinite, just very big, and you would have probably missed something anyway.
Roger Penrose, winner of the Nobel Prize Winner for being the maddest scientist of his generation, has a theory that the Big Bang was not the first and will not be the last.
Right now, says Penrose and others, the Universe is expanding, driven by dark matter (which we are still trying to explain), while being slowed by gravity, which Newton solved while taking a nap. The Universe is made up of about 73% of dark matter, which is clearly winning the tug of war with gravity.
Penrose believes that the Big Bang was the end of the last aeon, the last Universal breath when the Universe went from its largest state to its smallest state and then exploded again. Very quickly and not just once, according to Penrose.
Which sounds rather like breathing.
Or the annual cycle that trees go through.
Trees ‘die’ in winter (giving themselves a decent helping of leaf mould as compost) and then come ‘alive’ again in the Spring and grow for another year.
Perhaps the Universe and the Big Bang(s) are like trees, or us, breathing – or dying and coming alive again each (mind-numbingly huge) cycle.
The more we think about it, it does seem that however big or small things are in the Universe (think strands of DNA and a nebula like this), and you have to admit that it doesn’t look like a coincidence that they are so similar.
Now, let’s find the edge of that Universe, hopefully before the next Big Bang, so that we can pick at it some more.