What else other than the Big Bang Singularity?
Since my childhood I have been ‘affascinato’ with astronomy and cosmology. I lived in the relative darkness at night in suburban Illinois and the night sky was a display of planets, stars and even satellites. Early on, seeing my enthusiasm, my parents bought me a small telescope with which I could see even clearer and, also, more distant celestial objects, and we went to the nearby observatory and planetariums to learn more about the universe. Of course, as with all science, over the years with the advancement of more sophisticated technology, the hypothesis of the origin of the universe has changed and will continue to do so. This short blog is written as a personal reflection on the latest, more reasonable hypotheses on the topic of the beginning of our universe.
Those familiar with cosmology or the scientific study of the origin and structure of the universe are aware of the competition of two primary hypotheses about the nature of the universe in which we live. These two are the Steady State and Big Bang. In brief, the steady-state theory, claims that the density of matter in the expanding universe remains unchanged due to a continuous creation of matter, thus adhering to the perfect cosmological principle, a principle that asserts that the observable universe is basically the same at any time as well as at any place. While the steady state model enjoyed some popularity in the mid-20th century, the Steady State Theory is now no longer accepted by most cosmologists. Today the majority of astronomers consider the Big Bang theory to be the best description of the origin of the universe as the observational evidence points to a hot Big Bang cosmology with a finite age of the universe, which the Steady State model does not predict.
It seems that the field of cosmology, therefore, yields good evidence that there was an initial beginning to our universe. According to the Big Bang theory, our universe began as an infinitesimally small, infinitely hot, and infinitely dense something – a singularity. The universe began to exist as a hot, dense phase, which can be considered the “birth” of our universe in which was contained all of the mass and spacetime of the Universe before it rapidly expanded with subsequent inflation, creating the present-day Universe. Extrapolation of the expansion of the universe backwards in time using general relativity yields an infinite density and temperature at a finite time in the past. The initial singularity is part of what is called the Plank Epoch , or the earliest period of time in the history of the universe. So according to the standard theory, based on measurements of the expansion using Type IA supernova and measurements of temperature fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background, our universe came into existence as a singularity of an estimated age of 13.799 ± 0.021 billion years ago.
Well, as an ‘affascinato’ of cosmology, this has always been pretty convincing through the science that supports the Big Bang until one arrives at the logical question of “How did all that mass come into existence from nothing?”. One thinks that perhaps not being a professional in the subject, one has missed a subtle and important link in the argument for the Big Bang model. This self-doubt ends rather quickly when the usual cosmologist at the end of the Big Bang lecture admits, “Where did the initial singularity come from? We don’t know. Why did it appear? Well, to be honest, we don’t know. This is a question that stretches physics to its limit simply because before the initial singularity there was no space and no time. Therefore, the word ‘before’ becomes meaningless.” In fact, the Big Bang singularity can explain only what happened immediately after—not at or before—the singularity. Also, this implies that the universe was born with a tendency to expand, which overcame the tendency of matter to collapse. Why it initially chose to do so is also still a mystery… the Big Bang model has numerous theoretical difficulties to it.
So while the Big Bang is the most accepted model, there are many holes (not black ones) in this proposition. But now there is a new perspective which gives a more parsimonious answer to the questionable issues associated with that singularity. The perspective is quantum physics. In quantum physics, particularly the transactional interpretation (TI) of quantum mechanics, as discussed by Ruth Kastner, explains that the macroscopic world of mass, space and time is based on the foundation or scaffold of the quantum interactions found in ‘quantumland’. This interpretation purports that there is more to known reality than ‘spacetime’, and that quantum theory describes that subtler, unseen reality. In this hypothesis, quantum processes take place in a realm scaffolding the ‘spacetime’ realm. Quanta are not contained in our spacetime world but in the realm of possibilities outside spacetime. Kastner explains that according to the transaction interpretation of quantum systems, e.g. electrons, travel by a physical entity called an offer wave, which is offered from a source called an emitter, to a destination called an absorber. The microscopic emitters and absorbers are quantum objects and not in spacetime. When there is absorption of the offer, this process gives rise to a confirmation wave that travels back to the emitter. This process of an offer responded to by a confirmation is the basic ‘handshake’. The confirmation is also like a mirror image of the offer representing an incipient transaction whose essence is merely possible energy rather than real energy. The process of the creation of new particles can only be treated by relativistic quantum mechanics.
Once there is a matching confirmation, then the property is defined as actualized, brought into spacetime, and is a classical property. The incipient transaction is actualized and becomes an observable event in the macroworld or ‘our’ world of mass in space and time. A macroscopic object begins at the point at which a confirmation has been generated. Real energy is only conveyed in the actualized transaction, in fact; only through an actualized transaction can real energy be radiated or transferred from one object to another. So indeed, a reliable macroscopic object is a consistent absorber and can be defined as a system of many actualized transactions. Kastner uses the example of a geiger counter to illustrate the difference of the two ‘worlds’. A geiger counter exists as an object in the macroscopic world being a conglomerate of actualized transactions. But it also maintains its roots in the quantumland domain of possibilities because it is comprised of atoms, which can act as emitters or absorbers. Measurement occurs both whenever an absorber is accessible to an emitter and when confirmations are generated.
In actuality, it is the interaction of subatomic material that brings forth the material world as we know it and as it exists. So, in terms of the beginning of our universe, using the TI model, the speculation that would make sense is that at a point about 13 billion years ago there was a quantum fluctuation that created the macroscopic elements which ‘broke through’ and created our realm of existence. While, of course, the why, how and what are still a mystery for this as is still much of our comprehension of ‘quantumland’, we are no longer faced with the impossibility of explaining the ‘before’ the singularity event of the Big Band using the infinite macroscopic mass/space/time model of the Big Bang but instead the more heuristic, efficient quantum model which bypasses the impossible.