The Big Bang Theory is perhaps the most widely accepted science-based 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, along with Israeli-American researcher Avi Loeb of Harvard University, published today a (potentially) groundbreaking research paper indicating that everything we think we know about the origin of the universe could be all wrong.
According to their work, the Big Bang was more of a… Big jump. Their paper describes a scenario where our universe, as we perceive it, is merely the result of an earlier cosmological phase ending and a new one beginning.
To test their theory, the duo propose looking deeper into the universe’s background radiation than we’ve ever done before to find primordial heat signatures that could give us a clearer picture of what happened right after the Big Bang. If they can confirm their suspicions, we may finally be able to understand how previously unexplained features of the cosmos, such as dark energy and time-space distortion, really work.
Finding the ultimate 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 places of massive inflation and gravitational sources could support a cosmological paradigm full of infinite universes. But a model demonstrating the Big Bounce theory would point to a smoother, more operationally simple universe.
Big Bang, Rapid Expansion
The long and short of the situation is related to something called the Big Bang inflation theory, a hypothesis that predicts a period of massive expansion right after the Big Bang happened. Unfortunately, because of the physical limitation on how far light can travel over a given period of time, the Big Bang took place further back in the history of the universe than we can “see.”
In 2014, however, a team of physicists acted an investigation into the cosmic microwave background (CMB) thought they came across data that confirmed the inflation theory.
Loeb himself commented on the discovery in an article for Space.com, although he was not involved in that particular study. At the time, he said, if the inflationary theory of the Big Bang were actually 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.
Dubbed “The Challenge of Ruling Out Inflation Through the Original Gravton Background,” the new paper describes a litany of problems with the rapid inflation theory. It also contains some very interesting speculation about what really happened in the early moments of our universe and, perhaps most intriguingly, it describes what may have happened. before the big Bang.
The authors make every effort to frame the period of massive, rapid inflation encompassing 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 only one possible paradigm that can be proposed.
Big Bounce, Better Science
Making falsifiable assumptions is crucial to understanding physics at scale. For example, scientists believe in the theory of gravity because it can be faked: if you jump in the air on Earth, you fall back down. In a spaceship removed from the planet’s gravitational field, you keep going until you bump into something with a mass large enough to stop you.
Opponents of the inflationary theory of the big bang say it cannot be faked. But Vagnozzi and Loeb believe they have a solution that can answer the same questions as theory 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 built on technology that currently does not exist. So, to sum up, they have theoretically debunked the big bang theory as it stands by providing an alternative theory that is currently not much more testable than the old one.
It will be interesting to see what kind of reactions the article gets from physicists who are still on the inflationary theory. But in the meantime, it seems that Vanozzi and Loeb have come up with a much more elegant, simpler solution to many of the universe’s greatest mysteries than the convoluted status quo.
Personally, I like the idea of a Big Bounce rather than a Big Bang. As the band Semisonic said in their hit Closing time“each new beginning comes from the end of another beginning.”