What Came Before the "Big Bang?"

Question: Does it make sense to ask what preceded the Big \r\nBang?

Katie Freese: I think people have the misconception that \r\nthe big bang is the universe starting from a point.  In fact, it is very\r\n different from that.  Probably you know that the Universe is expanding,\r\n so if we go backwards in time then you can watch the Universe contract \r\nas you go backwards in time.  So for example, if you took a tabletop \r\nthen any two points would get closer together, but the points that are \r\nway far apart if you had…  Let’s say it’s an infinite tabletop, so as \r\nthese points get closer and closer together you still have a tabletop \r\nthat is infinite in extent.  It’s not like everything comes into one \r\npoint, but eventually you reach such a high density.  Things are so \r\ncompact and right on top of each other that we lose our description.  \r\nPhysics fails.  That is what the big bang is, so it’s actually we would \r\nneed to have a theory of quantum mechanics and gravity simultaneously to\r\n be able to discuss physics going backwards in time any further, so it \r\nis really a high density situation that we call the big bang, but there \r\nis really no explosion.  There is no bang.  There is no singular point. \r\n But so yes, it does make sense to ask well what happens when you reach \r\nthat density and that is what people are trying to do in theories of \r\nquantum gravity such as string theory or well some of the cosmology that\r\n I’ve done also is in the context of brains where our observable \r\nuniverse is living on a three dimensional surface in a higher \r\ndimensional universe and there could be other brains out there and how \r\nthese brains intersect one another and their motions and so on has \r\nbeen…  So there are different avenues to try to push back our level of \r\nknowledge and they are very active, but very difficult.

Everything\r\n was more dense and then there is a certain point where… which we call \r\nthe big bang and it’s from that point forward that we start our clocks, \r\nso that’s…  And then so and we say the universe is 13.7 billion years \r\nold is relative to that very high density situation.

Recorded May 7, 2010
Interviewed by David Hirschman

"It is really a high density situation that we call the big bang, but there is really no explosion," says Freese. "There is no 'bang.' There is no singular point."

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