Debunking the Big Bang

Okay…I took astronomy. I know all about black holes. And the Big Bang. And I see a real conflict between the two. The basic assumption behind a black hole is that when gravitational pull (the weak force) becomes greater than the forces that hold matter apart, matter begins an infinate collapse into itself. They even talk about an “event horizon line” where gravitation is so great it warps time to a stand still. Normally, a black hole is thought to be created from compressing matter during a super-nova. But according to physics, if enough matter is brought together gravity can do the job all by itself. If a waterball existed with a radius roughly equivalent to the distance from the sun to the earth, the gravitational pressures in the center would be so great as to create a spontaneous black hole. NOW the conflict.
Wasn’t a whole shitload of matter in one spot just prior to and during the early stages of the supposed “Big Bang?” Why wouldn’t that matter have done an infinite collapse into itself?
Keep in mind, science has a history of firmly believing something to be true, only to have it disproved years later.

Suspicious in Ohio

Wow, you better get on the phone with Hawking and his people. They’ve been studying black holes for years and don’t know all about them yet. You’ll be a big help to them, I’m sure.

I’ll let someone else more knowledgeable than I am go into details, but it’s my understanding that previous to the Big Bang, not only was all matter in the universe concentrated in one point, but so was all energy, all time, and all space. This is a radically different situation than a concentration of matter high enough to cause the escape velocity to exceed the speed of light. Different situation, different rules, different outcome.

And keep in mind that the alternative to science has a history of firmly believing something to be true for hundreds and thousands of years, and continuing to do so even after it has been proven wrong beyond any doubt, and never improving itself at all. I know which methodology seems better to me.


My (admittedly, very limited) understanding is that the balance is very fine. If the force of the Big Bang had been any less, the matter (energy, time, etc) would have fallen back into itself.

Thanks everyone for the good answers.

That’s a very interesting question, I should say… And incidentally, science-fiction authors and astrophysicists have been thinking about the link between the Big Bang and black holes for years.

Thing is, you have to understand the actual nature of a physical force, such as gravity or electromagnetic force. Electromagnetic force is “carried”, if you will, by photons. That is, if two electrons pass side by side and repulse each other, they exchange photons to divert their course.

We know little about the actual carrier of gravity, but in theory it exists, and is called the graviton. Some nuts are trying to say it’s something esoterical called the Higg’s boson, but let’s not dwelve there. Even my Physics graduate head aches from the debate.

Anyway, we know absolutely nothing of “Time Zero”, that is; we have no idea what state the Universe was in “before” it exploded. I put “before” in quotes because there might not even be such a thing as a “before” to the Big Bang. Headache #2.

What we do know of the Big Bang is, the primordial forces of the Universe took shape after the Big Bang; in the few nanoseconds following the birth of the Universe. As the Universe expanded and “cooled”, all the physical forces began manifesting as distinct physical laws, and the carriers of these forces began manifesting.

So, a few iotas of time after the birth of the Universe, gravity began exerting a pull. Unfortunately, as everything was expanding at the speed of light, it was too late. Also is the fact that, for large masses gravity is important, but at that point, the Universe was barely the size of an atom, so other forces, such as electromagnetic repulsion, were at work. It took a good while before gravity stopped being the unloved child of the primordial Universe.

That’s not to say it didn’t do its bit of work back then; in theory, there may exist “micro-black holes”, subatomic black holes still roaming the Universe to this day, punching holes through planets and coming out the other side fatter. The idea is that, in the early Universe, there could have been high-speed collisions between elements that collapsed matter into subatomic black holes.

On the relationship between black holes and the Big Bang: I suggest you read Isaac Azimov’s ‘Black Holes’, which is scientific vulgarisation of the explanation of how black holes form. In the last chapters, he launches into a rêverie whereas he hypothecises that black holes may be little cosmic seeds called Cosmic Eggs, leading to other Big Bangs. Quite fascinating, if a bit out there.

I remember reading once (in the Straight Dope?) that the question of whether the
Universe is open (continues expanding) or closed (falls back eventually) boils down to whether or not we are living in a black hole. The odd behaviors we associate with black holes are the result of the extreme warping of space around them. When you are dealing with a Universe sized black hole, the
warping in any given area is small.

The cover story of the January 1999 Scientific American is a detailed four-article summary of the current thinking in cosmological expansion. A lot of it was beyond me, but if you took astronomy and know all about black holes, it should be right up your alley.

“I’m not an actor, but I play one on TV.”

Ok, let’s say the Big Bang actually occured, and the universe is still expanding- isn’t it true that the once it stops expanding the complete opposite will happen- a big collapse?

A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

It’s true that if there is sufficient mass in the Universe (i.e., enough to “close” it), its expansion would eventually slow and then reverse in a so-called “big crunch”. But the best (and possibly all) current scientific estimates are *far<\i> short of the amount needed for closure. As I understand it, even allowing for reasonable quantities of “dark matter” fails to bring the total close to closure.

Furthermore, recent findings suggest that rather than slowing down, the expansion rate is actually speeding up!

So from what we know today, it looks like there will be no big crunch.

WOW! Thanks again to everyone, especially Elijah, for helping me to understand this apparent conflict

On the subject of Big Crunch vs Big Bang… Brian. Utterback, I’m afraid to say, you got things confused a little. The question of whether we’re headed toward Big Crunch (a big collapse at the end of times) or not depends not on whether we live in a black hole, but on Dark Matter.

In essence, Dark Matter is a different “family” of matter, one which we have been unable to detect thus far, because it interacts minimally with “normal” matter. Dark Matter is not one type of matter, but a number of hypothetical types of matter, ranging from infinitesimal particles to ultra-heavy, “supersymetric” particles with stranger names than should be. (Neutralinos, anyone?) Also considered Dark Matter are extinct stars, planets, neutron stars, black holes and other weird astronomical objects.

Anyway, what’s the relationship between the Big Bang and Dark Matter? Simply, if we calculate the current mass of the Universe (how? well, you get the Universe on a scale, then add the weight of the scale. Just kidding. :slight_smile: ) it seems we’re short on matter to justify an eventual Big Crunch.

The Universe will eventually collapse if there is enough matter to stop the expansion and pull back the matter unto itself. If there is not enough matter, then the Universe will keep on expanding, ad infinitum.

How much matter do we have right now? Well, not a lot. About 1%. This means that, for the Universe to eventually collapse, we need the equivalent of 99% visible Universes to make up for the lacking mass.

Is that feasible? Well, yeah, actually. There might just be enough Dark Matter to make up for the loss. Also, it was discovered recently that neutrinos do have mass, so maybe that’s a big chunk of the missing mass. And if we had an idea how many black holes there are out there, we might just have enough hidden matter to hope for a Big Crunch.

But it’s never that simple… Dark Matter is still elusive, and besides, like someone pointed out, recent measures seem to indicate the Universe may be expanding faster and faster and not slowing down… And neither I nor other scientists make much sense of it…

Still, there are conclusive hints that Dark Matter may exist. So there is still hope. Still, it’s not gonna disturb my sleep either way.


I’m not sure of your explanation on Big Crunch and Dark Matter. I quibble on some of it.

Big Crunch is simply whehter there is enough matter in the universe to stop the current expansion and start contraction someday. Current estimates (as you state) show all matter we can account for is about 1% of that.

Seperately, we have found that the way in which galaxies rotate, clusters and superclusters of galaxies interact show that there is more matter than we can account for. (This is unsurprising, since we can only account for matter that shows itself, usually by being on fire.) What could be causing this discrepancy? Dark matter is whatever the heck it is that causes it.

It is true there are many different candidates for what is causing this gravitational mismatch. However, that doesn’t mean that Dark matter is a whole other family, or that it interacts minimally with normal matter – there are just a lot of different candidates, some ordinary matter, some not so ordinary. My favorite theory is that gravity doesn’t diminish as the square of distance, but every so slightly less than the square. So at galactic distances, the gravity would be slightly more than we think. In that model, there isn’t any Dark matter.

But whatever you believe dark matter to be, even when you take it into account, you still end up with 10% of that threshold amount of matter, so best estimates are that the universe will go to infinite expansion. This would be probably be unquestioned scientific dogma if there weren’t such great philosophical and aesthetic reasons to doubt it. (That’s another post sometime!)

If one is looking for a (relatively) understandable text on the current state of cosmological thinking, I recommend Timothy Ferris’ The Whole Shebang - A State of the Universe(s) Report. This guy explains things so even a bonehead like me can understand them (sorta, kinda…).

Before reading this book, I was picturing the big bang as a conventional explosion - you know, a “ground zero,” if you will, and junk racing out into space in every direction from this central point afterwards… turns out this is all wrong.
(If it were true, we could trace the trajectories of galaxies and such back to a metaphysical location in spacetime… and no can do, grasshopper. The observable universe appears to be completely homogenous - that is, it looks the same in all directions no matter where you are standing, including the expansion rate as perceived by an observer.
Ferris finally got it across to me: the singularity immediately preceding the big bang was of infinite density - it contained all matter, all energy and all spacetime. All locations in spacetime were the same in this singularity. The bang caused spacetime to expand, it did not throw matter “outwards.” The distance between objects is increasing because space is expanding, (at a presently accelerating rate) in all directions. Hence, all points in the universe were the same before the bang, and all points in the universe are therefore at the center of the original “ground zero.” A simple concept to some, but to me, it was a revelation.

Yes, that’s correct. I did state that there were many explanations for what Dark Matter is, and that Supersymetric particles were one of the candidates. As I said, stuff like black holes or extinct stars are other candidates.

As for your theory that gravity diminishes with less than the square of the distance… Well, I don’t believe that very much. The “2” in r^2 is one of the most precise relations we know about the Universe. That is, it’s r^2.0000000000… I don’t remember how many, but it’s a lot.

What is possible is that quantum gravity, when it is discovered, exposes a different dynamic for the way gravity works. Perhaps the exponent 2 is just for our own corner of the Universe, who knows. The way gravity works may be a function of the distribution of matter throughout the Universe… I’m just conjecturing, mind you.

It may well turn out that the Dark Matter we are looking for is not Dark Matter at all, but some misunderstood aspect of the Universe’s Laws.

Here is a question for any experts lurking on this thread. How seriously do people take various theories of cosmology? I don’t mean do you get red in the face at professional meetings or worry a lot about getting tenure – I mean if you had to bet money on there having been a big-bang, would you be willing to do it. I have no expertise in this area, but it looks like chalkboard hypothecation rather than “real science”, so I’ve never been interested enough to try to get over the hump that learning about it would require. I’m not criticizing the endeavor, since you have to start somewhere and big questions are really hard, but I’m wondering if there is real progress to report, and if so, what?

For example, I have a good friend who used to be in the math department at Princeton. About 10 years ago I was visiting him and he told me a story about the sociology of “string theory”, which was currently quite a big deal in the newspapers. He said that it was, at least at that point, all crap. That people in physics departments were admitting to physicists that it was bad physics but claiming that it was good math, and the obverse was happening in math departments. Finally someone in his department that knew enough about physics had looked into it and discovered that it was the worst kind of interdisciplinary nonsense. I have no idea if this is still the case, by the way, and could well believe that it isn’t.

I’m just wondering if cosmology is playing with equations or if there is really enough data to be testing theories.

Cosmology is a weird place in science, because a lot of the issues it deals with don’t lend themselves to typical ideas of scientific proof. You can’t recreate the Universe a bunch of times and see how closely your theory prediction matches the results.

My own personal opinion is that we have pretty well proved that there is some kind of Big Bang. We know some of the general outline of how things happened.

Big Bang theory does successfully account for some things. For example, the amount of hydrogen & helium in the unvierse (which mostly IS the universe) matches it’s prediciton very closely. It accounts to a large degree for the background radiation, and a couple other things. There are some points that trip it up, the distirubtion of glaxies and superclusters are a point against it. Still, it’s pretty well proven.

A lot of the details are up for grabs. String theory – sounds good, awfully hard to prove. Odds are good that your friend didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. It’s really really advanced stuff, you need to know a lot about some different kinds of math to do it. (Just calling it interdisciplinary isn’t a negative) I doubt anyone, even a Princeton math prof, could just look it over and give any kind of informed opinion. It’d be about as informed as most of the posters here – not exactly junk, but not authoritative.

Elijah – I just like the idea of the gravitational exponent theory. When I say it’s my favorite, I am just shooting off my mouth, I have no idea of the scientific support for it. I’ll take your word for it that we’ve established the 2.0000… to many many decimal points.

I’m just wondering if cosmology is playing with equations or if there is really enough data to be testing theories.*

Cosmological theories, at this point, consist almost entirely of incredibly complicated mathematical formulae. As far as “testing” goes - other cosmologists / physicists check your math - they find a mistake - back to the chalkboard. Unfortunately, if they cannot disprove a theory in such wise, it does not “prove” anything in the classical sense.

I count myself among the people who take these theories very seriously. Although I do not pretend to understand one iota of the math involved, I have read enough to get a general sense of “how things work,” and I find fascinating the search for the GUI, (grand unified theory) the capi di tutti capi of physics that will tie all the forces of nature together in one neat package. (Do I think they will find it? I doubt it - I believe God has at least a few things up his sleeve that humans will never know).

Has there been progress? You bet, Hd. Just in my lifetime, black holes and their physics have been described, subatomic particles by the score have been proposed AND detected, (the quarks being most notable)
and physicist have gotten even closer to describing conditions immediately following the big bang (radiation “decoupled” from matter at about the 10^-14 second, one of the few theories that was proven by physical observations, I.E. the cosmic background radiation, 1946) etc, etc. Just in the last year, cosmologists have begun to come to a consensus (if such a thing will ever exist among cosmologists) that the universe is not closed - that is, there is not enough matter to keep it from expanding forever into the “big freeze.”

Sure, these guys go down a lot of dead ends, but don’t we all? Strings, superstrings, wormholes, 10 dimensions, - I ask you, what could be more fun than to watch our top guns cast about for answers to the greatest mysteries of the cosmos?
Beats Miss Marple any day, imho.

OOPS - that’s “GUT” not “GUI.” My user interface lacked sufficient caffiene at that point. And DANG I hate that UUB and why can’t we have preview mode or editing capabilities?! I work hard on this shit!

Most of this thread was beyond me (or at least my ability to focus at work!) but I have a questions for all you space/science oriented guys (&gals) out there: Sunday at church, my pastor mentioned that he had read or heard somewhere that scientists are now feeling that the smallest particle of matter may be sound. He used this in the context of God speaking the universe into existance and the most basic component that makes everything, the smallest component, was His voice (sound). Pastor tends to be a rational person, not given to crazy assumptions or out-of-context quotations. Any thoughts on this out there? Thanks!

Carpe Diem! or at least seize something!

Bunny, I think your pastor was confused. He might know something I don’t, but he was probably talking about “vibration”. It’s easy to mistakenly interpret that as sound. Many string theories postulate a whole lot of really really really really tiny strings. Different ways of vibrating those strings produce different kinds of elementary particles.

A lot of eastern mysticism viewed sound as the basis of stuff. I’m a big Pete Townshend fan, and as a Meher Baba follower, you hear a lot about this stuff in the music of the Who. If you know the quote “simple one note, pure and easy” that’s what it refers to.

But they aren’t the same thing. One is mysticism, one is science (or at least math). One is vibrations in air particles, one is vibrations in string like things…

'course, I really odn’t know what your pastor was talking about, this just seems like a good match.