Douglas Adams wrote, "Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so."

He was joking.

Time isn't an illusion, it's a measurement - a human construct that allows us to relate to where we are. I'm nearly 50 years old - that's a measure of how much time has elapsed since I came screaming into the world and if I'm lucky, gives me a (bleak) idea of how long I have left before I leave it.

In a separate discussion, Dr Meaden poses the question, what happened before Big Bang - but I think I'll be correct in assuming that he no more thinks of a "before" big bang as a function of time as I do. "Behind" big bang might be more accurate - but even that relies on spacial coordinates that didn't exist either.  And so we have a paradox. Perhaps not so much of a paradox to physicists, but certainly one to ordinary folk.

In this discussion, I would like to leave out the physics if I may and discuss the psychology and language of Big Bang and hope that we might find a common way to discuss these events an even invent a word to describe them.

What About God?

When faced with religious people asking this question I explain to them that you could view Big Bang as a unified god.

Ultimately, Big Bang created us and all that is: which in a completely natural sense allows us to merge the supernatural with the natural at a singularity. We appeared after 13-odd billion years of chemical evolution, our very atoms forged in the hearts of long dead suns.

They don't like that.

Most of them don't get it.

They want their god to be the nice old man with a long white beard (ya de ya).

That isn't going to happen because, assuming that science is correct, the Judao-Christian god is just a naive construct of a patriarchal society. It served well for over 4000 years and then we came along and started peeing in their font.

Freethinkers are the new kids on the block - there's never in recorded history been so many of us and we've never been so organised, yet we're faced with an uphill struggle and language is playing a role in that.

So has evolution.

Until comparatively recent times, we were hunter-gathers. Our eyesight, for instance, is only good for judging distance over a few tens of meters. Beyond that, it's ineffective. For years, because we can't see beyond the horizon - we assumed the Earth was flat.

Our brains have evolved to imagine a very narrow realm of things. I can imagine ten sheep, but many more than that and it's a blur; a lot of sheep, a field of sheep... and so on. I can't "see" more than 10.

Steve McConnell points out in Code Complete that programmers have to deal with numbers from 1 bit to hundreds of megabytes. Many orders of magnitude and far more than most of us have to work with on a day-to-day basis. Calculators and computers make these numbers usable, but we still can't conceive of them because our brains have never evolved that ability and they've never needed to.

Luckily when it comes to numbers, we have language to deal with them. Even the big ones - although the very, very big ones are so vast that we can't write them down without a very special notation. Graham's Number ( comes to mind as the largest number ever used in a calculation.

To paraphrase Douglas Adams, "You may think that a googol is a big number, but that's just peanut's to Graham's number."

And yet, Graham's number isn't infinity so how do you deal with numbers that large?

Most of us (and I'll happily include myself here) can't. I'm perfectly happy with 42.

Even if we can't think in vast numbers, we have an expressible language which can describe or annotate them.

"I have one apple and I buy another two apples. How many apples do I have?"

We can write as:

1a + 2a = ?

Our language for measuring things such as distance and time is relative; and this is almost entirely consistent across all known human languages from the most primitive to the most advanced. The words are different, but the concepts are almost universally recognised.

In front, behind, left, right, above, below, north, south... and so on.

then there are definite and abstract numbers (often confused in English) such as:

more, less, fewer, greater, taller, smaller, higher, lower.

Relative time has its own:

after, before, later and earlier.

But for each we need a starting point - human languages measure relative to a known position in time and space and Big Bang throws a spanner in that works. I presume this is down to how our brain measures things internally.

Before, and I use the term very loosely, Big Bang, there was no time; at least not time as we understand it. There wasn't any space either (at least, not what we would recognise as space.) It seems that at Big Bang the observable universe, with all its laws, came into being.

But does that necessarily mean that Big Bang = Creation? I doubt it.

I propose that what we need now is a word (or perhaps words) to describe the "something" that existed before Big Bang.

Somehow (and I can't conceive of how) it seems that we need a collection of words that describe something without a definite origin.

If this seems alien, consider that at one time the number 0 did not exist; and the imaginary number - j - is comparatively recent too. If mathematicians can do it, surely we can to. With such a vocabulary we could put the "before" Big Bang into proper context.

Or maybe I just need to keep taking the tablets. ;
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Folks, this is basically the first thread I've read since I just joined the nexus, so if I repeat others, my apologies. Also, I just woke up so I'm a little sleepy, but here it goes.
First, remember that the Big Bang is simply a theory, albeit fairly well supported. But there have always been a few things that nicked my brain about it. The biggest being that there was some little pea in space containing all the matter for our universe. Just sitting there...waiting. Sounds too much like the cosmic teapot to me.
The Big Bang is simply the best theory going, given the knowledge we currently have today. Remember, men of science once believed that leeching and mercury were cures for many, many things. We get things wrong. It's human, as they say. And sometimes, in our rush to "explain the unknown" (which is of course the trouble with all religions), we jump ahead of ourselves. But the other beautiful thing about humans is our curiosity. Many of us NEED to know. And need to know for sure.
So where to from here? My personal favorite theory which continues to gain momentum is that the universe is more of a big balloon. It is at times small, but can only get so small. Physicists know that Planck's Constant has a variety of uses in quantum mechanics, but one of the things to does is show that you can only compress matter so much. There is a stopping point. And guess what? That stopping point is much larger that the size of the "pea" that has to be in order to start the Bang. But WHAT IF there was no Big Bang, but only a Big Bounce? Where a previous universe compressed to a small point and then bounced back out. And like a balloon, when it reaches a certain point, it stops expanding.
Maybe a better example would be a rubber ball dropped from a building. If you watch the ball hit the ground in slow motion, it compresses, squeezes, until... boing! It bounces back to it's original shape. AND with enough energy to fling the ball back up to do it all again.
The great thing about this theory for atheists is that you can avoid the somewhat-moderate religious People who say, "Well, the Big Bang is when God created everything." Because, there was a whole universe BEFORE the Big Bang. The possibilities are truly exciting. A whole universe with different configurations of everything: stars, planets, life. We will of course never know what that could have been like. And if there was one previous universe, then there must have been two, three, even billions. Imagine! It's too much time and energy for my brain, that's for sure. (yes, double meaning. Not a happy accident)
Viable alternate theories to the Big Bang are gathering steam. Physicists admit that even though we've learned a lot, we're just getting started. I'm convinced that the more we learn about our universe, about matter, quantum mechanics, energy, and dark matter (however we find it, if at all), the more likely that a theory closer to the truth will push forward. And, who knows? Maybe that one will be supplanted by an even better one.
The answer to ALL questions about the universe should really be, "Given our current level of understanding, we have some guesses, but, really, we just can't know. Yet."
Welcome, J.R. you won't be judged here and any comments which further a discussion are always good. Speak as you find - no idea is a bad, but there might just be a better one.

Enjoy the ride and I hope it won't be bumpy! ;-)
there have always been a few things that nicked my brain about it. The biggest being that there was some little pea in space containing all the matter for our universe. Just sitting there...waiting. Sounds too much like the cosmic teapot to me.

That bothers you rightly. However, the big bang theory doesn't propose anything like that. Actually by the time the universe was the size of a pea (from my limited understanding) it was already growing at ridiculous speeds.

but one of the things to does is show that you can only compress matter so much. There is a stopping point

I've never heard that before. Black holes would seem to disagree with that...although I know there are some concepts out there that disagree with black holes being singularies.
In order to stand, we need a down--we need gravity. Without gravity, there is no down and thus no possibility of standing. Similarly, to exist in space and time, we need space and time; on the other side of the Big Bang relative to us in terms of the coordinate that I'll define as "the progress of the universe" which was arbitrarily zero at the Big Bang and is some positive number now, space and time aren't "there". Technically "there" refers to values of spatial coordinates, but this is a psuedo-spatial coordinate: "Progress", sort of like s, equal to arc length, used in, for example, the representation of the Biot-Savart law found in my physics book (wikipedia reports it as lowercase L). There isn't a "there" there; there's nowhere--and also never or nowhen. There's not time "there"; things never existed then; that time didn't/doesn't exist. The same goes for the partnered space.

I hope I've been confusing.

Where did Before The Big Bang happen? Nowhere.
When was Before The Big Bang? Never.

We already have the necessary vocabulary.



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