Here's a response I just wrote to a discussion. Figured I'd turn my first nexus comment into my first blog too. Enjoy. Or not.
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."

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Comment by Joe on July 11, 2010 at 1:39am
I like the term “Big bounce“. I think Newton‘s law of gravitational force would cause a universe to eventually collapse upon it‘s self. This equation says two grains of sand, located a million light years apart, would still have gravitational attraction.
F = Gm1m2/r2
Then again I could be totally frick’n wrong.
Comment by SecularBob on July 11, 2010 at 12:35am
I feel that we can't grasp the idea of the beginning because simply we don't have the brain capacity to compute the answer. Although, I have looked at a few ideas and one that I read and liked that the big bang did happen and that all the matter is going outward but black holes are actually reversing this process and after a very very long time all the black-holes will engulf eachother until they become that super dense ball and it will repeat. I am not saying that this is defiantly the answer but I find it pretty interesting
Comment by R. Ryan Nelson on July 10, 2010 at 4:22pm
I do not believe in any extra-universal "universe" I believe this because I've no known evidence to actually support the existence of the "multi-verse" fiction, not to mention the multi-verse theory has all the hallmarks of a badly revealed religion, "You can't see it or interact with it but I promise you it's there." Thats not to say that if a scientist engineers a device to see into the multi-verse I won't eat my words, but I'm not holding my breath.

While we can extrapolate a lot of information from the slightest of red-shifts I always take every pronouncement of great scientific discovery with that proverbial salt. Even the Faster Than Light electro magnetic waves we believe we've observed in pulsars, which we now have used to engineer a faster than light wave emitter. google it. neat stuff.
Comment by J. R. Boedeker on July 10, 2010 at 3:49pm
Hi Ryan, thanks for the comment.

At this point, almost anything is possible. I'm not too familiar with that theory, but it seems that it's also very supportable. Really that's how stars and planets and some moons started in the first place, right? There could easily be multiple "universes" right now. It's humbling to think that we are basically the equivalent of primitive island dwellers with no idea that entire continents lay beyond the seas.
The problem some might have with that is the same that they have with the Big Bounce. Since the universe is expanding at this time, matter is getting farther apart. Can't get close enough to create a "mini-bang." I think that, if the universe keeps expanding, the closest we will get is very large "island galaxies". We already know this is happening. In fact, some day in the very distant future, the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy will likely meet up. And that will eventually form a bigger spiral galaxy.
BUT, there is a possibility that the universe can contract, which is why I brought dark matter and dark energy into the discussion. We've seen gravity-like forces working in the universe that are beyond what even Einstein predicted. If we can figure these out, we will likely make a HUGE leap towards understanding the universe. Then there is a theory that says the universe will eventually cool to the point where it begins contracting. Most things do (water being a glaring exception), so it is possible.
All this being said, I have to fall back on the only fact we do have - that we can't possible know yet. It easily could be that BOTH theories are correct. Maybe we've bounced and then globbed, or vice versa. We're living in Plato's cave, working with limited observational evidence.
Comment by R. Ryan Nelson on July 10, 2010 at 1:45pm
The bounce back universe...? What physical properties are present that can halt a "Star" that is accelerating toward the black void so that it can return to the center mass? I currently ascribe to the globular universe theory that the universe will coalesce as pockets of uneven mass that will then explode forth at differing rates of speed. *(Not skilled in any physics beyond high school, so take my opinions with salt)


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