Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

How can the universe exist without time?

  1. Jul 26, 2003 #1
    Ok there's a contradiction here I can't grasp. It's postulated that time began at the creation point of the universe. If this is so, then how did it begin? We've established that in order for an event to occur, time must exist. So in order for the universe to be created, and events to move forward along that axis, time must have existed before the creation of the universe. Because in order for the big bang to occur, something had to set that in motion, so we can assume that time existed prior to the big bang. Thus, we must assume that something existed before the big bang.

    Am I missing something here? because it makes perfect sense to me.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 26, 2003 #2
    Time is a quantity we use to express how things change in the world. If there was nothing in the world before time zero then nothing was changing either. There was no need for the concept of time "then". Another point of view that makes perfectly good sense. But how do we know which one is correct?
  4. Jul 26, 2003 #3
    So what you're basically saying is that time may have existed, but since no events were occuring, it not needed. But I'm not comfortable with the concept of just "starting from nothing" Weather through nature's design or another entity, something had to set events in motion. So something had to exist the big bang. If the singularity existed, there were conditions within that singularity. What created the singularity? Just posing that question leads to an assumption that "something" created it because events had to cause it to come into existence. I won't even venture a guess on what that could have been, but based on what we know, everything springs from something, and everything is set in motion through the events of something else: ie cause and effect. So based on that, we must assume that the universe is not the oldest thing in existence.
  5. Jul 26, 2003 #4
    I can really only express my views on the subject. My viewpoint of Nature is purely mathematical, and the one that you expressed, a very common one, is pretty much mechanical. My viewpoint is that the only real "cause" is that the world fits together in a logical way and everything else is consequence. My view is probably not easy for most people to grasp but it makes sense to me.

    Perhaps others will tell us what their thinking is.
  6. Jul 26, 2003 #5


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Someone should mention that the big bang theory states that the universe has been expanding since some point in time when it was extremely packed together, but at that time the conditions are so extreme that they go beyond the domain of applicability of our physical theories, so we can't say anything before that point in time. (In particular, big bang theory does not postulate that the universe started out as a point, or there was nothing then something... but it does not say those are impossible either)

    In relativistic theories, "time" is as much a part of the universe as "position" is, so if there's no universe, there's no time, it makes no sense to speak about before.
  7. Jul 26, 2003 #6
    Well as you said, physics can't describe the conditions of a singularity prior to the big bang, so nor can we exclude the possibility that time existed within that singularity. It may be that consciousness in some form existed within the singularity, it may be that the universe existed on a much more microcosmic scale, and that a cataclysmic sequence of events set off the big bang. Much as we can't determine the conditions of a black hole, we can neither do that with the singularity. It's all speculation of course, but we just don't know. And following that, comes the obviousness that we can't exclude time predating the big bang.


    It would also stand to reason that whatever existed prior to the big bang would not be subject to our current laws of physics and mathmatics, which is why it can't be explained mathmatically.
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2003
  8. Jul 26, 2003 #7

    i have said it before, and i'll say it again: the term "before the big bang" has no meaning whatsoever. if there was no time before the big bang than the very term "before" is useless, because it would imply there was a time before. we can imagine it to be an infinite "time" (and i use this term loosely) before the BB of no "time" at all. the fact is, that humans lack the linguistic ability to describe an arena in which there is no time or space.

    any speculation into the events (or lack thereof) before the big bang is just that: speculation.
  9. Jul 26, 2003 #8
    this is what i was trying to get at in my post in the philosophy section... and i posted it there because i knew the possibility of time before time couldn't be explained mathematically. But, i've been considering this, and it makes sense logically, to me,

    ..ok, time obviously could not exist before time, (and time did not necessarily begin with the big bang) but consider the definition of time. one definition in the dictionary is time- An interval separating two points on this continuum using this definition, one point alone has no 'time.' if you could assume that time began at some point, then really, time wouldn't have begun until the second point. the first point is just that, a point in which time does not exist. from that point onward, time exists and continues to travel seemingly in one direction.
  10. Jul 26, 2003 #9
    Re: Re: How can the universe exist without time?

    Ok and what is the basis for this assumption? I'm not saying I can back up my claim either, but I'm just trying to point out the possibility that the assumption that nothing existed before bb is false. But you're right: I'm speculating- but so are you. However I'm basing this speculation on the premise that based on what we know of things, that something must have cause the existence of the universe through cause and effect. Asking us to assume that the universe "just is" and "just happened" for no reason is, well... a leap of "faith":wink:

    I'm doing nothing more than asking that we acknowledge the possibility
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2003
  11. Jul 26, 2003 #10

    right, and I brought it here because it more at home in this forum. - or not..it's a toss up.
  12. Jul 27, 2003 #11
    Interesting question.

    Since time as we know it is, in
    fact, only time as we know it(i.e.
    a result of the way our brains
    process the imput recieved) Marcus
    is correctly confused about the
    notion that there was no time
    before the Big Bang.

    Perhaps, in fact, since every-
    thing in the universe now was
    once packed together in that
    singularity, including conscious
    ess, everyone in this thread
    once made a pact to get together
    and compare notes after the
    event, and we all synchronized
    our watches to be here now.
  13. Jul 27, 2003 #12
    Oh, the nothingness of 'nothing'!

    There was nothing ... no thing ... as we know it.

    All that we know, have become aware of, came into
    being when, and after, the event we refer to as the
    'Big Bang' occurred ... Including 'Time'!

    And, no doubt, some of the things we have yet to
    become aware of.

    What's so difficult about that?

    No Universe = No Time.
    No Time = No Universe.
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2003
  14. Jul 28, 2003 #13
    And I would say to you do we just go "poof" and exist? Do plants, and animals and trees just go "poof" and exist? did the earth the moon and the stars of the universe just go "poof" and exist? Well unless you're religious, I think not..

    My point is that everything springs from something else. So following that logic, it doesn't make sense that the universe went "poof" and was there. Regardless of time, something made the universe. And since nothing can exist without time, that means that time existed prior to the universe existing.
  15. Jul 28, 2003 #14
    I have to reiterate my agreement
    with your question.

    I also want to apologize for ref-
    ering to you as Marcus. If it was
    a Freudian slip it was in your
    favor because I enjoy his posts

  16. Jul 28, 2003 #15
    So I think we've shown that like many things in the universe, my theory can niether be proven or disproven. But we've established as a valid hypoythesis. Progress is made
  17. Jul 28, 2003 #16


    User Avatar

    You only run into a logical problem if you start with a prior timeless state. Start with the first moment, and not some state before it, and there is no difficulty.
  18. Jul 28, 2003 #17

    You have neither a 'point' or a 'theory'!
    All you have is an illogical supposition.

    You have 'shown' nothing except an inability to think logically.
  19. Jul 28, 2003 #18
    Thank you, Eh.

    Nicely presented.
  20. Jul 28, 2003 #19
    could it be that the universe (the same one we are in now) collapsed, formed a singularity, and the Big Bang resulted

    universe: shrink --> collapse --> singularity --> Big Bang --> expand --> rinse & repeat, ad infinitum

    So -- the universe has existed forever.
    Collapsing, Big Bang-ing, Collapsing, Big Bang-ing, Collapsing, Big Bang-ing, etc.
    This would also help to prove the hypothesis that the universe will NOT expand forever, but is instead doomed to collapse.
  21. Jul 28, 2003 #20
    Current thought appears to be that the
    Universe will continue to expand for
    reasons not yet understood.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook