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Theories of the origins of the universe

  1. Jan 26, 2013 #1
    Hi everybody, I have a high school physics project in a few months and I need your help. As you can see from this post's title, its about Theories of the origins of the universe. I've read Hawking's "Brief history of time" and I did some research on Internet but I only found famous Big Bang Theory. Could you please write here other theories and big bang theory - sub theories (With references on the Internet from where I can learn about these theories in detail) because I was thinking that my (Presentation and Papers(15-20 pages)) looks like this:

    0. Intro
    1. Theory 1 ( About theory, History, notable People, Problems with it ) or ( All this fitting in a nice chronological story )
    1.1 (If it Exists) Sub-Theory ( Same here )
    1.2 (...)
    2. Theory 2 (...)
    2.1 (...)
    3. (Highlight) Big Bang Theory ()
    3.1 Inflation theory (? Does this go here ?)
    3.2 Multiverse theory (? Does this go here ?)
    3.3 (...)
    4. Should I explain here formation of the universe that we see now - starting from singularity to possible fate of the universe ( Big Crunch etc.) (Shortened) ?
    5. My Conclusion

    I will not be doing equations or graduate level stuff , I just need to explain concepts and how physicists came to certain understanding. I will be presenting this for max. 20 minutes.

    Thanks in Advance.
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 27, 2013 #2
    If you are a high school student and have a presentation due do in a few months and are working on it now, you are to be commended.

    The outline you have offered is generic but very ambitious. The best advice I can give you is to keep your presentation very simple.

    Few appreciate

    1. There is a lot of “stuff” out there.
    2. Everything is moving very fast.

    As a first step I would spend some time establishing a rigorous definition of what you mean by “Universe” – rigorous yet simple. Read about what others say but then tell about your own conclusions after doing this reading.

    I would be interesting in knowing

    1. Is this for a high school physics class?
    2. Is everyone doing a presentation on the same topic?
  4. Jan 27, 2013 #3


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    Dearly Missed

    Hello Sim,
    you might find this helpful. there is a national research institution in Germany called AEI (Albert Einstein Institute) located near Berlin and they have a public outreach department that puts some stuff online. they call it "Einstein online"

    It's about modern cosmology, not about Albert Einstein. they try to give the straight story without the pop-sci hype. to get it google "einstein spotlights"

    To get their informative essay on Big Bang, google "tale of two big bangs"

    googling "einstein spotlights" you get the main index page http://www.einstein-online.info/spotlights
    with many topics including cosmology

    If you go there and click on cosmology you get http://www.einstein-online.info/spotlights/cosmology
    with half a dozen nice essays (for general audience) on cosmology topics
    including the expansion model of the universe, and including the cosmic microwave background (which is our main source of information about what actually happened around start of expansion)

    You will see "tale of two big bangs" on the menu there. Or if you want to go there directly just google "tale of two big bangs". You will get http://www.einstein-online.info/spotlights/big_bangs

    It is important to get over the confusion caused by the words "big bang" and attempts at pop-sci explanation. this two big bangs essay tries to help sort out the different things people mean and understand by those words.

    This article in the Scientific American, by Charley Lineweaver and Tamara Davis is also very helpful:
    It is so useful that I keep the link in my signature. Unfortunately at the moment that university website in Australia seems to be down. So it is something to try in a few hours, or tomorrow.

    Remember that science is not just about having theories. It is really more about making observations. Our best way to learn about the early universe is by studying the oldest light---the CMB---that comes to us from the earliest stage of the universe that is visible. Lineweaver has been one of the people involved in studying the CMB. He's one of the world's top cosmologist (not a purely "theory" person.)
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2013
  5. Jan 27, 2013 #4
    Another idea is to add disproved theories on the origins of the universe such as the steady state theory which says the universe is infinite and always existed. Olbers paradox could be included here for support on why the universe is not infinite. The thing is that even with different theories of the origin of the universe there is some sort of Big Bang, the creation of the universe. Inflationary theory helps to solve some of the issues on the Big Bang. The multiverse theory present and idea for other universes.

    You may want to include a section of grand unified theories and how they account for the Big Bang like string theory, super symmetry, Lie groups, etc. I think the section on how the universe came to be and it's ending would be nice to give a sense of closure if you will and a good conclusion. Also check out some of the simulations of the universe and modeling of it to show some how the universe could have evolved.

    Here are some links to check out some of which you may have seen:

    Some other possibly helpful links:
  6. Jan 27, 2013 #5
    First thing I would say is read the essay Marcus highlighted "A Tale of two Big Bangs" it really is brilliant.
    If you want some more material on the standard big bang model read Simon Singh's book Big Bang:
    if you want to read more about inflationary theory , try Alan Guth's book:
    or if you want to learn about why he thinks inflation implies a multiverse, watch his Newton medal lecture, it also explain inflation quite well:
    part 1

    part 2

    Also BBC did a great documentary on pushing beyond big bang cosmology, I think you will find interesting:
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  7. Jan 28, 2013 #6
    Keep in mind you mentioned only having 20 minutes for your presentation. Start wirh the commonalities between the various models. Show the common problems with those models. Then show your feelings of which is most accurate and why you feel that way. Remember whats important is not so much the accuracy, but rather the informative opinion of choice
  8. Jan 28, 2013 #7
    Thank you so much for these links and explanations, I finally have something to work on.
    BTW, this is one of the rare forums where people don't say "Learn to use Google" or "Read other threads before posting".

    Q1: Yes.
    Q2: No, everybody chose a different topic from a list of approx. 25 topics in modern physics.

    I will keep you updated about my project.
  9. Jan 28, 2013 #8


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    Here's the link for that Scientific American article "Misconceptions about the Big Bang"
    Yesterday for some reason I couldn't get it to work. Let's see if it works now.
    Yes, OK.

    the first page is blank so you just have to scroll down a bit to get to the start.
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