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Why is everyone so stuck to the idea of the Big Bang?

  1. Jul 17, 2011 #1
    This is not a pro creationism question. I can see where people are coming from with it but there is so much that it doesn't cover or explain but it is treated like the holy grail of "where the universe comes from" ideas/theories. I have nothing against Dr. Hawking by any means but something about it just doesn't "feel" right. Every time I hear someone use it when beginning a statement about the universe it makes me cringe. Are there really no better ideas or explanations? The fact that we cannot truly conceptualize what caused the Big Bang makes me wonder why the "specialists" haven't sat back and said "Hmm... maybe we need to rethink this". I understand that we can measure the expansion of the universe and that everything is moving away from everything else. However, that doesn't mean that explosion caused it. I guess my main gripe about it is that when someone tries to start a new theory about the universe it is immediately called "scientific heresy" if it doesn't start with the Big Bang. Your thoughts?
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  3. Jul 17, 2011 #2


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    Luckily science is not based on how things "feel."
  4. Jul 17, 2011 #3
    I think what you mean to say is that ideas are always shot down until empirically verified. What is wrong with that? That is why physics is science and metaphysics is not.

    unless you can prove Steven Hawking wrong or have your own theory just saying "that's wrong" with no tangible evidence to indicate you right, makes you stoop down like religion does ..I don't believe it 100% but it still holds up valid and we know enough where we wouldn't throw away the idea as a whole, in the future the holes in the big bang theory will be patched, modified, and beautiful
  5. Jul 17, 2011 #4


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    Well, actually it does mean that. There's something called the Hawking singularity theorem that says that there must have been a big bang singularity. The necessary input assumptions to the theorem are: (1) it requires the verification of certain facts by observation, which has been done; (2) it assumes that general relativity is valid; and (3) that the behavior of matter obeys certain conditions called energy conditions. Re #2, general relativity (GR) has been quite thoroughly tested: http://relativity.livingreviews.org/Articles/lrr-2006-3/ [Broken] . We do expect that GR breaks down in the very early universe, but "very early" means less than 10^-43 seconds after the big bang. So for instance it is possible that there was a "big bounce" rather than a big bang, but that wouldn't affect our description of the universe after t=10^-43 s.

    You're misinformed. For many years, other theories besides the big bang, e.g., Hoyle's steady state, were taken seriously. They were not just rejected as "heresy." It's simply that the accumulation of evidence has ruled them out. Re the steady state model, we have a FAQ on why it is not consistent with observational evidence: https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=506993
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  6. Jul 17, 2011 #5
    Sort of. The Big Bang has never been "empirically verified". That's why it is a theory. I don't need to prove Dr. Hawking wrong as he hasn't proven himself to be right. I agree that it is a very good theory for when it was conceived based on information we had at the time. However, our observations and the amount of information we have now is much more in depth than it was then. I think it is time for a new perspective so that we can move forward. Things we believed to be true yesterday are commonly being proven wrong today. I don't understand why people are afraid of or unwilling to challenge the norm or "mainstream". Scientists used to be "rebels" in their own right but seem to have lost that drive as they have gotten comfortable.
  7. Jul 17, 2011 #6


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    You're misunderstanding what a scientific theory is. A scientific theory is something that can be empirically tested in a way that could logically disprove it. Scientific theories become widely accepted when they make many correct predictions without being disproved in this way. This is why the big bang theory has become widely accepted. It has been empirically verified in great detail. If you're under the impression that it hasn't, then you're simply misinformed. For some descriptions of the empirical verification of the big bang theory, see this web site http://relativity.livingreviews.org/Articles/subject.html under "Physical Cosmology."

    You seem to be under the impression that the big bang theory was originated by Stephen Hawking. That's incorrect. It is usually credited to Georges Lemaître http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Lemaître (who was, BTW, a Catholic priest).

    Yes, and as described above those observations confirm the big bang theory in great detail.

    If you can come up with an alternative cosmological model that is consistent with the evidence, go for it. As I pointed out in #4, alternative cosmological models have been proposed, but they turned out not to be consistent with the evidence.

    If this thread is going to be productive, you need to come to grips with facts, correct your multiple misconceptions, stop arguing based on how you "feel," and provide evidence for your assertions. Since you evidently are coming in with nearly zero knowledge of the subject, you need to pay attention to information being given to you, rather than ignoring it and repeating the opinions you've already expressed. Otherwise I'm going to lock this thread.
  8. Jul 17, 2011 #7
    Ok Dr.

    I am not a scientist, astronomer, physicist, or astrophysicist. I enjoy reading and learning about these topics but they are not my main focus or discipline. I would just like to field some ideas to those that are so that I might get some insight or possible answers to my ideas and/or questions. So far I am getting some good information. I do want this to be productive and am always willing to adjust my views based on the information I can find. I did not realize that a priest came up with the Big Bang. I do not remember why I associated it with Dr. Hawking.
  9. Jul 17, 2011 #8
    You also seem to be misinformed.
    You missed an important input asumption to the theorem: the existence of trapped regions of spacetime, or points where curvature is strong enough to trap a region. For instance in the case of a trapped null surface you have a region where light rays are going inwards instead of outwards. If one accepts this without empirical proof , then it is pretty much ready to accept anything, and the theorem in itself is quite banal.

    I think it's also worth mentioning to give a complete info to the OP that there are solutions in GR that are singularity-free.
  10. Jul 17, 2011 #9


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    That's what I was referring to in "(1) it requires the verification of certain facts by observation, which has been done."

    We've been through this before, when I gave this https://www.physicsforums.com/showpost.php?p=3202916&postcount=2 correct explanation of the Hawking singularity theorem. In that thread you made a series of mistaken posts, and I pointed out your mistakes to you.
  11. Jul 17, 2011 #10


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    Deathtical, there is a huge gap between what the scientists who study this are saying among themselves and what you IMAGINE that they are saying in POPULAR WRITINGS.

    You aren't alone. There's a severe widespread disconnect. What people (simply for old time's sake) call the "big bang" should not be thought of as necessarily "where the universe comes from". It is simply the start of an expanding phase, which people are now trying to understand and are proposing and studying models to explain. It has no philosophical or metaphysical content---nothing to get jazzed up about.

    I can give you a link to videos of about 25 talks by scientists talking to scientists about various models they study that go way back in time---they don't just stop at the so-called "big bang". You probably don't want to watch the lectures, but if you want the link, just say. One of the world's top research institutes, called Perimeter, located in Canada, just held a conference on how to understand and explain early universe. They got all these big names and top people. Not Hawking, he is sadly enough no longer active---but real experts.
    Their talks are all about 45 minutes plus QA discussion. The video is all free online. But probably useless to the layman! This is an unfortunate situation. Again, no philosophical significance---beginning of expansion is just another thing to look for clues about and find a natural explanation for.

    The conference was held 12-16 July, just a week or so ago. The director of Perimeter, Neil Turok, gave the opening talk. A collaborator of his named Paul Steinhardt gave one of the best followup talks. Not that I agree with them or accept their conclusions, but I have to respect their reputation, clarity, cogency, expert knowledge etc. Top people. Roger Penrose also gave a talk, but i personally found it less satisfying---he is more Hawking generation---brilliant but the stuff does not quite click for me.
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2011
  12. Jul 17, 2011 #11


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    Yes, there really aren't.
    The big bang was not an explosion. It seems to me that your problems here are two-fold:

    1. You don't understand what the big bang theory is about.
    2. You are uncomfortable with what you think it is about.

    Perhaps if you fix #1, #2 will stop being a problem.

    [edit] Oops, one more:
    3. You don't understand how science works. This one actually needs to be fixed first or it will prevent you from ever properly understanding a scientific idea.
  13. Jul 17, 2011 #12
    So your question is:

    If we knew what caused the Big Bang what difference would knowing that fact have upon the human race?
  14. Jul 17, 2011 #13
    1. That is a very specific statement to make about someone based on very little information.
    2. I have on many occasions heard the Big Bang explained by scientists as being an "explosion". Perhaps not in the traditional "TNT" sense. But as in the opposite of an implosion.
    3. I use the "scientific" approach when solving problems every day. Kinda hard to do my job without it.
  15. Jul 17, 2011 #14
    Oh no. That is not my question at all. If you really wanted to summarize my question to a single sentence it would be more like...

    "Since we have collected, analyzed, speculated, and verified so much more information about our understanding of our universe why has no one officially revised, redefined, or renamed the Big Bang to something more up to date."

    Now, before Dr. bcrowell corrects me for this. Let me also say, that this may have been done already but I am not aware of it. A lot of things propagate through the science community before it is made available to the general public. I try to stay up to date on these things but have yet to see or hear anything new. This is a forum where people can ask questions and hopefully get answers. Also, Dr. bcrowell posted some links in this post that I haven't had a chance to go through yet that may have something more a long the lines of what I am looking for.
  16. Jul 17, 2011 #15
    Yes, the links would be most appreciated. Thanks.
  17. Jul 17, 2011 #16


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    Wonderful! It's curiosity about stuff that hasn't been specifically prepared for lay reader.
    A lot will just be incomprehensible gibberish---like looking at a whole bunch of busy people who speak a foreign language that one doesn't understand a word of, or scarcely a word.
    But it is so important to do that!

    I'll try to find you other representative conferences as well, but for starters here is the recent one at Perimeter, called "Challenges for Early Universe Cosmology".
    I see there were actually 34 talks, you will see a list of them.
    You will see video links for each talk.

    My advice would be to just watch some of TWO of the talks, the one by Neil Turok and the one by Paul Steinhardt. They were two of the committee that organized the conference, and they are highly regarded leaders. I also watched most of Roger Penrose' talk, but I would not necessarily urge anybody to do likewise.
    It would be way off in left field---not representative or similiar to the bulk of the rest.

    The Turok talk is at the top of page 1.
    The Steinhardt and Penrose talks are at the bottom of page 2.
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2011
  18. Jul 17, 2011 #17
  19. Jul 17, 2011 #18
    About renaming the Big Bang. This is actually completely correct, the name is a misnomer that causes a lot of confusion for laymen (it did for me too). The problem is that the name is simply catchy and good for the media and for science fiction writers. A name such as "the earliest point that evidence shows that space began expanding" is quite long winded and not nearly as catchy.
  20. Jul 17, 2011 #19
    While these are not responses to anything I have said, I can't help but point out a few things:

    1. Actually, you can safely make "specific" claims based on "very little information." It's making general claims on little information that is problematic. If your description of the Big Bang theory doesn't match the actual Big Bang theory then it's a reasonable conclusion that you don't understand it...

    2. What you said for your #2 response doesn't address russ_watters' #2 observation. That you've heard scientists (and I'd be interested to know specifically which ones) describe the Big Bang as an "explosion" doesn't address the claim that "you are uncomfortable with" the Big Bang as you know it...

    3. I don't mean to speak for russ_watters but I'm guessing that he thinks "you don't understand how science works" because, among other things, your rejection to the Big Bang is that it "just doesn't 'feel' right." You say you "use the 'scientific' approach when solving problems every day," but I'm guessing that you were using scare quotes around the word "scientific" and that you don't actually approach things scientifically. Otherwise, do you do your job based on how things "feel?" Do you think that's scientific? Why would you approach an actual field of science, like cosmology, this way?
  21. Jul 18, 2011 #20
    There is a stretch between your (1) and what you say it referred to. It requires a great ability to read between lines for the OP.
    BTW, when was the last time you observed a trapped region?
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