The Origin of the Universe

A dominant prevailing theory about the origin of the Universe is the Big Bang model, which was accepted by the scientific community after gathering enough observational evidence and later verifying its predictions. One of the foremost paradoxes thrown open by the Big Bang theory is its idea of the original explosion of all universal matter from a single point. In other words, the theory purports that everything that comprises the universe literally came out of ‘nothing’. Such a premise goes against the basis of scientific understanding and gives credence to Judeo-Christian notion of the beginning of the Universe, whereby the birth point of the Universe is seen as an act of God. For example, “One of the fundamental rules of science is the impossibility of getting something from nothing. This rule appears to place the very moment of creation of the universe outside the realm of the scientific debate and force scientists to treat the existence of the universe as a given.” (Wersinger, 1996, p.9) Keeping aside the implications of this paradox the study of the development of scientific ideas pertaining to the subject is fascinating in itself. The rest of this essay will delve further into the history of ideas on our Universe’s genesis, whether it is closed or open, the reasons for its perpetual expansion, etc.
It is interesting that despite great progress being made in terms of explaining nearly all cosmological phenomena one observes through telescopes, the mystery of the Big Bang continues to preoccupy the scientific community. Further, there is no plausible explanation discovered yet for the explosion itself. There is no rationale devised for explaining the enormous repulsive force that kick-started the universe. And what hampers scientists is the fact that during the time of genesis, the temperatures and matter density were so high that it is impossible to replicate those conditions in a laboratory environment. (Wersinger, 1996, p.9) But incisive forays have been made into later chronological events in the Universe. These discoveries threw up more paradoxes for scientists to confound with. For example,

“In the course of the scientific step-by-step reconstruction of the chronology of the universe, a number of puzzling paradoxes surfaced, of which two are of interest here. The first deals with the strength of the explosion. The push of the Bang was exquisitely well fine-tuned, allowing for the existence of a ) universe with galaxies, stars, planets, and life. Any other push would have meant either a structureless universe or a universe collapsing back onto itself after a brief existence. Why was the Bang so well engineered? The second paradox deals with the large-scale properties of the universe. The extreme large-scale smoothness of the temperature and of the density of matter cannot be explained by the standard Big Bang model.” (Wersinger, 1996, p.9)

Since laboratories cannot replicate the conditions during the Big Bang, scientists resorted to mathematical modelling “relying on fundamental principles of physics and on arguments of simplicity and aesthetics — a route that has been extremely successful in theoretical physics, starting with the discovery of the theory of Relativity by Einstein.” (Wersinger, 1996, p.9) Alternatively, physicists such as Alan Guth (who specializes in elementary particle research) have proposed “a very interesting model for the behavior of the universe when it was a mere 10 sup -35 seconds old, called the inflationary universe. This model resolves our two paradoxes and provides a mechanism for the explosion.” (Fisher, 1999, p.35) There is also the Grand Unified Theory (GUT), first mooted by British physicist James Maxwell, which attempted to unify all known forces of nature into a single theory. Theorists such as Sheldon Glashow, Steven Weinberg, and Abdus Salam have contributed to GUT, which “incorporates both the electroweak and the strong nuclear force into a superforce. The prevailing idea is that when the universe’s temperature was above 10 sup 28 K all forces except gravity were indistinguishable and that the distinct forces we now observe are merely low-temperature manifestations of the superforce.” (Fisher, 1999, p.35) GUT has so far shown tremendous potential in solving the paradoxes associated with the Big Bang model. It’s eventual success would depend on something called the ‘false vacuum’.

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