What was before the Big Bang?

What formed the beginning of all being – or did it exist at all? Artist’s rendering of the Big Bang.

Did time begin with the Big Bang and before that there was an incomprehensible "nothing"? In the February issue, bild der wissenschaft once again deals with one of the most exciting and tricky topics in cosmology. According to this, more and more scientists with different approaches and explanatory models are coming to the conclusion that the Big Bang was not the beginning of everything.

We question and want to know - as is well known, since primeval times human curiosity has also been directed towards the basics of all being: What was at the beginning, what was before that and how will things continue? In addition to mystical-religious ideas, people have been trying to develop logical explanations for these tricky questions since ancient times. In the meantime, the Big Bang has become the center of ideas about the origin of our universe. However, the topic continues to give cosmologists headaches. Because there are stubborn ambiguities: Was there really a unique starting point of time? Or did “something” already exist before the Big Bang? The current cover story deals with these questions.

In the first sub-article "At the edge of space-time", the bdw astronomy expert Rüdiger Vaas first illuminates the basics of the ideas of a Big Bang and how the current models came about. Certain traces pointed to a central event. Albert Einstein already recognized this as cosmological explosives: The beginning of the world - a singularity - raised tricky questions in the context of his theory of relativity and many fundamental ideas. As Vaas explains, in order to logically explain the beginning of our universe, at least one of the three assumptions on which the singularity theorems are based must be wrong. He reports how scientists deal with the contradictory topic and what ideas they develop on it.

Perhaps there is a mysterious eternity

Subsequently, in the article "Urruck instead of Big Bang?", Vaas deals with a more profound idea of ​​the origin of the universe: Many cosmologists say today that it could have arisen from the collapse of a previous universe. A corresponding primal swing could also replace the ominous singularity. The author reports that there are also several attempts to explain the necessary “rebound force”. However, information from a time before the Big Bang does not seem to be accessible. One can only speculate about the characteristics of the possible predecessor universe. Perhaps completely different laws of nature or turbulent quantum fluctuations prevailed at the time, so that not even a classic space-time existed.

The three-part title theme is rounded off by a change of perspective: from looking into the past into the future of the universe. In the article "In the Ring of Time", Vaas focuses on the question of whether the distant future will also lead back to a Big Bang. Within the framework of the general theory of relativity, it seems possible that there are temporally closed universes in which, to a certain extent, everything repeats itself infinitely often. Apparently, other bizarre scenarios are also conceivable: so-called phantom energy could tear everything apart. It could also inflate wormholes so that one swallows our universe and spits it out in another—or throws it back into its own past.

You can read the articles on the title topic “Before the Big Bang” online as part of a bdw+ subscription, or you can find them in the February issue of bild der wissenschaft, which will be available in stores from January 17th.

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