It all started with a Bang!” is probably the most commonly used opening sentence to any written work relating to the origins of the universe, but it serves more as a convenient starting point rather than a true illumination of how things really began. Because the questions remain: What was there before the Big Bang? And how did that “bang” even occur?
The truth is we don’t really know what was there before the Big Bang, because the Big Bang is what thrust and expanded the Observable Universe into existence, but most experts agree that the Big Bang was the result of a Singularity.
In order to truly understand what that means we need to talk Mathematics.
Math is Universal
There is a profound natural order in Mathematics; one of my favorite ways to illustrate this is with Permutations (which is the act of arranging members of a set). Let’s say we had ‘5’ different fruits: an apple, an orange, a banana, a pear and a pineapple; and we wanted to know in how many different orders could we arrange these fruits- we’d use the Factorial function, in this case Factorial 5 (or 5!)- which equates simply to:1x2x3x4x5=120. We can arrange an apple, an orange, a banana, a pear and a pineapple in a maximum of 120 different orders. This sort of structural harmony astounds me…
Ancient Stoic philosophers believed that a ‘divine reason’ governed nature, they called this “Logos”, an invisible web of cause and effect, an active and inexorable rational-force that permeated the universe and every single thing in existence… Math is the closest thing we have to this “Universal Logic”.
The best way this was ever described to me was by a friend who once said, “if we burned all the textbooks for all of the subjects to ashes, and then started all over again from scratch, Mathematics is the only subject that would be rebuilt exactly the way that it was.”
It is likely that even a primitive life-form on some planet halfway across the universe, an alien-chimpanzee if you will, would have some grasp on the basic concepts of Mathematics; such as counting, or noting the difference between having one banana or two bananas- if they even eat bananas. And so, if we ever happen to come across more intelligent life somewhere out in the cosmos, Math would be our best, and maybe our only way, to communicate with them.
It is the Language of the Universe.
What is a Singularity?
In all manners of Science we apply Mathematics in a number of ways in an attempt to understand and/or explain our reality. In Chemistry we use mathematical models to describe the elements, in Physics we use math to describe the motion of objects, and in Astronomy we use math to calculate distance. Therefore Math makes it a little easier to understand a Singularity.
In abstract Mathematics a Singularity is simply a blanket term for something that is Undefined.
For example: If we do: 1 divided by 1/10, we get an answer, which is 10; and 1 divided by 1/100 = 100, 1 divided by 1/1000=1000, 1 divided by 1/100,000 = 100,000, and so on… notice a pattern? The closer we get to dividing by 0 the larger our answer gets… this pattern will continue infinitely, as 1 divided by 0 is Infinite or Undefined (or what Mathematicians call a Singularity).
Now, as far as Mathematics, because it is an abstract concept itself, Singularities, Infinity, or something ‘Undefined’ is all fine and well, it poses little or no problems, because we can just simply accept that they exist and move on. But when they occur in Science, which is an attempt to produce an accurate explanation of how the natural world works, it presents a big problem; as the term Undefined is completely contradictory to the aims of Science.
And so, Singularities, put us at a crossroads Scientifically, do we simply accept that Infinities do exist in reality or nature without any definitive explanation, or do we dig deeper…
In Math there are infinite sets of numbers all over the place, all you have to do is start counting (1,2,3,4,5…), and you’ll soon realize you can do so indefinitely, counting is only limited by the objects you are counting or measuring. There are even an infinite amount of real numbers between the integers “0” and “1”. You can break “1” down into an infinite number of decimals. But when it comes to dividing a physical object, such as a Pizza, is there a limit to the amount of pieces you can create?
Quantum Physics answers this question, in that physical objects can actually be divided up infinitely, but there is a limit to how small the pieces can be while still attaining their physical-properties (pizza atoms); anything smaller, such as pizza quarks or pizza muons, are point-particles, so small, thatthey do not take up any meaningful measurement of physical space at all.
Scientific discovery has always been about closing the gaps in our knowledge, and one of the biggest gaps, or most common Singularities, we come across in Astrophysics are Black Holes.
They are the epitome of Undefined.
A dark and ominous object looming out in the vast reaches of space, engulfing anything and everything that comes near it, exerting a force so powerful that not even light can escape it, rendering it completely invisible within its boundary, known as the Event Horizon.
An infinite mass packed into an infinitely small point in space, causing an infinite density, creating an infinitely strong gravitational pull, curving the very fabric of space-time infinitely; shredding Newton’s Laws of Motion, tearing holes in Einstein’s General Relativity, and resulting in the complete collapse of the very laws of Physics as we know them. Singularity.
Through mathematics and observation we have formulated some good ideas about what might go on inside Black Holes, but we lack any concrete or true-knowledge of what actually happens beyond the Event Horizon of one of these celestial Singularities.
And the same can be said about the origin story of the Observable Universe; as sound as the Big Bang theory is, it is similarly shrouded in its own mystery, as one might say its “Event Horizon” could be the initial Singularity that caused it.
Maybe all we have to do to know what goes on inside a Black Hole is take a good look around us? Maybe the Observable Universe we call home is entirely existent within a Black Hole itself?
Maybe the Singularity that created the Observable Universe is the same Singularity that creates Black Holes?
Maybe passing through the Event Horizon of a Black Hole dismantles the rules of your Universe but thrusts you into another?
It is generally accepted that Black Holes form when a massive enough star goes Supernova, and its core collapses into itself, compacting into a tiny point in space at its center. This creates the Singularity, with a gravitational pull so intense that it generates a “point of no return” some distance away from the Singularity’s center (the event horizon); and as nearby matter is sucked into the Black Hole, its Event Horizon expands — rapidly at first, as more matter is engulfed — and then this expansion slows down over time as surrounding matter becomes more scarce (or less frequent).
The inflation period of the Big Bang theory denotes the Universe expanding remarkably fast during its first few moments of existence, and then slowing down to a more gradual expansion rate over time- eventually slowing to the current rate of expansion we observe happening in our Universe today, known as the Hubble Constant.
Could these two happenstances be different ways of describing the same exact thing? One from the outside, and the other from the inside? Could the Event Horizon of a Black Hole represent the edge of the Observable Universe?
And while we can’t observe what happens inside a Singularity, we can calculate what happens on its boundary; because the Event Horizon encodes information whenever matter passes through it and falls into a Black Hole. In this manner the Singularity and theEvent Horizon expand in tandem, so that the surface area is the right size to contain all of the information for all the matter that has ever fallen into it; and all of that information could be translated to everything that exists within the potential Universe contained within.
However, some of this information could have been permanently deleted because of what is known as the Black Hole Information Paradox, which arises from the discovery of Hawking Radiation, and the clashing of Quantum Mechanics and Classical Physics.
It is often said that absolutely nothing can escape a Black Hole, but this is not technically true, Stephen Hawking revealed that quantum effects allow Black Holes to emit radiation at quantum levels during vacuum fluctuations near the Event Horizon.
But Hawking Radiation presents yet another comparative opportunity — could this radiation be just another way of describing relic radiation, or the Cosmic Microwave Background that envelopes all of space in the Observable Universe, which is the remnant of the earliest stages of the Universe, just after the Big Bang, like a backdrop of historical radiation?
Infinity and Beyond
If our Universe exists inside of a Black Hole then that would mean that every other Black Hole we have ever discovered contains a Universe within it as well.
Such as Sagittarius-A, the Black Hole that sits in the very center of our galaxy, and the Black Holes that are believed to exist in the center of every galaxy for that matter, all contain another Universe within them.
And all the Black Holes at the center of the galaxies within those Universes each contain another Universe within them, and so on, and so on, and so on, in a dizzying pattern that continually cascades down into an infinite loop of Black Holes and Universes eternally… making for one of the most interesting theories of a Multiverse –stemming from Singularity.
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