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Peering Beyond the Big Bang to the Universe That Existed in the Aeon Before Ours (A Galaxy Classic)

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The circular patterns within the cosmic microwave background suggest that space and time did not come into being at the Big Bang, but that our universe in fact continually cycles through a series of "aeons," according to University of Oxford theoretical physicist Roger Penrose, who says that data collected by NASA's WMAP satellite supports his idea of "conformal cyclic cosmology".

Penrose's finding runs directly counter to the widely accepted inflationary model of cosmology which states that the universe started from a point of infinite density known as the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago, expanded extremely rapidly for a fraction of a second and has continued to expand much more slowly ever since, during which time stars, planets and ultimately humans have emerged. That expansion is now believed to be accelerating due to a scientific X factor called dark energy and is expected to result in a cold, uniform, featureless universe.

Penrose, however, said Physics World, takes issue with the inflationary picture "and in particular believes it cannot account for the very low entropy state in which the universe was believed to have been born – an extremely high degree of order that made complex matter possible. He does not believe that space and time came into existence at the moment of the Big Bang but that the Big Bang was in fact just one in a series of many, with each big bang marking the start of a new "aeon" in the history of the universe."

The core concept in Penrose's theory is the idea that in the very distant future the universe will in one sense become very similar to how it was at the Big Bang. Penrose says that "at these points the shape, or geometry, of the universe was and will be very smooth, in contrast to its current very jagged form. This continuity of shape, he maintains, will allow a transition from the end of the current aeon, when the universe will have expanded to become infinitely large, to the start of the next, when it once again becomes infinitesimally small and explodes outwards from the next big bang. Crucially, he says, the entropy at this transition stage will be extremely low, because black holes, which destroy all information that they suck in, evaporate as the universe expands and in so doing remove entropy from the universe."

The foundation for Penrose's theory is found in the cosmic microwave background, the all-pervasive microwave radiation that was believed to have been created when the universe was just 300,000 years old and which tells us what conditions were like at that time.

The evidence was obtained by Vahe Gurzadyan of the Yerevan Physics Institute in Armenia, who analysed seven years' worth of microwave data from WMAP, as well as data from the BOOMERanG balloon experiment in Antarctica. Penrose and Gurzadyan say they have clearly identified concentric circles within the data – regions in the microwave sky in which the range of the radiation's temperature is markedly smaller than elsewhere.

The Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation is the remnant heat from the Big Bang. This radiation pervades the universe and, if we could see in microwaves, it would appear as a nearly uniform glow across the entire sky. However, when we measure this radiation very carefully we can discern extremely faint variations in the brightness from point to point across the sky, called "anisotropy". These variations encode a great deal of information about the properties of our universe, such as its age and content.

The "Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe" (WMAP) mission has measured these variations and found that the universe is 13.7 billion years old, and it consists of 4.6% atoms, 23% dark matter, and 72% dark energy.

According to Penrose and Gurzadyan, as described in arXiv: 1011.3706, these circles allow us to "see through" the Big Bang into the aeon that would have existed beforehand. They are the visible signature left in our aeon by the spherical ripples of gravitational waves that were generated when black holes collided in the previous aeon.

The "Penrose circles" pose a huge challenge to inflationary theory because this theory says that the distribution of temperature variations across the sky should be Gaussian, or random, rather than having discernable structures within it.

Julian Barbour, a visiting professor of physics at the University of Oxford in an interview with Physics World, says that these circles would be "remarkable if real and sensational if they confirm Penrose's theory". They would "overthrow the standard inflationary picture", which, he adds, has become widely accepted as scientific fact by many cosmologists. But he believes that the result will be "very controversial" and that other researchers will look at the data very critically. He says there are many disputable aspects to the theory, including the abrupt shift of scale between aeons and the assumption, central to the theory, that all particles will become massless in the very distant future. He points out, for example, that there is no evidence that electrons decay.

The image at top of the page shows the CMB fluctuations from the 5-year WMAP survey. The average brightness corresponds to a temperature of 2.725 Kelvins (degrees above absolute zero; equivalent to -270 C or -455 F). The colors represent temperature variations, as in a weather map: red regions are warmer and blue regions are colder than average by 0.0002 degrees. This map was formed from the five frequency bands shown below in such a way as to suppress the signal from our own Milky Way Galaxy.

Casey Kazan via Physics World and arXiv: 1011.3706.

Comments

Uh, black holes, by destroying matter, remove entropy from the universe? Can someone explain this point please? :)

this interferes with my religion and values. i am too tired to think constructively but will expend a voluminous amount of energy (not unlike the big bang) to defend my core values and label you a threat to my belief system.

google it

The universe moves through a series of aeons - or cycles of space/time where black holes consume all the matter in one cycle and somehow matter is regurgitated in the next?

Maybe black holes are more like 'keyholes' to the expanding universe. How many black holes would the universe need to unlock/trigger the next cycle?

Would the laws of physics be different in each iteration of the universe?

The more detailed map of the CMB has definitely gave us a deeper look into the beginnings of the universe but a few things with this theory has me confused...at least from what I know of with the current model and current accepted branches of theoretical physics. For one, I thought that recently Steven Hawkings conceded defeat about the information sent into a black hole. I forgot the scientist's name but he proved that information is NOT lost in a black hole as originally thought. It had something to do with there being some sort of 2 dimensional "projection" of all information at the CMB.

Another finding with the CMB I heard about was that there's a spot at one corner of the universe where galaxy clusters are highly repelled from....the Great Void..I believe it's called. It almost seems like the universe is either being affected by another nearby universe and/or superclusters are in a sense flowing away this void.

There definitely seems to be evidence that this Big Bang wasn't the first and won't be the last. If the multi-deminsional Branes in String Theory are indeed correct..the next Big Bang will happen when the adjacent universe to ours will touch..thus setting off another aeon as stated. Looking at it this way..one could argue that black holes are ripples/bends in this Brane; supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies being the largest. As a universe ages, some galaxy clusters combine, the number of black holes increase and thus the greater these ripples become. In other words, if String Theory is correct...that could explain how the next Big Bang an occur.

maybe something is sticking our universe in points that we call it blackholes and voids. anyway, i dont understand the wmap, how the picture is taken.

If something is infinitely large how can it ever become infinitesimally small? It would take an infinity to acheive (ie never). Isn't it about time physics stopped being so blase with it's use of the word infinite?

=)
Infinity is not a number and has no empirical value, it is strictly a human conceptual creation. It would take forever to prove it's value if it had one. If infinity is used to support a scientific concept - it's wrong.

Thanks SB. Why can't they just say "really, really, really big and then absolutely teeny weeny":)

=) >> True

"Infinity is not a number and has no empirical value" >> True. And it does not require a value. It is the state of something.

"it is strictly a human conceptual creation." >> True. But it is a feature of mathematics, and we are not sure whether we create maths or discover it.

Analogously, consider communication. Latin, Arabic, Mandarin or what have you, is a human conceptual creation (language), but communication is biological and happens between most animals. We did not create the phenomenon of communication, but we created language.

"It would take forever to prove it's value if it had one." >> True. But it doesn't have a value... so false :)

"If infinity is used to support a scientific concept - it's wrong." >> False. You would have learnt about asymptotes in high school calculus. It relates to limits, a value that we cannot exceed for example, but we can never quite get there anyway. Ergo, it is infinite.

Infinity is a very real mathematical tool, and a very useful concept. You can't exclude the existence of infinity as much as you could exclude the existence of the division function.

It was SB's last statement that made me write a reply. Scientific theories that use infinity are, generally, very very right.

Yes, mathematically ∞ is valuable tool to state "As a value approaches ∞...", I personally have never solved an equation using infinity as an empirical value. To say the universe is ∞ or there is an ∞ number of alternate universes is an attempt to assign an empirical value to a non-empirical concept. If quantum mechanics is true then ∞ cannot exist without rendering mathematics and empirical concepts void. Mathematically π does not resolve, but in the real world with quantum limits (actually measuring something) it does.

Last two black hole aggregates to collide form the next big bang. The final universe in size black hole. looked at from the inside.

Existence is as infinitely small as it is infinately large.

Zoom out far enough and our galaxies (that we so arrogantly assumed were all that existed) look like a structure of their own, perhaps even resembling that of a galaxy itself. Zoom out further and those structures, and likely others of different form but as relatively massive, will become visible, and eventually group together to form their own structure once you get far enough away.

Repeat this...forever.

But there is no "Forever".

There must be a finite division of time. Take one second and divide it in half again and again and again, at some point the resolve will be 1/∞ seconds which empirically cannot be defined but some would say = 0 seconds. Now take a billion years and repeat and the result is the same = 0 billion years. This meaning 1 second and 1 billion years are mathematically equal. If the theory of quantum mechanics is true time cannot be ∞ short or ∞ long, everything empirical must resolve in quantum units or empirical science is rendered useless.

Infinity is a valid mathematical construct, for if it was not valid, it might be possible to compute to the last digit the value of PI, but alas, one cannot. Therefore, your assertion is not logical.

In the real empirical world the value of pi does resolve, it is the human non-empirical ∞ concept of pi that doesn't resolve. Taking the most precise measurements possible, there's your answer. For pi not to resolve, a circle would need to be ∞ in size and measured in ∞ small increments. Since ∞ does not exist pi will empirically resolve with any thing that can be measured.

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