Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Big bangs spark row

26.04.2002


Cosmologists claim Universe has been forming and reforming for eternity.


New maths spawns new model.



The Universe was not born in one Big Bang, it has been going through cycles of creation and annihilation for eternity, according to a controversial new mathematical model1.

It’s a compelling claim. The new cyclic model removes a major stumbling block common to existing theories of the Universe - namely, that physics can’t explain what came before the Big Bang.


Because the model relies on new mathematics, it is having some teething problems, admit its proposers. Indeed, most cosmologists are treating the hypothesis with interested scepticism. Some are vociferously critical.

Criticism is to be expected, concedes Neil Turok of Cambridge University, UK, who developed the cyclic model with cosmologist Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University in New Jersey. "We’re taking on some very fundamental issues here," says Turok.

Strings attached

Steinhardt and Turok draw on the emerging science of string theory. This mathematical idea uses up to ten dimensions - instead of the usual four - to explain the weird behaviour of tiny things in physics called fundamental particles.

When applied to big things like cosmology, string theory invokes weird mathematical entities called membranes - branes for short. In the cyclic model there are two branes at any one time, one containing our Universe, the other a parallel Universe that is the mirror image of our own.

The researchers suggest that these branes regularly collide, as they did 15 billion years ago, resulting in the massive release of energy previously ascribed to the Big Bang. And just like the Big Bang, "this collision made all the radiation and matter that fills the Universe," says Turok.

The branes are then flung apart. The Universes on each brane expand outwards over billions of years, as ours is doing today.

According to the model, a fifth dimension that we can’t see or travel through bridges the branes. As each Universe expands, its matter and energy spreads ever thinner and is diluted. When the spring-like fifth dimension overcomes this expansion energy it heaves the branes back together, they collide, and the whole process repeats. "It’s just like reproduction in biology," says Turok.

As well as solving the problem of what came before the Big Bang, the cyclic model could explain numerous other cosmological conundrums, such as dark energy. Our Universe should contain more energy than can be measured, and there are no good theories to explain why. Turok and Steinhardt’s model suggests that this is because energy, in the form of gravity, leaks across the fifth dimension between our Universe and its complementary braneworld.

No braner?

Steinhardt and Turok’s idea sounds appealing, but fellow astrophysicists are not greeting it with open arms. "The community is very, very sceptical," says David Lyth, a cosmologist at the University of Lancaster, UK.

Others are more scathing. "It’s a very bad idea popular only among journalists," says one of the chief critics of the cyclic model, Andrei Linde of Stanford University, California. "It’s an extremely complicated theory and simply does not work," adds Linde, the originator of a rival model of the Universe.

String theory is still in its infancy, and applying it to cosmology stretches it to its limits, explains Cambridge University cosmologist George Efstathiou. "Its connection to fundamental physics is really rather weak," he says, so until string theory matures, models that use it will be flawed and misunderstood. But on the whole, he says, "the cyclic model is a cute idea and some elements of it may survive."

Steinhardt and Turok agree that problems with the mathematics could be their undoing. "There may be disasters waiting for us at higher levels of calculation," says Turok. But, if it does add up, their theory overturns many ideas about the Universe, they say - like time and space being created in a Big Bang.

References

  1. Steinhardt, P. J. & Turok, N. A. Cyclic model of the Universe. Science, published online April 25 (2002).

TOM CLARKE | © Nature News Service

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht It’s closeness that counts: how proximity affects the resistance of graphene
28.01.2020 | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

nachricht Quantum physics: On the way to quantum networks
27.01.2020 | Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Integrate Micro Chips for electronic Skin

Researchers from Dresden and Osaka present the first fully integrated flexible electronics made of magnetic sensors and organic circuits which opens the path towards the development of electronic skin.

Human skin is a fascinating and multifunctional organ with unique properties originating from its flexible and compliant nature. It allows for interfacing with...

Im Focus: Dresden researchers discover resistance mechanism in aggressive cancer

Protease blocks guardian function against uncontrolled cell division

Researchers of the Carl Gustav Carus University Hospital Dresden at the National Center for Tumor Diseases Dresden (NCT/UCC), together with an international...

Im Focus: New roles found for Huntington's disease protein

Crucial role in synapse formation could be new avenue toward treatment

A Duke University research team has identified a new function of a gene called huntingtin, a mutation of which underlies the progressive neurodegenerative...

Im Focus: A new look at 'strange metals'

For years, a new synthesis method has been developed at TU Wien (Vienna) to unlock the secrets of "strange metals". Now a breakthrough has been achieved. The results have been published in "Science".

Superconductors allow electrical current to flow without any resistance - but only below a certain critical temperature. Many materials have to be cooled down...

Im Focus: Programmable nests for cells

KIT researchers develop novel composites of DNA, silica particles, and carbon nanotubes -- Properties can be tailored to various applications

Using DNA, smallest silica particles, and carbon nanotubes, researchers of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) developed novel programmable materials....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

11th Advanced Battery Power Conference, March 24-25, 2020 in Münster/Germany

16.01.2020 | Event News

Laser Colloquium Hydrogen LKH2: fast and reliable fuel cell manufacturing

15.01.2020 | Event News

„Advanced Battery Power“- Conference, Contributions are welcome!

07.01.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Towards better anti-cancer drugs: New insights into CDK8, an important human oncogene

28.01.2020 | Life Sciences

Rice lab turns trash into valuable graphene in a flash

28.01.2020 | Materials Sciences

AI can jump-start radiation therapy for cancer patients

28.01.2020 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>