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What happened before the big bang?

Martin Bojowald
The Pennsylvania State University
Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos
University Park, PA

Before the big bang p.1

Cosmic Expansion
19251929, Edwin Hubble:
Precise distance measurement of
extra-galactic nebulae.
Escape velocity proportional to distance.

Space is expanding.
1915, General relativity: space dynamical, physical object;
not absolute.

Galaxies appear to have come from dense, pointlike event.


Simple explanation of the beginning of the universe?
Before the big bang p.2

Big bang model


1948, George Gamow, Ralph Alpher, Robert Herman:
Dense, hot phase should be visible thanks to remnant radiation.
Current temperature predicted to be less than 5K (-268 C).
1968, Penzias and Wilson: First (unintended) measurement of
the predicted radiation, temperature: 2.7K.
1991: The satellite COBE shows
isotropy of the radiation.
(2006 Nobel Prize)

Now measured very precisely:


WMAP, and soon Planck.

Before the big bang p.3

Symmetry
Detailed description of the whole universe seems hopeless.
Possible only thanks to high degree of symmetry:
Homogeneity and isotropy as shown by COBE.

Before the big bang p.4

Symmetry
Detailed description of the whole universe seems hopeless.
Possible only thanks to high degree of symmetry:
Homogeneity and isotropy as shown by COBE.

Time

Symmetry simplifies things, but often makes them less


interesting.

Before the big bang p.4

data: Sloan Digital Sky Survey


and the Bright Star Catalog

visualization: David W. Hogg (NYU)


with help from Blanton, Finkbeiner,
Padmanabhan, Schlegel, Wherry

Homogeneous, isotropic universe

a
t

2

8G M
=0
3 a

For a homogeneous and isotropic universe, only size matters.


Changes according to Friedmann equation:

Size a of the universe, mass M (excluding radiation), Newtons


constant G for gravity. Kinetic and potential energies balanced.
Before the big bang p.6

Formation of structure
Falling temperature in an expanding universe:
T
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ionization 1111111
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energy of H 1111111
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CMB released

hydrogen clouds

seed galaxies t

Initial phase not directly visible, but influences later stages.


Before the big bang p.7

Cosmic microwave background


Hot primordial plasma scatters electromagnetic radiation.
Radiation released about 400 000 years after densest moment.

WMAP
Nearly homogeneous ( 105 ). Overall picture consistent,
very successful regarding many observations.
Before the big bang p.8

Weight problem
Different types of observations all in agreement, especially of
Cosmic microwave background,
Galaxy distribution,
Supernovae redshifts.

Results in universe decomposition:


5% atoms (visible when hot)
23% Dark Matter (inferred from galaxy rotation curves)
72% Dark Energy (according to supernovae)

Origin of Dark Matter and Dark Energy unclear, but would be


important to determine the future evolution of the universe.

Before the big bang p.9

The past
Friedmann equation:

a
t

2

8G M
=0
3 a

size a, mass M , Newtons constant G

Vanishing extension some time ago. Whole universe collapsed,


density infinite. Mathematical equations break down. Singularity.
Not just for this matter model, but generally (Hawking, Penrose).
Before the big bang p.10

Whats missing?
The singularity is a limit of the theory, and does not mean a limit
of the world or its beginning.
Current theories must be improved.

Space is a physical object.


All physics is quantum,
except general relativity.

Extend quantum mechanics to apply to space, too.


Combination with general relativity: quantum gravity.
Before the big bang p.11

Wave function
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Time

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Quantum physics describes particles by wave functions, not as


pointlike. Consequences:
Properties (such as position) indistinct, spread-out.
Quantum fluctuations.
Many different ways for change, compared to simple motion

of a point. New forces.


Before the big bang p.12

Quantum fluctuations
For as its belt sparkled and glittered now in one part
and now in another, and what was light one instant, at
another time was dark, so the figure itself fluctuated in
its distinctness: being now a thing with one arm, now
with one leg, now with twenty legs, now a pair of legs
without a head, now a head without a body: of which
dissolving parts, no outline would be visible in the
dense gloom wherein they melted away. And in the very
wonder of this, it would be itself again; distinct and clear
as ever.
C HARLES D ICKENS : A C HRISTMAS C AROL

Difficult to apply to a universe.

Before the big bang p.13

Discreteness
More indirect consequence of quantum mechanics:
Quantum jumps, discreteness, atoms.
Important even for macroscopic behavior: Stability and structure
of atoms, molecules, . . .

e
p

Before the big bang p.14

Atoms
1905, Albert Einstein: Analysis of Brownian motion as
convincing evidence for atoms.

Thomas Steiner

Before the big bang p.15

Atoms
1905, Albert Einstein: Analysis of Brownian motion as
convincing evidence for atoms.

Thomas Steiner

1955, Erwin Mller: First direct image of atoms using field ion
microscopy.
Before the big bang p.15

Atoms of space?
Planck scale: gravitational constant G, speed of light c and
Plancks constant ~ combine to
p
P = G~/c3 1035 m
Currently, smallest scale probed at particle accelerators:
1018 m.
Planck density: a trillion suns compressed to the size of a
proton.
No direct observation anytime soon.

Indirect observations require good theoretical understanding.


Even theory not complete, and different approaches exist.
Before the big bang p.16

Quantum gravity
Approaches:
String theory describes

quantum excitations of
waves on space-time,
unification of forces.

Loop quantum gravity

constructs space from


atoms.

Volume ladder

1
h
Before the big bang p.17

Operators
Quantum mechanics:
Possible energies of atoms discrete.
Discrete angular momentum (and spin)
important for energy levels and transitions.
Molecules:
many electrons/nuclei combined.

Quantum gravity:
Volume is the crucial quantity (e.g. of the whole universe),
becomes discrete.
Elementary variables mathematically behave like angular
momentum attached to all points in space.
Loop quantum gravity.

Space as a giant molecule.


Before the big bang p.18

Chainmail

Before the big bang p.19

Expand

Before the big bang p.20

Bounce
Discrete space provides limited energy storage.
Density remains finite:
bounded by Planck density of about a trillion
solar masses in the size of a single proton.
No complete collapse, no singularity.
The story continues.

C+ n+1 + C0 n + C n1 = H(n)
n

Before the big bang p.21

Bounce

Before the big bang p.22

Cyclic universe
1930s Richard Tolman postulates and analyzes cyclic universe
models.
1940s1960s Alpher, Herman; Penzias, Wilson: Big bang
model established.
1979 Novello, Salm; Melnikov, Orlov:
First mechanisms for a bounce.
Since 1996, Durrer, Laukenmann; Peter, Pinto-Neto, . . . :
cosmological consequences.
Since 2000: Loop quantum cosmology;
and Steinhardt, Turok, . . . : cyclic models in string theory.

Before the big bang p.23

Some open questions


Second law of thermodynamics: Entropy/disorder must increase.
Why is there any order if this has been going on for infinite time?
Big bang: Quantum physics important even for space. Have to
bring in fluctuations, . . .
Can this help to establish order?
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Time

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Before the big bang p.24

Observations?
Direct glance at big bang or at spatial atoms quite impossible,
but indirect test possibilities exist.
Like a crystal, granular structure of space-time causes tiny
variations in propagation of waves, diffraction.
May be magnified by long cosmic expansion.

Planck

LISA

Before the big bang p.25

References

Follow the Bouncing Universe, Scientific American, October


2008

Once Before Time, Knopf Publishers, November 2010

Before the big bang p.26