August 21, 2012
Researchers Theorize The Big Bang Was Actually A Big Chill
April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
A team of researchers from the University of Melbourne and RMIT University has postulated an alternative theory for the start of the Universe. Instead of a Big Bang, they say the Universe more likely started with a Big Freeze.
The research team suggests that our understanding of the Universe could be revolutionized by investigating the cracks and crevices common to all crystals, including ice.
The Big Bang theory is a widely accepted theory for the origin of the Universe. According to this theory, 12 to 14 billion years ago our Universe was only a few millimeters across and existed in a hot, dense state. It has since expanded and cooled into the cosmos we currently inhabit.
James Quach, lead researcher on the new study published in Physical Review D, said their new theory is the latest in a long quest by humans to understand the nature and origins of our Universe.
"Ancient Greek philosophers wondered what matter was made of: was it made of a continuous substance or was it made of individual atoms?” Quach said. “With very powerful microscopes, we now know that matter is made of atoms.”
"Thousands of years later, Albert Einstein assumed that space and time were continuous and flowed smoothly, but we now believe that this assumption may not be valid at very small scales. A new theory, known as Quantum Graphity, suggests that space may be made up of indivisible building blocks, like tiny atoms. These indivisible blocks can be thought about as similar to pixels that make up an image on a screen. The challenge has been that these building blocks of space are very small, and so impossible to see directly.”
Quach and colleagues believe they may have figured out a way to see these building blocks indirectly by studying crystal formation.
"Think of the early universe as being like a liquid," he said. "Then as the universe cools, it 'crystallizes' into the three spatial and one time dimension that we see today. Theorized this way, as the Universe cools, we would expect that cracks should form, similar to the way cracks are formed when water freezes into ice."
Some of those defects might be visible. Light and other particles would bend or reflect off of these defects, which in theory should allow them to be detectable by researchers. The team has made predictions based on calculating some of these effects. If the predictions are verified by experimentation, the question of whether space is smooth or constructed of tiny indivisible parts will be solved once and for all.