By Robert DePaolo
Einstein’s famous equation, proposes interchangeability if not equivalence between mass and energy. While some have inferred that this means one is the same as the other, i.e. that there can be no energy without mass, the photon, which is both massless (albeit in fleeting form, because it has a tendency to appear and disappear, and behave like both matter and wave frequency) does contain energy. Still, if one harks back to the origin of space and time, at the “moment of creation,” when presumably a body the size of an atom containing all the potential mass and energy that would ever exist across billions of light years, galaxies, stars and planets exploded into all that we now see around us, the sequence of events seems a bit difficult to fathom.
First of all, there is the question of mass and energy. An atom-sized entity that was extremely hot could only become hot as a result of movement. In present circumstances no one really can describe the temperature of a single atom, since temperature is only measured in macroscopic terms, as a vast number of atoms in motion. As laws of thermodynamics tell us, heat is a direct function of movement; one example being the electrons on a stove grid being accelerated to produce the heat to cook foods. In an atom-sized entity movement might be nearly impossible, especially since the usual presumption is that the cosmic egg was too hot for atoms to form. Moreover movement implies a need for space, which requires a transition from point A to point B. In an entity so compressed there would be little or no space as such, thus only a minimal possibility of anything moving in a different direction other than where it was situated in the first place. Another problem is that as soon as space comes into play, so does time. As Einstein demonstrated, movement, in effect creates time, as well as affecting mass. In a big bang explosion, the transition from an atom-sized entity to one larger would involve some sort of temporal sequence (i.e. a “before” and an “after”). Yet with no space, no movement and no time, such a temporal transition could not occur. It would be like a person making an appointment to see the dentist at noon, in a twilight zone world where the clock remained at 11 a.m. forever.
Such arguments have been posed before and physicists have used equations and Hubble’s observations to provide answers. One compelling, if not convincing, argument is that in order to accept the Big Bang theory one must think of the cosmic egg as a massless energy source – like the photon. That works fine to solve the mass-space-movement problem except for the fact that photons produce light and the usual assumption was that light only came about in the universe roughly half a million years after the Big Bang. In addition, for the universe to be so compressed to begin with would require some degree of mass, since gravity and mass are interdependent. In effect, a massless particle or photon-fueled cosmic egg might not be capable of such compression. Beyond that, if one assumes the compression originally contained matter and mass which, through extreme heating was pulled apart, then that would require an explanation of why all that energy released through that material destruction did not itself lead to an explosion.
Another common explanation is that at the moment of creation, the current laws of physics did not exist, or more accurately, the four forces; gravity, the strong, electromagnetic and weak forces were unified. That offers a somewhat vague explanation (vague because no one has conjured up any sort of definable configuration of what this uni-force was, or how it functioned). It also has flaws. For example if the cosmic egg did not obey the known laws of physics seen today, how did it explode? In order to do so it would have to adhere to common physical laws on conservation of momentum and the effect of pressure on gaseous substances. More simply put, if a geyser in Iceland or a volcano in Sicily erupt as per modern physical laws and if the cosmic egg erupted, how is it that the volcano and the geyser operate by known laws of physics while the cosmic egg did not?
Another conception has to do with the question how something so small could expand into something so big. That is not in itself a quandary if one accepts that instead of a universe expanding out of a single explosion, some process after its inception led to a logarithmic creation of new matter. However it proposes that virtual particles popped in and out during a hot, massless, energy-laden pre-expansion epoch. Even if an overall balance were in play, whereby mass and energy exhibited a material/ephemeral swing between existence and non-existence that does not explain causality. Even in that scenario, something would have had to occur to tip the balance so that the virtual aspect was to an extent overridden by the “real.”
What would cause such a skew toward material reality? No one has been able to answer that question, either theoretically or empirically. It is of course assumed that matter has its antithesis in the form of anti-matter and that like protons and electrons, each not only repels the other but cancels the other out. From that one might assume the cosmic egg involved a mathematical zero sum process, in which neither the proportion of matter nor anti-matter was dominant.
Still, that begs the question of how or why the proportion began to favor matter over anti-matter and how the universe came to be; in other words how zero was converted to +1. Once again, no causation has been established, even on a theoretical level.
Making matters even more confusing is Brian Schmidt’s discovery that the universe is actually speeding up. That makes little sense in terms of a big bang theory. For example if a single event led to expansion, the force of that would have waned over time – unless re-escalated by an outside force. Going back in time, it becomes plausible to assume that the fastest, most intensive force occurred at the moment of expansion and that over time and due to gravity and sheer entropy (loss of heat, as derived from a slowing down of its components), an increase in acceleration would be impossible, especially at the outskirts of the cosmos where one assumes matter would, like lava found in the far reaches of a volcanic core, be dispersed more thinly. To suggest some sort of thus far undetected and unusually strong source of gravity from the far reaches of the universe is pulling celestial matter at such a rapid rate requires some explanation of how all that matter got to the outskirts to begin with, and how material density and geographic remoteness (which are incompatible in explosions) could somehow be both in play.
Another traditional assumption is that the cosmic egg was actually a black hole compressed from the recruitment of all of the heavens via gravitational attraction. This has appeal on some levels but is also problematic. The greatest energy from a black hole is found in its direct center (the singularity). Such a huge amount of energy could certainly set off a considerable explosion. Yet the escape velocity from that point is greater than the speed of light. In other words, for anything to break out of that would require going faster than the universe allows. There is what Schwarzschild referred to as an event horizon, the area on the periphery of the black hole. It has a weaker pull but even here escape velocity is at the speed of light and the energy escaping would be less likely to produce something as powerful as the big bang.
Sometimes it appears physics ends up rendering its own contradictions. To assume the universe began as a non-entity (comprised of a virtual reality) yet ended up so massive and time and space-driven seems a bit odd. To say this is possible because the laws of physics known today were not in play during the Big Bang (except for those that caused the explosion) seems even odder.
There is another way to look at the origin of the universe that agrees with the current laws of physics and requires no resort to the “virtual.” It is that the universe never compressed into an atom-sized entity. Instead, its expansion from a prior state was, at some point checked by gravity and then began to re-compress until it became small enough so that movement, heat and mass potentials were gradually but significantly restrained and minimized. With movement restricted, so too was heat and kinetic energy. It never compressed into atom-size, but rather reached a dimensional threshold that was probably quite large by human perceptual standards yet due to the need to accommodate the vast amount of mass previously accrued through expansion within that narrowed threshold, allowed little room for internal movement. Since movement produces heat and since heat produces energy (the latter defined as a capacity to perform work through movement) the dual effect of this implosive trend inward led to a cooling epoch. With that, matter increased, as did the energy pool a new re-expansion epoch ensued.
Perhaps at face value this underplays more complex factors typically discussed in scientific circles. On the other hand it at least avoids the problem of trying to explain the strange notion that from a single, infinitesimally small, real/virtual speck arose the incredible vastness of our universe.