Ultimate Beginning OR origin: unstable nothingness preceded the Big Bang

Was the Big Bang the Ultimate Beginning?*

* To view footnote, click here
Original essay at this web site, posted 8/'99
(from his earlier unpublished essay) by Ken Wear,
For astronomical observations and methods, click here.

Was there ever a time when there was no time? Was there ever a time when the universe was empty?

That word 'time.' Without any thought of measuring it, all of us have a sense of the passage of time, if nothing more than awareness of the sequence of thoughts that pass through the mind. We measure it by motion - the daily rotation of our planet on its axis, the annual orbit around our sun, the decay of excited cesium atoms in the atomic clock. But motion is something that happens as time passes, something that is dependent on time but is not time itself. The passage of time and the measurement of its passage are two distinctly separate areas of thought.

Did time have a beginning? I am troubled by initial conditions, the state of things that led to the onset of the passage of time. My speculation is that time always was; it had no beginning; it will have no end. So the universe came along, and then our solar system, and provided motion; and then we came along and began to measure the passage of time using motions provided by natural phenomena that we could observe. But time continues to pass as it always has.

Was the universe initially empty? My speculation is that it was, and that the universe as we know it was an inevitable outgrowth of that emptiness. I can't call it a theory because there is no mathematics at play; so it is my speculation. But bear with me and I will describe how, from nothing, in trackless time beyond measure, all that we detect (and all that is beyond) arose, even the Supreme Being (Who must Himself have had an origin). To me it is an intensely satisfying explanation that answers the questions of initial conditions.

The underlying idea that has fueled my speculation is this: Emptiness is itself inherently unstable. I speculate that a volume without limit, an empty universe, is inherently unstable on a minutely local (or on a grandly vast) scale.1To view footnote, click here

As of today, how long has time been passing? In years as we measure them, for infinity, a number too large to express. A billion years: a billion billion: more. I have trouble comprehending my own life span; but a century, even a millennium, I can grasp as history records past events. A thousand millennia: such time spans defy my imagination. Yet in the passage of time a billion years is but a flicker because time had no beginning. Time -- that intangible essence so common to our experience -- always was except that, until intelligence arose, there was no organization of life -- intellect -- concerned with assessing its passage.

Somewhere along the way there occurred an eruption of nothingness, generating, briefly, equal and opposite somethings, either physical or non-physical; but an equal and its opposite attract each other and mutually annihilate each other, leaving the same emptiness as before. But eventually two, three or four events occurred close enough together in time and space that their mutual attraction -- something perhaps akin to gravity -- hindered their rejoining and mutual annihilation, and so there was a residue from that combination of events. How long ago was that? Infinity, since we have no starting point from which to measure. But something that happens once can happen again, and so was the birth of physical matter (and possibly non-physical or spiritual essence).

On the physical side, what was that matter? Possibly a sub-sub-particle that is a building block for the sub-particles physicists have observed in their high-energy accelerators. (On the non-physical side, let us leave that question for the moment.) So with the passage of time there came into being hosts of particles, many of which eventually came together to form larger particles. And with more time, protons emerged, at least in our part of the universe, as the more stable combination of particles. It must have taken a long time indeed to give rise to enough particles that their mutual attraction could bring them together and create the "First Bang."

That First Bang likely was quite modest. But it apparently gave rise to larger, more complex, particles. As the particles flew apart, mutual attraction arrested their flight and brought them back together where, with the addition of more particles, there was another, more intense, Bang. Repeat, again and again. Thus the concept of an oscillating universe with successive Bangs: each explosion resulting in expansion until mutual attraction led to contraction and eventually another Bang. How long did it take? Infinity? Our Big Bang may well have imparted escape velocity to portions of the mass so violently flung apart, so that another still larger Bang of the same plus more newly-generated particles cannot occur.3 To view footnote, click here.

Another theory of origins, the Steady State theory, suggests that the expansion of the universe requires generation of new matter at a sufficient rate, in the appropriate location, to exactly compensate for an emerging hole at the center of outward motion. This idea is obviously at odds with the notion of an oscillating universe with its generation of new matter whenever and wherever there is an appropriate combination of eruptions of nothingness.

The theory of origins put forth in the ancient Hebrew literature that culminated in the Bible is not so much at odds with other theories as might first appear.2 To view footnote, click here.

There are a number of questions that necessarily are attendant to these speculations. One is why our universe is not filled solid by now, since time enough has elapsed to generate enough particles for that to occur. Evidently the phenomenon is in some way self-limiting. Likely the same sort of event as occurred initially still occurs, but now, because of the multitude of particles already in existence, annihilation more nearly equals generation.

Had there been a uniform distribution of elemental particles in the initial days of the universe, mutual attraction would not have brought them together since each particle would have been equally attracted in all directions. But I speculated that nothingness is inherently unstable so there seems no reason to ascribe to it a uniformity that compels equal generation of particles per unit volume.

Our theory tells us nothing physical can possess a velocity exceeding that of light because its energy of motion would exceed infinity, and we regard that as quite impossible. There are those who, in their zeal to overcome logical necessities and assure acceptance of the Big Bang as the ultimate beginning, set aside such limits. They argue, for instance, that initially after the Big Bang the products of that explosion receded at velocities vastly greater than the speed of light. "Inflation" they call it. Yet the physicists' particle accelerators have thoroughly confirmed that a single proton cannot be accelerated to, certainly not beyond, the speed of light because we cannot impart to it sufficient energy.

So the matter flung apart by our Big Bang should be bounded in space; our universe should have an edge or outer limit determined by the velocity of light and elapsed time since that explosion. Unless we are near the center of that explosion, we should, with increased sensitivity of telescopic equipment, be able to locate that edge. Unless our Big Bang was a local event in this infinity of space, in which case there may be other universes -- either nearby or at immense distances beyond. In fact, since astronomers have detected what they interpret as irregularities in the relative positions of galaxies in our universe, we may in fact have in our universe galaxies intruding from other universes.

And other universes may have resulted from different combinations of those primordial sub-sub-particles, since nothingness may well have split in other ways and in other combinations. So our protons may be peculiar to our universe. Or, extending my speculations beyond my willingness to speculate, our universe may coexist with other universes comprised of products of splitting that are of a wholly different nature.

The origin of a supreme being may well have been the coalescing of non-physical products of the splitting of nothingness, just as physical particles resulted from the physical products of the splitting. Origin of intelligence in such a non-physical or spirit entity, and its subsequent focus to influence events, seems a possible consequence of coalescence. So the arguments for and against deity are not influenced by my speculations. The only thing I would deny is that He could have had no origin, but has existed as long as time itself; and I cite boredom as proof enough of that.

Thus ends this chain of speculations. It has been wholly satisfying to me and has ended the dilemma of initial conditions.

Postscript 4-21-07: A reader has expressed disappointment that I did not elaborate on the origin of deity. I suppose his thoughts were along the line that there must exist, in the resultant non-physical realm, hosts of individual spirits growing from the same phenomenon. In truth my thoughts had not progressed along that line at the time of composing this essay. As a mental exercise today I cannot add insight, except to suggest there were initially many distinct spirits but they organized themselves into a political structure that is not visible to mortals and is therefore a subject of many speculations, often by persons having their own agendas. My essay, House of Man, is my best effort at pursuing this line of thought. To view that click here.

To read notes added after posting the above, click here.
To read a lecture on energy, the cosmos, extra-terrestrials and the cyclic(?) nature of civilization, Musings on the Beginning of Stars and Ending of Intelligence, click here.
Or click Contents of Ken Wear's Web Site.
I have added a brief summary of events following our Bang, including formation of our Sun and Earth, the origins of life and evolution over the eons to produce fossils. To examine that, click here.
To offer an opinion or seek further comment, you may send an e-mail that will pass my spam filter if you use as Subject -- I read your post about the Big Bang -- exactly as you see it here. For the e-mail form, Click here.

There has in fact been laboratory observation, in extreme vacuum, of seething activity at the sub-atomic level as particles pop into and out of nothingness. I composed this essay long before I knew about these observations. But National Geographic magazine, vol. 196 #4 (October, 1999), in an article on the universe, has an interesting quotation along the lines of my speculation of instability, on Page 33: ". . . Scientists who study the smallest units of nature have learned that this vacuum is actually seething with activity at the sub-atomic levels as particles pop in and out of nothingness. Though these are virtual particles, laboratory experiments have shown that they have real and predictable effects. . . ."
The BACK button will return you to the text.

I acknowledge that the notion that the deity created absolutely all -- the universe entire -- has its origin in the first lines of the opening chapter of Genesis in the Bible (that accumulation of ancient and venerated writings authored by the Hebrews). I note that the text, in all translations I have seen, makes no specific claim there was nothing preceding our Earth with its sun and visible heavenly bodies. The notion that the universe entire originated in the acts of creation outlined in that literature is the invention of preachers; it is not supported by the text. I grant that inference is easily made, but in the context of modern astronomical observations we can also detect an ambiguity in those statements. It seems more appropriate to limit the application of the opening statements of Genesis to our solar system.

Moreover, the Hebrew notion of a day, that it consists of a period of darkness and a period of light, suggests the use of the term 'day' in that text even if darkness or light persists for the duration of an unknown period of time. Plus: The sequence of origination of species offered in that chapter aligns well with scientific notions of the sequence followed by unhindered evolution. If you wish to read a comparison of science with Genesis One, click here.
The BACK button will return you to the text.

Added 10-10-09 I should note that this denial of the present interpretation of the "Big Bang" (that it was the initial event of creation) in no way contradicts the underlying notion of a Big Bang, which I suggest was the most recent Bang. Nor does quarrel with the mathematics (except the notion of 'inflation,' which was created to explain the apparent lack of an edge to the observed universe and is a violation of the limitation due to the speed of light) that has been derived to support the Big Bang as the initial event of creation. Moreover, I now suggest that the phenomenon of creation arising from unstable nothingness persists and is as equally active today as initially; "black holes" present a mechanism to prevent the universe from having filled in solid if, within the interior of the black hole, particles are so compressed as to bring those elemental sub-sub-particles into such intimate contact that they simply recombine, leaving the nothingness from which they sprung.

*Footnote: I feel compelled to offer this: While many scientists sneer at the idea that God created it all through exercise of His power, the theory of the Big Bang is the most colossal denial of science I can imagine and is thus equally suspect. Every effect has cause; energy in equals energy out -- having studied physics I recognize these ideas as fundamental and immutable. Yet proponents of the Big Bang suggest the most energetic event of all time had no cause and created a monumental quantity of matter and energy where none had existed before. That God created it at least suggests a source of creative energy. (I offer elaboration in the note below entered in 2008; but the text provides background for that discussion.)
The BACK button will return you to the text.

Note entered Jan. 08. Nothing equals something. 0=1. Something is suspect about such a statement. But a friend reminds me that quantum physicists by their mathematics suggest it is true, that is, 'quantum fluctuations' may leave a residue of matter where there was nothing before. In my mind I have difficulty separating the idea of quantum fluctuations from the idea of eruptions of nothingness that is the basis for my speculatlion. Let us explore:

It is true I bypassed the study of quantum mechanics when I was a student of physics in college, but I have read expositions by those who understand the topic. They are quick to assert that, while the mathematics makes predictions that have proved to be true, they do not understand the physical processes that make that possible. And I subscribe to the notion that understanding of the universe itself hinges on understanding of the most primitive or elemental products making up the universe; i.e., understanding of the universe of astronomers is not possible without understanding quantum processes. But I doubt the case can be made that lack of understanding demonstrates the truth of a proposition that is only implied by their mathematics. Let me look more closely since denial of the Big Bang requires something be offered in its place.

It has been reported that, in the high energy physics laboratory, there have been observations, in an empty chamber, of particles and virtual particles popping into and out of existence unceasingly. That is the observational underpinning of my suggestion of an alternative. I did not pursue, through a search of the scientific literature, further verification of this observation by further experiment but wish to share with you both my understanding of theoretical insight and a description of experimental effort of my own.

That empty chamber: Start with Avagadro's number (6x1023 molecules per mole); you may calculate the number of molecules in the chamber initially and at any reduced pressure. Now one torr (the unit for measuring degree of evacuation of a chamber) equals roughly 10-3 atmosphere (using atmosphere as a measure of pressure and taking 1atmosphere=760mmHg=103torr -- a modest disparity considering the magnitudes I present here); my laboratory efforts ended at 10-11 torr, but I understand night vision materials require 10-12 to 10-14 torr, a range outside my experience. Even so, at 10-17 atmosphere there are molecules aplenty, although they are so sparse that collisions are not with each other but with chamber walls and experimental apparatus in the chamber.

Experimental observation: I have no personal knowledge of evidence of either particles, virtual particles, or effects they produced; this was reported by high energy physicists using their accelerators. Neither do I know of efforts to duplicate or falsify those observations. Obviously there must be apparatus in the chamber to make observations, and apparatus requires energy for its operation. There is of course the possibility that energy introduced to operate observational apparatus produced the particles and virtual particles that were observed. So you may attack my assertion that there is experimental verification of my explanation of the origin of the universe.

Prospects for further verification: Perhaps such extreme pressures below 10-12 can be measured by counting individual scintilations as gas molecules strike a collector plate. But pressures in the range 10-20 torr should be producible by using the metal lead as a diffusion pump fluid -- a prospect that will require considerable experimental effort to learn how to deal with liquified and gaseous lead and preclude interference by oxidation products in the pump. (I contend that a physically strong pump wall is not necessary if the pump itself is enclosed in an evacuated enclosure.) I briefly operated a pump using cadmium as pump fluid in a quartz single-stage diffusion pump; it pumped; so the vapor pressure of the pump fluid does not present a limit to diffusion pump operation. (But the experiment itself failed because I failed to design it for extended or repeated operation.)

Origin of time: Proponents of the Big Bang conclude that, before that event, there was neither time nor space. Let me recognize the suggestion growing from Albert Enstein's theory of relativity, that time itself is not a linear quantity but is subject to relativistic compression. Without extensive study of this point, let me introduce the thought that measurement of the passage of time and the effects produced by that measurement should be considered apart from the passage of time. Passage of time and its measurement are distinctly different ideas.

Aug. '08: I have just read of discovery a year ago of 'holes in space,' that is the absence of any detectable matter in extremely extended volumes. A map of galaxies that have been observed clearly shows the concentration of galaxies in otherwise empty space. While this report doesn't validate the notion of either eruption of nothingness or quantum fluctuations, it does suggest that the Big Bang (which should produce a much more uniform distribution) is seriously flawed. (Science Illustrated)

Sept. '09: Now I read of speculation about 'entanglement,'the notion that a particle here can be paired with a particle half a universe away so particles need not be adjacent in order to affect each other. I suppose this idea is an outgrowth of the apparent fact that the effect of gravity is instantaneous independent of distance, without propagation time as with electromagnetic energy. This may be the place to suggest that, in the infinity of space, ours was only one of many Bangs occurring at various times in various regions; while beyond the limits of our ability to observe, this would explain the conclusion that our universe is increasing in velocity of expansion.

I am reminded of a (non-credit) course in astronomy (The Teach Co.) that concluded with enumeration of a series of theories that have been offered by astronomers to explain various astronomical observations and which exceed the bounds of fantasy well beyond anything science fiction writers have concocted.

Oct. '09: I have just received the new issue of Scientific American, which is dedicated to astronomy. My initial perusal leads me to offer these suggestions:

  • Black holes: Their detection is apparently due to an axial spray of energy, which is confined to a narrow angular spread. Therefore most black holes escape detection because their orientation in space does not put us in line with their axes.
  • Due to the extreme compaction of particles in the depths of black holes, matter may be brought into such intimate contact that the elemental particles, from which matter initially sprung, mutually annihilate each other.
  • Dark matter is, of course, dark because it does not radiate electromagnetic energy; its existence should not be a surprise. However, it may well include elemental particles that have not yet combined into protons.
  • The cycle from generation to annihilation is thus completed. The elemental particles that originate in the restlessness -- the instability of nothingness -- of the initial void continue to be generated, but in the recesses of the black hole they return to the nothingness from which they originated. Between generation and annihilation we have our cosmos.

    Dec. '09: The current issue of Scientific American is dedicated to the universe and discusses many of the concepts that have emerged in recent years. Instruments capable of measurements (indeed determining spectra) are only recently available so the astronomy community has been treated to an array of data that is slowly coming into focus. My single observation at this point is that questions of dark matter and dark energy seem to be in keeping with the observation of the consequences of an unstable nothingness.

    My printer requires 6 pages or 3 sheets of paper to print this document.