After the bang

The universe has been continuously undergoing destruction and formation, indicates a new research

Published: Friday 31 May 2002

the standard lore in cosmology is that the universe started off with a Big Bang and has been expanding since that time. But now, in a very controversial paper, two physicists claim that the universe forever actually has been undergoing cycles of creation and destruction. Apart from being a totally revolutionary cosmological theory, this will also give new meaning to time as according to conventional cosmology, time and space originated only at the time of Big Bang. Moreover, it will also provide an answer to the crucial question regarding what happened before the Big Bang -- an issue about which no clues are available in the theories of conventional physics.

The paper has been presented by P Stienhardt of us-based Princeton University and N Turok of Cambridge University. According to them, the fundamental entities for the formation of the universe are membranes that arise naturally when the currently fashionable string theory of particle physics is applied to cosmology. These membranes have become very popular among physicists in the last few years as apart from their mathematical beauty, they can explain some of the puzzles of the standard model of Big Bang.

In the new cyclical model, at any given instant of time, there are two membranes, one containing our universe and the other a mirror image of the universe. Cosmologically speaking, these membranes collide regularly and one such collision was about 13-15 billion years ago when there was a huge energy release. This event is the Big Bang. After the bang, the membranes again separate and continue expanding till the next big crunch when the collision creates a new universe again. The two membranes communicate through the fifth dimension which is obviously unseen by us, because of its extremely small size.

Pretty heady stuff! Several other physicists think that the model is very complicated and doesn't explain lot of observed phenomenon. Besides, it is based on a hitherto untested particle physics theory called the string theory. Hence physicists are hedging their bets as to whether there is any sense in the cyclic model. But for us in India, it seems that the concept of time as embodied in the ancient Hindu scriptures seems to be coming back. The scriptures tell us that time is eternal and one day and night of the creator is equal to a huge amount of our time.

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