Tuesday, August 21, 2012

New theory argues universe started with a Big Freeze

In the beginning, there was a Big Bang and it created the whole universe. That is the condensed and oversimplified version of the theory that supposedly started off everything we know exists, about 14 billion years ago. According to the theory, everything was in a extremely hot and condensed state, which resulted in rapid expansion, forming atoms and thereafter more complex forms of matter, eventually giving rise to a wide dispersion of galaxies, solar systems, stars and planets. A new hypothesis from the University of Melbourne states that a Big Bang is not the most accurate model to describe the early phase of the universe. Scientists think it was more similar to a 'Big Freeze', like water turning into ice.

It is extremely hard to make a model of the beginning of the universe, because, first of all, we were not there. Secondly, it is extremely hard to go back 14 billion years in time and calculate a most likely scenario. And lastly, how are we simple humans supposed to imagine something so vastly unimaginable as the beginning of the universe? Still, scientific progress has helped us to come up with a realistic model known as the Big Bang, but recent developments in quantum mechanics may change a lot of what we think is real. 

Quantum Graphity
Theories in the field of quantum mechanics have already revolutionized the laws of physics. On a sub-atomic level, things behave weirdly, and our views could radically change if we apply these laws to the early universe. Scientists from the University of Melbourne have used the concept of quantum graphite to come up with an alternative to the Big Bang. The theory argues that space may be made up of indivisible building blocks, much like atoms were once thought to be the indivisible building blocks of matter (which, as it turns out now, is not true). According to the model based on this theory, the development of the universe can be viewed as the process of turning liquid water to ice.

Big Freeze
In their proposed Big Freeze model, the scientists argued that the universe in its early state represented something similar to a liquid which consequently crystallized, much in the same way liquid water turns into ice. This process resulted in the crystallisation of the spatial dimensions, making space and time appear smooth and continuous. However, crystallisation ought to leave 'cracks' that show the universe is not universally smooth. If the theory proves to be true, physicists would need to find these cracks and reveal the presence of the building blocks theorized by quantum graphity. So far it seems not much more than speculation, but it definitely is an interesting concept.
Cracks in ice as a model for the Big Freeze. Of course, reality would be much more complex.

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