Big bang birthed from Cosmic Egg

–a pagan story of origins

In 1927 Roman Catholic priest Georges Lemaîtredeveloped his theory of the expanding Universe and published a paper describing his theory,2 which envisioned a universe with all galaxies moving away from all other galaxies. At that time the Universe was considered to be static. Lemaître solved the gravitational field equations of Einstein’s General Relativity theory for the Universe, taking into account the work of Alexander Friedmann, who published in 1922 (but died in 1925). From that he concluded the Universe must be expanding or contracting.  Nowadays that formalism for the family of models they produced is called the Friedmann-Lemaître solution describing the big bang universe. From that Lemaître developed the idea of the Universe having a unique origin at some past moment of time.

lemaitre

Figure 1: Belgian priest Reverence Monsignor Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître (17 July 1894 – 20 June 1966) was an astronomer and professor of physics at the Catholic University of Leuven. Credit: Wikipedia

In 1931, Lemaître described the Universe as exploding from a ‘Cosmic Egg’, which was like a giant atom, with all the mass of the Universe. His idea was that the myriads of galaxies of stars in the Universe formed out of and expanded out from that initial state of the ‘Cosmic Egg’.  Lemaître imagined that the Universe started from a fluctuation of his first quantum of energy (his ‘Cosmic Egg’) when space and time were not yet defined.3

You might think that Lemaitre looked to the Scriptures, to Genesis, for a clue here (for an origin in time) but his reasoning was man’s not God’s. His assumption was a finite unbounded universe, having no centre nor edge–that is, there are no preferred points in his universe. And by winding time backward one could imagine that all points would come to a common point at a finite period of time in the past. Thus he reasoned that this must mean that the Universe had a beginning in time—hence a creation at a moment in the past. Apparently Sir Arthur Eddington, a Quaker, found Lemaître’s idea of creation philosophically repugnant, as there was a prior belief among cosmologists at the time of the Universe eternally existing.

From his quantum of energy—which he called a “primeval atom”4—his theory predicted that this was the material from which all matter—the stars and galaxies—was derived. He predicted that some form of background radiation, even cosmic rays, would be found, the leftovers of that initial explosion of matter into all the Universe.5 That is not accepted by big bang astronomers today.

Eventually from his theory the origin of the Universe was formalised not from a ‘Cosmic Egg’ but from a singularity of zero dimensions with the Universe smoothly expanding out of it, and beginning in an intensely hot fireball stage. It wasn’t until 1949 that this was, in derision, called a ‘big bang’ on a BBC radio program by Sir Fred Hoyle, while discussing what his opponents believed. Hoyle was very much against any idea of a big bang universe, as he firmly believed in the steady state model.

Now the story so far, many people know. But do they know that Lemaître was cheated out of his claim to fame?6 Continue reading

An eternal big bang universe

As a high school student, at a time when I was an atheist, I co-authored a book reviewing the various cosmological models that were discussed in the scientific literature in 1968. That was three years after the discovery of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, and the Big Bang Theory had just made a big leap forward in front of its competitor at the time, the Steady State Theory.

In our book—which by the way won us second prize in a Western Australian state-wide science competition—we outlined the two competing models. The Big Bang Theory at that time had three distinct forms:

  1. the cycloidal model, which would collapse back into a big crunch (and bounce out of the singularity cyclically) because the matter density of the universe was too great to resist the inevitable re-collapse (a finite closed universe);
  2. the coasting model, which had just the right amount of matter for an infinite universe that is neither accelerating nor decelerating in its expansion, continually expanding but never collapsing (an open infinite universe); and
  3. the hyperbolic model, an accelerating expanding universe, low matter density but also driven apart by a cosmological constant term (an open and infinite universe).

The most favoured of the three was the closed cycloidal model with a matter density greater than critical so it had to collapse back in a big crunch. Nowadays it is the accelerating infinite (open) universe, which is spatially flat due to dark matter and dark energy content.

On reviewing these models, and even knowing that the CMB discovery favoured these as a prediction of the big bang theorists, particularly George Gamow, I personally favoured the Steady State Theory. The Steady State Theory really had only one model, which was an infinite universe that was eternal both into the past and into the future. It had no beginning and no ending. Continue reading

The Universe: Finite or Infinite, Bounded or Unbounded

Historically the Universe was once believed to be finite.  Finite means its volume is a finite number.  Also the biblical view is and was that the Universe was created approximately some 4000 years before the birth of Christ. Psalms 147:4 declares,

“He [God] tells the number of the stars; He [God] calls them all by their names.” (KJVER).

To ‘tell’ means to count and therefore the implication is that the Universe contains a fixed or finite number of stars and hence of galaxies. Only God is infinite (Ps 147:5) but His created Universe is finite and even bounded. That means it has a centre and an edge.

The view was not universally held though. Hindu texts seemed to indicate an eternal, albeit a cyclical universe and infinite in size. But our modern scientific understanding of the Universe has developed from Judeo-Christian beliefs. Within that framework, until essentially the beginning of the 20th century it was accepted the Universe was like a ball of stars around our planet Earth.

Only with Edwin Hubble’s observations did this notion change, as he settled the big debate of the 1920’s, showing in 1929 that the Universe contained many galaxies like our own. Secondly, by observations of redshifts of galaxies and their distances, he discovered that the Universe is expanding, for which he would have won the Nobel Prize, but the selection committee followed the rules established by Nobel (who disliked astronomers) and would not award it to him. He died before they changed the rules. Nevertheless Hubble himself even questioned his own conclusion over the decades following his “discovery.” (I would note here that Lemaître published before Hubble, in 1927, wherein Lemaître developed the now famous relation, the Hubble law–later named after Hubble–but also Lemaître fitted to actual observational data, though his data were a bit poorer quality than Hubble’s in 1929.)

BB balloonBut then until the mid 1960’s, the dominant cosmological belief for the Universe,  was the Steady State (SS) cosmology. It held to an eternal (non-cyclical) universe, which was infinite and unbounded. With Hubble’s discovery of an expanding universe and then the discovery of the Cosmic Microwave background radiation (1965) Hoyle and Geoffrey Burbidge modified (1993) their SS model to incorporate cyclical periods of expansion and collapse, yet still an eternal universe–called the Quasi Steady State Creation (QSSC) cosmology. Continue reading