XII. In With a Bang
Fourteen billion years ago there was nothing. No stars, no galaxies, no planets or people… then suddenly, without warning, everything exploded into existence. The Universe was born!............... BANG!”
This is the story we are told. There was nothing and “suddenly without warning” (who to warn by the way?) there was an explosion, a bang, a Big Bang. How else can the Universe be explained? And immediately we are falling into traps, cultural educational, intellectual as I mentioned before in “Toys for Boys”.
This theory was first described by Georges Lemaître in 1924. It is rather unsurprising, in a world still scarred by the shrapnel, shelling, and deafening sound of explosions, a world being reconstructed from the horrors of trench warfare, a world where the Nobel Prize was subsidised by TNT and dynamite royalties, that an explosion would have to be the flavour of the month if not the decade. Everyone could understand it, read about it, hear of it and millions of survivors had first hand (and often lack of limb) contact of its power. On the next two decades explosions got technologically bigger and deadlier and that “marketing” fact helped to cement the gruesome beauty of the theory, which basically says to horrified Humans “Well this is the biggest explosion ever but instead of destroying everything, it created Everything!” Who will not buy into this beautiful concept, full of redemption, even today?
The standard image we have is a voice talking over a dark screen (image of nothing) and after a few seconds the voice stops and this enormous pyrotechnical fantasy reaches our eyes and deafens our ears… a big explosion! The beginning of Everything. It is always “14 billion years ago there was nothing”... I have a “little” problem, first with the figure “14 billion years” and then with the word nothing. Because there is no such thing, there was no such thing. 14 billion years ago there was Nothing. And that is something. You see that dark screen can never be nothing, can never represent something before we start our stopwatch. The fact that there is nothing to see and no time (ac)counting it does not mean that time is not flowing and space is nonexistent. It is and it exists. Even if it is Nothing.
The Big Bang could have never existed as generally described on this programme. Because there was Nothing, light and radiation remained invisible, undetected, as you can only see light when you observe it and when light hits matter. You can see the sun or television because the photons generated by it reached your eye and gracefully “die” to give you an image. You can only see what hits you. Nothing has no matter, so light would run through it invisible. Even if all the matter of the Universe was formidably created in a fraction of time, light could not have escaped that enormous density to be captured by an hypothetical observer standing on Nothing. I am not even going to delve in the idealistic philosophy of George Berkeley saying that things only exist when you perceive or observe them, the “when a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound?” question, but one thing is for sure, there was no sound at all in the Big Bang. None! Zilch!
I have to admit that an introduction to a TV programme with 3 minutes of black screen and no sound would look awkward specially if you called it “The Big Bang”. It would have been more accurate though.
So, to recapitulate, the Big Bang was not big and had no bang. Should we try something else?