Image Credit:Victor De Schwanberg and Science Photo Library.

A team of theoretical physicists has proposed a new idea explaining how the universe burst into existence. According to their research, it's possible the universe was created by a collapsing fourth-dimensional star that ejected debris into the cosmos as it turned into a black hole. This, essentially, is the foundation on which the new theory exists - but it gets much cooler.

As it stands, the prevailing theory states the universe was born from an infinitely dense singularity through some currently unknown mechanism. Actually, the entire big bang event itself is entirely unknown. Our equations have yet to be complete enough to describe the moment of creation, a revelation physicists think will follow the discovery of the theory of everything (which scientists might be one-step closer to doing). Until then, what happened "before the big bang," the nature of the 'singularity' that caused the big bang, and the event itself will remain unknown without some major scientific breakthrough. At the moment, it's anyone's guess what happened. (Important side note: we have a lot of knowledge and experimental evidence talking about what happened immediately after the big bang, up to about 10^-35 or so seconds after the event, so our timeline for cosmology is still preserved.)

The standard big bang theory has some limitations and some serious problems. It's limitations are mostly summed up by our inability to mathematically or practically study the big bang singularity, as I mentioned before. On the flip side, the big bang theory doesn't really explain why the universe has a nearly uniform temperature (that's where inflation theory comes in, which suggests the universe went through a period of rapid, faster-than-light expansion in its early history).

 Reinventing The Wheel:

This new model is based on the slightly older idea that our universe is basically a three-dimensional membrane floating in a fourth-dimensional "bulk universe." That's the basic idea that's supporting this new model. The tenets for the new theory are as follows:

A rendering of a tesseract.
Image from Wikipedia
  • The "bulk universe" has fourth-dimensional stars that go through the same life cycle that our three-dimensional stars go through.
  • Just as with our stars, the stars in the bulk universe could go supernova and collapse into a black hole.
  • This is where things start to get really cool. Just as our three-dimensional black holes have event horizons that appear two-dimensional, it's plausible that the fourth-dimensional black holes have event horizons that appear three-dimensional.
  • This three-dimensional event horizon is knows as a hypersphere. This is the region of space in which our universe exists.

This new way of looking at the universe has some strong points in its favor. The model is able to explain the expansion of the universe and is able to describe the universe's nearly uniform temperature - with one (rather large) limitation. The model disagrees with observations made by the Planck telescope, which recently created the most detailed map we have of the cosmic microwave background. The hypersphere model has about a four percent discrepancy, which means the hypersphere needs to be refined before it'll gain any credence.

 Shedding New Light:

This new model could go a long way to helping us understand the nature of inflation. Currently, the only thing we really know about inflation is "it's happening." We don't know why or how, but the named mechanism for it is known as dark energy. The model proposes that inflation is caused by the universe's motion through higher dimensions of space.

It's important to note that the Arxiv paper where this study was published does not state whether the paper has been submitted for peer review (as of May 3rd, 2014, no additional clarification on this matter was found) . So, whereas the hypersphere idea is fantastic and fun, it has a long way to go before we can considered a viable hypothesis.

This theory and the big bang aren't the only ones dealing with the origin of the universe. Check out our articles on the big freeze, the universe having no beginning or end and conformal cyclic cosmology. Similarly, check out our article about how a 4D world might look.

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