Quantum Gravity and the Beginning of the Universe
by Ted Flint
General relativity is one of the most tested and confirmed scientific theories and requires that there be an absolute beginning to all space, matter, time, and energy. We have an excellent understanding of what has happened since the Big Bang – except for the first tiny fraction of a second. In this first miniscule amount of time, it is believed that all the fundamental forces are unified into one grand force. The problem is that we haven’t been able to figure out how this happens with gravity. We can unify electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces using quantum mechanics, but we can’t get gravity and quantum mechanics to mesh. We also don’t expect to be able to get observations to help us do this because the energy required to simulate this era of the universe is way too high for any current or foreseeable particle accelerator to study. At this point, there is no possibility of direct observational verification of the quantum gravity era. Does this fact that we haven’t figured out what happened in the first 10-43 seconds of the universe mean we can’t say that the universe had an absolute beginning?
Because we can’t directly observe the conditions of the early universe, we have to fall back on theoretical mathematical models to try to determine what went on. Many have been purposed, but because this falls into the unobservable area of physics, called meta-physics, it is difficult to say which one is correct. Skeptics of an absolute beginning to the universe have used this fact, that the first 10-43 seconds of the universe lie in the meta-physical realm, to call into question the conclusions of general relativity. They will say that it is just as likely that the universe is eternal and therefore can’t know if the universe had an absolute beginning. We have enough evidence to make this skeptical position untenable…
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