Before the Bang: Who Turned the Key?

Modern physics enables astrophysicists to calculate the size and density of the universe at any time in its 15-billion year history--right back to the big bang.

Scientists are very proud of this accomplishment. "Only the first 10-43 seconds remain obscure," notes a self-confident UW Astronomy Professor Bruce Margon.

But what happened before the big bang?

That stops Astronomy Chair Craig Hogan dead in his tracks.

"What, you're not greedy or anything, are you?," he asks with incredulity that anyone would not be satisfied to know what happened over 15 billion years after the big bang.

And then he pauses, thoughtfully:

"What happened before?," he muses. "No one could really know. All memory of that time is lost, everything from then is forgotten. That was a period of such catastrophic instability that it just doesn't remember what came before it. We probably could never find out, either. There just isn't any information left over from it."

Margon has addressed this question, too. As he told the Washington Post last year, "One would think that if someone has trouble reconciling religion with physics, they would like the big bang. It has beautiful elements of ultimate mystery.

"It is totally insoluble who turned the key." END

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