What Caused the Big Bang?

Published by Tony Darnell on 26th Jan, 2011

For almost one hundred years, we have known that the universe is expanding. We have traced this expansion back in time, through to the very beginning when the universe occupied an infinitesimal point in space. This was the state of the universe at time t=0, over 13 billion years ago.

It is from this starting point that everything we are familiar with came into existence: protons, neutrons, stars, galaxies - even space and time itself are here. At time t=0, this point began an unprecedented inflation, in this instant time and space were born. This event has become known as the Big Bang.

The big bang is our current, most accepted theory for how the universe began. It was inspired by the discovery that the universe is expanding.

It was an unusual and highly counterintuitive event. It was not an explosion, it did not occur inside anything, rather, everything that we are familiar with: left, right, up, down, cause and effect, the stage for all physical laws, was getting larger.

We possess a natural curiosity of the world around us. We want to know how and why things are the way they are.

This curiousity has served us well because it carries significant survival benefits. If we see an event and ask ourselves why it happened or what caused it, we are more likely to spot a threat before it becomes dangerous in the future.

Our curiosity gives us the ability to look beyond the present moment. From it, we have evolved an urge to look for causes, it is an inseparable part of our biology. Because of this, we really can't help ourselves when we attempt to find a cause for creation, it is second nature for us to ask, 'What Caused the Big Bang?'

Any answer to this problem must begin with a key realization: both time and space are contained within the universe and came into existence only AFTER the Big Bang occurred. The cause of the universe must not include them, they are not available to us. It must come from outside our experience.

In this realm, the solution, whatever it is, will seem very strange to us, and it will almost certainly make no sense to our brains because here, it is possible to have an event with no cause. There is no time, there is no before in which the Big Bang could have occurred, there simply is no cause and effect.

We must somehow come up with a solution that exists outside time and space.

GOD MADE IT HAPPEN

For many "God caused the big bang" is a perfectly reasonable response. This seems to help many cope with the unsatisfying prospect of an event without a cause.

The problem of course is that one is then immediately forced to ask, "From where did the creator come?"

If the answer is "he always existed" then we have a situation, from a causality standpoint, that is no more satisfying than a universe that springs forth from nothing. A creator that has always existed is an entity that somehow exists without a cause.

So this answer doesn't solve the causality issue whatsoever.

THIS UNIVERSE IS ONE OF MANY

Further, the idea of cyclical universes doesn't solve it either.

For reasons having to do with entropy and the second law of thermodynamics the process of an ever cycling universe - one that continually expands and contracts - cannot be perfectly efficient. This means that each successive expansion will take a little longer than the previous one.

If each previous universe is, say, half as long as the one that succeeds it, and the one before that half as long, this infinite sum does eventually converge to a universe with zero length with no obvious past and we are back again to at least one big bang starting for no obvious reason.

OUR BIOLOGY BETRAYS US

The real problem with this question of what caused the big bang is ultimately a biological one; our brains have evolved to assume that everything has a cause, we can't imagine any event ever not having one.

But 100 years ago, we couldn't imagine that our galaxy was only one in an ocean of one hundred billion. 200 years ago, we couldn't imagine that the stars were more than 13,000 light years away. 500 years ago, we couldn't imagine that the Earth revolved around the Sun. If our past enquiries into the universe are any guide, the truth of the cosmos is always more than we have imagined.

The answer to the cause of the universe will almost certainly be something strange and, by definition, wholly beyond our experience. Our occluded brains must always be open the answer, especially when asking questions that push the limits of our capacity to understand.

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Comments

Wow all the answers to my questions were solved withthe realisation that we still have alot to discover and nothing is off the table?
Jonny jakes - 8th Jun, 2016
So space in the sense of an empty void did not exist prior to the Big Bang? Then what is the universe expanding into? That the sum total of matter and energy within the range of current human perception may be expanding outwardly is entirely plausible. But to state that empty space came into existence at a certain point, along with time-an intangible temporal parameter-appears like a dubious and mystical assertion. For one thing it poses the question, what is non-space and what is non-time? If universe is deemed to be a term that encompasses "everything" then it must take that into account. In terms of the chart/graphic used to illustrate this, the area outside the graphic.
Joe Hansem - 11th Jun, 2016
Can anyone answer Joe Hansem's questions? What is the universe expanding into and what is none space and non time? I've struggled with these question s for years.
Paul Brophy - 4th Jul, 2016
I don't think anyone can answer Joe Hansem's questions because all we know are the space and time that we are part of. Our biology and mind are subject to space and time and explaining what is "outside" of these two measures is impossible for us. However, the fact that we ask these questions in the first place is indicative of some kind of answer which, in my humble opinion, exists but we can't comprehend it in rational terms. It's beyond our imagination because we can only imagine space and time. Therefore, whatever the answer is, it must be part of a system outside everything we know or are made of. It thus becomes a matter of belief.
Mourad Zerroug - 10th Jul, 2016
I do not think anyone can answer 'The question'. When I try to imagine non-space prior big-bang I feel my brain cannot tolerate my torture anymore.
Chinthaka Wijayaweera - 13th Jul, 2016
The "First Something", whatever it was, has no cause. It was eternal. Many scientists once believed the Universe was the eternal, included, First Something (e.g., Eddington, Einstein). But we now know it "began". If beginnings do not happen without a cause, then something that transcends the Universe itself caused the Universe to begin. An eternal, uncaused, all powerful, "Mind" is a plausible option.
Phil N. - 5th Aug, 2016
The universe is not expanding into anything; that is the whole point. It is an expansion OF space, not an expansion in space.
bluesky - 12th Aug, 2016
I know there wasn't any space and time before the big bang. What my thoughts about this matter are that there could have been energy before the big bang which caused the big bang. Energy is always there, now and even then. But I still cannot answer what is non-space and non-time
Jondipan jatunga - 16th Aug, 2016
The laws of physics allow something to be created from nothing. But that means that the laws of physics had to exist before the big bang. So i am confused.
Charles - 12th Sep, 2016
If the Universe is infinite, then why wouldn't time be infinite? Why would there just be one big bang? There may have been an infinite amount of big bangs. Does time begin at each big bang? Does it end when matter spreads too far apart and our perception of "nothingness" takes over? Or is the period of "nothingness" considered part of time? If we travel beyond the farthest reaches of light that occurred from our big bang and continue through the region of "nothingness", will we eventually reach light generated from a different big bang? Now are we part of another measure of time? If space is truly infinity does that make it impossible for time to exists?
Jeff Pelkey - 21st Sep, 2016
What is matter and energy expanding into? what is beyond the universe or multipurse? if it happens in the future that we are able to travel beyond our universe and let us assume there is only one universe, are we not going into a void? Isn't that void a space? .Isnt space synonymous with vacuum beyond the matter,whole matter in the univere.?
lekoona - 25th Sep, 2016
Maybe there is something beyond the physical universe that our senses are unable to detect. We believe the physical universe exists only because our senses are reporting this to our brains. What if something exists beyond our sense perceptions? What if this is only the most recent Big Bang? And some unseen force is constantly creating or becoming the universe and then withdrawing it. Like a breathing cycle. We always assume that the Big Bang was the only one ever, but it may only have been the most recent.
Norman Scherer - 26th Sep, 2016
This is deep. Our natural biology dictates that every thing that has a begining has an end. Natural science attests to this fact. How ever, in order for one to fully digest this all consuming subject of the begining of everything that we can and can not see, one has to somehow seek answers elesewhere. We are being limited by religion, science and philosphy. Its at this point that i realise that mankind is insignificant in this whole drama. Maybe our universe is just a simple science project in a glass container of a young alien of sorts. But this again is giving me a head ache. It just raises more tougher questions than answers. I end here.
Ernest sianga - 28th Sep, 2016
f you ask me the thing that triggered the big bang is the coration of atoms, in an atom all the mass of the atom is in the nucleus yet it is the smallest part of the atom. If there was a pin in the midle of the bigest stadium, if the head of the pin was the nucleus the first shell would be the outside of the nucleus (That means the gravitational pull must be massive). If at the begining of time It was all just the mass in one plase it would be incredibly small just as the big bang sujests the formation of atoms would massively make it expand causing the big bang. Also it would explane black holes a bit move because of the massive gravitational pull in small quantitys could well cause a black hole. This is Tom Greenfield. Please reply to the coment and don't hesitate to prove me wrong.
tom - 19th Nov, 2016
I'm glad that your website found me.I've had a million questions about our universe.Well one of your commenters stated that Physics laws existed always even before the Big Bang. Thus the potential for our universe was there without time existing. There was no space or void or empty space til matter began to occupy it.I can't believe that there was a vacuum but,a Physics professor I had 50 years ago told me that nature abhors a vacuum. That's the only answer I've came across that puts my mind at ease. It doesn't revel an answer but I may never get a satisfactory it. So I must say everyone just keep pressing ahead. Someone will figure out a TOE. I'm trusting that your friend Tom!
Thomas Patterson - 28th Nov, 2016
If there is no time yet before the big bang, doesn't that mean that the big bang should not be happenning at all? What is happening outside the universe?
Yan arie motinggo - 4th Dec, 2016
That matter can come from nothing is plausible, this can happen by simply reversing anti-matter to matter. It sounds skeptical but this can be understood just like in black holes where matter disappears. This could be the break through to explaining the big bang theory.
maisiba - 13th Dec, 2016
May be question to ask is "why did the Big Bang occur" focussing away from any notion of space and time.
Vijay - 14th Dec, 2016
"The cause of the universe must not include [time and space]... It must come from outside our experience. In this realm... it is possible to have an event with no cause." By your own admission, the cause has to exist, and it has to exist in a "realm... where there is simply no cause and effect," Yet when provided with a solution that meets all of your requirements, you dismiss it, saying "From where did the creator come?" Did it occur to you that the creator comes from a realm where there is no cause and effect?
Isaac Ferguson - 15th Dec, 2016
By stating that the universe is expanding you must also infer that there is some type of "barrier" being pushed as it does so. What is beyond the point that the universe has not yet expanded to? Perhaps if we are able to meet, keep up with, and then exceed the speed at which it is expanding we can find our answer out "there"?
Ash Scott - 20th Dec, 2016
Time and space do not exist. We as humans have to make up the concept of time and space to try to figure something out or measure it's existence. Thus we are only holding back our minds and putting a cap on the possibilities. Take time and space out of the equation and you'll have your answer.
Richard J. Granger Jr. - 20th Dec, 2016
I love your information. It really helped me do my project on the Big Bang Theory.
John Smith - 31st Dec, 2016
If aithiests believe there is something beyond space and time that our minds can't comprehend than why do they refuse to believe in God? God isn't IN existence he IS existence and infinitely more.
Rafi Weinstein - 2nd Jan, 2017
Time can happen outside of the big bang it just wouldn't affect anything right? Or does time need matter to perceive it? I'm confused. If time is only made by matter than how would the big bang happen. It would need a specific time to happen yet all matter didn't exist before it so...Universe=Paradox
John Smith - 3rd Jan, 2017
If Big Bang marks the beginning of all space, time, and energy, and that the universe emerged from absolutely nothing, then how indeed could there have been a cause? I have recently published an eBook titled: A Theory of Everything, subtitled: From Absolutely Nothing to Sentience. This is the very first publication of a model which describes the universe as having emerged from absolutely nothing - yet had a cause.
Marc Tiltman - 14th Jan, 2017
The answer to this question can only be known by knowing the one who asks. We are not separate from the universe; we are not entities on the outside looking in. We are the substance and being of the universe itself. Even if one were to be told the final meaning of all things, the question would remain: ”who is it that now knows?" The consciousness that even now reads this writing is inconceivable. It is beyond imagination. The answer to every question lies not without; it lies within. Who is it that reads these words? What is this moment? Look inwards to the nature of your own being. This is the path of enlightenment. For those who wish to follow this path, you need only read the Buddha's original words.
Muchi of the mountains - 15th Jan, 2017
Time is basically the ability for something to change. Without time, nothing can change. For time comes in moments, each moment is like a frame in a movie. If there were no frames (or just one frame), then no changes could be made. So if time didn't exist BEFORE the big bang, then how could the change be made to bring time INTO existence? Plus, how could there be a "before the big bang" if time didn't exist then? How can one say: "Time didn't exist at the time"? In general, if you start with time, as the first thing to be created in the universe, then it's all good. Because changes can be made, to add or remove objects from or to the universe. But if you do not start with time, but instead a singularity as mentioned in the big bang theory, then no changes can be made, not even the change to bring time into existence. Time's existence itself reveals many things to us.
Part Toon - 24th Jan, 2017
Could it simply be gravity like in a black hole just infinitely bigger and released it's energy not at high pressure more like a rip than a pin hole
John McMahon - 25th Jan, 2017
An interesting thing to keep in mind when contemplating the origin of the big bang is that an object's motion through space is interrelated to its passage through time. As Einstein showed us at the beginning of the 20th century, the faster one moves through space relative to some other object, the slower one's time passes relative to that other object. So if one were to reach the speed of light relative to some other object--which is mathematically and theoretically impossible--then one's time would have stopped. As Brian Green explains in his awesome book The Elegant Universe, we actually do move through four-dimensional space-time at the speed of light: our combined movement through the three spatial dimensions plus our passage through time add up to exactly the speed of light; therefore, moving faster in space takes away from one's passage through time and therefore slows one's passage through time down.
Joseph Huff - 20th Feb, 2017
What if some higher power ( maybe an alien race) that has massive computing power written a program to simulate our universe? What if we are just living in a machine and our consciousness is nothing more than bits of information? But then that would raise the same question,who created the universe of the alien race that created our universe? Maybe that alien race is also in some sort of computational simulation created by another powerful alien race? Then who created the universe in which those powerful alien race are in? Now all of a sudden, there's a simulation within a simulation. And the rate at which computational technology is developing right now, pretty soon there will be virtual reality games that are indistinguishable from reality, which means one day our human race would be able to create our own simulation of another universe. And then the entities in our simulation would develop and be able to create its own simulation, and so on.
michael - 21st Feb, 2017
To the author: I see your problem - your reasoning is faulty. You state "A creator that has always existed is an entity that somehow exists without a cause." Every effect has a cause. But no serious student of philosophy would ever submit that every cause has a cause. Common sense dictates that there must be a first cause, an uncaused cause, for which there is no prior cause. Otherwise, we would have an infinite regression of causes, and would not be here, today. Your primary assumption is faulty. Please revise and re-write the article. You will be surprised how much things change.
John Smith - 23rd Feb, 2017
I didn't specify that I am a Christian at first because I didn't want to be attacked :P Either way, the author's explanation for God's absence, I believe, was made out of misunderstanding of His (God's) true nature. God is infinite, and because He is infinite, He is infinite in every aspect, including space, time, knowledge, life, ability, power, presence, etc. Because He has infinite time, thus an infinite timeline, His infinite timeline spans infinitely in both directions of past and future. Because of this, He exists eternally. I'd explain it better, but there's a 1000 character limit.
Part Toon - 4th Mar, 2017
So what you are saying is that the blackness of space was created by the Big Band? I do understand how this could work if it weren't for the question, "What's outside the universe?" More blackness of space? But means that there is space that the Big Bang didn't create. So, that means there might be some kind of "anti-space." Be free to leave any comments.
Jake Stall - 10th Mar, 2017
Our brains doesn't want to accept the idea of an eternal and infinite being but sadly that's the truth. We are nothing but characters that can write their own stories and make their own decisions without the need of outside inputs. How do I know? If you were everything and knew everything what else could you do with your existence but to create something outside yourself. We are not that different from God, just like the characters we create aren't that different from us. Know yourself and you will know God. One day we will be like God and create characters with AI so advanced that they will be like us and it's because they are like us that we will create an infinite world in which they can't find us, then their will ask themselves the same question and come to the same conclusion. Live your life, do what's best for humanity and stop asking questions you already know the answers to..... or don't, I don't care.
Aidoneus - 11th Mar, 2017
If the big bang didn't create to known universe what New universe is it expanding to.
Bernard Gustavis - 17th Apr, 2017
Really it was a problem that I found in Big Bang which makes it useless but still it's a good theory .After working on it for last 3 months I think I have found an answer that can get rid off this question.If anyone is interested plz reply me or send me email shaiykhbhatarman@gmail.com or call me on this no 91+7006761663
Shaiykh bhat Arman ayoub - 12th May, 2017
The Big Bang: The Big Bang is the universe’s earliest known event i.e. earliest moments of the big bang and location of the big bang is- everywhere or every place in the universe. What powered the Big Bang…and what came before it? Answer of the question: At the time of beginning of the creation a part of the power of the Nature became divisible as a result of the big bang. More information of Big Bang at https://shahidurrahmansikder.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/big-bang/
Shahidur Rahman Sikder - 1st Jul, 2017
Perfect discussion, It just used science to prove god What do explain? Science How do everything began according to science? Big Bang!! What causes the big bang to happen? Everyone is quiet,then one will say "God" Not even science can say no to this,science cannot explain everything,but by simply having beliefs, it will calm our minds,"All begins with the big bang,big bang begins with God and everything is ended by God, the revelation isn't coming if we are not ready,there are so much to be done,Utopia is not even Made yet.it was us people who should move.
Vein Moose,a simple youtuber - 28th Aug, 2017