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Subject: Infinite number of universes after the big bang?

Date: Tue Apr 25 21:27:26 2000
Posted by Gordon
Grade level: undergrad School: No school entered.
City: Princeton State/Province: MN Country: USA
Area of science: Astronomy
ID: 956716046.As
Hi, I'm a first-year college student with an interest in science. I have a scientific/philosophical question. Is it possible that there were an infinite number of universes before this one that were born and destroyed in an endless cycle of Big Bangs and Big Crunches, and that there will be an infinite number of universes to follow this one? Is it theoretically possible that matter, time, and space are eternal? Also, as I understand it, it has recently been proven that neutrinos have some mass. Am I correct? Would that mass tip the universe in the direction of a Big Crunch? Thanks for answering my questions. It's all mind-boggling to contemplate, isn't it?

It's possible that there were a finite or even infinite number of Universes before ours, but it looks unlikely that there will be another one.

One theory states that our Big Bang was not unique. Perhaps there is some Universe outside our own, a metaverse, and ours was created when some quantum fluctuation zigged instead of zagged. Perhaps our own Universe is the mother to many such other baby Universes, which we cannot detect because they drop out of time and space when they are formed. The problem is, since these Universes are undetectable, there isn't anything we can say about them!

Recent studies have shown that our Universe is not only expanding, but the expansion is accelerating. Our Universe looks like it will expand forever, so as far as the future goes, we're it. There will be no recollapse. If that's true, it seems to me unlikely that there have been a large number of Universes before ours, because what're the odds we happen to live in the last one? But again, without observations there's nothing we can say about these other Universes. You can read more about the accelerating Universe at my own Bad Astronomy website, or at the Astronomy Magazine website. For a more detailed and technical explanation, try Ned Wright's Cosmology website.

The recent discovery that neutrinos have mass caused a flurry of excitement that perhaps they are the missing mass, but it turns out that they are not massive enough to reverse the expansion of the Universe. For more about this discovery and its ramifications, try the Super Kamioande web page, where the discovery was made, or specifically their page about cosmology.

©2008 Phil Plait. All Rights Reserved.

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