Mark A. Carter

BLACK HOLE birth of the Universe

World famous Canadian Science Fiction writer Mark A. Carter reprints an article from Science Daily courtesy of the Perimeter Institute and comments on how it relates to Joe Cooper's journey through a black hole as depicted in the film Interstellar. And it doesn't bode well for Joe Cooper and Amelia Brand.

The big bang poses a big question: if it was indeed the cataclysm that blasted our universe into existence 13.7 billion years ago, what sparked it? Three Perimeter Institute researchers have a new idea about what might have come before the big bang. It's a bit perplexing, but it is grounded in sound mathematics. But is it testable?

Before the Big Bang

Image courtesy of Perimeter Institute

August 7, 2014
Perimeter Institute

What we perceive as the big bang, they argue, could be the three-dimensional mirage of a collapsing star in a universe profoundly different than our own.

"Cosmology's greatest challenge is understanding the big bang itself," write Perimeter Institute Associate Faculty member Niayesh Afshordi, Affiliate Faculty member and University of Waterloo professor Robert Mann, and PhD student Razieh Pourhasan.

Conventional understanding holds that the big bang began with a singularity - an unfathomably hot and dense phenomenon of space-time where the standard laws of physics break down. Singularities are bizarre, and our understanding of them is limited.

"For all physicists know, dragons could have come flying out of the singularity," Afshordi says in an interview with Nature.

The problem, as the authors see it, is that the big bang hypothesis has our relatively comprehensible, uniform, and predictable universe arising from the physics-destroying insanity of a singularity. It seems unlikely.

So perhaps something else happened. Perhaps our universe was never singular in the first place.

Their suggestion: our known universe could be the three-dimensional wrapping around a four-dimensional black hole's event horizon. In this scenario, our universe burst into being when a star in a four-dimensional universe collapsed into a black hole.

In our three-dimensional universe, black holes have two-dimensional event horizons. That is, they are surrounded by a two-dimensional boundary that marks the point of no return. In the case of a four-dimensional universe, a black hole would have a three-dimensional event horizon.

In their proposed scenario, our universe was never inside the singularity; rather, it came into being outside an event horizon, protected from the singularity. It originated as, and remains, just one feature in the imploded wreck of a four-dimensional star.

The researchers emphasize that this idea, though it may sound absurd, is grounded firmly in the best modern mathematics describing space and time. Specifically, they've used the tools of holography to "turn the big bang into a cosmic mirage." Along the way, their model appears to address long-standing cosmological puzzles and crucially produce testable predictions.

Of course, our intuition tends to recoil at the idea that everything and everyone we know emerged from the event horizon of a single four-dimensional black hole. We have no concept of what a four-dimensional universe might look like. We don't know how a four-dimensional parent universe itself came to be.

But our fallible human intuitions, the researchers argue, evolved in a three-dimensional world that may only reveal shadows of reality.

They draw a parallel to Plato's allegory of the cave, in which prisoners spend their lives seeing only the flickering shadows cast by a fire on a cavern wall.

"Their shackles have prevented them from perceiving the true world, a realm with one additional dimension," they write. "Plato's prisoners didn't understand the powers behind the sun, just as we don't understand the four-dimensional bulk universe. But at least they knew where to look for answers."

Journal Reference:
1. Razieh Pourhasan, Niayesh Afshordi, Robert B. Mann. Out of the White Hole: A Holographic Origin for the Big Bang. arXiv, 2014.

Perimeter Institute. "The black hole at the birth of the Universe." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 August 2014. <>.

So, as I see it, in Interstellar, when astronaut Joe Cooper slipped over the event horizon of the black hole known as Gargantua, he underwent what British astrophysicist Sir Martin Rees coined as spaghettification. In other words, Joe Cooper would have become a stream of subatomic particles swirling into the black hole. He simply could not survive the tidal pressure of the singularity within. But even if he did survive, he would not be the same Coop that we saw earlier. He would not be able to have the endearing scene with his daughter Murphy on her death bed. He could not steal a spacecraft from Cooper Station orbitting Saturn and reenter the wormhole to join Amelia Brand on the world she now inhabited alone. According to this latest theory coming out of the Perimeter Institute, a three dimensional being passing over a two dimensional event horizon would turn into a two dimensional being as flat as paper. And there goes the potential Adam and Eve romance. Pop.

Read: Center of a Black Hole
Falling down a Black Hole
Magnetars should freak you out
Tachyons and Big Bangs

Now you know.

from the imagination of Mark A. Carter - writer

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