I will be talking at times about that which comes from beyond space and matter where there is no time. However, our language and our conceptual system does not allow us to speak or think outside of that. So I will have to “misuse”’ some words. For example, I will say “Before the Universe began,” but there was no “before” because there was no time – but I have to say something and since I don’t know what other word to use, I will have to say “before”!
Before the Universe began, there was spiritual existence and Allah. And exactly what Allah’s relationship is with the spiritual existence, I don’t think we know yet. But we know that beyond space and time, there is a spiritual existence and there is Allah.
Before the universe comes into existence, about 14-15 billion years ago, there was no space, no time and no matter. Then Allah chooses to create a singularity. Refer to Diagram 1. The dot ‘x’ represents the singularity. Though, in the diagram, the singularity dot looks extremely minute compared to the whole universe, in reality it is even tinier than that. A singularity is a point with no dimensions, meaning it has no size at all.
What is a singularity?
If the matter in the universe were spread uniformly, then it must have been infinitely compressed at the first moment. In other words, the entire cosmos would have been squeezed into a single point. At this point the gravitational force, and the density of material, were infinite. A point of infinite compression is known to mathematical physicists as a “singularity”.
Although one is led on quite elementary grounds to expect a singularity at the origin of the universe, it required a mathematical investigation of some delicacy to establish the result rigorously. This investigation was mainly the work of British mathematical physicists Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking. In a series of powerful theorems, they proved that a big-bang singularity is inevitable as long as gravity remains an attractive force under the extreme conditions of the primeval universe. The most significant aspect of their results is that a singularity isn’t avoided even if the cosmic material is distributed unevenly. It is a general feature of a universe described by Einstein’s theory of gravitation – or, for that matter, any similar theory.
There was a lot of resistance to the idea of a big-bang singularity among physicists and cosmologists when it was first mooted. One reason for this concerns the above-mentioned fact that matter, space, and time are linked in the general theory of relativity. This linkage carries important implications for the nature of the expanding universe. Naively, one might suppose that the galaxies are rushing apart through space. A more accurate picture, however, is to envisage space itself as swelling or stretching. That is, the galaxies move apart because the space between them expands. (Readers who are unhappy about the idea that space can stretch are referred to my book The Edge of Infinity for further discussion.) Conversely, in the past, space was shrunken. If we consider the moment of infinite shrunk, it must literally disappear, like a balloon that shrivels to nothing. And the all-important linkage of space, time, and matter further implies that time must disappear too. There can be no time without space. Thus the material singularity is also a space-time singularity. Because all our laws of physics are formulated in terms of space and time, these laws cannot apply beyond the point at which space and time cease to exist. Hence the laws of physics must break down at the singularity.
The picture that we then obtain for the origin of the universe is a remarkable one. At some finite instant in the past the universe of space, time, and matter is bounded by a space-time singularity. The coming-into-being of the universe is therefore represented not only by the abrupt appearance of matter, but of space and time as well.
The significance of this result cannot be overstressed. People often ask: Where did the big bang occur? The bang did not occur at a point in space at all. Space itself came into existence with the big bang. There is similar difficulty over the question: What happened before the big bang? The answer is, there was no “before”. Time itself began at the big bang. As we have seen, Saint Augustine long ago proclaimed that the world was made with time and not in time, and that is precisely the modern scientific position.
No space, no time, no matter
No matter how hard you try you will never be able to grasp just how tiny, how spatially unassuming, is a proton. It is just way too small.
A proton is an infinitesimal part of an atom, which is itself of course an insubstantial thing. Protons are so small that a little dib of ink like the dot on this ‘i’ can hold something in the region of 500,000,000,000 of them, or rather more than the number of seconds it takes to make half a million years. So protons are exceedingly microscopic, to say the very least.
Now imagine if you can (and of course you can’t) shrinking one of those protons down to a billionth of its normal size into a space so small that it would make a proton look enormous. Now pack into that tiny, tiny space about an ounce of matter. Excellent. You are ready to start a universe.
I’m assuming of course that you wish to build an inflationary universe. If you’d prefer instead to build a more old-fashioned, standard Big Bang universe, you’ll need additional materials. In fact, you will need to gather up everything there is – every last mote and particle of matter between here and the edge of creation – and squeeze it into a spot so infinitesimally compact that it has no dimensions at all. It is known as a singularity.
In either case, get ready for a really big bang. Naturally, you will wish to retire to a safe place to observe the spectacle. Unfortunately, there is nowhere to retire to because outside the singularity there is no where. When the universe begins to expand, it won’t be spreading out to fill a larger emptiness. The only space that exists is the space it creates as it goes.
It is natural but wrong to visualize the singularity as a kind of pregnant dot hanging in a dark, boundless void. But there is no space, no darkness. The singularity has no around around it. There is no space for it to occupy, no place for it to be. We can’t even ask how long it has been there – whether it has just lately popped into being, like a good idea, or whether it has been there for ever, quietly awaiting the right moment. Time doesn’t exist. There is no past for it to emerge from.
And so, from nothing, our universe begins.
Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything, pg 27-28