“Despite its name, the big bang theory is not really a theory of a bang at all. It is really only a theory of the aftermath of a bang.” -Alan Guth
Did the Universe begin with the Big Bang? When we discovered the cosmic microwave background, and its properties matched exactly the prediction of the Big Bang theory, it was a watershed moment for cosmology. For the first time, we had uncovered the origins to the entire Universe, having learned where all of this came from at long last. Emerging from a hot, dense, expanding, and cooling state, the matter-and-radiation-filled early Universe gave rise to everything we see today.
If you look farther and farther away, you also look farther and farther into the past. The earlier you go, the hotter and denser, as well as less-evolved, the Universe turns out to be. Image credit: NASA / STScI / A. Felid.
Except there were a few pesky problems that the Big Bang couldn’t explain. If the Universe truly emerged from an arbitrarily hot, dense state, and if space and time themselves were born at that exact moment, the Universe would have signatures that we simply don’t see. Instead, theorists came ...