What Happened Before the Beginning?

What Happened Before the Beginning?

2010, Science  -   319 Comments
Ratings: 8.66/10 from 140 users.

Every cosmologist and astronomer agrees: our Universe is 13.7 billion years old. Using cutting-edge technology, scientists are now able to take a snapshot of the Universe a mere heartbeat after its birth.

Armed with hypersensitive satellites, astronomers look back in time to the very moment of creation, when all the matter in the Universe exploded into existence. It is here that we uncover an unsolved mystery as old as time itself - if the Universe was born, where did it come from? Meet the leading scientists who have now discovered what they believe to be the origin of our Universe, and a window into the time before time.

The big bang theory holds that the entire universe was once packed tightly into an unimaginably dense and tiny space, known as a "singularity." That is, until roughly 13.7 billion years ago, when a colossal burst of energy and pressure started to give rise to entire worlds, galaxies and interstellar particles, forming the universe as we know it today.

But what brought about that big bang? Physicists are left scratching their heads at that question. Since the universe began on such a tiny level, the laws of relativity don't fully apply. Instead, quantum theory, which deals with the lawless and bizarre world of the very small, must also be summoned.

Successfully answering the question of what existed before the big bang would require bridging the gap between the so-far mutually incompatible worlds of relativism and quantum mechanics. But even though that bridge has yet to be constructed, theories abound.

"Our universe could have either popped into existence or collided with another universe," theoretical physicist Michio Kaku told scienceline.org. "Big Bangs happen all the time."

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Jeff Pulver
4 years ago

Easy, not the first big bang.
How can something come from nothing?...if by nothing you mean to say, the absence of anything, then nothing can come from nothing.
So, obviously since something has come from somewhere, that something being the big bang came from a big crunch. Just as the universe cycles through itself all the way down to the smallest nucleus, everything cycles then recycles.
I don't understand the conundrum, it's the only thing that makes one lick of sense

Charles Talley
5 years ago

The Big Bang Shattered Absolute Zero.

5 years ago

Wow! How can I screw up there and their exactly wrong so easily and often ;) If I said it is just to irritate the haters, I'd be lying. Unless of course it is God's hand doing it, hahahah.

5 years ago

In the description: "Every cosmologist and astronomer agrees: our Universe is 13.7 billion years old." --That is the first tell that they are not concerned with even trying to be truthful. They are more concerned with convincing there is consensus, so if you aren't sure or disagree, you are supposedly "going against everyone". That is just another psycho trick with a lot of empirical science behind it called propaganda. It works often enough, so they use it. That is actual science.

Faith in science is when you believe what the "white coated or authoritative sounding fellows" make up, for money, which then they claim is a Theory, rather than a guess, to make it sound more credible, so people will listen.

It is rather odd that people who have so much faith in science THEORIES, several of which have already been disproved (those just don't know it yet), scoff at faith.

They also say follow the money regarding religion. Also excellent advice regarding so called science. Which could be called science fiction until it is proven.

By the way, there is another theory of the cosmos which requires No black holes which were made up to account for something their favored theory could not. Is it a better theory? Seems to be, since it seems much simpler. If you go back a theory or two and pick a better more accurate theory for how the planets actually move, then you don't need to invent black holes to adjust for the error in the theory you chose.

Yet people suck up what cannot easily be disproved or if someone authoritative sounding says it.

I will never forget a particular chemistry professor. He was fresh out of a prestigious university. He only said a couple things I thought were worth remembering. "I'm gonna go blind!" after a laser he'd been walking in front of for minutes finally clipped him in the eye so he finally saw what we were all chuckling about. Humor it good.

The other far more important was what most professors FAIL at. He stated, "This is only what we think we know at this time, it will likely change."

That is the absolute modern history of science on earth, that what we are convinced of today ...changes tomorrow. Yet people have faith in those Theories.

Much like people having faith that Stocks always going up over the long haul, reference the Dow or SP500. The reality is, they keep changing those indexes, in order for that to happen.

People tell themselves all sorts of things to feel better about what they believe: "I'm making money, therefore I'm successful, so its ok if I lie a little, since I prefer to believe it anyway." Or in the case of certain types, "kill a little or a lot." And now more than I have ever seen in my many years, "The ends justify the means." So we have people in one group thinking they can justify killing people in another group. Or lying about them, if they cannot kill them and get away with it.

Right about now would be a good time for some actual global warming to kick in like they have been lying about for so long. Since a colder period is creeping upon us. If you live long enough, they will claim global cooling is going to devastate the planet as the next warmer period is about to crawl in ...just like they did many years ago. That is what scientists do to science. Much like too many preachers do to God.

If science or faith in science came into existence with theXX a Big Bang, so did faith in God.

If a person cannot tell they are more than their sum of parts ...or desire to deny that, then they are lost and are needy of something to make them comfy about it, which is science. The funny thing is, their ability to deny ...SHOULD show them that they are more than their parts ...except they are too busy denying and distracting themselves with so called science.

What would you think of so called scientists, who get paid via your tax dollars to be scientists, who claim the earth is warming by looking at old computer models which have been proven wrong years ago, way wrong, yet still talk up that wrong like it was a right tasty dish and would lose money and eventually their job if they didn't?

What of any propagandized supposed consensus agreement? If I am right about something, I certainly don't give a rip who agrees and who doesn't. Yet science has shown that many people will change there opinion to agree with the group. Meaning people are too easily manipulated into joining the crowd. People are indoctrinated into not rocking the boat they are in. What if their is treasure beneath them?

8 years ago

Yes, well why Is it not possible that the 'universe', i.e. everything that 'is', that 'exists', is primary and infinite, and always has been? I understand the mythologies of the past that existed for ages before this amazing awareness we now possess, when there were many reasons to posit a 'creator', a 'being' who 'created' all that they perceived out of 'nothing'...... whatever that could mean. How much nothing does it require to create something? Would a 'creator' not have to have a creator in turn?

Other concepts I can't seem to grasp either, such as 'inflation', as it pertains to the early universe...... I know I am woefully uninformed regarding so much, but is there any concrete evidence to support these ideas or are they rather theories with some good arguing points?

8 years ago

Very fascinating theories. After watching so many space and physics documentaries, you end up hearing the same stuff. But this was quite fresh. I only wish they went deeper in to the theory, and explained in more detail, especially the logic behind some of the claims and descriptions.

Why two membranes, or are there more? Why 7 dimensions? How about some superficial descriptions and key points behind the math? Stuff like that would be very juicy indeed.

8 years ago

Why am i listening to pirates of the Caribbean in a space doc?

8 years ago

I'm not a fan of morgan freeman for space videos. It's like he just reads a script. Of course he doesn't really understand the profundities of it, thus he can't present it like Neil Tyson can, or even like any passionate scientists ever interviewed in a space documentary can.

ChicagoRevo Godzilla
9 years ago

What a bunch of bulls**t! Entertaining though.

9 years ago

The biggest thing we can glean from studying everything about the why and how life and the universe exists, is simply so far that we do not know!

Yet, as humans we are compelled by our curiosity to know the answers to these questions and so we search the mysterious cosmos to see if the answer is out there.

The fact is that the universe and life does exist at least to our senses and so the question still remains why all this as opposed to nothing? And if we did come from nothing then why do we not at least have a remembrance of that coming from nothing into existence?

I just tend to feel for myself there is a reason for everything including an ultimate purpose for humanity and the universe that is beyond our understanding at this time. If there is I am sure we will find it when we shed our earthly shell body at death.

No one really knows for sure and that is ok to admit this.

10 years ago

24:25 "There is a conventional wisdom in the field and people are very slow to adopt new ideas, and frankly many people have built their careers on the status quo, and they don't want a new idea coming along and rocking the boat." - Neil Turok.

This, together with knowledge filtering (the very act of deciding what information is relevant) creates a scope within which Science is practised. Cosmology, as much as I love it, is theory built upon theory, decorated with postulates and conjecture. These philosophical postulates and conjectures are the attempt to undo the limitations of scope, implemented by Science.

Science, therefore, without philosophical enquiry is blinkered and restrained. Good Science can be Great Science when not so constrained. Without Philosophy, Science would quickly stagnate in its institutions, through proposals of rigid axioms. Philosophy may not be a Natural Science ...Philosophy, instead, is the air with which Science breathes.

I can not think of another area where Science and Philosophy come together so well, as they do in Cosmology.

Gordon Giroux
10 years ago

i dont think the theory is right. i think what they think started the whole universe was just the explosion of a super massive black hole, a cycle that goes on forever.

10 years ago

Any scientist who still subscribes to the moon landing, has little credibility and must be viewed with scepticism. Elements of political posturing in the program were also a turn off (what an earth has the South African apartheid regime got to do with anything?)

10 years ago

Awesome, informative presentation ^_^

10 years ago

so what have caused the Big Bang to explode? Something must have caused to explode? To every action there is always a reaction.
can someone explain..i really dont undrstand.

11 years ago

Cosmology is based on huge extrapolations and has minimal relation to the experimental physics. That's why for the most part it is not even science. I don't recommend anyone especially in science take seriously statements that "every cosmologists and astronomer agrees that the age of universe is...". Cosmology is an approximation to science and probably never be science since cannot be tested for the most part. There are alternatives to the traditional big bang theories and most cosmologists and astronomers know about that. I am not a particular believer in one or another beautiful cosmological construction, and I don't kneel before complex cosmological equations)) I repeat, it is not science!

Bilbo Baggins
11 years ago

Excellent doc.

11 years ago

In the determination that the data from the wmap how was it determined that the microwaves received were not from super nova explosions or some other explosions? As I find it very hard to believe that remnants from the supposed big bang could be detected from an event that is said to have occurred billions of years ago in a universe that is still expanding while maintaining that the universal speed limit is the speed of light, thereby the universe would have to be both finite and a whole lot smaller than is commonly accepted at present or the speed of light speed limit is just so much nonsense which is where I tend to lean toward as the gravity of a singularity overcomes light speed as light cannot escape from it, therefore as has been stated it accelerates everything within its grasp beyond the speed of light! Honestly, which lie is the truth?

11 years ago

I find it hard to enjoy these brane world and multiple dimension theories because they are just in the imagination of these scientists they don't have any proof to back it up! its like not even science anymore if all they can do is imagine

11 years ago

What are the black matters made off?? If there is force between the branes then what is the particle creating that force? What is the space between the branes made off? Does some one know about it?

12 years ago

From the comments ranging from the Monotheist God perspective to the "BIG BANG Singularity" opinion you can see how the perversion in thought that is Judeo-Christian contemplation has seriously screwed up logical thinking in the world. Science seriously entertaining a theory that can never be proven and only works in mathematical calculations shows how the linear thinking of Christianity has been a determent to scientific though in the western world. Science in the west arose out of the Dark Age Christian mind and to think that that thought process did not have an influence in the later Renaissance is detrimental to understanding "Truth". Want a better picture of the universe and theories on reality, get rid of the Creator, Linear, Christian view of the universe in science and maybe we could get somewhere.

12 years ago

Look up Nassim Haramein's work, very interesting.

12 years ago

Big Bang here Big Bang there..... it's becoming the new Dogma on which a new religion will be build and the others have to adapt to it or disappear....
sounds like samo old BS story to me....
What about the Universe is infinite, yes, 13.7 billion years ago there might have been an event still affecting things tday, but hey!!! let's go easy...

12 years ago

whatever is our reality and experience is the only truth we need. we all are limited to personal experience after all. even the greatest mind in the world! love this series!! :0

12 years ago

I love how people think there must be a beginning and who or what created the first what :) with infinity there is no beginning , or end. there was no original anything because everything always was and always will be. so relax and enjoy the ride!! :)

sunil kumar
12 years ago

entire universe was once packed tightly into an unimaginably dense and tiny space, known as a “singularity.”

Singuality ? how it came to existence ? who packed the entire universe into unimaginably dense and tiny space ? Is it packed by it self ?

This imaginable thing only possible only if there exists supreme being whom we call God.

World lets seek God , seek Truth.

12 years ago

The one problem i find with the big bang and other theories like it is where did the original singularity come from? Scientific law states that something can't be created out of nothing so the possibility of a singularity existing is zero based upon what we know today.

12 years ago

what i get from this doc is: strange kind of men exist in this world that prefer talking about parallel universes,big bangs,relativism etc instead of women,cars or soccer when they come together..

Terry Canam
12 years ago

The seven other dimentions in M theory dont neccesarily need to be so small we can't see them, they could be so large we dont notice them ...

Typing while watching :P, M theory might explain the ignition of our reality, but it only pushes the idea of origins a little further away. What did the two branes that collided contain before they brought us into existance? Is this another example of symmetry in our universe/reality, a universe/antiunverse realaity/antireality?

12 years ago

Morgan Freeman, you are wise.

12 years ago

wow i never realized all the physicists and mathematicians come here to debate ...ppl with opinions claiming facts and knowledge are hypocrites

12 years ago

There is very little evidence for the BB - the CMB would be there from almost any origin - it's just a diffuse energy throughout space. The acceleration (which is probably wrong) provides no evidence of a BB. Inflation? it's ridiculous. Even Hubble didn't believe in the expansion.

12 years ago

D-K qoute: "there is a difference between evidence and proof"

I completely agree. It is very difficult to prove anything. Even somewhat basic concepts in science are revised and possibly discarded based on new knowledge and technologies. I would agree that the scientific laws are very near to the concept of "truth".

However, continuously arguing over the nature of the creation of the universe is what the Greeks would have called hubris. I really don not get the rabid arguments from either side especially since I'm sure none of you really have a dog in the race (ie you're not a career astrophysicist or a member of the clergy).

My point is: get over yourself. Those of us who are truly open-minded are sick and tired of being made heretics by both sides of the debate. Face the facts people - we don't know nothin'. It is ALL speculation, a story, a guess, and yes you have to have faith to believe in either argument. The point is to be open to new information and points of view, not to criticize someone who disagrees with your perception of "how things really are." This is the only way that we will evolve past the disagreements and petty arguments that stifle us from getting into space and exploring things that we can realistically wrap our heads around - like the nearby planets.

Just imagine if we all spent the time that we normally spend arguing and instead did something that would result in the donation of time and/or money to an effort to expand our space program. Of course that might require a bit more enlightenment on all of our parts.

12 years ago

@ Frank (2nd comment).. Uh, its called a narrator? And why, may i ask, do you find Morgan Freeman an incompetent speaker?

Has he not an impressive track record?...

Has he not won several Academy awards?...

If you truly want to make a statement, do so with solid, logical, well built reason. I think I speak for most of us, by saying that Mr. Morgan Freeman is a truly fascinating man with a remarkable knack for explaining scientific research in a way the general public can- and will- understand; and that,in the event of his death, the world would lose one of the greatest actors ever know to man!

12 years ago

the membrane theory is a lot for a non-science person like myself to understand, and im sure they were only going over its simple concepts ... ignorance is bliss.

im going to stick to the 3 or 4 dimensional big bang theory explanation opposed to the 11 dimensioned string theory based understanding

Billy Bingbong
12 years ago

A singularity pops into existence from no-where and no-when. I'm sorry but that is just silly

12 years ago

Well, Laurie, you've done a fantastic job of making us Canadians look absolutely insane. I have, however, learned something from you here today; I will NOT put my onions or potatoes in the fridge.
*LOL @ emanuel*

12 years ago

I just watched this documentary( i always look for achems comments for insight) and WOW i am blown away...Work today was miserable because i was up till 5am thinking about the big bang and this tantalizing M theory.

Pot+outerspace= Yes please!

13 years ago

Lol that South African guy (who sounded more English) looks like Tony Blair...

13 years ago

Also, I noticed that I am all over the "commented" section of Vlatko's blog...

I am monopolizing the conversation. That makes me boorish and crude...

I am just shooting things out here to distract myself from the pain...

I will go away now... sorry...

13 years ago

I don't know, was any of that interesting to anyone?

I was told by a 14 year old that I was old and boring... right now, I certainly believe that to be true...

13 years ago

As I have said before and as Epicurus stated above, Zero Point Energy and Perpetual Motion look good on paper!

The equations LOOK solid, but it just does not work in the real world. Many, many scientists have tried it, including Edison, who was kind of a whack-job... trying to make a phone to talk to the dead...

But, he did direct the very first movie version of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" so...

He's got that goin' on...

13 years ago

Here is something interesting... as it seems quiet right now, and as I read, "Cat's Cradle".. by Kurt Vonnegut. I learned this story from the Romani...

The Romani, have a legend that says when jesus was being crucified, the Romans had a Nine Inch Nail that they intended to drive through jesus' heart while he was on the cross.

Well, a little gypsy boy stole the nail from the Romans to give to his father... (there is a whole variation of this theme here, but I will not go into it...)

As christ was dying on the cross, he looked down at the Romani and said, according to the gypsies, "Because you stole the nail that would have killed me... I will always allow the Romani people to steal and it will not be a sin for you... etc."

It is a convoluted story, I mean, the guy died anyway, right? But, it is a justification of their "right to steal"

And I can get behind that... I mean, I get that many, many people use this mythology to justify their bad acts.

I'm sorry, what were we talking about?

13 years ago

Seriously, I love the gyspies, I love the Romani (sp?), the Travelers... etc.

The best con-artists in the world, and I learned a great deal from them. Also, their methods of Tarot card reading, and cold reading that they have perfected since the world was young!

They would cut your belly open if they thought you swallowed a penny, but they are sharp as tacks! I respect them, but I would not turn my back on them!

13 years ago

And, do I really have "frequencies" and do I want some gypsy to "balance" them?

13 years ago

I think you broke the code there, Epicurus. And, I feel for these people, I mean, the job market is brutal, and so many predators are taking advantage of people with these pyramid schemes...

But you know, as I was reading over these posts, that silly magic energy bracelet comes to mind. You see them all over the place. They are the new "copper bracelet" that cures arthritis, (a very old quackery that re-surfaces every ten years or so...)

I have seen the commercials and the claims are purely wild and outrageously spurrious!

"It Balances your Natural frequencies!!!! Using powerful scientific energies that BALANCE your frequencies! All Natural!"

Critical thought DEMANDS that you ask things like, "Ok. What is the power source, exactly? Are their batteries that I will need to replace? And exactly what 'energy' is it using on my body? Microwaves? I got enough of them from my wireless networks and phones... Ultraviolet radiation? Infra-red? That was proven hundreds of years ago to have no effects on human tissue, whatsoever..." etc...

Sad, really.

13 years ago

"from Laurie
I don’t have a magic wand where do you get off saying that. I have a Zero Point Energy wand. It has nothing to do with pagan worship and witches. It’s a medical tool it removes pain and changes the molecular structure of water and negates chemicals in food. It’s the medicine of the future."

If this device you're describing functions as you say it does, it's not really medicine. Also, I did a little search online, no company that distributes these things has subjected them to 3rd party research. No credentials, no scientific study whatsoever.

The science behind it seems a bit iffy as well.

I'll agree that atomic restructuring and atomic manipulation will become available in the future, but this is not that. This is probably hokum.

13 years ago


Holy, Batman, woman! Have you lost your ever-loving mind!

I'm sorry... I'm sorry... that was judgmental and reproving, and you do not deserve that...

Goodness GRACIOUS there is SO much crazy in that post!!!!

I'm sorry... so sorry...

Youse guyses, I'm going to explode up in here....

13 years ago

Ah, Laurie, I am terribly sorry... I mean, I stand corrected. It is not "magic" at all...

Pure science. And jesus, and stuff...

Forgive me.

Laurie Robillard
13 years ago

Randy08/23/2010 at 12:48


Wait. Weren’t you talking about jesus and christianity in another thread?

I mean, magic wands are very pagan. Christ-y folks hate them… and have often burned women at the stake for having them…

Which way are you going, here?

from Laurie
I don't have a magic wand where do you get off saying that. I have a Zero Point Energy wand. It has nothing to do with pagan worship and witches. It's a medical tool it removes pain and changes the molecular structure of water and negates chemicals in food. It's the medicine of the future.