November 28, 2010 | David F. Coppedge

Can Astronomers See Behind the Big Bang?

An astonishing claim is being reported: “Cosmos may show echoes of events before Big Bang” (BBC News).  How can this be, since secular cosmologists claim that the big bang was the beginning of time, space, matter, and everything, and it is impossible even in principle to go beyond it?
    The character behind the claim is Roger Penrose, a famous mathematician and author, who is discontented with that limitation.  In its place, he is proposing a revival of cyclical cosmology, which he calls “conformal cyclic cosmology,” or CCC.  He alleges he has found evidence in the form of concentric rings in the microwave background that represent “pre-Big Bang events, toward the end of the last ‘aeon’.”
    Incidentally, Penrose expressed disagreement with the popular idea of cosmic inflation (see 02/21/2005).  “I was never in favour of it, even from the start,” he said.  On a related note of seeing before the Big Bang, New Scientist posted an article about “idea that could let us see before time.”  Needless to say, such ideas are highly speculative.
Update 12/25/2010: Jason Palmer on the BBC News contends that it’s a statistical fluke.  “To prove the point, Douglas Scott and colleagues showed that a hunt for triangles in the CMB was statistically as successful as that for the circles that support Professor Penrose’s theory,” the article said; Penrose, however, is not conceding without a refudiation (word of the year for 2010).

For a refutation of Penrose’s cosmology and an analysis of logical flaws in his reasoning from CMB evidence, see Rob Sheldon’s article “Sir Roger’s Revelation” on his blog, The Procrustean.  The cosmology chapters in David Berlinski’s book The Deniable Darwin and Other Essays is also helpful for pondering the limits to human understanding about ultimate reality.

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