The Secrets of the Universe

Esther Bret de Sivatte walks us through some of the leading theories that attempt to explain the mysteries of our vast universe.

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Esther Bret De Sivatte

Have you ever wondered where we come from? How the universe began? Is the Big Bang is really the beginning of our world? And if not?, what was going on before the Big Bang occurred? How about what we see and experience? Is what is physical all that really exists? Can´t there be things which exist but are not reachable before our eyes?

If you grab a microscope and look into a cell, you will be able to observe the molecules inside it. If you keep on zooming, you will find the atoms, and afterwards, you will zoom into nothing else but its sub particles. But is that all there is to cells? What if there was a different something that we haven’t figured out yet? Something that sets a minimum limit to things such as heat or size, something tiny within those cells. This is what loop quantum gravity theory defends. As a beach is made of grains of sand, loop quantum theory posits that space and time are also made of “grains”. The “grains” which set a minimum limit to things. Now, how would this theory help us explain the mysteries we talk about so much? Let us dive into the Big Bang. According to this theory, before the Big Bang occurred, space was constantly getting smaller and smaller. Because of these “grains”, the distances of space had to, at some point, reach a limit. And so they did. Once they got so small that they bumped into said “grains”, they had no option but to bounce back. In this view, our Big Bang, is actually a Big Bounce. A bounce which caused a burst of energy to expand throughout the cosmos. Creating what we know today as our universe.

Let us go into one more theory, one that is closer to us in time. When you’re going to class, taking the bus, playing football, or watching the sunset, you are able to physically contemplate two things: Where and when. To specify where, we need three digits; to specify time, only one. What we´re calling digits are in fact dimensions. And this is why we say we live in a world with four dimensions. But who says that just because those are the four dimensions we can physically see, they are the only ones that exist? This is precisely the question which string theory goes on to discuss. Grown from the roots of a series of 1920s studies, string theory today argues the existence of up to eleven dimensions. Because we can only see four, space and time, such dimensions must be experimented through math. This is a very difficult task; and as String Theory expert, Joseph Conlon, said: “there is no direct experimental proof for string theory”

String theory as well as loop quantum theory are only two of the many theories the science world is currently working to experimentally prove. These and many other theories go on to answer questions we had never thought to have a real answer. Defining our world as an eleven-dimensional world; explaining the Big Bang as a bounce; understanding our universe as an infinite cycle that has always been bouncing; or even defending that before expanding, the universe was “hibernating”.

These answers are only based on theories. Theories that have not been proved to be real yet. However, they are the closest thing we have to accuracy. Although they might not be definite answers to all those questions, these theories do prove one thing: As Socrates said, we only know that we know nothing. We live under the stars of a huge and spectacular complex universe. We can barely attempt to understand what goes on at the end of our own cells or at the beginning of those invisible dimensions we live in. The more science digs, the less it finds. For, every planet discovered, every particle, every theory, every galaxy, only leads to answers where millions of new questions are risen. This statement might strike you as discouraging, for if truly knowing is in itself an impossibility, what is the point in even asking? But I would like you to leave with a beautiful phrase that the incredible physicist Richard Feynman once said:

“It is our responsibility as scientists, knowing the great progress that comes from a satisfying philosophy of ignorance, the great progress that is the fruit of freedom of thought, to proclaim the value of this freedom, to teach how doubt should not be feared but be welcomed and debated, and demand this freedom as our duty for all generations to come.“

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