Commentary: The physicist tells Neil deGrasse Tyson what came before the Big Bang. Was there anything there? Was there nothing there? Was there even a there there?
So there was this chicken, OK? And then there was this egg.
No, wait. There was this egg, you see. And then there was this chicken.
It’s easy to see quite a few scientific theories as relying on a decision as to when something began. The universe, for example.
We’ve heard a lot about the Big Bang. It’s the moment when something impossibly tiny began to grow over the next billions of years to become the universe that we know (at least partially) today.
But what was there before it? Anything? Nothing? Some small, inaudible bangs?
Neil deGrasse Tyson, on his “Star Talk” show, sat his fellow physicist Stephen Hawking down and asked for his view.
Hawking offered a simple and direct answer.
“Nothing was around before the Big, Big Bang,” Hawking said.
He explained that Einstein’s Theory of Relativity insists space and time form a continuum curved by the matter and energy in it.
For Hawking, therefore, the beginning of the universe is best described by a Euclidean approach.
“Ordinary real time is replaced by imaginary time,” he said. Honestly, that happens to me all the time. I imagine time has gone by at a certain pace, only to discover I’ve been imagining things.
For Hawking, however, imaginary time “behaves like a fourth direction of space.” He and Euclid believe imaginary time is a “four-dimensional curved surface like the surface of the Earth, but with two more dimensions.”
The universe, insisted Hawking, has no boundaries. Yes, it’s like true love.