The supposed rebirth of the oscillating universe model made Internet headlines in recent months1 and the lead slot in Science.2 This model posits that the universe oscillates between successive expansions and contractions, each contraction followed by a new big bang. Readers of The Fingerprint of God and The Creator and the Cosmos may recall that science has declared the oscillating universe model (and thus the cosmological underpinnings of Hinduism, Buddhism, and many new age philosophies) as a dead issue.3 Astrophysicists recognize that the laws of thermodynamics and the specific entropy of the universe (a measure of how efficiently the universe radiates) do not permit any kind of cosmic “bounce” or “rebound.” So, how do we explain the recent reemergence, or “reincarnation” of the oscillating universe model?
The new bouncing model is founded on the equivalent of anti-thermodynamics or negative thermodynamics. Authors Paul Steinhardt (Princeton) and Neil Turok (Cambridge) hypothesize the existence of a time-varying energy component for the universe, with negative pressure causing the current acceleration in the rate of cosmic expansion. This hypothesized energy component changes its value and its sign (positive to negative or negative to positive) at just the right rates and at just the right times so that the universe alternates between expansion and contraction. As the authors acknowledge in their paper, their model “entails tuning” to “the same degree of tuning required in any cosmological model.”4 Thus, it offers no escape from the extreme fine-tuning in cosmic parameters that clearly points to the biblical Creator.5
Counter to what the Bible declares, Steinhardt and Turok claim that the universe may not possess a singular beginning of matter, energy, space, and time. But negative pressure and negative energy, though hypothetically appealing, offer more trouble than help. Essentially, they violate well-established physical laws. Such violations of known laws would render stable physics impossible. Stephen Hawking and George Ellis drove this point home in a famous theorem they derived nearly thirty years ago called the vacuum conservation theorem.6 The result derived from this theorem is that in any system described by forces and fields (like the universe) something cannot be created from nothing. To be more precise, the vacuum must be stable against spontaneous generation of matter.
British cosmologist Brandon Carter goes on to explain that the hypothesized negative pressure and negative energy lead to one of two consequences: 1) a lateral or wiggle instability in the cosmic space surface (best visualized by what happens when a person stands a paper straw upright on a table and then presses down very hard with a fist on the top end of the straw), or 2) the conclusion that the cosmic mass density is negative. If it were, the result would be a cosmic runaway creation of negative and positive mass particles out of the vacuum.7
Cosmic models that call for the operation of fundamental forces along higher spatial dimensional surfaces, in which pressure, energy, or matter “become negative” might make for some entertaining mathematics, but such models do not pertain to physical reality. Therefore, they pose no threat to the biblical doctrine of a transcendent creation event for matter, energy, space, and time.
- Deborah Zabarenko, “Out with the Big Bang, and in with the Cosmic Crunch,” Yahoo!News at yahoo.com, April 26, 2002. Similar stories were published on the Web by Reuters, Associated Press, and space.com.
- Paul J. Steinhardt and Neil Turok, “A Cyclic Model of the Universe,” Science 296 (2002): 1436-39. A similar model was published November 2001 by Hongya Liu and Paul S. Wesson, “Universe Models With a Variable Cosmological ‘Constant’ and a ‘Big Bounce,’” Astrophysical Journal 562 (2001): 1-6.
- Hugh Ross, The Fingerprint of God, 2d ed. (Orange, CA: Promise Publishing, 1991), 97-105; Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, 3d ed. (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2001), 87-98.
- Steinhardt and Turok, 1437.
- Lawrence M. Krauss, “The End of the Age Problem and the Case for a Cosmological Constant Revisited,” Astrophysical Journal 501 (1998): 461; Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, 45, 53-56.
- Stephen W. Hawking and George F. R. Ellis, The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1973).
- Brandon Carter, “Energy Dominance and the Hawking Ellis Vacuum Conservation Theorem,” a contribution to Stephen Hawking’s 60th birthday workshop on the Future of Theoretical Physics and Cosmology, Cambridge, UK, January 2002, arXiv:gr-qc/0205010v1, May 2, 2002.
[For more on this subject, see Dr. Ross’ article, “Cosmic Brane Scans,” in Facts for Faith 10 (Q2, 2002).]