Now an international team of researchers looking at the time scale of the early Universe – measured in trillions of seconds – think they know. But it's complicated. And we're not quite there yet. Two theories exist as to what exactly happened 13.8 billion years ago when the universe, which is now inexplicably huge, emerges from something so unimaginably small – according to a new study, one hundred billion in proton size.
First there is cosmic inflation – a period BEFORE the Big Bang when, according to physicists, an ultra-high energy particle inflates at an incomprehensible speed and scale. During this period the matter, as it is, remained a cold, dark shapeless mass.
Then, less than a trillion seconds later, came the Big Bang ̵
But scientists have struggled to connect the two processes – how can a cold dark soup produce the most explosive moment possible?
Now a team of physicists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, assisted by teams as far as in the Netherlands, have found a connecting period, a phase they call "warming up".
Inflation to reheating was obviously a crazy time. At one point, gravity was working in the opposite direction, and at another, it was altered by quantum effects – and this allowed the hot Big Bang to emerge from the period of cold cosmological inflation.
MIT professor David Kaiser said: "Reheating was a crazy time when everything went a long way.
'The post-inflation reheating period creates the conditions for the Big Bang and, in a sense, puts the Big Bang in the Big Bang. This is the bridge period in which all hell breaks loose and matter is treated in a different way than in a simple way.
"We show that matter interacted so strongly at that time that it could be relaxed as quickly and beautifully, setting the scene for the Great
" We did not know that this was so, but this is what stems from these simulations, all with known physics. This is exciting for us. "
However, as sensible as the study is, the question of where the universe comes from remains unanswered. Science is approaching a great deal, but is not there yet.
The study was supported in part by the US Department of Energy and National Science Foundation.