The theory of the Big Bang as the beginning of our universe is almost universally accepted in contemporary popular consciousness. Astrophysicist Ethan Siegel, however, calls this “one of the greatest misconceptions of the universe”; indeed, evidence to the contrary has been fuelling theories for almost 40 years, and signs are emerging of a universe before the Big Bang.
The basic concept of a Big Bang was conceived by the astronomer and Catholic priest Georges Lemaître, who in the 1920s identified the expansion of the universe. From this observation he inferred a “primeval atom”, from which all time and space expanded. The discovery of the so-called Cosmic Microwave Background in 1964 by Arno Penzias and Bob Wilson confirmed Lemaître’s theory of an expanding universe, proving that the universe cools as time goes on.
Extrapolating backwards, the beginning of the universe was conceived as an infinitely dense, hot, and compact point— the origin of space and time. However, this may not be the case. In 1979, Alan Guth proposed that instead of beginning from an infinitely dense, hot state, the universe could have its origins in quite the opposite — a state with no matter or radiation at all, where all the energy was contained in the vacuum of space itself. This phase of the universe would have come to an end in the conversion of this energy into matter and radiation — what we think of as the Big Bang.
There is as yet no consensus as to how the universe began, or whether indeed it had a beginning at all. However, since Guth’s research up to the present day, astrophysicists have been working from the premise that we did not start with a bang after all.
Applicants for Physics ought to familiarise themselves with contemporary theories of the origins of our universe, as well as the history of the Big Bang theory. Students wishing to study Theology or Philosophy may wish to think about the implications of modern astrophysics on traditional arguments for the existence of God, such as Thomas Aquinas’ Cosmological Argument.
- PAT mini mock paper & answers The Physics Aptitude Test or PAT is required by Oxford... Read more >
- March’s Top News Stories Read more about some of the biggest news stories to... Read more >
- Statistics: 2015 Annual Survey Want to find out what your chances are of getting... Read more >
- The Great Collection of Past Oxbridge Interview Questions The great thing about an Oxbridge interview is that it... Read more >
- Sports psychology for interviews Channel your inner champion Major sports personalities use these techniques... Read more >
- MAT overview If you’re applying for Maths or Computer Science at Oxford you will need... Read more >
- July’s Top News Stories Read more about some of the biggest news stories to... Read more >
- Interactive Interview Exercise Manual ‘What should I expect at my Oxbridge interview?’ ‘How will... Read more >
- How is the BMAT marked? The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) is marked significantly differently from... Read more >
- MLAT mini mock paper & answers The MLAT or Modern Languages Test is required by Oxford... Read more >
- Cambridge Language Test mini mock paper & answers Many Cambridge colleges require applicants for Modern Languages to sit... Read more >
- Law Reading List Cambridge Law and Oxford Law reading lists and recommended reading. Read more >
- Download a Medicine Personal Statement Read our sample Medicine personal statement for application tips. Read more >
- Choosing The Right A-Levels Picking subjects at A level can be a difficult decision... Read more >
- University Admissions Tests: How Would You Reply? Here we have a few questions and answers to sample... Read more >
- History Reading Lists The main challenge in the step up from school to... Read more >
- Medical & Biological Sciences Reading Lists Medicine and the whole range of Biological Sciences are highly... Read more >
- Choosing a course From Arch and Anth to Veterinary Medicine, the range of... Read more >
- UCAS: A How To Guide The process of applying to university through UCAS can seem... Read more >
- BMAT mini mock paper & answers With over 90% of applicants now preparing for the admissions... Read more >
- Mathematics Reading List Studying Mathematics at university requires a different approach to studying... Read more >
- Law: answer like a pro Law is a notoriously competitive subject; this, along with the... Read more >
- Personal Statement Action Plan: Section 1 of 2 The UCAS personal statement will be a key part of... Read more >
- Experimental Psychology & Psychological and Behavioural Sciences (PBS) Reading List If you are interested in Psychology, Oxford offers the Psychology... Read more >