Turtles All the Way Down?


The study of how our universe began is inherently problematic. Unfortunately, we are as unable to peer directly into the past as we are into the future. To tell us about the past, all we have to rely on is our memory and the physical evidence the past has left behind. The origin of the Universe is understandably murky; not only was there no one around to observe it, the Universe has been constantly changing, erasing much of the evidence left over from this primordial time.

In 1924, Edward Hubble observed that other galaxies were speeding away from us and from each other, indicating that the universe was expanding. Previously, the most widely accepted theory was the “steady state” theory, which postulated that we live in an unchanging Universe. Hubble’s observations and subsequent theories showed that rather than living in a static, box-like Universe, our Universe is more like the surface of an inflating balloon. Over the next century, observation after observation added credence to this theory.

However, an expanding Universe must have started out from a single point. According to our best measurements, this expansion began roughly 14 billion years ago. At this time, the entire Universe was compressed into a tiny point referred to as a “singularity.” The matter and energy that would make up the Universe were compressed so densely that the laws of nature break down, and we can’t mathematically predict what occurred prior to this time. Additionally, the sudden expansion of the singularity was so chaotic that the only evidence we have left over from this event is the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation that permeates all of space. With our current instruments and technology, we are unable to gather any clues about what happened prior to this expansion, or how the singularity that became the Universe got there in the first place.

There is one method for forming singularities that we know of: Black Holes. At the center of each Black Hole rests a singularity so dense, that energy and matter cannot escape its gravitational pull. There is currently no way for us to see what’s happening inside a Black Hole, just as there is no way for us to see what happened before the Big Bang. Recently, a physicist at Indiana University, Nicodem Poplawski, has united these two phenomena into a new framework for understanding reality. According to Poplawski’s idea, at the center of each Black Hole there is another Universe, and our Universe exists inside a Black Hole in another, “parent” universe. The idea is mind-boggling, but Poplawski’s paper posits mathematical solutions that work and actually solve many of the problems in modern cosmology. This theory of nested Universes isn’t new, but Poplawski’s approach is the first to mathematically propose solutions that work and fit with experimental evidence. It almost seems too perfect not to be true.

Of course, none of this addresses the issue of where existence came from in the first place. By suggesting that our Universe was birthed through a Black Hole in a different Universe, all we are doing is pushing back the Beginning of Everything without answering any of the fundamental questions. This has been one of the hardest questions philosophy has ever raised: if God created the Universe, Who created God? However, if our Universe is nested within another, it seems likely that our Parent Universe has a Parent Universe of its own, and that Universe has a Parent, etc, etc. Perhaps the chain of Universes stretches back infinitely, and there was no moment of creation. The evidence seems to suggest it really is turtles all the way down.

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