The Idea of a Cyclic Universe: Endless Birth, Death and Rebirth

cyclic universe is a universe which follows an infinite self-sustaining cycle. In the 1930s, Einstein came up with the idea that the
universe could go through an infinite cycle of Big Bangs and Big
Crunches. The expansion of our universe could have been caused by the
collapse of a previous universe – it sort of bounced back from the contraction of the universe before it. You could say our universe was reborn from the death of the universe before it. If this is true,
then our Big Bang was not a unique event; it was one insignificant
bang among an infinite number of other bangs. The cyclic universe
theory does not necessarily replace the Big Bang theory, it just
sheds some light on some more questions, such as what was before the
Big Bang and why the Big Bang led to a period of rapid expansion.

new cyclic model was proposed by Paul Steinhardt and Neil Turok in
2001. Steindhart details the model in his paper, The Cyclic Model of the Universe. In string theory, a membrane or “brane” is an object that
exists in a certain number of dimensions. According to Steindhart and
Turok, our visible three spatial dimensions correspond to one of
these branes. Two three-dimensional branes could exist parallel to
each other, separated by an extra, hidden dimension.
These branes (think of them as sheets of metal) could move
along this extra dimension and collide with each other, creating a
Big Bang and eventually our universe. When they collide, things
follow according to the standard Big Bang model – hot matter and
radiation is created, there is rapid inflation, then there is cooling and the
formation of structures such as galaxies, stars and planets. However,
Steinhardt and Turok argue that there is always a force between these two
parallel branes, which he calls an “inter-brane force”. This
force is what attracts the branes together, which will cause them to
collide together again, setting off another Big Bang.

and Tuork’s model does, however, challenge some of the assumptions of
the Big Bang model. For example, their model states that the Big Bang
was not the beginning of space and time, but rather a transition from
an earlier phase of evolution. In contrast, in the Big Bang model, the Big
Bang initiated the beginning of space and time itself. Also, in this
cycle of colliding branes, the large scale structure of the universe
is said to be determined by the contraction phase – that is, before
the branes collide or before the Big Bang happens. In contrast, in the Big
Bang model, the large structure of the universe is determined by the
period of rapid expansion (inflation) that happens after the Big
Bang. Furthermore, the Big Bang model does not predict how long our universe will exist for – Steinhardt, on the other hand,
calculates that the life of each cycle in his model is about one
trillion years (that’s a 1,000 billion years).

reason to prefer the cyclic model over the Big Bang model is that the
cyclic model can explain something called the cosmological
, whereas the Big Bang
model cannot. The value of the constant is responsible for the
accelerated expansion of the universe – it explains why the
universe is expanding so quickly. However, observations of the rate
of acceleration tell us that the value of the cosmological constant
is very small. In fact, the value is 120 orders of
magnitude smaller than predicted by the standard Big Bang theory.
This difference between observation and theory is one of the biggest
problems in cosmology today.

physicist Steven Weinberg uses something called the anthropic
to explain this
difference. The principle says that the constant is randomly set and
has a different value in different parts of the universe. We should
not be surprised to find ourselves living in a rare region with such
a low value because it is the only value that can allow stars,
planets and life to evolve. However, some scientists are not happy with
this explanation because there is no evidence that the value is
different in other regions of the observable universe.

to the cyclic model, the reason why the value of the cosmological
constant is so small is because it started out large and decreased
over time during each new cycle. As an article in the New Scientist puts
it, “At every big bang, the amount of matter and radiation in the
universe is reset, but the cosmological constant is not. Instead, the
cosmological constant gradually diminishes over many cycles to the
small value observed today”. The strength of the cyclic model is that it
can explain why the cosmological constant has the value it does. It also does away with the
assumption that the value must have been “fine-tuned” by God. 

idea of an endless universe, going through a cycle of birth, death
and rebirth (Big Bang, Big Crunch, Big Bang) is similar to some
religious ideas too. For example, the “wheel of time” is a
concept found in Hinduism and Buddhism and it regards time as being
cyclical, consisting of repeating ages. The Hindu, Buddhist and Jain
concept of samsara is
also similar to the idea of a cyclical universe. Samsara means
“continuous flow” and it is the repeating cycle of birth, death
and rebirth (rebirth also known as reincarnation).

In Hindu
philosophy, the universe was created by Brahma (the Big Bang), the
life of the universe is maintained by Vishnu, and the universe will
at some point be destroyed by Shiva (the Big Crunch). This process goes on
for eternity. In a number of stories found in the Puranas, a collection of ancient Hindu texts, the continual creation and destruction of the
universe is symbolised by the outwards and inwards breath of the
cosmic giant Maha Vishnu, a supreme god beyond all human
comprehension. In Hindu cosmology each universe exists for over 4
trillion years.



  1. Anonymous
    July 13, 2014 / 12:44 am

    I stood on a flat earth and looked up at an expanding universe. One day I happened upon a most interesting book, 'Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions' written in 1884 by an English schoolmaster named Edwin Abbott Abbott. Very strange, now I find myself standing on a spherical earth looking up at a universe that rotates hyperdimensionally, forever.

  2. July 8, 2017 / 10:12 pm

    What a load of rubbish! Brahma is the big bang? Indian stupidity.

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