by Kyle McDermott
Mathematical physicist Sir Roger Penrose has a new book coming out in May 2011, entitled Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe
. A BBC article
that discusses the central hypothesis of Penrose's book reports the following:
of events that happened before the Big Bang can be seen in the glow of
microwave radiation that fills the Universe, scientists have asserted.
cosmologist Roger Penrose said that analysis of this cosmic microwave
background showed echoes of previous Big Bang-like events.
The events appear as "rings" around galaxy clusters in which the variation in the background is unusually low.
The unpublished research has been posted on the Arxiv website.
In the same BBC article, Penrose, regarding his notion of a cyclical universe, states:
the scheme that I am proposing, you have an exponential expansion but
it's not in our aeon - I use the term to describe [the period] from our
Big Bang until the remote future. I
claim that this aeon is one of a succession of such things, where the
remote future of the previous aeons somehow becomes the Big Bang of our
The BBC article goes on to further explain Penrose's hypothesis:
"conformal cyclic cosmology" (CCC) that Professor Penrose advocates
allows that the laws of nature may evolve with time, but precludes the
need to institute a theoretical beginning to the Universe.
Professor Penrose, of Oxford University, and his colleague Vahe
Gurzadyan of Yerevan State University in Armenia, have now found what
they believe is evidence of events that predate the Big Bang, and that
support CCC. They looked at
data from vast surveys of the cosmic microwave background - the
constant, nearly uniform low-temperature glow that fills the Universe
we see. They surveyed nearly
11,000 locations, looking for directions in the sky where, at some
point in the past, vast galaxies circling one another may have collided. The supermassive black holes at their centres would have merged, turning some of their mass into tremendous bursts of energy.
The CCC theory holds that the same object may have undergone the same
processes more than once in history, and each would have sent a
"shockwave" of energy propagating outward. The
search turned up 12 candidates that showed concentric circles
consistent with the idea - some with as many as five rings,
representing five massive events coming from the same object through
the course of history. The
suggestion is that the rings - representing unexpected order in a vast
sky of disorder - represent pre-Big Bang events, toward the end of the
last "aeon"."Inflation [theory] is supposed to have ironed all of these
irregularities out," said Professor Penrose.
way of deriving additional insights into Penrose's hypothesis, what
follows is a transcription of an interview that Sir Roger Penrose did
with the BBC. The questions are reproduced more or less verbatim, but
for brevity's sake, Penrose's responses to the questions have been
paraphrased. The reader is free to verify the accuracy of the following
transcription by listening to the original BBC interview, which can be
It may be one of the most profound and impossible question in physics:
What happened before the Big Bang? The event that led to the formation
of the universe. Physicist/Professor Sir Roger Penrose thinks he may
have an answer. I spoke to him about his theory and asked, "What
happened before the Big Bang?"Penrose's response to Question 1:
The universe is actually composed of a succession - perhaps an infinite
succession - of aeons, where the remote future becomes the Big Bang of
the next aeon.Question 2:
So we have a cyclical process and another Big Bang that starts everything over and over again?Penrose's response to Question 2:
Yes, but other schemes propose that the universe expands out and
collapses down again. The trouble with these theories is that they
violate the law of entropy. Things should be getting more and more
random as time goes on. Penrose proposes that the entropy disappears
into Black Holes. These Black Holes eventually disappear though Hawking
evaporation ... You can "see" back and see these huge encounters
between Black Holes.
[At this point, the interviewer makes
reference to physicist Stephen Hawking's claim that God is not needed
to initiate the universe (to access your author's response to Hawking's
position, please read the following article: Thoughts on Stephen Hawking's new book The Grand Design
In light of all this, what of God?Penrose's response to Question 3:
does not believe in established religion of any kind; Penrose states
that he is an atheist. Penrose goes on to claim that, in a deep sense,
it remains possible that God could still be behind it all, but in a
less deep sense, Penrose asserts that his hypothesis, if correct, would
[as Hawking's recent book is purported to have done] remove one more
reason supporting the existence of God.
interview concludes with Penrose stating that he knows neither if the
succession of aeons is infinite or finite, nor if the laws and forces
of nature are the same in the other aeons. Penrose is hopeful that
these questions can be answered.
Penrose's hypothesis is, of course, extremely tentative
; according to Princeton University cosmologist David Spergel:
existence of large-scale coherent features in the microwave background
of this form would appear to contradict the inflationary model and
would be a very distinctive signature of Penrose's model" of a cyclic
universe, cosmologist David Spergel of Princeton University says.
But, he says, "The paper does not provide enough detail about the analysis to assess the reality of these circles."
In an article fro
, Prof. Spergel states another issue of contention with Penrose's hypothesis:
Spergel says he is concerned that the team has not accounted for
variations in the noise level of WMAP data acquired over different
parts of the sky. WMAP examined different sky regions for different
amounts of time. Maps of the microwave background generated from those
regions studied the longest would have lower noise and smaller recorded
variations in the temperature of the microwave glow. Those lower-noise
maps could artificially produce the circles that Penrose and Gurzadyan
ascribe to their model of a cyclic universe, Spergel says.
Another insightful news article
puts Penrose's hypothesis in the following context:
Big Bang model holds that everything that now comprises the universe
was once concentrated in a single point of near-infinite density.
Before this singularity exploded and the universe began, there was
absolutely nothing - indeed, it's not clear whether one can even use
the term "before" in reference to a pre-Big-Bang cosmos, as time itself
may not have existed yet. In the current model, the universe began with
the Big Bang, underwent cosmic inflation for a fraction of a second,
then settled into the much more gradual expansion that is still going
on, and likely will end with the universe as an infinitely expanded,
Sir Roger Penrose, one of the most renowned physicists of the last
fifty years, takes issue with this view. He points out that the
universe was apparently born in a very low state of entropy, meaning a
very high degree of order initially existed, and this is what made the
complex matter we see all around us (and are composed of) possible in
the first place. His objection is that the Big Bang model can't explain
why such a low entropy state existed, and he believes he has a solution
- that the universe is just one of many in a cyclical chain, with each
Big Bang starting up a new universe in place of the one before.
How does this help? Well, Penrose posits the end of each universe will
involve a return to low entropy. This is because black holes suck in
all the matter, energy, and information they encounter, which works to
remove entropy from our universe. (Where that entropy might go is
another question entirely.) The universe's continued expansion into
eventual nothingness causes the black holes themselves to evaporate,
which ultimately leaves the universe in a highly ordered state once
again, ready to contract into another singularity and set off the next
Indeed, as the following quote from physorg.com
The discovery [i.e., Penrose's hypothesis] doesn't suggest that there wasn't a [single] Big Bang -
rather, it supports the idea that there could have been many of them. The
scientists explain that the CMB circles support the possibility that we live in
a cyclic universe, in which the end of one “aeon” or universe triggers another Big Bang that starts another
aeon, and the process repeats indefinitely. The black hole encounters that
caused the circles likely occurred within the later stages of the aeon right
before ours, according to the scientists.
In an article from physicsworld.com
, Julian Barbour, a visiting professor of physics at the University of Oxford, makes the following statement:
circles would be "remarkable if real and sensational if they confirm
Penrose's theory". They would, he says, "overthrow the standard
inflationary picture", which, he adds, has become widely accepted as
scientific fact by many cosmologists. But he believes that the result
will be "very controversial" and that other researchers will look at
the data very critically. He says there are many disputable aspects to
the theory, including the abrupt shift of scale between aeons and the
assumption, central to the theory, that all particles will become
massless in the very distant future. He points out, for example, that
there is no evidence that electrons decay.
The Popular Science article
offers the following quote:
Penrose’s estimation, our universe is not the first – nor will it be
the last – to spawn from a dense mass of highly-ordered everything into
the complex universe we see around us. In fact, it’s that high degree
of order that was apparently present at the universe’s birth that set
him on this line of thought. The current Big Bang model doesn’t supply
a reason as to why a low entropy, highly ordered state existed at the
birth of our universe unless things were set in order before the Big
It is respectfully submitted to the
reader that the above quote is exceedingly important, because it
illustrates two crucial points, and they are worth repeating:
- It’s the high degree of order that was apparently present at the universe’s birth that set Penrose on this line of thought.
- The current Big Bang model doesn’t
supply a reason as to why a low entropy, highly ordered state existed
at the birth of our universe unless things were set in order before the
Big Bang occurred.
The Transudationist hypothesis
states that the reason for the existence of the low entropy, highly
ordered state that existed
at the birth of the universe is that the "Big Bang" was in actuality a
Big Seed. For a full discussion of the Transudationist hypothesis in
this regard, please see the following article: A Hypothesis Favoring the Existence of a Creator
Furthermore, as discussed in the following article, Thoughts on Stephen Hawking's new book The Grand Design
, a number of ramifications flow from the hypothesis that the Big Bang was actually a Big Seed:
- there is a Creator, but we do not know the identity of the Creator
- the Creator - however conceptualized - is best perceived as a spiritual gardener
- Nature, from the very small to the very large, is permeated by essences and holonic teleology
- a "vital force" - what Sir Roger Penrose identifies as the incredible degree of "fine-tuning" present within the Big Bang - permeates the cosmos
and teleologically brought about the organization of the solar systems
and galaxies within the universe, as well as the organization found
with DNA and RNA, the laws and forces of nature, atoms, physics and
- matter evolves to Spirit via evolution
- evolution is correct, scientific, and undeniable; evolutionism is, on the other hand, merely metaphysical nihilism
- the cosmos is a living organism
- the emergence of life/consciousness/sentience from an atom-like
singularity, the exquisite balancing of the forces, laws, and
substances of Nature required to induce said emergence, as well as the
progression of the cosmos from a seed-like, minuscule singularity to
today's visible universe - self-evidently support the above positions
Let us now proceed to examine Penrose's circles from the perspective of Transudationism.
From the perspective
of Transudationism, Penrose's concentric circles are indicative of the life processes
- the growth - of a living organism: an organic, holonic
cosmic "tree of life." What Penrose is describing is indicative of a living "super-organism
Furthermore, Penrose himself states that he does not know if his
hypothesized succession of aeons is infinite or finite. Therefore, the
problem of an infinite regress emerges: What caused the initial aeon?
And to speculate even further and propose an infinite succession of
aeons does not solve the problem of an infinite regress: Some force
must, as Aristotle noted, act as the unmoved Mover.
Penrose also states that he does not know if the laws and forces of nature
are the same in the other proposed aeons. But what if the laws and forces of nature are
the same in the other aeons as they are in ours? That would make the
universe (or, in Penrose's scheme, the succession of aeons) an entity
capable of spawning a multitude - indeed, perhaps an endless succession
- of life-engendering aeons. And what would that
And what if the laws and forces of nature in the other aeons aren't
the same as they are in our aeon? As the above-cited BBC new article states:
This "conformal cyclic cosmology" (CCC) that Professor Penrose advocates allows that the laws of nature may evolve with time.
So, again, the universe is capable of evolving
and thus ultimately engendering life
In either case, the Transudationist hypothesis that the universe is a living organism
is at least as compelling an argument as the materialist position that
the universe is a dead, mindless, billiard-ball-esque cacophony. As
stated previously in this article, Penrose is trying to find a
materialist answer to the following question:
- What is the reason for the existence of the low entropy, highly ordered state that existed
at the birth of the universe
Again, what Penrose is proposing is an entity capable of spawning
successive aeons (the present universe being but one such aeon). And
because of the issue of infinite regress, it is appropriate to ask: What sort of creative power is necessary to initiate such an entity?
Assume, for the moment, that Penrose's hypothesis is
correct; in that case, it is perfectly reasonable to postulate that
each successive aeon is a living organism, that one aeon is "born
" from the "seed
" of the previous aeon, similar to the manner in which (in biology) a cell undergoes mitosis.
This view that the universe is a living organism has been bolstered by
the recent discovery of the first organism that substitutes arsenic for phosphorous. An article
appearing on the BBC new site states:
The first organism able to substitute one of the six chemical elements crucial to life has been found.
The bacterium, found in a California lake, uses the usually poisonous element arsenic in place of phosphorus.
The find, described in Science,
gives weight to the long-standing idea that life on other planets may
have a radically different chemical makeup.
It also has implications for the way life arose on Earth - and how many times it may have done so.
The "extremophile" bacteria were found in a briny lake in eastern California in the US.
While bacteria have been found in
inhospitable environments and can consume what other life finds
poisonous, this bacterial strain has actually taken arsenic on board in
its cellular machinery.
Until now, the idea has been that
life on Earth must be composed of at least the six elements carbon,
hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulphur and phosphorus - no example had
ever been found that violates this golden rule of biochemistry.
The bacteria were found as part of a hunt for life forms radically different from those we know."
In the same BBC article, Prof. Paul Davies goes on to say that:
At the moment we have no idea
if life is just a freak, bizarre accident which is confined to Earth or
whether it is a natural part of a fundamentally biofriendly universe in
which life pops up wherever there are Earth-like conditions," explained
Paul Davies, the Arizona State University and Nasa Astrobiology
Institute researcher who co-authored the research.
"Although it is fashionable to support the latter view, we have zero evidence in favour of it," he told BBC News.
Prof. Davis goes on to state in the BBC article:
is just a weird branch on the known tree of life," said Professor
Davies. "We're interested ultimately in finding a different tree of
life... that will be the thing that will have massive implications in
the search for life in the Universe."
The take-home message is: who knows what else is there? We've only scratched the surface of the microbial realm."
The Transudationist hypothesis maintains that - contrary to Prof. Davies' claim - there is
evidence to suggest that life "is a natural part of a fundamentally biofriendly
which life pops up wherever there are Earth-like conditions
Whether the visible universe is perceived as emerging from a singular
seed, or from a succession of seeds, the Transudationist hypothesis
maintains that what we are witnessing is the incremental emergence and
unfolding of a teleological life-force - a vital force
- in which we are immersed and by which we are permeated, and the
ultimate end of these cosmic life processes is the cultivation of
disembodied, incorporeal Consciousness-Spirit-Geist.
To gain an understanding of the socio-political
ramifications of the Transudationist paradigm, please see the following article: The Declaration of White Independence: White America Has Found Its Mind