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Before the Beginning?

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  • Before the Beginning?

    Table of Contents
    .......The Elegant Universe
    THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE, Brian Greene, 1999, 2003
    ```(annotated and with added bold highlights by Epsilon=One)
    Chapter 14 - Reflections on Cosmology
    Before the Beginning?
    or
    Lacking the exact equations of string theory, Brandenberger and Vafa were forced to make numerous approximations and assumptions in their cosmological studies. As Vafa recently said,
    Our work highlights the new way in which string theory allows us to start addressing persistent problems in the standard approach to cosmology. We see, for example, that the whole notion of an initial singularity may be completely avoided by string theory. (Epsilon=One: No wonder that academic string theorists have so badly "run off the tracks." There seems little hope for them unless they start over. Axiomatic systems without a first postulate are bound to fail as error builds upon error. The situations is something like trying to climb up a tree by moving far out on a limb.) But, because of difficulties in performing fully trustworthy calculations in such extreme situations with our present understanding of string theory, our work only provides a first look into string cosmology, and is very far from the final word. 6
    Since their work, physicists have made steady progress in furthering the understanding of string cosmology, spearheaded by, among others, Gabriele Veneziano and his collaborator Maurizio Gasperini of the University of Torino. Gasperini and Veneziano have come up with their own intriguing version of string cosmology that shares certain features with the scenario described above, but also differs in significant ways. As in the Brandenberger and Vafa work, they too rely on string theory's having a minimal length in order to avoid the infinite temperature and energy density that arises in the standard and inflationary cosmological theories. But rather than concluding that this means the universe begins as an extremely hot Planck-size nugget, Gasperini and Veneziano suggest that there may be a whole prehistory to the universe—starting long before what we have so far been calling time zero—that leads up to the Planckian cosmic embryo.

    In this so-called pre–big bang scenario, the universe began in a vastly different state than it does in the big bang framework. Gasperini and Veneziano's work suggests that rather than being enormously hot and tightly curled into a tiny spatial speck, the universe started out as cold and essentially infinite in spatial extent. The equations of string theory then indicate that—somewhat as in Guth's inflationary epoch—an instability kicked in, driving every point in the universe to rush rapidly away from every other. Gasperini and Veneziano show that this caused space to become increasingly curved and results in a dramatic increase in temperature and energy density. 7 After some time, a millimeter-sized three-dimensional region within this vast expanse could look just like the super-hot and dense patch emerging from Guth's inflationary expansion. Then, through the standard expansion of ordinary big bang cosmology, this patch can account for the whole of the universe with which we are familiar. Moreover, because the pre–big bang epoch involves its own inflationary expansion, Guth's solution to the horizon problem is automatically built into the pre–big bang cosmological scenario. As Veneziano has said, "String theory offers us a version of inflationary cosmology on a silver platter." 8

    The study of superstring cosmology is rapidly becoming an active and fertile arena of research. The pre–big bang scenario, for example, has already generated a significant amount of heated, yet fruitful debate, and it is far from clear what role it will have in the cosmological framework that will ultimately emerge from string theory. Achieving these cosmological insights will, no doubt, rely heavily on the ability of physicists to come to grips with all aspects of the second superstring revolution. What, for example, are the cosmological consequences of the existence of fundamental higher-dimensional branes? How do the cosmological properties we have discussed change if string theory happens to have a coupling constant whose value places us more toward the center of Figure 12.11 rather than in one of the peninsular regions? That is, what is the impact of full-fledged M-theory on the earliest moments of the universe? These central questions are now being studied vigorously. Already, one important insight has emerged.
    or
    Table of Contents
    .......The Elegant Universe
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