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What was going on around here before the Big Bang?

This oft-posed question is somewhat nonsensical to Big Bang theorists, says Big Bang expert Keith Olive. That’s because, according to their scientific analysis, the Big Bang was the event that created both space and time. Therefore, there was no “around here? and no “before? until the Big Bang occurred.

For people who may have a hard time wrapping their brain around that concept, Olive provides this analogy:

“Imagine, that instead of being three dimensional, space is a two-dimensional surface, and let’s think of that surface as a balloon. Now, let’s think of the radius of the balloon as time. As I blow it up, the surface of the balloon gets bigger. And if I’m watching it as a movie, I’m seeing the balloon at different stages in time where its radius is bigger. Now imagine that the balloon is contracting and it goes down to zero. That balloon is the universe and the Big Bang represents the appearance of the balloon and the beginning of time.?

Olive acknowledges that some may find these cosmic concepts unfathomable.

“I think it’s hard for people to imagine the space being created, let alone time being created,? he says. “You can imagine stuff appearing in space at a certain time. That’s what many people imagine: the universe was there, time was going on and then all of a sudden at 5 o’clock was a big explosion and all this matter came out. But that’s not what the Big Bang is. The Big Bang is actually the creation of the space and of the time.?

Keith Olive is a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Minnesota. He is involved in several research projects at the University related to the Big Bang and its effects. For more information about Olive’s research, see the article Searching for clues to the early universe.