What if the universe had no beginning?

The causal set approach neatly removes the problem of the Big Bang singularity because, in the theory, singularities can’t exist. It’s impossible for matter to compress down to infinitely tiny points — they can get no smaller than the size of a space-time atom.

So without a Big Bang singularity, what does the beginning of our universe look like? That’s where Bento and his collaborator, Stav Zalel, a graduate student at Imperial College London, picked up the thread, exploring what causal set theory has to say about the initial moments of the universe. Their work appears in a paper published Sept. 24 to the preprint database arXiv. (The paper has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.)

The paper examined “whether a beginning must exist in the causal set approach,” Bento said. “In the original causal set formulation and dynamics, classically speaking, a causal set grows from nothing into the universe we see today. In our work instead, there would be no Big Bang as a beginning, as the causal set would be infinite to the past, and so there’s always something before.”

Their work implies that the universe may have had no beginning — that it has simply always existed. What we perceive as the Big Bang may have been just a particular moment in the evolution of this always-existing causal set, not a true beginning.