Aeons Before the Big Bang?
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There is much impressive observational evidence, mainly from the cosmic microwave background (CMB), for an enormously hot and dense early stage of the universe referred to as the Big Bang. Observations of the CMB are now very detailed, but this very detail presents new puzzles of various kinds, one of the most blatant being an apparent paradox in relation to the second law of thermodynamics. The hypothesis of inflationary cosmology has long been argued to explain away some of these puzzles, but it does not resolve some key issues, including that raised by the second law. In this talk, I describe a quite different proposal, which posits a succession of universe aeons prior to our own. The expansion of the universe never reverses in this scheme, but the space-time geometry is nevertheless made consistent through a novel geometrical conception. Some very recent analysis of the CMB data, obtained from the WMAP satellite, will be described, this having a profound but tantalizing bearing on these issues.