The Philadelphia Inquirer

Cosmic Fender Bender:
Will New Theory Make Big Bang Whimper?


April 13, 2001

The universe began with a Big Bang. Or God said, "Let there be light" and there was light.

Nice, the way science and religion paired off with those alternative explanations for the origin of life as we know it. You could believe one, or the other, or, as many do, see the same truth in both. The Big Bang directed by a Conductor waving a wand toward the percussion section? No problem for many of the faithful to imagine that.

But now the earth moves under our feet; we feel the sky tumbling down. The 50-year-plus Big Bang theory is on shaky ground after being challenged by a credible new notion that could be called the Cosmic Collision theory.

Scientists from Princeton and Cambridge universities and the University of Pennsylvania suggest that, in the fender bender of all time (heck, the fender bender that began time) two parallel universes separated by a "fifth dimension" collided with each other.

The impact itself caused a great explosion, producing the energy and matter that eventually led, among other things, to the Milky Way, Earth and a sublime array of beings ranging from Martha Stewart to scientists with brains that must be literally aching from all that theorizing.

There was still a big bang, the new theory posits, but it did not begin with a single point of origin as long believed, but instead erupted from this cosmic crash.

For most mortals, news of a new theory of creation should not be disturbing. Indeed, it is reassuring evidence that science marches forward even at the expense of discarded pet theories.

Are the Big Bangers upset? Quite the contrary. They are excited to have a new theory to work through on dueling blackboards. "I am absolutely thrilled," said one.

Also happy may be those Creationists who cite any disagreement among scientists or any lapse in a scientific model as proof that only one explanation for the universe ,the literal interpretation of Genesis, can be true.

But take a good look as these scientists react with delight, not panicky defensiveness, to a challenge of the accepted wisdom. It suggests (doesn't it?) that science is more supple, more humble, and more fond of mystery than either its sour religious critics or its more hubristic advocates ever concede.

Copyright 2001 Philadelphia Inquirer. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
Filel Date: 4.16.01

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