The Planck Epoch

George Smoot

In the beginning...

"...we have a viable theory of the universe back to about 10-30 seconds. At that time, the currently observable universe was smaller than the smallest dot on your TV screen, and less time had passed than it takes for light to cross that dot."
-George F. Smoot, Winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics

In the time before the first 10-44 seconds of the Universe, or the Planck Epoch, the laws of physics as we know them break down; the predictions of General Relativity become meaningless as distance scales approach the Planck length at which random quantum mechanical fluctuations dominate. Most particle physics models predict that during this epoch the four fundamental forces were combined into one unified force. Very little else is known about the early part of this era, and the mystery it poses is perhaps the central question in modern physics.

We will come back to the Plank Epoch in the last section when we examine the frontiers of scientific knowledge.

Big Bang Theory predicts that sometime during the first second of Era 1, an unusual energy drove the Universe through a rapid, accelerating expansion. During this inflationary period, the Universe increased in size on the order of 1027.