All At One Point
Italo Calvino, Cosmicomics

"Naturally, we were all there,—old Qwfwq said,—where else could we have been? Nobody knew then that there could be space. Or time either: what use did we have for time, packed in there like sardines?

"I say 'packed like sardines,' using a literary image: in reality there wasn't even space to pack us into. Every point of each of us coincided with every point of each of the others in a single point, which was where we all were."

The prevailing theory regarding the beginning of the universe is the infamous Big Bang Theory. The observational evidence for the Big Bang begins with Edwin Hubble's observation in 1929 that every observable object in the universe is moving away from Earth at a speed relative to its distance from Earth (see "The Light-Years," also in Cosmicomics). Because cosmologists hold to the principle that Earth is not at a special point in the universe, it was deduced that the universe must be expanding, in all directions and at all points. Taking this idea back in time, it can be seen that there must have been a time when all matter and energy in the universe was at one point.

This one point was not a concentration of matter within a larger space; it was a concentration of space itself. Space "outside" this point simply didn't exist. Since space can't get any smaller than a single point, the Big Bang represents the birth of the universe. And since relativity tells us that space and time are interconnected, speaking of a time "before" the Big Bang makes no physical sense. So the Big Bang represents the beginning of time as well.

Further evidence of the Big Bang can be seen in the isotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation, radiation that was emitted when the universe was younger and hotter, but is still observed traveling in every direction in the universe today. Isotropy means that there is no preferred direction in the energy measurements of this radiation, that the observed energy is nearly uniform across all directions. Because no information can travel faster than the speed of light, the isotropy of this radiation suggests that all points in space were once much closer together.

The cosmic microwave background radiation also poses a problem for the Big Bang theory, however. The most recent data puts the age of the universe at 13.7 billion years. The microwave background gives us data coming from points in opposite directions, but close enough in energy to require that the two points were once in thermal equilibrium with one another. Yet the distance between these two points is often greater than 13.7 billion light-years. In order for this to be true, the universe must have undergone a brief period of cosmic inflation during which points in space flew apart from each other at a speed greater than the speed of light. This inflation is allowed because, even though the transmission of information through space is limited by the speed of light, the expansion of space itself is hindered by no such limitation.

" the same time that Mrs. Ph(i)Nk0 was uttering those words: '... ah, what noodles, boys!" the point that contained her and all of us was expanding in a halo of distance in light-years and light-centuries and billions of light-millennia, and we were being hurled to the four corners of the universe (Mr. Pbert Pberd all the way to Pavia), and she, dissolved into I don't know what kind of energy-light-heat, she, Mrs. Ph(i)Nk0, she who in the midst of our closed, petty world had been capable of a generous impulse, 'Boys, the noodles I would make for you!," a true outburst of general love, initiating at the same moment the concept of space and, properly speaking, space itself, and time, and universal gravitation, and the gravitating universe, making possible billions and billions of suns, and of planets, and fields of wheat, and Mrs. Ph(i)Nk0s, scattered through the continents of the planets..."