I was reading in Discover some theories that might make it possible to explore the question of what existed before the Big Bang. There are three models that I won't get into to any great degree here, mainly because, I'll confess, I can follow high level theoretical physics only to a certain degree and then I admit, I honestly don't have a clue what's being discussed. As I science fiction writer, I only have to understand them enough to present higher level physics in a plausible way to readers who have no idea whether I'm right or wrong in what I'm talking about. One of the theories plays into the Bitterwood books--it's the notion that there's a higher dimensional space that an infinite number of universes float through. From time to time, these universes smash into each other in the higher dimension and the energy generated from the collision produces a big bang that forms a new universe. There are two upsides to this theory. First, it means that universes exists as part of an endless cycle of creation and recreation--the big bang isn't a beginning, just part of an ongoing process. The amazing thing about this theory, unlike a zillion other "before the universe began" theories, is that it's testable. If our universe was generated by the collision of other universes, the theory predits gravity waves that would still be detectable. We don't yet have the technology to detect gravity waves (which are also predicted by relativity), but this is mainly an engineering problem and one day we will, and can confirm or refute the evidence for this theory. A third upside to the theory is that I can play with this higher dimension "outside" of space by calling it "underspace" and letting my characters travel through it in fiction. I'm sure any competent scientist can explain why this is an absurd premise, but they can write their own novels.
The article introduced the idea of what happened before the Big Bang by discussing a monk who asks his monk-boss (this probably isn't the actual title the church uses), "What was God doing before he created the earth?" The monk-boss answers, "Designing hell for those who ask too many questions." This reminded me of a paradox that used to bug me when I was a kid in church.
If I asked how long God had been around, I was assured it was forever. God's timeline was infinite, stretching into forever both forward and backward. But, this creates a paradox: How long did God wait before he created the world? Forever. Which is the mental equivilent of saying he never got around to creating the world. You can imagine how this provided a certain level of consternation to me when I was ten.
Of course, the same paradox exists in the colliding universe theory... how much time passed before they collided? Eternity. But, with the colliding universe theory, new worlds are being made all the time, for no reason at all, just random collisions. With the God theory, nothing but God existed forever, then he made a planet and a universe for it to float in, then he's going to destroy it all and everyone will live forever in heaven or hell. So, there's a forever before the earth, a few thousand years of earth, followed by a forever without the earth, not by chance, but due to the willful decisions of an omniscient being. Somehow the intentionality provides a dividing line in my mind. One premise strikes me as plausible, while the other strikes me as absurd, even though they effectively provide the same results.
I'm writing this from Stellarcon in High Point, by the way, sitting in a lobby through which klingons, pirates, stormtroopers, and multiple Darth Vaders are wandering. Perhaps it's this strangely surreal setting that has launched my current round of odd musings...