The Genesis problem
13 January 2012
THE term "big bang" was famously coined as a term of abuse. During a radio interview in 1949, cosmologist Fred Hoyle was pouring scorn on the idea that the universe simply popped into existence when he unwittingly invented a catchy name for the theory that eventually won out.
The big bang is now part of the furniture of modern cosmology, but Hoyle's unease has not gone away. Many physicists have been fighting a rearguard action against it for decades, largely because of its theological overtones. If you have an instant of creation, don't you need a creator?
Cosmologists thought they had a workaround. Over the years, they have tried on several different models of the universe that dodge the need for a beginning while still requiring a big bang. But recent research has shot them full of holes (see "Why physicists can't avoid a creation event"). It now seems certain that the universe did have a beginning.