Did the universe crystallize into existence?
The universe began not as a Big Bang but rather like water freezing into ice, a team of theoretical physicists suggests.
"Albert Einstein assumed that space and time were continuous and flowed smoothly, but we now believe that this assumption may not be valid at very small scales," says James Quach of the University of Melbourne.
"A new theory, known as Quantum Graphity, suggests that space may be made up of indivisible building blocks, like tiny atoms. These indivisible blocks can be thought about as similar to pixels that make up an image on a screen."
Unfortunately, these building blocks of space are very small, and would be impossible to see directly. Instead, Quach and his colleagues believe they may have figured out a way to see them indirectly.
"Think of the early universe as being like a liquid," he says. "Then as the universe cools, it 'crystallizes' into the three spatial and one time dimension that we see today. Theorized this way, as the universe cools, we would expect that cracks should form, similar to the way cracks are formed when water freezes into ice."
Light and other particles would bend or reflect off such defects, potentially making them visible. The team's calculated some of these effects, and is now hoping for experimental verification.