A team of scientists in Australia claim they could be about to transform the way we think about the creation of the universe.
The theoretical physicists at the University of Melbourne and RMIT University say instead of a Big Bang, we should think of the start of the universe as like water freezing into ice.
They use the example of crystals, that can be studied to reveal how they formed.
The researchers say there could be a new way of viewing “cracks” and “crevices” in the universe, just like looking at a crystal.
Lead researcher on the project James Quach said theories and ideas are developing all the time to understand the origins and nature of the universe and, perhaps, the rules as we understand them now need to be rewritten.
“Ancient Greek philosophers wondered what matter was made of: was it made of a continuous substance or was it made of individual atoms?” he said.
“With very powerful microscopes, we now know that matter is made of atoms.
“Thousands of years later, 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.
“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.
“The challenge has been that these building blocks of space are very small, and so impossible to see directly.”
But, with funding from the Australian Research Council, Mr Quach said he and his colleagues may have figured out a way to see them indirectly.
“Think of the early universe as being like a liquid,” he said. “Then as the universe cools, it ‘crystallises’ into the three spatial and one time dimension that we see today. Theorised 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.”
RMIT University research team member Associate Professor Andrew Greentree said some of these defects might be visible as light and other particles bend or reflect off them.
Given more time to test their theory, the researchers believe they could discover, for certain, whether space is smooth, or constructed out of tiny indivisible parts.