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“The boundary condition of the universe…is that it has no boundary” — Hawking


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/03/04

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson has a talk show entitled Star Talk. It is in the final parts of its fourth season. Filmed in the American Museum of Natural History, the famous astrophysicist will be interviewing a renowned astrophysicist.

If you did not know, there are not that many astrophysicists around, and to see two of the bigger names in one place as interviewer and interviewee is a treat, especially with good production quality.

Tyson asked questions such as: “what was around before the big bang? In other words, what happened before the moment the universe began?” Hawking’s response, in a way, sidestepped the classic question in order to reframe it.

He explained that the earlier into the universe’s timeline you get, close and closer to the Big Bang, then the more time smooths out while never getting into a starting, singular point.

Like one of those curves that gets infinitely close to the x or y axis but never quite makes it, I have read another example, which I believe was from Hawking again.

It talked about the North pole being the northernmost point on the Earth; same with the South pole. So to ask the question, “What is South of the South pole or North of the North pole?”, does not make sense because nothing is more South than the South pole or North than the North pole on the Earth.

It is almost the same, but not quite, example through the reframing of the entire question for an insightful response on Big Bang cosmology.

Some variations on the big bang go down a little smoother than the original. In the simplest version, the beginning of time is a sharp point, where everything we currently observe was mashed into a ball of energy smaller than an atom — then burst outward, duh. But what came before? Physicists such as Stephen Hawking tried to restore a kind of timelessness by getting rid of that starting point, imagining a universe with no clear “bang.” You can wind back the clock to the edges of those first moments of existence, but asking what came before would be like asking why you can keep walking north when you get to the North Pole. Time, as we define it, loses its meaning as the universe shrinks down.

It never quite narrows to a single point. But no one has proved physics works like that — yet.


Feltman, R. (2018, March 2). Stephen Hawking thinks he knows what happened before the beginning of time. Retrieved from

Feltman, R. & Francis, M.R. (2017, October 4). Wait a second: What came before the big bang?. Retrieved from


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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