Alternative Big Bang Theory found in an unpublished manuscript by Einstein.
Almost 20 years before Fred Hoyle and his colleagues introduced the theory of a stationary universe, as opposed to that of Big Bang, Albert Einstein had had a similar idea: a universe that is continuously and eternally expanding, with self-regenerating matter.
Einstein described a space in eternal expansion, with constant density. To maintain this condition, it needed to create new matter and new elementary particles. These particles would then fuse to form galaxies and stars. This theory is very similar to the one formulated twenty years later by Hoyle, where the universe is infinite, and therefore its dimensions do not change when it expands.
He worked on it in the Thirties but after the manuscript had gone unnoticed. Einstein probably dropped the theory because of a small mathematical detail that did not convince him.
The Irish physicist Cormac O’Raifeartaigh rediscovered it. The manuscript had been accessible for decades in the Archive of Jerusalem, but the research had been wrongly categorized. Cormac O’Raifeartaigh said he almost fell off his chair when he realized what it was about.
After translating it and submitting for publication to the European Physical Journal together with his colleagues Simon Mitton, Brendan McCann and Werner Nahm, O’Raifeartaigh noticed the mathematical error that had stopped Einstein from going ahead in his research. It was underlined with an ink color different from the one used in the first drawing up, as if Einstein had realized it only some time afterwards.
In 1917 Einstein had hypothesized the idea of a static universe, by introducing a cosmologic constant that he would have disclaimed some years later, defining it “my biggest error”. Before accepting a universe in evolution, in 1931 he formulated the hypothesis of a stationary universe. Einstein did not discuss with anybody about this theory. There are no documents on the topic, and it is likely that he abandoned the idea after he realized his error was indefensible. The abandoned model is of historical significance because it reveals that Einstein debated between steady-state and evolving models of the cosmos decades before a similar debate took place in the cosmological community.
Photo: Flickr, blueforce4113
A steady-state model of the universe by Albert Einstein