Questions I dread: How did the universe begin, and what is space-time?

Milky Way. Night sky and silhouette of a standing man


THERE are two questions that I somewhat dread when communicating science to the public. And, unfortunately, they are rather common, because they are interesting to everyone, myself included.

The first is: “What was there before the beginning of the universe?” The second: “What is space-time?” You might think that I would actually relish the opportunity to answer such queries because they go to the heart of what theoretical cosmologists like me do. It is literally in the job description, which I often tell people is to try to understand the origin and evolution of space-time and everything inside of it. …

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