The Hawking-Turok Instanton Theory

The result of Hawking's and Turok's collaboration was the theory that suggested our believed open, inflationary universe formed from miniscule particle called the "instanton."   The instanton was popularized under the nickname of "pea."  An instanton is a sort of theoretical particle developed in physics that is a "twist in matter and space-time."  It got its name from the belief that it lasts for only an instant.  It is much smaller than a pea, though its immense density makes its mass roughly equivalent to that of a pea.  The instanton automatically turns itself into an open, inflationary universe.

To explain the Hawking and Turok's universe concept, think of space-time as a cone with its tip pointing downwards.  Time runs up the height of the cone while space runs around the width of the cone.  The two meet together at the tip, or singularity.   At the tip, the mathematical equations defining the laws of physics break down.

Now smooth out the tip of the cone by replacing it with a round instanton.  You would end up with a figure looking similar to the following:


T-Huniverse.jpg (11970 bytes) 

Time moves forward up the cone, away from the smooth
instanton at the bottom of the cone.  Space is depicted to
be around the sides of the cone.


Because the bottom of the cone becomes horizontal, the difference between space and time diminishes. Time has taken on properties of space; the direction of time follows the same direction of space.  However, space contracts to a point and disappears.   The important aspect of this model is that the mathematical equations defining the laws of physics work even at the bottom of the rounded cone. 

Turok provides another method of understanding the Hawking-Turok theory:

Think of inflation as being the dynamite that produced the big bang.
Our instanton is a sort of self-lighting fuse that ignites inflation.
To have our instanton, you have to have gravity, matter, space and time.
Take any one ingredient away, and our instanton doesn't exist.  But if
you have an instanton, it will instantly turn into an inflating, infinite

So in essence, Hawking and Turok proposed that the universe began from virtually nothing.  The two physicists believe that the instanton does not exist "inside" of anything, nor was there anything existing "before" the instanton.  The instanton was a combination of gravity, space, time, and matter packed into a rounded miniscule object.  They believe the existence and subsequent actions of this object produced the big bang, and subsequently, the universe we live in today.


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