According to the Penn State release, "Quantum-gravity theory indicates that the fabric of space-time has an atomic geometry that is woven with one-dimensional quantum threads. This fabric tears violently under the extreme conditions dominated by quantum physics near the Big Bounce, causing gravity to become strongly repulsive so that, instead of vanishing into infinity as predicted by Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, the universe rebounded in the Big Bounce that gave birth to our expanding universe. The theory reveals a contracting universe before the Big Bounce, with space-time geometry that otherwise was similar to that of our universe today."
Perhaps the best way to describe the time before our universe was born is to picture a series of oscillating universes-exploding into creation out of collapsing earlier universes.
But even with science's new ideas about the time before the Big Bang, the ultimate question of what got the entire creation ball rolling seems to remain just beyond science's reach.
Lou Varricchio lives in Middlebury. He was a NASA senior science writer and worked on the defunct X-33 VentureStar space shuttle-replacement project. He is NASA's Solar System Ambassador in Vermont and a senior member of the Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force.