Fr.: Univers ekpyrotique
A cosmological model in which the → Big Bang is not the beginning of the → Universe, but a transitory phase in a more global scenario. The ekpyrotic Universe model is fundamentally different from the → standard cosmology and offers radically different explanations for the cosmological problems (→ homogeneity, → isotropy, → flatness, → magnetic monopoles, etc.). In this highly speculative model → space-time has five dimensions, four spatial and one temporal. Two three-dimensional → branes, one visible and one hidden, collide following the contraction of the extra dimension. The contraction produces a blue shift effect that converts gravitational energy into brane kinetic energy. Some fraction of this kinetic energy is converted into matter and radiation that can fuel the Big Bang. The movement of the hidden brane prior to the collision is under the influence of a potential created by the exchange of appropriate M-theory fields between the branes. The resulting temperature is finite, so the hot Big Bang phase begins without a → singularity. The Universe is homogeneous because the collision and initiation of the Big Bang phase occur nearly simultaneously everywhere. The energetically preferred geometry for the two branes is flat, so their collision produces a flat Big Bang Universe. According to → Einstein's field equations, this means that the total energy density of the Universe is equal to the → critical density. Massive → magnetic monopoles, which are over-abundantly produced in the standard Big Bang theory, are not produced at all in this scenario because the temperature after collision is far too small to produce any of these massive particles. A new version of the model provides the possibility of a cyclic Universe in which the fifth dimension undergoes a cycle of contraction and expansion a number of times, or indefinitely. The Big Bang is therefore not a special event and can happen again and again. Each cycle begins with a Big Bang and ends in a → Big Crunch. At the transition between the Big Crunch and Big Bang, matter and radiation are created, restoring the Universe to the high density required for a new Big Bang phase. In this scenario, the → dark energy that is causing the cosmic acceleration of the Universe today is inter-brane potential energy. Apart from speculation, this model suffers from several fine tunings (J. Khoury et al. 2001, Phys. Rev. D64, 123522 (hep-th/0103239); P. J. Steinhardt & N. Turok, 2002, Phys. Rev. D65, 126003 (hep-th/0111098), and references therein).
Ekpyrotic is inspired by the ancient Stoic doctrine according to which the world ends in a supreme conflagration, called ekpyrosis, and then reborns from the fire (palingenesis), only to be destroyed again at the end of the new cycle; ekpyrosis, from Gk. ek- "out of," → ex-, + → pyro- combining form of pyr, → fire, + -sis a suffix used to form nouns of action, process, state, condition, such as thesis, analysis, catharsis; → Universe.