Neil deGrasse Tyson asked Stephen Hawking to share his thoughts on what happened before the big bang — or the beginning of the universe.
“The boundary condition of the universe…is that it has no boundary,” Hawking says.
Basically, Hawking’s favorite answer to this question is that there kind of isn’t any such thing as a time before the big bang. Time smooths out as you get closer and closer to the big bang, such that it never actually narrows down into a starting point. In the words of another famous master of time and space, it’s just a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey… stuff.
If you’re colossally, cosmologically confused, I’ve got great news for you: in a recent issue of our print magazine (which, yes, still exists and yes, is still great, and yes, you should subscribe to) I co-wrote a piece on this exact, mind-trippy topic with physicist Matthew R. Francis. We described this theory thusly: