How it All Began - the Origin of the Universe
OK, so I have been pondering this for quite some time, and I'm going to present and refine my theory here. Astrophysicist, philosopher, minister, or just regular joe, feel free to contact me with your opinion!
What was here before the Universe began?
It seems to me that a combination of Einstein's matter-energy equation and the Big Bang works rather nicely... what was here before the Universe began? Energy. Now, you can feel free to call that "Energy" with a capital "E," or God, or just energy, or whatever you want. I think this theory can be reconciled with any spiritual system (or lack thereof) you may have.
What is energy?
I like to visualize it as an ocean of lightning. It might sound a little silly, but that's how I see it. You may see it differently... my lightning ocean might not make any sense to you. Fine. It might be one of those concepts we are incapable of wrapping our brains around. (You know, for awhile toward the end of college, I was considering going to grad school to do research on how memory is stored (in the brain?) but I thought I might research my whole life about something and get no anwers because our brains may be incapable of wrapping themselves around themselves!) We can talk about electronics and potential energy and metallic bonding, but electricity is interesting non-stuff. You flip a switch and a flow of electrons generated miles away "moves" through wires in your house causing a light to come on, a toaster to heat up, a computer to compute, whatever.
So we've got this ocean of lightning that has no form, and since there is no matter, it takes up no space, so it's a pretty unusual ocean. At some point, although there is no time yet either, Einstein's matter-energy equation gets to go to work. (As I begin to do some research, rather than just explore this idea in my head, I find that some concepts are similar to those published by Hawking, Ellis, and Penrose in 1968 and 1970- I may be out of my league.) Just to remind you, Einstein was the first to articulate that E=mc2, that energy equals mass (in kilograms) times the speed of light (3x108m/s) squared.
How'd it all begin?
There is a spark, divinely inspired if you so like, and matter forms from this infinite supply of energy. And we're lucky it's an infinite supply, because it takes a lot of energy to make a small amount of matter. (We've seen the destructive effect of converting a relatively small amount of matter to energy with nuclear weapons, and the effectively unlimited constructive effect of nuclear power, despite the issues with radioactive waste.) To give you an idea of how much energy is contained in everyday matter, consider that if your average 271 Calorie, 2 ounce (57 g) Snickers bar were completely converted to energy, it would release more than 1.2 trillion Calories of energy- that'd be a lot of time at the gym to work off! For comparison, the critical mass (more than this makes a chain reaction) of uranium is about 2 pounds, and for plutonium, just 10 ounces.
What lies outside the Universe and why is the Universe expanding?
So this "spark" occurred and matter came into being, creating a start of the Universe in the formless ocean of energy. As the energy continued to be converted into matter, the interface between matter (space) and energy would move outward much like a hole burning in the middle of a piece of paper. What's outside the edge of the Universe? Energy, of course! And the Universe continues to expand as the energy to matter conversion continues.
Horse shit! Energy can't be turned into matter!
Well, they did it on Star Trek! When Scotty beamed you up, you were converted from matter to energy and back again. (We'll ignore the implications on the Spirit or Soul in such a scenario for now.) Just because we haven't done it yet doesn't mean it's not possible. Einstein's equation doesn't state that it is unidirectional.
TO BE CONTINUED/REFINED...