Look carefully into outer space and you might spot the remnants of a previous universe. So argues Roger Penrose, a pioneer in the study of black holes and one of three recipients of this year's Nobel Prize for Physics. "The Big Bang was not the beginning," he tells the Telegraph. "There was something before the Big Bang and that something is what we will have in our future." Penrose, 89, argues that several "warm" areas in space are really leftover black holes from an earlier universe or "aeon." The idea is based on work by his old collaborator, Stephen Hawking, who said black holes "leak" radiation and slowly evaporate. But this seems to occur so slowly that their destruction could take longer than our universe itself.
In a new paper, Penrose says he's detected remnants of at least six black holes from a universe that ended in its own "Big Crunch" and created our Big Bang. "We are seeing them," he says. "These points are about eight times the diameter of the Moon and are slightly warmed up regions." He also tells Space.com that "information" arrived from the last universe "in the form of a shock wave" of dark matter—which should be perceptible in leftover Big Bang radiation, and some scientists say they've found it. There's skepticism, of course, but the notion of universe-recycling has gained ground. "It's classic Roger Penrose," says a cosmologist in London. "It's a beautiful theory and it deserves a lot of attention." (After all, Penrose proved Albert Einstein wrong.)