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Analytical and numerical methods are developed to analyze the quantum nature of the big bang in the setting of loop quantum cosmology. They enable one to explore the effects of quantum geometry both on the gravitational and matter sectors and significantly extend the known results on the resolution of the big bang singularity. Specifically, the following results are established for the homogeneous isotropic model with a massless scalar field: (i) the scalar field is shown to serve as an internal clock, thereby providing a detailed realization of the "emergent time" idea; (ii) the physical Hilbert space, Dirac observables, and semiclassical states are constructed rigorously; (iii) the Hamiltonian constraint is solved numerically to show that the big bang is replaced by a big bounce. Thanks to the nonperturbative, background independent methods, unlike in other approaches the quantum evolution is deterministic across the deep Planck regime. Our constructions also provide a conceptual framework and technical tools which can be used in more general models. In this sense, they provide foundations for analyzing physical issues associated with the Planck regime of loop quantum cosmology as a whole. © 2006 The American Physical Society.

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Physical Review D - Particles, Fields, Gravitation and Cosmology