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A History of the Universe
Sep 19th, 2008 by Steve Thorpe

A History of the Universe

How was our universe created?

How old is it?

Why was it made and who made it?

Was it created for a reason, or did it just happen by chance?

These are questions that people have been asking for millennia.

Throughout history, we humans have developed many myths, stories, and religions to answer these questions. Around six to seven thousand years ago humans invented writing and began leaving us records of their stories about the origins of the universe.

Some say that the world was created by gods. Others say that it was created by a demon. Some people believe that the world always existed while others believe that it was formed from the body of a giant horse. People have gone to war with one another just because they answered these questions differently.

Today, many people believe that God created the universe and the world for a special purpose while many others believe that both the world and the universe evolved out of a set of scientific laws.

The story that I’m going to tell you today comes from information that scientists have put together over the last four hundred years. Beginning with the Scientific Revolution in the sixteenth century, people in Europe began thinking about the universe in a very different way.

In order to answer questions about where the universe came from and how it works, they began observing the world around them, trying to figure out what underling laws made the universe tick. They discovered that planets traveled around the Sun because of gravity. They discovered that all of the elements that make up our bodies and our planet where forged inside the nuclear furnaces of stars much like our sun. These nuclear reactors creating enough energy to light up the night sky, even though many stars are billions of light years away.

The scientific question about the origin of the universe has led scientists to believe that the universe came into being though a Big Bang.

We cannot speak about what existed before the big bang because time itself did not exist before the big bang.

We can never discover where the Big Bang took place because before the big bang there was no space and there was no place.

The big bang created both space and time.

What would it be like if time did not exist? Nothing could ever happen because there would never be a when for it to occur.

What would it be like if we lived in a universe with no space? You could never go anywhere or do anything. Nothing could ever really happen.

Imagine it.

It now seems to scientists that around thirteen billion years ago, from what looks to us like nothingness, the universe exploded into being.

In the beginning, the universe was pure energy, so hot that its temperature was near infinity.

The moment it was born, it began growing at an incredible rate. “In the first trillion-trillion-trillionth second, the universe grew a hundred million times larger and its temperature dropped from near infinity to 10,000 trillion, trillion degrees” (10).

Of all the universal forces that we know about, only two where in existence at this time: Gravity and something called the unified superforce.

As the universe expanded and began cooling down, the unified superforce began to unravel into three separate forces and this unraveling caused the universe to expand at an even greater rate than before In a period of time so small that it is impossible to count, the universe expanded to a hundred trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion times it previous size.

Suddenly this expansion began to slow down, causing the universe to cool down even more. Then something truly remarkable happened. Some of this cooling energy transformed itself into the very first tiny particles of matter. Gravitons, bosons, neutrinos, gluons, photons, electrons, and primordial black holes may all came into being along with many other types of particles that we don’t even know about.

Montessori Precipitation demo

Some of these particles lasted a few moments and then dissolved into pure energy. Some were unstable and decayed into others, smaller particles. Some of these earliest particles were stable enough to survive, and this is where the trouble began.

No sooner had matter come into being when a terrible war broke out between two very different kinds of particle. The outcome of this battle would decide the fate of every solid, liquid, and gas that would make up all the matter in our universe.

This was the epic battle between mater and antimatter. It was a terrible war, costly to all sides. Whenever matter and antimatter come into contact with each other, they are both annihilated and return to a state of pure energy. Equal amounts of matter and antimatter where created, but anti- mater particles seemed to decay slightly faster than matter particles, so in the end particles of matter outnumbered anti-matter. So while most of the matter originally created by the universe was destroyed in this battle, there was enough matter left over to form all of the stars, plants, and galaxies in our universe.

This entire battle took place in less than three minutes.

After these first three minutes of the universe’s existence, it had cooled down enough for leptons and quarks to form the very first protons and neutrons. Helium, Hydrogen, and Lithium where all created, but in small numbers. These would be the only particles created as result of the universe cooling down. Everything else that we know about would have to wait until the four fundamental forces could get together and figure out a way to create different kinds of atoms with the laws that they had been given.

For the next three hundred thousand years the universe continued to expand and to cool down. Eventually the universe got cool enough for innumerable small particles to join together and form atoms. When enough of the energy had became matter, the rest of the energy, in the form of light, shot out in all directions and the universe was no longer a fiery inferno. For the first time, universe had become clear and was completely black.

Slowly gravitational force began pulling hydrogen and helium atoms together. As small gas clouds began forming, their gravitational pull increased, pulling even more particles in. Soon huge clouds began to form that where so humongous that the atoms in the center where being crushed together with tremendous force.

When this force became unbearable, the atoms lost their individuality and where crushed together forming larger atoms. This process of nuclear fusion releases a tremendous amount of energy in the form of heat and light. This heat and light are the burning of a star.

As stars and galaxies formed, light once again could be seen in the universe. These early stars grew huge, lived for billions of years and made many of the other elements that are so familiar to us on Earth. Carbon, Silicon, Iron. These starts eventually exploded, spewing out elements and gasses that coalesced into planets and other stars.

Our star is a second generation star that formed from the remains of an earlier generation of stars.

Stay tuned for the story of the Sun and the Earth, coming soon!

Copyright © 2008 Steve Thorpe. All rights reserved.

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