Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Exploding Universe

If the universe exploded into existence, it probably looked something like a firework. It probably made a loud noise, too and left trails of sulfur smoke trailing through the young vacuum of space.

If the universe exploded, and there was no one there to hear it, did it make a noise?

Of course, maybe it was backwards. Maybe it didn't explode into the dark, maybe it exploded into light. Maybe everything was made of light originally, then a virus in the system caused an explosion of dark matter... which is now winning... or something. If that were the case, it probably looked more like this:

Either way, I'd say it probably looked very cool.
Instead of looking at the history of the U.S. (today is the 4th of July, after all), let's take a look at the history of the universe.

At second 0, it popped into existence, in some way or another.

At second 10^-43 seconds, it was really hot. So hot, in fact, that electromagnetism, gravitation, weak nuclear interaction, and strong nuclear interaction were unified. Like a really awesome (and useful) super hero.

Between 10^-43 seconds and 10^-36 seconds the universe began to expand and cool. As it cooled, electromagnetism, gravitation, weak nuclear interaction, and strong nuclear interaction began to separate.

Between 10^-36 and 10^-12 seconds, the four forces separated.

Then, supersymmetry broke, and quark-gluon plasma filled the universe.
By 1 second, the quark gluon plasma had cooled to the point that hadrons formed. Neutrons began to decouple and travel freely through space.

At 10 seconds, the temperature had fallen. It was cold, like the North Pole--so cold, that new lepton and anti-lepton pairs ceased to be born. The reigning race slowly began to fade.

Between 10 seconds and 380,000 years, photons took violent control, carefully and thoroughly usurping the dying reign of the leptons. Their 380,000 year minus 10 seconds reign was primarily characterized by their rowdy interactions with charged protons, elections, and nuclei.

There were a couple of important events during the reign of the protons. For starters, the temperature fell at a rapid rate between 3 and 20 minutes. This allowed for atomic nuclei to form--ultimately resulting in nuclear fusion. This is important because it is by nuclear fusion that all matter is created. We are stardust, you know.

At 70,000 years, cold, dark matter began to dominate the space that is now the universe.

Jump to 377,000 years. The density of the universe fell, and hydrogen and helium atoms began to form. As the universe cooled, elements began to recombine, and by the end, photons traveled freely and the universe had become transparent.

Then over millions and billions years, small structures formed. Stars and quasars formed. Plasma became the universe's reigning race. Millions of stars began to form, and pushed forward the process of turning lighter elements into heavier elements. Clusters of stars formed, then superclusters, solar systems, and galaxies. Planets, asteroids, and black holes littered the space between stars. 

People and animals exist on at least one small planet, and probably more.

The universe is probably about 13.75 billion years old. It will die, although not anytime soon. Most predict a Big Freeze, although others suggest a Big Crunch, a Big Rip, or being cooked, sometime in the next twenty billion years from now (or 100 billion or 10^14 billion--take your pick).

Either way, if you happen to be there, your best bet is to wear layers.


  1. That's some very good original writing. I will browse through more in a bit. Good work.