In the Beginning…

12 Dec

We live in a very weird and complicated place known as the universe. We’ve been told that it all started when something really small blew up, causing matter to scatter all over the place to form stars and galaxies that form our universe. We were also told that this event is called the “Big Bang”. The problem is that what we’re told about how the universe “started” is not entirely true.

There was never an explosion, even though the term “Big Bang” suggests that. Just a very rapid expansion and cooling down of everything that exists in the universe, including space and time itself. So if we rewind this expansion, we can find out where everything came from, right? Not entirely, but we can get pretty close by tracing everything back to right after a point known as a singularity.

The universe was extremely dense, hot and small. From that point on, it kept expanding and cooling down so much that after approximately 324,000 years, things were cool enough for the first electrons to bond with nuclei (protons and neutrons) to form the very first atoms. About 60,000 years later, the decreasing density of the universe allowed for light to shine through it. The process continued and gravity forced gases to collapse onto themselves to form stars, and eventually galaxies.

Here we are today, about 13 billion years later, and the universe is still expanding at an increasing rate. We might not be able to observe other galaxies in the future (if we’re around for that long), since the universe expands faster than the light from other galaxies can reach us. But that is the future. How about the beginning? We managed to go as far back as a point right after everything was a singularity. What happened before that? Science as we know it cannot offer much of a solution when dealing with a singularity. It’s a point of infinite mass and gravity with zero volume. There is no up, down, here, there, before, now and after. We cannot imagine a place with such characteristics, neither can science explain much about it. Interestingly enough, a singularity can be found in a black hole that sucks everything into an infinite point of gravity and mass. So the idea of everything coming out of “nothing” is kind of like a reverse black hole.

The unsettling part is that there might be a lot more going on than we know — or will ever know! Whether our universe came from the “other side” of a black hole in another universe, or extra dimensions are at play, or whatever the case may be, it’s far beyond our experience to fully understand what’s going on. What we can understand though, is that the Big Bang was not an explosion, and definitely not the beginning of everything. It is simply an expansion of everything (including energy, time and space) that took place from fractions of a second after the singularity. That very expansion carries on today, and into the future. Essentially, the Big Bang theory doesn’t explain the beginning of the universe, but we’re getting closer and closer to whatever that beginning may be!

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