The Modern Genesis
The Big Bang Theory is a wonderful story, on many levels. It is a story of human achievement. It is a story of the wonder of discovery. It is the story of our closest pass to understanding the truth of the universe in all our history so far. But all of those stories are not this story. This is a story of Creation.
The Big Bang itself, in its basic form, is not very hard to understand. It involves concepts that might seem complicated, but, really, are not. It is important to understand, though, before we begin, that the Big Bang, like Genesis, is a myth, and equally scientific.
It is our modern creation story, and, like its ancient predecessor, today’s true believers strive with all their hearts and souls to “prove” it true in the face of uncompromising fact. However, whether you believe or not, whether you agree or not, or whether you understand the evidence for and against, it is still a lovely story.
The Big Bang begins at the ultimate beginning – the dawn of time itself. About 14 Billion years ago, the great clock of the universe began to tick for the first time.
Where before there was nothing, a void so empty that even nothing makes it sound full, there was, in a single instant, suddenly, everything.
Time and space sprang into existence, throughout all the titanic span of the universe, all at once. This is the instant of the Singularity. Unlike today’s singularities, called Black Holes by men, this was a singularity of time, rather than one of space. It did not explode from a place, but, instead, all places came at once from it.
It was a moment of pure energy, intense heat, and chaos. There was no matter, no electromagnetism, and, for the briefest instant, no Physics. Then, order began to impose function to follow the formation, and reality followed.
Time exerted its influence, and all of creation came to heel. From that moment on, events would be separate from each other by both distance and sequence. Cause and effect, at once, had meaning, and so followed reality. Things, for the first time, began to make sense.
What happened in that timeless instant, where time, space, and order were all jumbled, all interchangeable, we may never know. It may have been an eternity, or the finest sliver of a second. But what happened during that moment would set the course of the universe for all time.
There was a new power in the cosmos. Order, the rules we now call the Laws of Physics, imposed their will on events. First, there was only one force to the universe, but that started to change.
Energy waves began to fuse together, creating motes of substance in the drifting space. At that moment, as energy was first converted to mass, gravity was torn away from the united force of existence. In reaction to the breaking of the universe’s symmetry, still in its infancy, a counter-shockwave struck the entire continuum, and struck hard.
What Einstein would call ‘the Cosmological Constant’, a sort of counter to gravity, lanced through all the space of the universe, blasting all points apart from each other, in all directions at once. The universe stretched under the force of the shockwave, growing to a titanic size in the blink of an eye.
When it was over, there was a new balance to the universe. It was bigger, less compact, and was starting to come to an equilibrium. Then the next wave of changes came.
Because of the enlargement of the universe, called ‘Inflation’ by men, the energy density of the universe had fallen off. Now, energy waves dancing through the cosmos were able to come together with greater ease, with the risk of being blasted asunder diminished by the forces of inflation, which remained, although they had weakened from their initial all-overwhelming strength.
The first matter, during gravity’s break-away, were now new singularities in their own right. Before inflation could strike, they’d formed tight balls of ultra-compact time-space, still at maximum spatial density.
This new matter was different. Space was far more diffuse than it used to be, and the rules had evolved, so these points of locked energy were just points. They were areas of space where energy was bound into place, and though they did bend the now thinner space, their unique feature was that they each held on to properties that described the energy waves they were descended from.
In pairs they emerged, each bit of matter holding half of the energy of its parents, letting electric and magnetic charges flow free in the unbounded universe for the first time. The universe, at last, found balance in dividing itself into two kinds, matter, and antimatter.
The great force of the universe splintered into its component parts, giving rise to the nuclear forces, even as those same minute particulates propagated through all of space. They were drawn together by a combination of the forces, and some merged, while others waged war. Opposed particles destroyed each other, while the universe continued to grow, blasted further open under the strain.
At some point, just a few minutes from the first of all instants, the universe had spread apart enough that new particulates stopped forming. Energy was spread too thin, now, matter began its reign.
As the universe itself grew, matter collected together. For millions of years, they came together, positive balancing negative, the new particles binding together through the power of the nuclear forces, against which inflation, gravity, and electromagnetism were powerless.
In time, the universe grew so large that these new combined particles were able to capture the leftover bits of broken energy, called electrons, that still hurtled through the void. In doing so, they found a true balance within themselves, and, for the first time, light was able to pass them freely, without being reflected, refracted, and scattered in all directions. The first light, the energy unleashed in the very first moment, began its long journey across the cosmos.
Ages passed. The light spread, even while matter continued to seek other matter, coming together in titanic clusters. The clusters merged together, drawn, as if by purpose, to those ancient singularities who had so unbalanced space in the first moments.
They fell, collapsing, compacting, and begin to form something new. After an eternity of darkness, now that the first light had gone, matter had begun to remake what had been before.
Gigantic spheres of Hydrogen and Helium, spinning about their own centers, and around the distant singularities of old, began to glow. Soon, they ignited with an inner fire, and then there was light.
Hydrogen fused with hydrogen, to create more Helium. The force, the power, and the intensity of the energy unleashed lit the universe from within for the very first time. So powerful was the cascade, Helium too was consumed, forced into even more complex atoms. And these atoms, too, were merged and bound.
And so it went, even as the first stars continued to cluster around the ancient centers of gravity, adding their own masses to the whole, emptying the voids between.
After a time, when these first stars had burned all their Hydrogen, and most of their Helium, when there was nothing left for them to bind, unleashing the energy that would let them support their own humungous weight, they collapsed, unleashing a great blast of matter and energy, nearly rivaling the first moments themselves. And in the furnace of these great infernos, where even the stars themselves were torn apart, all the elements of the universe were created. In fury they were born, and in rage they were flung across the far reaches of the cosmos.
New stars came and went, and other things began to coalesce from the shadows of dust they left behind, the ashes of their graves. Things of rock, things of gas, and things of ice began to emerge around the younger stars.
In time, while galaxies of these stars swam across the surface of the universe, our own solar system formed. Earth was born in fire around Sol, and, like all other beginnings, it began to change. It cooled, and moved towards its final form.
Billions of years passed, each of them filled with events and happenings. Finally, near to this day, life emerged. Matter that did not react when acted upon by the forces of the universe, but acted on its own.
It grew, it changed, and it continued to act. No longer bound by the simple yes/no regulations of base matter, life was different. Life adapted.
And then, one day, one bit of this living matter looked up at the sky above, lit with the dancing stars that mapped the cosmos, and told the story of all its long history, written in the darkness. This one living thing stared for a time, then, at the last, said, “I wonder…”
So, today, as we ponder the scope, and sheer power conveyed in this tale, this myth of origins, and try to conceive of how we can ever understand it, let us reflect on all that we have come to know, over all the long ages, and wonder: if this myth, which charms us, compels us, and enraptures us, that is the recent zenith of our understanding of all that is, how will we react when we begin to learn what really happened, in the beginning?