Forty-two. Actually, I lied. I’m actually only going to talk about the universe. Which I suppose includes everything which includes life. So I guess I didn’t exactly lie.
If you enjoyed my previous post on time, this one is going to take it a whole step beyond that.
So let’s start at the beginning. The beginning of our universe, that is.
The beginning is really quite simple in what happened, but rather ambiguous in why. The commonly accepted theory, yes, you’ve all heard of it, the Big Bang, is what happened. A single point, a singularity, exploded and created the universe which infinitely expands in all directions (or does it? More on that later!), might have become a supermassive blackhole, blah blah blah…that’s the boring stuff. As for what caused the Big Bang and how could something like that happen, well, there’s more fun in describing that.
Think of our universe as a little fold in existence. It’s just a little wobbling sheet (a flat universe–more explanation later) that exists somehow, somewhere in something even grader than the pitiful human brain can imagine. This place is called the multiverse. It is where all the universes in existence reside, and it is where new universes are formed. Imagine if you can, a time where there was no universe of ours. Hah, of course, time started in our own universe when the universe started, so rather, it’s just the nonexistence of our universe. Anyways, there’s a theory that our universe was formed when two sheets of universes collided together at a single point, our singularity, and that collision is basically what we call the Big Bang. Exactly how did that trigger a giant explosion? Well, a tough question to answer because of the small mental capabilities of a human brain, but I’ll try.
I’m going to start assuming a lot of things, but for the sake of the argument/discussion, accept them as truths for now.
Our universe is infinitely expanding. Wow, that just sent shivers up my spine.
Anyways, if our universe is infinitely expanding, there must have been an infinitely dense point from which the universe originated from. And if every time two folds of a universe collide, they make a new universe, then there must be an infinite number of singularities present in the multiverse. From one of these points of infinite mass, the Big Bang occured.
How is a point of infinite mass possible?
The answer is very simple in idea: there is something and nothing within that point. The something is easy to understand, you see somethings everyday. The something is the mass and objects and stardust that exist in our universe in the traditional sense. We ourselves are made of stardust, bits of exploded star, and that in the clearest sense is just absolutely astounding and beautiful at the same time. The elements that make us up–they weren’t present when the universe started out, when the Big Bang occurred. No, the compounds and elements that our bodies are comprised of…they were made in stars. Awe-inspiring, is it not?
The nothing on the other hand…well, it is what it is. Nothing. So define nothing. Nothing – the nonexistence of something. So if there’s nothing there, then it should weigh nothing, right? Actually, no, due to quantum mechanics…in quantum mechanics, essentially, everything can come from nothing and miniscule particles that did not exist a few milliseconds ago exist, then pop back out of existence. It is this popping in and out of existence that gives nothing its very very tiny mass/weight. And this is the ever-so-famous “dark matter”. We’ll get back to that in a moment.
There are three main geometric shapes of the universe that any aspiring cosmologist/avid astronomer/bored reader should know about. They are
The shape of the universe can quite easily be figured out by a simple ratio that cosmologists have dubbed “omega”. It’s looks like this –>Ω (ohmyOHMS! But we’re not dealing with that type of physics here.)
Ω = total mass of universe (matter and dark matter) / amount of mass needed for a flat universe.
If Ω = 1 , the universe is flat (simply beautiful, isn’t it?).
If Ω > 1 , the universe is closed.
If Ω < 1 , the universe is open.
In a flat universe, the universe keeps expanding, slows down, but ultimately never stops, leading to a cold, sparsely populated death by maxing out the universe’s entropy. In a closed universe, ah, you probably aren’t going to like this, but the world ends with a highly satisfying, extremely heated “Big Crunch”. In an open universe, the same thing as the flat universe occurs, but expansion never slows down.
As of now, the shape of the universe that most cosmologists tend to favor is the flat universe. It is only in this type of universe that a universe can come from nothing! Say thanks to quantum mechanics for that. Actually, you can thank quantum mechanics for allowing you to exist too. It has been found that in a proton, about 90% of it is actually made up of dark matter. And well, you’re made up of a lot of protons, which means that basically, you’re 90% dark matter too.
Going back to the flat universe though, it is this universe that corresponds with most atheists’/agnostics’ view of the start of the universe. There is no need for a God to create this universe anymore–there is no need for a deity to shout out “Let there be light!” into the nothingness and suddenly illuminate the universe. A flat universe can just start…with quantum mechanics at work. It is this very nothingness, the dark matter as I said above, that contains no energy, that quantum fluctuations can unleash in a Big Bang to create the universe.
Ah, gravity at work in the universe. gmrk1 requested that I talk about this, however, I do not know in which direction you want me to elaborate in. So here’s a quick overview (there probably will be a separate post about it in the future). Gravity is easily interpreted as a force on a small scale. For example, we drop a glass vase, it comes crashing to the floor along with your fleeting sense of panic which is then replaced by dread as you wonder what your mother is going to say. It is, in a colloquial manner, “what keeps our feet on the ground”. Take gravity into space, however, and it becomes something that probably makes a lot more sense as a curvature in space-time. What? To be frank, gravity is actually a very, very weak “force”. The other three forces, weak force, strong force, and electromagnetic force, are ridiculously powerful compared to gravity. Looking at the Sun pulling on gigantic rocks in space and keeping them in orbit makes one dubious of what I just said, but a curvature in space-time is something that makes a lot more sense considering that gravity is weak. Any object that exerts gravity is actually just creating a dent in space-time, sort of like a Temperpedic pillow and your head, and it is in this little sinkhole that objects circle around, like one of those plastic things where you roll a penny on its side and it goes around and around in a giant circle, slowly drawing closer and closer to the gaping hole in the middle. The idea of gravity is actually a difficult topic to cover in just one paragraph, but here’s an ending remark on that for now: both Newton and Einstein came up with theories that can be reconciled with each other, and it does make sense on a large scale, but both of these giants in physics still couldn’t come up with a theory that can be fitted with quantum mechanics to create what scientists call “quantum gravity”. The search is still on-going.
Err, I realize that this is an extremely random post, but the universe is quite a large place to cover. In fact, the human brain cannot comprehend it, so no use trying to really imagine it. But here’s something extremely important to try to understand. You and I are just a couple of humans in a sea of over 6 billion others. This in itself is hard to imagine, if not impossible for most people. And 6 billion people live on one planet out of eight (poor Pluto) in this solar system. And there are millions of solar systems in this arm of the Milky Way galaxy alone. And the Milky Way galaxy is a spiral galaxy, meaning that it has multiple arms, plus an extremely populated center, probably dominated by a supermassive blackhole. And when you look up in the sky, a one degree by one degree square of the sky contains up to 500,000 galaxies (visible by the CFH Telescope, excluding those hidden behind dust clouds, nebulas, dark areas, etc.). And well, multiply that by the total number of those squares in the galaxy, and you get….a staggering number. An unimaginable number.
Go on playing your videogames. Go on rick-rolling people. Go on debating about bioterrorism. Just remember that when you’re hit with the overwhelming, helpless feeling of isolation and insignificance, and you curl up in your bed and start shivering uncontrollably, that human ego will override that moment and you can go on killing your slimes, attatching captions to cats (no staples please), and poring over evidence.
Have a good day.
Forget Jesus–the stars died for us! – Lawrence Krauss
We are bits of stellar matter that got cold by accident, bits of a star gone wrong. – Sir Arthur Eddington
– Beyond Apathy