It all started veeery long ago. So long ago that none of the fairy tales beginning with the words “a long time ago …” can describe this story. Back then, there was no one who could write, tell, or listen to this fairy tale.
There were no “seven rivers” and no “seven mountains” for a new story to happen. There were no forests or rivers. There was no Earth. There was no sky or air. There was no Sun, no Moon, no single planet, no star. Moreover — there was no space or time.
All of this happened about 13.7 billion human years ago. Was there time then, was there anything? If so, WHAT was it? A very good question!
How do we know that about 13.7 billion human years ago something really important happened? Here is the story, which for me is a reason for extraordinary amazement over the nature of our Universe and Life.
Over 200 years ago, one of the most influential philosophers of all time, Immanuel Kant, wrote:
“Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and reverence as we reflect on it more often and persistently: the starry sky above me and the moral law within me.”
Attempts to understand the origin and the nature of the Universe have happened in almost all religions throughout the history of mankind. On the other hand, every scientist dreams of discoveries that will shake the current paradigm of knowledge. For such discovery, after all, you may get the Nobel Prize, right? So, must science and faith be opposing worlds?
At the beginning of the twentieth century, scientists were convinced that the Universe has neither a beginning nor an end. It did not answer the question of how is it possible that the Universe does not collapse on itself as a result of indisputable gravity?
In 1929, Edwin Hubble made a series of famous observations. Using the Dopler effect — the same one that allows policemen to measure the speed of a car — Hubble found that the light of the galaxies clearly shows that they are moving away from Earth, no matter which direction we measure.
The further the galaxy is located, the faster it moves away from us. So if everything in the Universe is moving away from each other, then after reversing the time arrow we would have to come across a moment in which all the galaxies were at one point, an unimaginably condensed cluster of matter.
But would it be the matter as we commonly understand it?
In 1965, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson discovered the so-called background radiation. While observing the sky with a new frequency detector, they found something that seemed the interference noise.
After ruling out all possible sources of noise (including a pair of pigeons that nested in a horn antenna), Penzias and Wilson realized that this noise came from space and was blackbody radiation of only 2.7 K (only 2.7 greater than absolute zero).
The existence of radiation coming from an object with such a low temperature, importantly, coming from all possible directions, could only be explained using the Big Bang theory: an explosion that resulted in the expansion and cooling of the Universe in an unimaginably short time.
Another convincing proof of the correctness of the Big Bang theory is the distribution of elements in the Universe, especially hydrogen, deuterium (a form of hydrogen), and helium. The deuterium content is amazingly constant in both the stars that are close to us and distant galaxies. This confirms the hypothesis that all deuterium present in the Universe was formed at incredibly high temperatures immediately after the Big Bang.
After the victory of the Big Bang theory, it could seem that the fate of the universe depended on its density: the light Universe should expand into infinity, the heavy Universe, due to the action of gravity, should be contracting.
There is, however, a limit value, the so-called critical density which is a borderline between expansion and contraction. According to the calculations of scientists, this value is: 9.9 x 10 -30 g / cm3
Although the density of the Universe is not easy to measure, there has been a breakthrough in this area. Well, based on experimental measurements, the density of our Universe is extremely close to the critical value, but ordinary matter contributes only 4% to it.
The movement of matter in galaxies can also be explained only if we assume that apart from the matter, the Universe is also filled with mysteries of dark matter, interacting with the ordinary one through gravity.
And here we come slowly to the heart of this post. Our human bodies are made up of oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon. How does this relate to the Big Bang theory? Let me explain. For the first million years after the Big Bang, the Universe was expanding, the temperature was dropping, and atomic nuclei and atoms began to form. Matter under a load of gravity slowly concentrated into galaxies.
Within these galaxies, clusters of hydrogen and helium collapsed into each other, and their density and temperature increased. The thermonuclear fusion reactions were finally starting. The process by which the hydrogen nuclei fuse to form a helium nucleus and release energy is the main energy drive for the stars. When stars burn out, the first elements such as… carbon and oxygen quickly appear in their cores.
Scientists believe that our Sun was not created in the first days of the Universe. It is a star that formed about 5 billion years ago as a result of the local concentration of galactic matter. At the time of this event, several heavier elements were not incorporated into the newly forming star but formed planets now orbiting the Sun. Our Earth was also among them, which at the beginning of its existence was definitely unsuitable for living creatures as ours. The planet was slowly cooling down and only about 4 billion years ago it became a place ready to welcome “life”. About 150 million years later, the Earth was already green and a flourishing planet.
Almost all elements in our human body were created in a super-hot crucible of a burning supernova. In this sense, we can say that we are really made of stardust. And we are a truly unique creation, an unlikely phenomenon when it comes to the scale of the processes taking place in the Universe.
Does this theory contradict the teaching of many religions, with the belief in the existence of God as the driving force of all that created us in His/Her image and likeness?
I am convinced that it is not. Especially when we take a closer look at how incredibly improbable, from the scientific point of view, there is a correlation between various physical and astrophysical parameters. About this, however, I will write in the next article.
Today, I would like to quote Steven Hawking, the author of the famous “A Brief History of Time”:
“The chances of a Universe like ours emerging from something like the Big Bang are freaking out. I think there are purely religious implications here. It would be very hard to explain why the Universe had to start its evolution from this state unless it was an act of God to create beings like us. “
Deus ex machina, (Latin: “god from the machine”) a person or thing that appears or is introduced into a situation suddenly and unexpectedly and provides an artificial or contrived solution to an apparently insoluble difficulty — Encyclopaedia Britannica