“It’s like Looking Back at the Face of God”

by Max Andrews

We know the universe began 13.7 billion years ago in an immensely hot dense state much smaller than a single atom.  It began to expand about a million billion billion billion billionth of a second after the big bang.  Gravity separated away from the other forces.  The universe then underwent an exponential expansion called inflation. In about the first billionth of a second or so, the Higgs field kicked in, and the quarks, the gluons, the electrons that make us up got mass.  The universe continued to expand and cool.  After about a few minutes there was hydrogen and helium in the universe.  That’s all.  The universe was about 75% hydrogen, 25% helium.  It still is today.  It continued to expand about 300 million years.  Then light was big enough to travel through the universe.  It was big enough to be transparent to light, and that’s what we see in the cosmic microwave background.  After about 400 million years, the first stars formed and that hydrogen, that helium, then began to cook into heavier elements… Stars were cooked up, exploded, and then re-collapsed into another generation of stars and planets.  And on some of those planets in that first generation of stars could fuse with hydrogen to form water, liquid water on the surface… The laws of physics, the right laws of physics, they’re beautifully balanced.  They couldn’t have been different.  If the weak force were different then carbon and oxygen wouldn’t be stable in the hearts of stars and there would be none of that in the universe. And I think that’s a wonderful and significant story. (Brian Cox, TED2008, March 2008)

George Smoot “It’s like looking back at the face of God”


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