A Blog for the Curious and the Scientifically Perplexed

This is the story of a great journey that started with a great thought. One day in 1895 a boy looked into a mirror and wondered what the universe would look like if he could travel on a beam of light. That sixteen year old boy was Albert Einstein and that one thought started him on the road to discover his Theory of Relativity. The great man has been reinvented as Albert 2.0 to come back and blog about a journey through space on a beam of light and explain the science behind everything from atoms, blackholes to global warming. If you've just joined and want to start at the beginning use the index on the left. If you're bored try these links below just for fun.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Big Bang. What really happened?

"Ok, Albert. So I’m convinced about this Big Bang idea, now tell me what actually happened at the start of the Universe."

Well, here’s what we think happened, because of course no-one was there to watch it. At the start there was no such thing as space, no atoms. All the energy and matter in the entire universe started in one super-concentrated blob. Then for reasons we will probably never know it exploded with a massive release of energy and particles.

Remember the quarks, gluons, protons and neutrons I told you about before? (If you never read that bit click here).

“Well, I remember the names.”

That will do for now. Well the quarks and gluons were the first matter to be made and all these particles rushed out in the first moments of creation. At the start that was all there was, there weren’t any atoms to begin with. It took a millionth of a second for the quarks to stick together to make protons and neutrons. It took a few minutes more for things to cool down to a few billion degrees, cool enough to allow protons and neutrons to sick together into simple atomic nuclei. Even space itself was popped into existence out of nowhere. Imagine the fabric of space scrunched into a tiny ball then suddenly bursting out and expanding – a bit like one of those air-bags in cars.

“How can you know about air-bags? They weren’t invented when you were alive.”

You have forgotten that I once worked in the patent office and I was in fact alive when the airbag was invented. John W. Hetrick got a patent on that idea in 1953 but just like the big bang it took people decades to catch onto the idea.

“So was the start of the universe like an exploding egg as you said last time or an exploding airbag?”

Well, the Big Bang was perhaps a little closer to an exploding airbag than an exploding egg, but scaled up a trillion fold.

“So that was it, one mega explosion and all the matter in the universe just burst into existence?”

It wasn't just that lots of matter was created. There was lots of anti-matter created too.

"What's anti-matter?"

Science fiction writers love anti-matter but it is real stuff. Anti-matter and matter are complete opposites in some ways and exact copies in another. They are sort of mirror images of each other with one crucial difference. Anti-matter and matter can't mix like normal materials. In fact when they mix they annihilate each other and release energy. One big question about the start of the Universe is where did all the antimatter go, since most theories need it there as the universe was born. There was the slight possibility that all the matter in the universe might have been destroyed in the first few seconds by colliding with all the anti-matter flying around at the same time. So it would have been a very short lived universe. If that had happened we wouldn’t be here to worry about it.

“So what did happen?”

One theory goes that at the start there wasn't a perfect balance between matter and anti-matter. The division was about 50.0000001% matter and 49.9999999% anti-matter. So that there was lots of energy, lots of annihilation but at the final whistle matter came through by a whisker. Of course perhaps anti-matter won, and the universe is full of anti-matter. How could you tell? Physicists would still call the other stuff anti-matter because it was different from the stuff that made up the universe. Perhaps in a parallel universe somewhere there are anti-physicists who are sighing with relief that antimatter won out at the start of it all. One more thing to worry about I suppose.



“You’re rambling a bit there.”

Oh, sorry. I got a bit carried away.


  1. billy said...
    Albert I really enjoy your posts any chance you can add a track or to of your fiddle music?
    Anonymous said...
    OK Einstein

    What is this 'nothing' the Big Bang took place in. You know that everybody asks this question and no one answers. They just say there was nothing, no space no time and therefore we don't go there.

    dug11 said...
    The Main reason that all scientists avoid the topic of what was here before the "Big Bang" is that no one can ever know. There is no matimatical way to determine what was here before our universe. There is matimatical proof however to determine that the red shifted light waves point to a infintesmial superposition start point. On the other hand Theologists can not determine this either, so everyone says screw it and calls the large ka-boom 0 and we start from there. what's the point of finding out anyway?
    Anonymous said...
    The Universe wasn't really created it was always there, albeit in a completely different form to what we see now.
    Jay Spencer said...
    I've read an interesting twist on the question of "Big Bang vs. always there" controversy, from Dr. Randell Mills. He has a "theory of everything," or what he calls the "Grand Unified Theory of Classical Quantum Mechanics," available for free as a complete book (or in individual chapters and essays) on his website, www.blacklightpower.com. His theory is of an oscillating universe that periodically collapses to a singularity, then explodes, expanding to a maximum size, then collapsing again. His math describes the process in detail, providing numbers for the mass of the universe and time per cycle, the changing rate of its expansion (and future contraction), and our position in the current cycle. (A question left unasked: was there a start to this cycle, or was it always here?) The website also describes the work of his company, which is commercializing new energy and materials technologies that are supported by his theoretical work and lab research. The "Grand Unified Theory:" isn't this your "Holy Grail," Albert?
    Brendan said...
    my understanding of why we can't predict what existed a poofteenth of a second before the big bang is that the BB produced the laws of the universe as we know them. Prior to this the physical laws that governed the pre-universe would have been completely different to the laws that we observe and are able to use to develop theories on what occured beginning at the BB.
    old sarge said...
    "In the Beginning,God Created the Heavens and the Earth" Gen.1-1
    A more accurate translation according to Hebrew scholors would be, "With Wisdom God created the Heavens and the Earth"
    Check out the books of Dr. Gerald Schroeder, a physicist. Especially "The Science of God"
    More and more physicists are confronting the astounding enigmas of quantum mechanics and discovering the idea of a great mind and a transcendent intelligence as the source of all space,time,matter and energy...
    No I am not a Bible thumper, But I am not afraid of following the evidence, even if I do end up apologising to some theists I mocked in the past. Keep an open mind, you may be on the most exciting quest for truth of all time...
    Anonymous said...
    Albert, or, whoever you are that lives inside this black blog, you really should write this into a book. Please don't think you can't just because it isn't perfect. What you have written here is both imaginative and brilliant, and children all over the world would read it and love it.

    You have my devotion as a reader. Please, write a book!!!
    Jack said...
    I agree...This is GREAT stuff!!!!!
    HumbleOne said...
    Asking what was "here" before the Big Bang is a nonsense question, as there was no "here". "Space" can only exist when there is matter occupying more than a point: "space" is the area of a measurable object, and the distance between objects. Space itself was created by the Big Bang-by the separation of matter frrom a single point. Therefore there was no "here" before this first event. It's like asking who occupied your body before you were born. A more sensible question, though beyond the reach of science, would be, what caused the effect known as the Big Bang? The only possible theory of a First Cause would neccessarily be called God, an uncaused (or First) Cause.
    ElkDog said...
    I agree with 'old sarge'. There's nothing wrong, and everything right, about keeping an open mind.

    The search for truth must include the search for God, and every other truth, including the truths of physics. If there be no God, it's another theory discredited in the quest for truth.

    If there is a God, he surely is not afraid we'll discover the truth, for God, himself, must see all truth as circumscribed into one great whole.
    God Proof said...
    But if quarks and gluons were there before the big bang, how were they formed, and where they come from?
    Anonymous said...
    Quarks and gluons were not there before the big bang.What Albert 2 said was"Quarks and Gluons were the first matter to be made"(by the big bang).What was there before this universe was the on going "infinite order of the universe",where universes begin and end.Our need is to know the cause of the big bang
    or should that be the cause of "A" BB we have "imagination,which is more important that knowledge" What this blog requires is you out there to use that imagination to come up ideas for all of us to prove or dis-prove in our search for truth.
    Anonymous said...
    I read all this about the BB and the origins of the universe and think everybody gets it wrong. Something (matter) cannot be created from nothing. Everything that happened or is happened or will happen is the result of pressure whether it is physical pressure or the pressure of heat or the pressure of light or sound or any type of pressure you can think of. The base force missed in all the theories is pressure. For the BB to have happened at all everything must have been compressed. The only force that could have done that compression is pressure and the only force that could have caused the explosion is pressure. We don't really understand pressure or the dynamics of pressure.
    Zete Purongge said...
    I think you're right about matter being compressed.....light!
    Anonymous said...
    matter can't be create or destroy, only transform
    Anonymous said...
    it is interesting to say that there was nothing and then everything came in to existance,but how. According to famous British scientist Hawking there was nothing but everything was compressed in to a mass smaller than an atom ,he call it an imaginary point singularity.I think there was a purpose of this creation.How it is created and how it expanded from nothingness to present day and still expanding is the work of God and this idea is gaining strength day by day

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