The origins of the universe


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Introduction to History 1510

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  • David Christian’s Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History
  • World Civilizations website at Washington State University
  • Enjoy the dark emptiness of the beginning!
  • Kepler also came up with the laws of planetary motion you remember learning about in elementary school science
  • Lemaitre referred to the universes’ infinitely small point of origin as the “primordial atom”
  • How small are atoms? If you blew up an apple to the size of the Earth, each atom in the apple would now be the size of the original apple!
  • Notice that each successive representation is but a tiny cross-section of the previous state of the universe… this should help you visualize the truly immense scales we are dealing with
  • Andromeda is the largest galaxy in our local group
  • The same kind of reaction that takes place in a hydrogen bomb
  • Despite the fact that this is older than I am, it is still a powerful and convincing watch. Cosmos won an Emmy and Peabody, was published as a text (which I have read more times than I care to admit), and has been the standard by which all documentary films and tv programs about theoretical physics and cosmology are judged by.
  • The origins of the universe

    1. 1. The Origins of the Universe A Modern Creation Myth
    2. 2. A Modern Creation Myth?• Questions common to human existence – Who am I? – Where do I belong? – What is the totality that I am a part of?• History as a map of time – Using history to know where we are, where we are going, and who we are traveling with
    3. 3. A Modern Creation Myth?• Creation myths offer memorable and authoritative accounts of how everything began – These universal accounts provide coordinates that people can place themselves on to find their role in the world – They speak to our spiritual, psychic, and social need for a sense of place and belonging in the world
    4. 4. A Modern Creation Myth?• Discussion Board Topic for Module 2• “The Epic of Gilgamesh” and Genesis – Sumerian and Hebrew creation myths – Read the texts in the links above • What similarities and differences do you observe? • What do these creation myths tell you about the structure of their society and the place of humans in the world?
    5. 5. A Modern Creation Myth?• The retreat of religion and the rise of secularism has left our modern world without any formal creation myth – But it does not have to be so • Integrating our accrued knowledge into a unified narrative • A creation myth based on knowledge with multiple “origins” – Such as the origins of the Universe, Humanity, Communities, and States
    6. 6. A Modern Creation Myth?• Unify knowledge and move beyond the limits of “disciplines” – Physics • Stephen Hawking and “grand unified theory” – Biology • Charles Darwin and evolution – Geology • Alfred Wegener and plate tectonics
    7. 7. A Modern Creation Myth?• Should historians look for similar unifying structures? – A “grand unified story”?• And just what might it look like? – The origins of the universe? – The origins of human life? – The origins of agrarian society? – The origins of cities?
    8. 8. The First 300,000 Years• How did everything begin? – The first question for any creation myth – Answers remain sketchy, despite all our scientific knowledge• Can something come out of nothing? – “Nothing is nothing” – Potent nothingness? • Like clay in a potters hands?
    9. 9. The First 300,000 Years• Are we thinking about time and space all wrong? – Many religions point to a creator • Dr. Lightfoot’s dating of 9:00 am October 23, 4004 BC • Still, how does the creator exist? – Stephen Hawking suggests we think of time not as a line but as a circle, with no beginning or end – Skepticism: Human knowledge is limited and some mysteries must remain • Many interpret this as God (or Gods) hiding answers from humans • Buddhism looks at it as an ultimate riddle • Science points to a lack of information
    10. 10. The First 300,000 Years• Early Science – Aristotle and the Earth as the center of the universe • Surrounded by transparent spheres revolving around the Earth at different speeds – Copernicus and the Heliocentric model • Observations and math illustrate that the Earth is orbiting the Sun • Giordano Bruno hypothesizes that the stars were suns Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543)
    11. 11. The First 300,000 Years• Early Science – Further research by Galileo and Newton established basic “laws” which govern the physical universe • Strict and rational – Thermodynamics claims that entropy was constantly increasing • Meaning that energy was decreasing • Problem: If the universe is infinitely old, how is there any energy left?
    12. 12. The First 300,000 Years• Paradoxes – Johannes Kepler and “Olber’s paradox”: If there are infinite stars, why is the sky not infinitely bright? • Perhaps the universe is not infinitely large • New problem: If the universe is not infinitely large, gravity suggests that all matter should be collapsing to the center of the universe…
    13. 13. The First 300,000 Years• The Big Bang theory – Proposed by Georges Lemaitre – The universe is finite in both time and space – The universe is expanding too fast for gravity • The universe has a beginning Belgian priest and astronomer Georges Lemaitre (1894-1966)
    14. 14. The First 300,000 Years• The universe was created 13 billion years ago – How long is that? If each person were to live exactly 70 years it would take 200,000,000 generations to reach equal this number• What was there before the Big Bang – We have no idea! • Time and space as we conceive them were probably created at the same time as matter and energy in that first moment
    15. 15. The First 300,000 Years• What happened? – Much of our account takes place in the first fractions of a second after the big bang • The first billionths of seconds may have been as active and as significant as the billions of years which followed – The universe was tiny • Perhaps smaller than an atom* – The universe was hot • Trillions of degrees – Matter and energy are interchangeable at such heats
    16. 16. The First 300,000 Years• The tiny, hot universe expands at amazing speeds – Faster than the speed of light for the first fraction of a second • The universe may have went from as small as an atom to the size of our galaxy in less than a second!• As the universe expands it becomes less homogeneous – Symmetry is broken, and distinct patterns emerge
    17. 17. The First 300,000 Years• After about 300,000 years the rate of expansion and the temperature fall enough for matter to emerge – First atoms are extremely simple • Most are hydrogen (2/3) • Others are helium (1/3) – The universe is a large, empty space with immense clouds of hydrogen and helium • And massive levels of radiation
    18. 18. Origins of the Galaxies and Stars• We live in the an undistinguished suburb of the Milky Way Galaxy – Which itself is a second- rank galaxy* on the edge of the Virgo super-cluster • Which contains thousands of galaxies – In fact, these super-clusters may be bit players in cosmological history… • More than 90% of the universe is NOT visible
    19. 19. Origins of the Galaxies and Stars• What created these immense structures? – Gravity • The force of the Big Bang pushed objects apart, gravity pulls things together – Pulling on matter and energy gave the universe shape and structure • Shrinking gas clouds gather mass and heat up – In the core regions of these “clumps” atoms began to move faster and faster, colliding violently causing nuclear fusion reactions*
    20. 20. Origins of the Galaxies and Stars• Stars represent a new level of complexity – New entities operating under new rules • What had been billions of independent atoms suddenly became an organized structure that could last for billions of years – Gravity collected matter, which in turn caused heat to increase until a threshold was crossed • A pattern repeated through history…
    21. 21. Origins of the Galaxies and Stars• Black holes, Quasars, Dark Matter, and the Life cycles of stars – Time may be immense in the universe, but it is very limited for us
    22. 22. Origins of the Galaxies and Stars• Birth of Sol – Our sun was created 4.6 billion years ago • It should have a shelf life of 9- 10 billion years, making Sol middle-aged – All the planets of our solar- system were made from the Sun’s debris and constructed by its gravitational field • In addition, it provides nearly all the light, heat, and energy that sustains life on Earth
    23. 23. Before Our Next Week• You should post your response to discussion board topic for this module – You should also check prior discussion board threads• You should begin reading WTWA