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Life And The Big Bang

Nuclear weapon test Mike (yield 10.4 Mt) on En...

Not this type of big bang

Life is a mystery and to borrow a few words from Winston Churchill “It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key” but what can we really say as to the origins and what would the key be? If we really want to search we must go to the beginning and not just satisfy ourselves by saying an invisible man in the sky did it [What is invisible looks exactly like something that doesn’t exist].

Click  this illustration to see it in more det...

IExpansion Of The Universe

Our search must begin at the beginning of time, at the big bang some 13.7 billion years ago. Simply put, the big bang was not an explosion ex nihilio but it was an expansion often characterized as an explosion. In the first moments after the big bang the universe [whatever size it was] was a homogeneous mixture of what can best be called pure energy at extremely high pressure and density. After things cooled a bit the universe went into a stage of really fast expansion that is known as the inflationary period. At the end of inflation, the universe was a plasma of quarks, gluons and some other elementary particles. The temperature was still extremely high, so high that the particles were moving at relativistic speeds [in layman terms: very fast]. The collisions led to the appearance of particle-antiparticle pairs which of course were being destroyed almost as fast as they were appearing. Sometime after the period of inflation and before what came to be called Big Bang Nucleosynthesis there was an unclear process called Baryogenesis which led to an excess of baryonic matter over antimatter by a minuscule fraction of 1 part in 30 million or so. The universe still went on expand and cooling until our next player arrived about 3 minutes after the big bang since we now have a universe cool enough to have stable protons and neutrons.

deuterium-tritium fusion diagram, point as dec...

Deuterium-Tritium Fusion

Big Bang nucleosynthesis aka primordial nucleosynthesis, what is it and why? Pretty much the term means the formation of atomic nuclei. The nucleosynthesis was on a clock so to speak and had to take place while the rapidly cooling universe was still hot enough to promote nuclear fusion [take that cold fusion] so it only took place for the relatively short period from 3 minutes after until about 20 minutes after. That was enough though, if it wasn’t fact is we wouldn’t be here reading this right now. Without delving into the background science [you can look it up if you wish], this was responsible for the fusion of Hydrogen, Helium and Lithium and a handful of unstable isotopes.

All the above took place within 20 minutes after the initial expansion known as the big bang. All the above was inevtable. Once we had a plasma of quarks it was inevitable that as they cooled they combine to form baryonic matter. Once there was a preponderance of matter, no matter how small, it was inevitable that protons and neutrons would form. Once we had protons and neutrons it was again inevitable that atomic nuclei formed. Once the nuclei needed to for stars appeared, I bet you can all figure out that it was once again inevitable that stars appeared.

To be blunt, stars form and stars die. When stars die there is a process of nucleogenesis that takes place and fuses heavier and heavier elements culminating in iron. When the star explodes in a nova or supernova, you would think that is it but no, the atoms fused by the star are flung out into the universe. Our solar system formed approximately 4.6 billion years ago. That is 9.1 billion years after the big bang. Does anyone want to even estimate how many stars lived and died in that time period? Doesn’t matter anyway because the fact is we do have elements much heavier than Hydrogen, Helium and Lithium.

Now we can fast forward 9.1 billion years to the formation of our solar system. Without getting too much into the science, some of the swirling stellar cloud [the lighter elements] condensed into the star we call the sun. Once again, I have to point out that star formation was inevitable after the previous events. While the heavier elements condensed into what we call the terrestrial [rocky] planets while the outermost planets formed from the lighter gas left on the ‘edge’ of the cloud. Yes, once again, the formation of solar systems was inevitable [anybody see where this is going?]

Prokaryote

Now somewhere around 4.5 billion years ago this hot soupy planet we call home formed. Pretty much there were atoms all over the planet, particularly in the seas whether you call it a primordial soup or not. These atoms inevitably formed molecules which inevitably became more and more complex until 700 million years after the planet formed these complex molecules formed the first prokaryotic cell [must I really tell you this was inevitable?]. Not content with procaryotic life, the next inevitable step was the formation of eucaryotic cells some 2000 million years later. About 1000 million years after, what became known by the name of the Cambrian Explosion [an event that took place over millions of years is not an explosion] was the next inevitable step that led to multi-celled eucaryotes. The next link in the chain of inevitable events was now set to appear. Somewhere around 496-7 million years after the wrongly named Cambrian Explosion came the first Hominids.

As can be plainly seen, from the big bang up until the present day life has emerged from an inevitable series of purely chemical and physical processes with no need whatsoever for a postulated imaginary friend in the sky. Some may intellectually agree with everything written above but claim that life, and also death, have no meaning. That isn’t true at all. Life has the meaning we give it. Now death, that is another subject entirely but the way I like to view it is that according to the first law of thermodynamics matter can neither be created nor destroyed. We are made of billions of years of star dust, at least the element we are made from are. After death those elements are recycled and eventually they may find themselves in a star or planet that is giving life to another civilization. That is a meaning to life and even death. Much more than the somewhat self centered arrogance found in some religious circles.

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