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Cosmic Calendar: Big Bang

Big Bang—1 January, 12:00 midnight

In its beginning, everything was a single point. This cosmic womb nurtured everything before it came to be. Every star; every planet; every flower; every lion, tiger, or bear; every Mozart, Einstein, or Madonna; every banana split, parfait, or brownie à la mode; every Illiad, I-Ching, or Bible; every hatred, joy, or love; every thing lay dormant within this primordial point. This is the story of how that point became our world, became us. This is our story.

According to current theory, all of what currently makes up the universe was packed into a space no larger than an atom. It doesn’t make sense to ask what was outside that point because even space was curled up inside this cosmic egg. It’s kind of like asking what’s north of the North Pole. Nor does it make sense to ask what happened before the point began to expand billions of years ago because time began its flow with the expansion. Our universe began in the in what is known as the Big Bang.

There was neither non-existence nor existence then. There was neither the realm of space nor the sky which is beyond. What stirred? Where? In whose protection? Was there water, bottlemlessly deep?

There was neither death nor immortality then. There was no distinguishing sign of night nor of day. That One breathed, windless, by its own impulse. Other than that there was nothing beyond.

Darkness was hidden by darkness in the beginning, with no distinguishing sign, all this was water. The life force that was covered with emptiness, that One arose through the power of heat.

Desire came upon that One in the beginning, that was the first seed of mind. Poets seeking in their heart with wisdom found the bond of existence and non-existence.

Their cord was extended across. Was there below? Was there above? There were seed-placers, there were powers. There was impulse beneath, there was giving forth above.

Who really knows? Who will here proclaim it? Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation? The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe. Who then knows whence it has arisen?

Whence this creation has arisen—perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not – the One who looks down on it, in the highest heaven, only He knows or perhaps He does not know. (Nāsadīya Sukta, Rigveda)

Planck Epoch: We really don’t know what was happening in the first instant of the Big Bang 13,700 million years ago (Mya). The laws of physics as we know them break down during the Planck Epoch, the first 10-43 seconds after the Big Bang.1 This notation means one tenth multiplied by itself 43 times, or put another way, 0.000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 1, an extremely, extremely small number. According to one theory, the universe was about 10-35 meters across.2 Because all of the matter and energy of the universe were packed into such a small space, it was also ludicrously hot: 1032 degrees Celsius. This notation means 10 multiplied by itself 32 times, or 100 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000.3

It is impossible to fully comprehend how extremely small the universe was. To try, imagine a young child about one meter tall who holds in their cupped hand a sphere that is 10-35 meters across. Actually, the sphere is so small that the child’s hand would appear empty. Now, stretch the child and the sphere until the child is as tall as the diameter of the universe that we can currently see. Light travels very fast—186,000 miles per second—but it would take 93 billion years for light to travel from the child’s head to its foot. The sphere has stretched too, but if we were cradled in the child’s gigantic hand, the expanded sphere would still be too small for us to see. It would still only be a few atoms wide. This is unimaginably small.

Just as the universe was incomprehensibly small, the temperature was incomprehensibly large. For comparison, the core of our sun is only 107 degrees Celsius (i.e. 10,000,000 degrees). Multiply the heat of the sun by ten million. Hellish, we might be tempted to call it. Now multiply that hellish temperature by another million. And do it again. And again. And again. That is wicked hot!

All of the fundamental forces which govern our universe—gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces—were equally strong and acted as one during the Planck Epoch. Today, gravity attracts all matter together and is the force that keeps the Earth circling the Sun and our feet firmly planted on the ground. The electromagnetic force governs light and magnetism. It makes radio, television, and cell phones possible and it holds our atoms together. The nuclear forces govern interactions within the nucleus of atoms. In the beginning, they were a single force.

Grand Unification Epoch: At the end of the Planck Epoch, an unimaginably small moment in time, this symmetry broke and gravity became weaker, separating itself from the other forces. (Please refer to the time line.)

As the universe expanded, it cooled down. But at this early stage immediately after the symmetry of universal forces was broken, the universe was still incredibly hot: 1027 degrees Celsius.

The Grand Unification Epoch is so named because the nuclear forces and the electromagnetic force were still unified in a single force called the electronuclear force. This epoch ended 10-36 seconds after the Big Bang when the strong force broke away from the others.

Electroweak Epoch: When the strong force separated from the others, the universe had cooled to about 1015 degrees Celsius and began a period of incredible expansion known as cosmic inflation. Its diameter increased in size by a factor of about 1026 in a small fraction of a second: by the end of this epoch something that had been the size of a millimeter grew to dwarf the Milky Way galaxy. Elementary particles were stretched to cosmic sizes, all within 10-32 seconds. Big Bang indeed.

Quark Epoch: This period began 10-12 seconds after the Big Bang when the electromagnetic and weak forces separated themselves and the four fundamental forces took their present form. The universe had cooled enough that subatomic quarks and gluons—the basic building blocks of matter—could condense out of its roiling energy. The universe was still too hot, however, for quarks to bind to each other to form neutrons and protons.

Hadron Epoch: One microsecond after the Big Bang, the universe had cooled enough to allow quarks to form hadrons such as protons and neutrons, the building blocks of the nuclei of all atoms. A nearly equal number of particles and anti-particles were forged from quarks in the primordial furnace. Particles and anti-particles have an explosive relationship. When they collide, both are annihilated in an explosion that releases tremendous energy. At this point, any hadrons that were destroyed in this way were replaced by others that were created in the heat of the early universe.

The universe continued to cool, reaching the point where hadrons were no longer being created. Most of the particles and anti-particles soon destroyed each other. When the figurative smoke cleared, all of the anti-hadrons were destroyed, but a small number of hadrons were left over. You and I and everything we see are partly made of those leftover hadrons. We exist because of an imbalance in particle/anti-particle destruction.

Lepton Epoch: One second after the Big Bang when most of the hadrons and anti-hadrons had destroyed each other, leptons (such as the familiar electrons) dominated the mass of the universe. The universe was still creating pairs of leptons and anti-leptons until three seconds after the Big Bang. In a now familiar story, most of the leptons and anti-leptons destroyed each other, but a small residue of leptons survived (to later create atoms later in the story).

Photon Epoch: After most of the pairs of leptons and anti-leptons had destroyed each other, photons—particles of light—made up most of the energy in the universe. Photons were still being scattered by electrons. The universe was therefore opaque: light couldn’t shine through the thick soup of scattering particles. Protons and neutrons began to form small atomic nuclei (e.g. helium, lithium, and beryllium).

Matter Domination—1 January, 12:03 AM

70,000 years after the Big Bang (3 minutes at the scale of the Cosmic Calendar), the amount of what we would call matter had grown to become equal to the amount of radiation (e.g. light) in the universe.

Recombination and Dark Ages—1 January 12:16 AM

Up to about 379,000 years after the Big Bang, the universe was filled with a plasma. In other words, the electrons were racing around unattached to atomic nuclei (contrary to our normal experience). It was just too hot for electrons to settle down. Lightning and the sun are two common examples of plasmas. Light is scattered by plasma, so light couldn’t travel very far in a straight line in the early universe. You could say that visibility was practically zero. If you were alive then (and could manage to stay alive), you wouldn’t be able to see the end of your nose.

After 379,000 years, the universe had cooled enough to allow atomic nuclei to capture electrons and form true atoms such as hydrogen and helium. The fancy name for this is recombination. This freed the light that had been held captive by the universal plasma. The universe became transparent; visibility was no longer zero. The consequent burst of light as the universe became transparent is known as the cosmic microwave background.

After the release of photons, the universe was plunged into darkness. No new light was being generated. This was the beginning of the Dark Ages.

Observance Ideas

  • Watch a fireworks show at the stroke of midnight and think about cosmology.
  • Make your own big bang (wink wink) at midnight… while thinking about cosmology.

Further Study

A Brief History of Time by Stephen W. Hawking

The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen W. Hawking

Born With a Bang by Jennifer Morgan

Character of Physical Law by Richard Feynman

QED by RichardFeynman

  1. This unit period of time is known as a Planck time after Max Planck, the founder of quantum theory. []
  2. A unit of length known as the Planck length. []
  3. A unit of temperature known as the Planck temperature. Note that I use the Celsius scale because it is more familiar than the Kelvin scale to most readers. Even though the Kelvin scale is technically more correct, at these temperatures the difference is negligible anyway. []

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  1. a.k.satsangi said,

    January 5, 2009 @ 1:29 am


    I have written following two papers which may lead to the realization for a higher theory of everything:

    (i) Gravitation Force is the Ultimate Creator,
    (1st Int. Conf. on Revival of Traditional Yoga, Lonavla Yoga Institute, Lonavla, January, 2006)
    (ii) In Scientific Terminology, Source of Gravitational Wave is God
    (2nd World Congress on Vedic Science, BHU, Varanasi, Feb 2007)
    I have presented these two papers at the two different International Conferences. I am now submitting some views for being considered for Unified Field Theory

    From Scriptures: (Prem Patra by His Holiness Huzur Maharaj)
    The Current which manifested in the beginning of the creation is the Current of Sabda (Sound) and of Chaitanya (Consciousness). From whom that Current issued forth is known as Soami (Supreme Being). This Current, by turning back can merge again in the Holy Feet of Supreme Being. The entire creation manifested from this current and is sustained with its energy and when the Current of the Holy Feet is withdrawn, the creation ceases to exist.This Current of the Holy Feet is the Reservoir of all energy, tastes and pleasures, knowledge, skill, shapes, forces and light etc. etc. and of the entire creation, is also the Creator of all of them.

    From Science:
    Gravitation Force is the cause of manifestation of the creation (birth of planets, stars), its sustenance and when it is withdrawn towards centre or source the entire creation ceases to exist. Photons have originated from gravitons. In black holes photons merge into gravitons. In Black Holes, Gravitational Force is so high that it does not allow even light to escape. What does it mean then? It simply means that the gravitational force at black-holes attracts light towards it with much greater velocity than the speed of light. In fact, all forces including electromagnetic force, material force (strong and weak nuclear force) all merge into gravitational force in black-holes and becomes one force there and when the creational process starts again from a Black-Hole all the forces appear (manifest) again and descends downwards to create billions of stars, planets, satellite, asteroids and various life forms.

    Hence it can be assumed that the Current of Chaitanya (Consciousness) and Gravitational Wave are the two names of the same Supreme Essence (Seed) which has brought forth the entire creation.

    All cosmological researches should be conducted keeping in view of the following philosophical facts:
    It has been stated in Bible (John I-1) “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,”
    Mohammedans hold that God uttered ‘Kun’ (i.e. ‘Came into being’) and the creation came into being (Holy Quran, Sur. Bakr (II.117).
    In Chhandogya Upanishad it is written “Tadaikshat bahu syam prajayeyeti” (VI-2-iii) i.e. “It thought (desired) Would that I were many! Let me procreate myself!” The Aitareya Upanishad says,”Sa ikshat ‘lokannusrija’ iti (I-1-i) i.e. “He bethought himself (desired) – ‘Let me create worlds’, etc. etc.
    It is written in Chapter VII of Srimad Bhagavadgita : Sri Bhagwan said, “Arjun, now listen how with the mind attached to Me and practicing Yoga with absolute dependence on Me, you will know Me in entirety and without any shadow of doubt” (1). I shall unfold to you in its entirety this wisdom alongwith the Knowledge of the qualified aspect of God, having known which nothing else remains yet to be known in this world (2). Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, reason and also ego; these constitute My nature eightfold divided. This indeed is My lower (material) nature : the other than this, by which the whole universe is sustained, know it to be My higher nature in the form of Jiva, O Arjuna. (4-5). Arjuna, know that all beings have evolved from this twofold Prakriti, and that I am the source of the entire creation, and into Me again it disappears.(6)
    The Radhasoami Religion also tells that, the ‘Word’ mentioned above is in fact Current of Sound or Current of Consciousness or Prime Current of Spirituality which was issued forth from its Source, or Creator or God. This Current has later on produced light and other forces. The scientists are discussing these days about dark energy which constitute about 96% of the entire universe which is not known to us. Only 4% part of the universe is known to us by all scientific means. In fact this 96% invisible portion of the universe is the vast expanse of spirituality which can be designated as field of gravitational waves in scientific terms. Visible portion of the universe (4%) consists of consciousness (gravitational force), mental force (electromagnetic waves) and material force (strong and weak nuclear force).
    Body = Nuclear Force (weak as well as strong)
    Mind = Electromagnetic Force.
    Consciousness = Gravitation Force.
    According to Radhasoami Religion the whole Universe can be sub-divided into three grand divisions viz.
    1. Region of Pure Spirituality
    2. Region of Subtle Maya
    3. Region of Gross Maya
    Nuclear forces dominate Region of Gross Maya (Gross Material Region), Electro-magnetic forces dominate Region of Subtle Maya (Subtle Material Region) and Gravitational Force dominates Pure Spiritual Region.
    This is the only Truth which can be verified scientifically and can be termed as ‘higher theory for everything’. This also supports the statement of Sir Sahabji Maharaj that ‘the goal of science – Truth; the goal of philosophy – Ultimate Reality; and the goal of religion – God’ are the three names of same supreme essence.
    Many things are common between Current of Consciousness and Gravitational Wave.
    1. Current of consciousness can not be seen by any means and gravitational wave can also not be seen.
    2. Current of consciousness is the weakest force on earth. Its strength goes on increasing on higher regions. Gravitational force is also very weak on earth and strong on Sun and even more stronger on black holes.
    3 Tendency of both current of consciousness and gravitational waves are towards their source or centre.
    4. Current of consciousness and gravitational force are both regarded as the creater of all the celestial and terrestrial bodies of the whole universe. They are also sustainer of these and when they turn back towards their source or centre the whole universe will collapse.
    Hence it can be assumed that the source of current of consciousness and gravitational wave is the same i.e. God or ultimate creator.
    This theory is based on scientific deduction. In scientific terms it can be said that the ‘gravitons’ are the elementaryparticle which was issued forth in the beginning of the creation accompanying with sound ‘Radha’
    Many views on the Origin of Universe are available. Most popular view is that universe was born with a big-bang from a highly dense energy point. But I have some different view on it. I think the universe was not born from a concentrated point or ball like structure but it has been evolved from an infinite vast expanse of field of gravity. Philosophically or religiously we may call it field of consciousness or spirituality.
    A great flow of current of gravitation force descended down from this source and has created many regions of pure gravitation force below it. This was the creation for quite some time in the first phase of the creational process. In the second phase, with a Big-Bang, when the current of gravitation force further descended down then electromagnetic forces and matter (weak and strong nuclear forces)manifested and the entire universe of the second phase was completed with the admixture of all the forces viz., gravitation force, electromagnetic forces, and matter (weak and strong nuclear forces. The completion of the whole cosmos in two phases was also hinted in one of the speeches of Prof. J.V.Narlikar some years back. When the process of creation of universe reverts back the matter merges into electromagnetic force and then finally electromagnetic forces merge into gravitation force and nothing remains except field of gravity. The cycle of universe completes like this.

    Anirudh Kumar Satsangi

  2. Jonathan Blake said,

    January 5, 2009 @ 12:40 pm

    Hmm. Well let’s just say that it seems that your theory doesn’t have a firm grasp of the science. For example, light doesn’t get sucked into black holes at greater than the speed of light in a vacuum. Rather, the gravitation of the black hole warps spacetime to such an extent that all possible future events for a given entrapped photon are within the event horizon.

    Oh, and the whole lack of supporting evidence thing.

    It’s been fun.

  3. a.k.satsangi said,

    January 5, 2009 @ 9:40 pm

    Grand Unification Epoch: At the end of the Planck Epoch – and gravity became weaker -separating itself from the other forces.

    Strong force broke away from the others.

    The above statements are contradictory. If weaker force, as you have stated gravity became weaker, separated first then in second phase weak nuclear force should have been separated and not the strong nuclear force.

    In fact gravity is the strongest force in higher regions of cosmos. When it descends down it becomes weaker and weaker as it goes down and becomes stronger and stronger as it move upwards. It is weak at Earth, strong at Sun and many times stronger at Black Holes.

    Even light can not escape black holes, What does it mean? Black holes can gobbles up galaxies (the finer constituents of galaxies are strong and weak nuclear force and electromagnetic force). At what speed galaxies enter into a black hole?

  4. Jonathan Blake said,

    January 6, 2009 @ 10:38 am

    Thanks for pointing out where I spoke ambiguously. It should read something like “Strong force broke away from the electromagnetic and weak forces.

    Regarding which forces separated when, I can only go on the educated speculations of the cosmologists. But you’re right to point out that I really shouldn’t have said that gravity became “weaker”.

    Regarding what speed matter enters black holes, it depends on which observer, right? To an observer outside the black hole, the galaxy would slow down and never quite enter the event horizon. To the material in the galaxy, it would cross the event horizon at some speed, not necessarily the speed of light. The important factor isn’t the speed of falling, but rather how much spacetime is warped.

  5. a.k.satsangi said,

    January 6, 2009 @ 9:51 pm

    A tight contracting cluster of atoms held together in the grip of its own gravity, is called a protostar. The protostar is not yet a star and does not emit light. The temperature is also now as low as -173 degree C.

    The force of acting on different atoms in the protostar, draws every atom towards the centre of the cloud. The atoms in gas cloud collide with one another more frequently with a much higher speed, thereby raising its temperature from –173 degree C to 10000000 degree C.

    At these extremely high temperatures the protons at the centre of protostar collide together and undergo a nuclear fusion reaction to form helium nuclei. In this reaction a tremendous amount of energy is released. This further raises the temperature and pressure.

    The release of nuclear energy marks the birth of the star. The protostar now begins to glow and becomes a star.

    Now the question is, what is the cause of this light and nuclear energy etc. ? Obviously, it is the action of gravity only causing the birth and manifestation of all other kinds of forces etc.

  6. Jonathan Blake said,

    January 7, 2009 @ 9:05 am

    That’s an excellent description of what I’m writing about for my next post.

    I’m not convinced that gravity is the source of all other forces. Granted that gravitational potential energy is converted into thermal energy, and this thermal energy is the catalyst that releases some of the nuclear potential energy that is bound up in mass, and this energy is released (in part?) in the form of photons, but those photons can later be reabsorbed and contribute their energy/mass to a system. You could say therefore that light is the source of mass/gravity.

    Where you seem to see a hierarchy with gravity as the source, I see a cycle of energy/mass taking various forms (the dance of Nataraja if I’m in a poetic mood). The choice of gravity as the source therefore seems arbitrary. Any force could be chosen as the source if we’re looking to impose a hierarchy.

  7. a.k.satsangi said,

    January 13, 2009 @ 11:35 pm

    The significance of Gravity as Prime Force Current can not be ruled out. If we see the early history of the universe, various ‘Eras’ of the universe have been described. In your original post too. The different ‘eras’ are based on the type of particle that predominated during that era. In the Planck Era quantum gravity effects dominated. All other type of forces or particle e.g. electroweak force, strong force, electromagnetic force, free roaming elementary particles (some familiar to us today and some very exotic particles that are unseen today, and all these elementary particles are continually inter-converting between each other), quarks, anti quarks, gluons, hadrons (baryons and mesons), leptons and photons appeared later respectively in downward hierarchy of eras. Light (photons) have originated at a very later stage of universe history. So you should be convinced that Gravity is the Prime Force Current which was manifested immediately after the beginning of the Universe. All other types of forces and particles are in fact the modifications of Gravitation Force only and nothing else. That’s why I say that the Source of Gravity or Gravitation Force is God or Ultimate Creator.

  8. Jonathan Blake said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 5:59 am

    Quantum gravity is the attempt to reconcile gravity and the other three fundamental interactions. It is not primarily about gravity. It’s name means to convey that quantum mechancis (i.e. electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces) and gravity become one unified force, not that gravity takes the forefront.

    Further, the Photon Epoch isn’t when photons first appeared in the universe. They were fundamental to interactions (such as annihilation) very early in the life of the universe. This epoch is so named because photons predominated the mass/energy of the universe.

    To me, it seems like the Gravity = God theory is based on scientific tidbits, shallowly understood, cobbled together in order to give an air of respectability to an unfalsifiable, unscientific belief. In a word, it’s pseudoscience.

    I sympathize. I’ve had plenty of pseudoscientific beliefs of my own.

  9. a.k.satsangi said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 9:48 pm

    I also want to convince that all other forces of nature merge into gravity at the time of dissolution of the universe and reappear from it at the time of next creation. I will discuss more in our next post.

  10. a.k.satsangi said,

    January 15, 2009 @ 9:35 pm

    How stars and clusters of stars formed out of the interstellar matter? Perhaps you don’t want to accept the reality. Star formation is a continuous process. All theories indicate that stars are formed as a result of large scale gravitational instability developed in the central region of the massive molecular clouds. Instability leads to collapse and breaking into pieces of the original cloud.

    The mathematical treatment of the problem of gravitational instability and collapse was first considered by Sir James Jeans 1902. More rigorous works of S.Chandrasekhar, E.N.Parkar and others have established the fact, that the collapse cannot be averted even when gas is subjected to other forces. Evidently no force individually or collectively can overcome gravity at the time of formation of stars.

    Our immediate visible God is Sun. Who can deny this? After Big Bang Gravity is the cause of manifestation of whole universe.

  11. Green Oasis » Cosmic Calendar: Galaxies and Stars said,

    January 27, 2009 @ 3:36 pm

    [...] billion years have passed on the Cosmic Calendar since the Big Bang. Much of that time has been spent in the darkness known as the Dark Ages. The universe created no [...]

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