A New Explanation

In the beginning there was neither space nor time as we know them, but a shifting foam of strings and loops, as small as anything can be. Within the foam, all of space, time and energy mingled in a grand unification. But the foam expanded and cooled. And then there was gravity, and space and time, and a universe was created. There was a grand unified force that filled the universe with a false vacuum endowed with a negative pressure. This caused the universe to expand exceedingly rapidly against gravity. But this state was unstable, and did not last, and the true vacuum reappeared, the inflation stopped, and the grand unified force was gone forever. In its place were the strong and electroweak interactions, and enormous energy from the decay of the false vacuum. The universe continued to expand and cool, but at a much slower rate. Families of particles, matter and antimatter, rose briefly to prominence and then died out as the temperature fell below that required to sustain them. Then the electromagnetic and the weak interaction were cleaved, and later the neutrinos were likewise separated from the photons. The last of the matter and antimatter annihilated, but a small remnant of matter remained. The first elements were created, reminders of the heat that had made them. And all this came to pass in three minutes, after the creation of time itself. Thereafter the universe, still hot and dense and opaque to light, continued to expand and cool. Finally the electrons joined to the nuclei, and there were atoms, and the universe became transparent. The photons which were freed at that time continue to travel even today as relics of the time when atoms were created, but their energy drops ever lower. And a billion years passed after the creation of the universe, and then the clouds of gas collapsed from their own gravity, and the stars shone and there were galaxies to light the universe. And some galaxies harbored at their centers giant black holes, consuming much gas, and blazing with exceeding brightness. And still the universe expanded. And stars created heavy elements in their cores, and then they exploded, and the heavy elements went out into the universe. New stars form still and take into themselves the heavy elements from the generations that went before them.

And more billions of years passed, and one particular star formed, like many others of its kind that had already formed, and would form in the future. Around this star was a disk of gas and dust. And it happened that this star formed alone, with no companion close by to disrupt the disk, so the dust did condense, and formed planets, and numerous smaller objects. And the third planet was the right size and the right distance from its star so that rain fell upon the planet and did not boil away, nor did it freeze. And this water made the planet warm, but not too warm, and was yet a good solvent, and many compounds formed. And some of these compounds could make copies of themselves. And these compounds made a code that could be copied and passed down to all the generations. And then there were cells, and they were living. And billions of years elapsed with only the cells upon the planet. Then some of the cells joined together and made animals which lived in the seas of the planet. And finally some cells from the water began to live upon the rocks of the land, and they joined together and made plants. And the plants made oxygen, and other creatures from the seas began to live upon the land. And many millions of years passed, and multitudes of creatures lived, of diverse kinds, each kind from another kind. And a kind of animal arose and spread throughout the planet, and this animal walked upon two feet and made tools. And it began to speak, and then it told stories of itself, and and last it told this story. But all things must come to their end, and after many billions of years, the star will swell up and swallow the third planet, and all will be destroyed in the fire of the star. And we know not how the universe will end, but it may expand forever, and finally all the stars will die and the universe will end in eternal darkness and cold.

© 1998 OUP

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