Time

The Universe began with a bang 13.7 Billion years ago, and has been expanding ever since.

What does this mean…..that the Universe began 13.7 Billion years ago?  What does “began” mean in that context?  Are we trying to put God in a box?  Let us rephrase the lead-in sentence….

The Universe, as we know it, began with a bang 13.7 Billion years ago, and has been expanding ever since.

Now, what happened prior to the beginning of this universe is a whole other matter, and not a subject that has been written about much in the scientific journals.  Maybe for that subject we should stick to the Bible or whatever book of teachings inspire you.

So what about the 13.7 Billion years ago for this universe?  The number is so large most of us won’t readily relate to the meaning.  Sure, Bill Gates is worth 50 to 100 Billion dollars….depending on the value of Microsoft stock of course…..and the Stimulus Package is worth ???? billions….but very few people can really relate to a billion.  To most of us it is simple more than enough.  And 13.7 Billion years is certainly enough time to get from the beginning to the present, enough time for the world around us to have developed from the basic particles which formed immediately after the Big Bang to its current complexity, a whole Periodic Table of atoms.

Let us try to put this number – 13.7 Billion years – in some sort of perspective.  We will take a personal journey back in time. To make the numbers more easily compared, from now on all time figures in this web site will be indicated in millions of years.  This will avoid confusion between  “millions” and “billions” and further allow us to see the comparison of time more readily.

……..so, the Universe began 13,700 Million years ago.

A journey through time……

Here follows a rough timeline, from the present, back in time to that violent beginning – the first moment….. the Big Bang – with some commentary to help us wonder at the vastness of it all.

Time scale 2a

The Figure above indicates the time from the Big Bang to the present.  For us, the present is represented by the Earth on the right.  Going back in time from today (in the direction of the red arrow) you can easily see that 13,700 million years ago the Big Bang is thought to have occurred.  Humans (homoerectus) appeared just a brief time ago, relatively speaking.  Life as we know it appeared on Earth nearly 4,000 million years ago.  The Earth formed nearly 4,500 million years ago…our sun 5,000 million years ago…and still we are not even half way to the beginning.  So let us go on a journey back in time so that we might appreciate the grandness of time involved, and also to understand that there are people (scientists) who study these things and have a theory of how it all happened.

The journey then……

We can each recall the memories of events in our past.  The concept of a year, or a decade, is readily understood and experienced by adults.  A few of us, the fortunate ones indeed, may even have a personal memory of an event or two nearly a Century ago.  So let us journey back in time to the beginning, starting with some recent memories and progressing into the past.  Be reflective of the events noted.  Stop and give a thought to the idea that the event really did occur.  If you want a little more information about the event, click on the event name.  Then, when your personal journey back in time reaches that questionable event – in other words “did it really happen?” – make a mental note that this is where you begin to doubt.   This is important because, (1) there are few of us who would not initially wrinkle our eyebrow at the notion of the universe beginning with a bang, literally, so somewhere between here and there we begin to doubt, and (2), it is interesting to recognize that, even so, our skepticism is pretty much unfounded.  Unfounded because all of the events are based on some reasonable degree of deduction, albeit the further back we go the less certain the deduction.

 

 

Super Bowl XIII………………………………………………………Now, let’s see….I know I saw it, but who won?

World War II…………………………………………………………….the war to end all wars.

1st Oil well ……………………………………………………………..and the selling price per barrel was……

The American Revolution.……………………………………….yes, it was a revolution.

The Magna Carta …………………………………………………..the foundation of modern freedom

The invention of the fork…………………………………………. that’s right, it was not invented until 1300 AD!

The Fall of the Roman Empire…………………………………hummm…..and history repeats itself?

The life and times of Jesus Christ………………….   ……………………………0.002 million years ago

1st Olympic Games held in Olympia, 776 B.C. ……………………………..0.003 million years ago

Recorded history began about 9,000 years ago….. ……………………….0.009 million years ago

This dates to the earliest permanent human settlements, evidence of huts, hearths, granaries found in ancient Egypt (ca. 7,000 B.C., Neolithic period).

Now some readers of the Bible may take exception to any idea of life before recorded history as presented in the Bible.  This is ok.  The intention here is not to attack your beliefs.  It is rather to present the science for the development of the universe, independent of religion.  I think of it as our feeble attempt to understand this universe that God gave us….the fun of seeing the eloquence and beauty of how it all works together.  Also, theologians should take pause and review the mistake of the Church in condemning Copernicus and Galileo in the discovery and subsequent promotion of a sun-centered universe, as opposed to the Church’s idea of an earth-centered universe.  See Astronomers.

Early art work in the world 70,000 years ago……………………………………..0.07 million years ago

Earliest Human artwork
Earliest Human artwork

Note that this art piece was found in a cave and dated to be 70,000 years old.  Who made it? …what does it represent?

 

Note: The more commonly known Carbon-14 dating is useful in dating once-living articles less than 60,000 years old.

 

 

 

Homo sapiens (modern man) begin life 200,000 years ago in Africa ……..0.2 millions years ago

By 40,000 years ago they had migrated to Europe and basically eliminated  the Neanderthals.

Earliest hand tools from 300,000 years ago……………………………………………0.3 million years ago

Hand tools made from flint have been found in many parts of the desert in northern Africa. These tools are mostly made from stone and are typical of the Paleolithic period (ca. 300,000-7,000 B.C.)

Earth’s Magnetic field reversal 780,000 years ago …………………………………0.78 million years ago

The first human appeared on the Planet  ……………………………………………….2.5 million years ago

The first human, from the human genus Homo, appeared on the Planet 2.5 million years ago (elementary life forms however began much, much earlier – see below).

Note that for over 99% of this time (a tad under 2 1/2 million years) man roamed the planet with no recorded history, other than the few bones we dig up now and again!  Think of all that could of happened during that time……civilizations come and gone? Probably not, since archeologists haven’t found evidence of any advanced civilizations that may have appeared, and then disappeared.

The first origins of our human ancestors ……………………………………………… 3.2 million years ago

;Nearly a full skeleton was found of a female ape (“Lucy”) which is now considered to be the early ancestor of humans because this ape walked upright on it’s legs.

You don’t believe that?  Not to worry.  That is just an educated guess by present day scientist.  They are still digging up bones in Ethiopia, looking for Millennium Man.  However if your skepticism runs more deeply (as in “I don’t believe in evolution”), you’ll probably put your question mark here.  That’s ok, read on.  The events continuing below are less controversial from the standpoint that they deal with inanimate objects : rocks…..very old rocks!

Himalayan mountains form………………………………………………………. 50 million years ago.

The Himalayan Range of mountains were formed between 20 million and 55 million years ago when the land mass of India collided with Asia.  Of course the process took many millions of years.  During this period of Continental drifting, the North and South magnetic Poles reversed polarity over 300 times.  The evidence for these numbers and those that follow lies in the study of rocks and the processes that form them, the science of Geology, a precise and definitive study of our earth. And bear in mind that while all this mountain building was going on, it would be another 47 million years before man comes along!  …..and the dinosaurs? they were killed off well before these Himalayan’s were formed!

The dinosaurs became extinct ………………………………………………….65 million years ago.

The current thinking is that the dinosaurs were victims of earth’s collision with an asteroid.  Note that dinosaurs disappeared from the earth 62 million years before man came along.  Cave man may have fought some large animals but dinosaurs were not among them.  So between the demise of the dinosaurs and modern man, 62 million years elapsed.  Think for a moment….. that’s a lot of time!  There may have been time enough for many potential intelligent species to have come and gone, and maybe enough time for the fruits of their labors to have disintegrated, including nuclear radiation should they have stumbled across that discovery…….just a thought.  Modern science, of course, won’t support this.

The continents began forming…………………………………………………. 150 million years ago.

Originally there was one large continent which was known as Pangaea. This continent began to break up 150 million years ago to form the continents as we know them today, a process known as Plate Tectonics. The large Continental masses were pushed apart by magna erupting through the earth’s crust and these eruptions continue today in the center of the major oceans of the world.  (Yes, there is a minority thought that maybe there is no such thing as Continental Drift.)

The first land animals appeared ………………………………………………..370 million years ago.

Note.  This is 367 million years before early man comes along!  It is now thought that fish developed limbs and were able to leave the water to become the first land mammals.

Life has been on the Planet for 3.85 Billion years………………………… 3,850 million years ago

Organisms found in rocks – dated by Radioactive dating methods – extend back in time 3,800 million years ago.  This method is based on the observation that if an organism is found imbedded in a rock or rocky strata, then the organism is as old as the rock or rocky strata.  Makes sense to me……

Earth is 4½ Billion years old……………………………………………………….. 4,500 million years ago

The age of the earth has been determined by Geologists and is pretty much cast in stone, as it were.  Note that for about 650 million years, there was no life on earth, just rock, and sky, and weather.  Imagine the storms, volcanoes, meteors, and natural processes occurring for all these hundreds of million years. During this period of time the earth was a very inhospitable place….no oxygen, high CO2 levels, sulfuric acid rain, smoke, and clouds. A dark and lifeless environment!

The Sun is 5 Billion years old……………………………………………………… 5,000 million years ago

Our sun is a typical dwarf star in the Milky Way. Nothing exciting or unusual, except for the small fact that it is the engine that provides the earth with life.  Without it, there is no life.  It is one of about 100 Billion stars in the Milky Way, the nearest being only 4 light years away.  It will burn for another 5,000 million years.  Our Sun, together with the planets, revolves around the center of the Milky Way once every 200 million years. It has completed that journey 17 times. Man has been on the planet for only about 1/60 of the time it takes to make a single revolution……we are newcomers to this galaxy, and to the universe.

Think about this….after the formation of the sun, the earth formed 500 million years later.  It would be one and a half times as long before life formed on earth, and nearly ten times as long before man comes along!

Our Galaxy, the Milky Way, began to form……………………………………..8,000 million (???) years ago

Yes, the Milky Way could be older.  Recent pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope have found some very dim White dwarfs (old, dying stars) in our galaxy.  These very old and cool stars have been calculated to be 12,000 to 13,000 million years old.  This being the case, then our galaxy, the Milky Way, began to form within a billion years of the Big Bang.

The first stars, quasars, and galaxies began to form…………………….12,800 million years ago

Haaa..le..lu..jah!  The Universe becomes light!  Before this time there was a period of darkness.  Now however the Cosmic Dark Ages comes to an end and light once again pervades the universe.  With the formation of stars, enough ultraviolet light is produced to re-ionize hydrogen atoms and allow starlight to fill the cosmos.  The Cosmic Dark Ages lasted about 900 million years.

The Cosmic Dark Ages began………………………………………….almost 13,700 million years ago

Ok, we’re getting real close to the beginning of this universe, as we know it.  The heat from the Big Bang has cooled enough to allow electrons and protons to bind together into atoms.  This atom, hydrogen, loves light and will adsorb any light photon, thereby essentially “putting out the lights”.  Now this is some really interesting stuff!  …..there was a time when there was no light in the universe?  no light, pitch black!  The Universe is dark for close to 900 million years!  ….and, it’s small….. but expanding very quickly.

The Big Bang!……………………………………………………..about 13,700 million years ago

Here’s the beginning of the Universe…..the Big Bang.  Many books have been written about this moment in time, speculating on the physics involved.  But, while it is thought to be an actual moment in time, it is not a single place in time! Rather the Big Bang theory is an infinite dense universe which expands….it does not expand into anything…it simply expands.  Not to worry…give this concept a chance to settle in.  Suffice it to say that it is really hot……. we’re talking exotic physics here.  Scientist have theorized about the physics back to the first second after the Big Bang!   Here we talk about things like bosons and fermions, electrical forces and weak forces, quarks and leptons…..all within the first millisecond!  As the expansion of this compact Universe continues during the first few minutes, the cooling effects allow the physics to progress.  It is truly an amazing theory of the reactions that could have occurred.  Did it really happen this way?   Who knows for sure, there are no witnesses.  But the foundation for all of this work is based on the physical laws which describe our everyday world, and these physical laws are expressed in mathematical terms.  Why wouldn’t these mathematics extend back in time and be valid there as well?   It is a very interesting question and one which occupies the minds of many scientists. (More discussion on the Big Bang in the section Cosmic events.)

Big question.  Even bigger concept.  The interesting thing to wonder about is what the beginning was really like! ….one instant… no particular place… infinite density… infinite temperature!

You may notice that scientist don’t talk about what happened before the Big Bang!  So don’t look for the answer to the question, “What made the Big Bang?”.   Although there is some discussion in the back rooms about a universe before ours that collapsed upon itself – the Big Bounce – and thus gave birth to the “Big Bang”.     (……..poppycock, I say.)

 

 

Comment on the above Timeline….

It may be common for most folks to began to doubt the above timeline around the time of recorded history…..around 0.009 million years ago.  But certainly something must have happened before that time.  What could that have been?  Your imagination could run wild here, thinking of the many possible processes for the development of the universe.  But consider this…..in a way, that is how early scientists had developed their own theories of life and history before recorded time.  And then these early theories were modified to fit the experimental and research data, so the ideas of what happened before recorded time are, in fact, supported to varying degrees by physical evidence.  It is important to note that mankind has always been able to observe and measure the space around him.  Early on it was the space close to him…. Cave men measured the temperature by touch…..ouch!, comfortable, burrr.  Today we measure light spectra and x-ray emissions from sources at the edge of the universe to determine temperature to the nearest degree.  The fact that these measurements are repeatable, i.e., the same result occurs, gives credence to the theories of today.

The above timeline then is a reflection of the current status of those theories.