Posted February 2011.


In Celebration of Psalm Nineteen:
God's handiwork in Creation

Chapter 3

The First Fifteen Minutes

"It is mere rubbish thinking at present of the origin of life;
one might as well think of the origin of matter."
Charles Darwin (ltr, 1863)
quoted in Merz, History of European Thought, II, p406, n1

The Science of Cosmology and Beginnings

  It is astonishing that science can determine what happened in the earliest moments of creation. This discovery has only been made in the past few decades. Prior to this, many scientists questioned the very notion that it would be possible to study these early moments with rigorous scientific precision, or even that the universe had a definite beginning. Cosmology was relegated to the realm of religion or superstition -- declared to be beyond the methods of rigorous science. Today, the science of cosmology -- the physics of the universe and its beginnings -- is universally recognized as among the exact sciences -- capable of fully rigorous mathematical treatment.

    In contradiction to the former view, there is now a general understanding and agreement as to the fact of the Big Bang, and how the early universe grew from the Big Bang over the first few minutes. The precise age of the universe (2010 data) is 13.73 ± 0.12 billion years, a finding of NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) program to investigate the fine structure of the cosmic background radiation. This background radiation is a remarkable example of the Silent Speech of Psalm 19 preserved by God since the very beginning of time to reveal his glory and handiwork. This is but one of many lines of research that underlay the science of cosmology.


The Creation Narrative begins with the Creation of the universe and the primordial elements.  Time and space both began with the Big Bang (BB)
01. In this cataclysmic instant, all of the energy content of the universe was created in the form of radiant energy and gravitational potential energy02. No further energy has been created in the entire lifetime of the universe, making the Conservation of Energy the most fundamental law in all of physics. All space and time and energy were warped into itself in that infinitesimal first instant, which then grew at explosive speed03.

The near-universal agreement among scientists that the universe began with the Big Bang (BB) is a relatively recent phenomenon -- as recently as the 1950s, scientists held a variety of views about the beginning of the universe -- or even if there was a beginning
04. There wasn't even agreement whether Cosmology -- the science of beginnings -- was even a respectable science. See the box How Scientists Came to Accept the Big Bang.

There is no natural explanation of how the BB occurred, except that there is abundant evidence (suggested many times but decisively refuted) that the event has not been repeated -- at least within any part of the observable universe. Events at the grand beginning -- events that occurred prior to the Planck Time (10-43 s) -- are beyond reach of science

The BB was followed by the formation of matter. Radiant energy tends to form matter as soon as it has cooled enough to allow stable matter to exist, at about 10-10 seconds after the BB -- see the box Clumpy Energy, which lists the critical thresholds that take place with the expansion of the early universe. The temperatures (energy) at these early times are well within reach of modern high-energy particle colliders, and so can be investigated in detail. This aspect of the Creation Narrative does appear to be within the reach of scientific explanation, and so my view is that matter was formed from the initial radiant energy (the light of Genesis 1:3) by natural processes
06. In my understanding, the Biblical Creation account does not specifically describe the creation of matter, except for statements that imply that there was a beginning before which there was no material universe. The age of the universe is (barely) sufficient for the creation of matter by natural processes, so I believe that matter was indeed created by natural processes07.

The very existence of a universe in which life can exist requires that it must have some quite remarkable properties. The general discssion of these properties goes under the rubric "The Anthropic Principle" and will be considered in Chapter 15.

The creation of matter requires sufficient heat (kinetic and radiant energy) and density. There are only three natural situations when this happens:

Within 15 minutes after the Big Bang when the universe was dense and hot. This time is short because the universe's initial intense heat and high density rapidly drop as it expands at nearly the speed of light. This is the subject of the present chapter.

When stars burn. The first stars began to burn many millions of years after the BB as clouds of matter coalesced and heated under gravitational attraction. Of course stars still burn, so creation of matter within stars continues today. This is the subject of Chapter 4.

• When stars explode in supernovas. After all of a star's available fuel is exhausted, it collapses under gravity. Depending on the star mass, its endgame follows one of a number of possible ends. One end is a sudden collapse in which the very atomic structure of matter collapses and sets off a violent supernova explosion
08. The result is so violent that  heavy elements that could not be formed in normal star burning are created in the intense cataclysm. This is also discussed in Chapter 4.

Modern high-energy colliders can reproduce conditions of high kinetic energy on a minute scale, and by this means verify the physical interactions that take place under such conditions. The CERN Hadron Collider is projected to reach energies of 5-10 TeV in 2011 and following years. This energy matches the temperature just 10-20 seconds after the BB. Thus the physical events that happen in these early fractions of a second after the BB can be tested and verified by physical experimentation, giving scientists good confidence that they understand the actual developments at these remote and inaccessible times, as well as later in the interiors of stars.

Figure 1, developed by NASA, illustrates the universe over its entire life from the beginning to the present. The subject of this chapter begins with the cosmic inflation and ends 15 minutes later. Subsequently, the initial element creation ceased with the universe a hot plasma of radiant energy and elementary particles, too cold for further element creation, but too hot for proper atoms to form -- the atomic binding forces between electrons and nuclei were overwhelmed by the kinetic heat energy. This situation ended after about 380,000 years when the temperature dropped to the point that nuclei could capture and hold electrons (about 9,000°K). After this, neutral atoms formed, and the universe became transparent to visible light. With matter now neutralized, powerful electrical forces no longer dominated the much weaker gravitational forces,  so that the effects of gravity gradually caused matter to clump into clouds. As the gradual collapse increasingly converted gravitational energy into hot kinetic energy, the matter eventually ignited into stars. This is the next stage in the Creation Narrative, the subject of Chapter 4.

The Taurus Constellation
Figure 1
Timeline of the Universe

It is only about fifty years since the details of this evolution of the universe were first understood. There still are, and probably always will be, some gaps in our understanding, but the basic details are now known, and it is utterly remarkable and was totally unexpected that science could make sensible and confident statements about these early moments. It is a marvelous example of the power of the Silent Speech that God has woven into his creation.

Preview of Findings: The First Fifteen Minutes
 This chapter makes a number of assertions about the early moments of the universe. Here is summary of the Creation Narrative's main points. Each of these points is further explained below.

Silent Speech

The Silent Speech built into the Creation has made it possible to form a scientifically based cosmology. 
• The Mathematics of 4-dimensional space, Einstein's General Relativity, quantum mechanics and other branches of mathematics and physics have led to a Grand Unified Theory (GUT) of the universe that amounts to a language that allows us to peer back to the very earliest moments of the universe.
• The cosmic background radiation has preserved a faithful record of the early universe that scientists are only now learning to read.
• The universe itself displays a record of stars and galaxies that extends back to the early universe. Starlight preserve details of the physics at the time that the light was first set on its way, and thus gives us a record of events as they occurred in the early days of the universe.

Sharp Points

The account of the first fifteen minutes after the Big Bang, as present-day science describes it, includes a number of unexplained events that seem to look ahead billions of years to guarantee results that are essential for life to exist, the characteristic feature of the Anthropic Principle. A common-sense interpretation of these events, taken together, points to the existence of an intelligent creator who designed the universe with the teleological purpose to achieve a habitat for mankind.
The Big Bang -- an event that is not explainable in terms of science as we know it today.
The Cosmic Inflation -- a rapid and inexplicable expansion of the early universe.
The Critical Density of the early universe at the end of the Cosmic Expansion -- precisely chosen with an accuracy of 1 part in 1025. This was essential to have a universe that would last long enough to form a fit environment for life.
Elimination of Antimatter as a significant component of the universe -- also an unexplained process that occurred shortly after the Cosmic Expansion and that may depend on a slight asymmetry between the physics of matter and antimatter.
The Lithium Barrier -- lack of stable elements with Atomic numbers 5 and 8 prevented runaway element formation in the early universe -- which would have eliminated the later production of life elements.
Neutron Mass Excess -- The neutron, proton and electron masses are just right to allow primordial elements to form in the right amount for later production of the elements of life.


From my reading of the Creation Account of Genesis Chapter 1,  I see a number of possible links between the Creation Narrative of the First Fifteen Minutes and the Biblical Creation account of Genesis Chapter One.
In the Beginning -- The Creation of Space and Time
Genesis 1:1 In the Beginning God Created the Heavens and the Earth.
The Creation of Radiant Energy -- The Creation of Light
Genesis 1:3 And God Said, "Let there be light."
The Cosmic Expansion -- The Creation of Darkness
Genesis 1:4b And God separated the light from the darkness.

The First Fifteen Minutes

All of Creation divides up naturally into life, the biological world, and non-life, the physical world. The remarkable thing is that only a very special physical world can support life. So the story life's beginnings must start with creation of the physical world -- creation of the very special sort of physical world that can support life. This is the essential point of the Anthropic Principle, the concept that our universe is fine-tuned for life to an astonishing degree. There are many examples of this fine-tuning that have been explored within the science community, especially in the time since Barrow and Tipler's seminal book The Anthropic Cosmological Principle appeared in 198609. A number of remarks in this chapter touch on the Anthropic Principle, but a systematic treatment is deferred to Chapter 15.

In the first 15 minutes after the BB, the universe rapidly passed through several stages as it expanded and cooled. In this brief time, several remarkable instances of the Anthropic Principle occurred.

The Big Bang -- prior to the Planck Time (0 to 10-43 s).

The Planck Time (5.39 x 10-44 s) and the Planck Length (1.62×10−35 m) are lower bounds in quantum physics: scientists cannot predict what happens at smaller distances and times. These quantities are determined by three fundamental constants: the speed of light, c; the gravitational constant, G; and the Planck constant, h. The Planck Time is the time it takes for light to travel the distance of a Planck Length, which is about 1020 times smaller than the diameter of a proton. Known physics is not able to model what happens when the universe is smaller than this. At the Planck Time, the temperature of the universe was at the Planck Temperature, (1.42 x  1032°K). This is in effect a maximum possible temperature because the known laws of modern physics break down beyond this temparature
10. There is also a maximum density, the Planck density, which is the density of the universe at the Planck time (about 1023 solar masses).

All of the energy of the entire universe was created by the time that the universe reached the Planck Time, making the Conservation of Energy the ultimate conservation law. All other conservation laws came about as the result of symmetry breaking that occurred at times later than the Planck time -- that is, as the universe passed through irreversable stages of disequilibrium (we will discuss a number of these in the next few paragraphs). Perhaps the Conservation of energy came about in this way too, but our understanding of physics breaks down prior to the Planck time. Perhaps the fundamental constants c, G and h also came about as a result of symmetry breaking prior to the Planck Time: we simply don't know.

Symmetry-breaking occurs when an equilibrium condition ceases to be possible. The occasion is caused when the temperature and/or the density of the universe falls below a critical threshold. Before reaching the threshold, symmetry occurs: a process moves both directions with complete ease; after the threshold, the process can only move in one direction, so it "freezes" or "precipitates out" and a new conservation law is born
11. A number of these thresholds occur in the first small fractions of a second after the Planck Time12.

It is thought that prior to the Planck Time, all four of the known physical forces were combined. The force of gravity -- by far the weakest of the four forces -- became as strong as the others. Figure 2 illustrated how the forces separated out. All four forces are distinct by about 10-10 s. the time at which ordinary matteer first forms. Gravity was the first force to separate, but because it is the weakest of the forces, it was overwhelmed by the electromagnetic force, and did not become a significant player until about 300,000 years after the BB, when the temperature had dropped to the point that proper (neutral) atoms could form.

Four Fundamental Forces
Figure 2
Separation of the Four Forces
Note: gravity and the electromagnetic force are the familiar forces of everyday life. The strong force holds protons and neutrons together, and the weak force holds atomic nuclei together.

Cosmic Inflation (10-36 to 10-32 s).

The Cosmic Inflation is one of the very first things that happened after the universe passed the Planck time. It is an event that is almost certain to have happened, but is not explainable within modern physics
13. At the same time this event is absolutely critical to the future development of the universe and had to be executed with exquisite precision. In my view it amounts to one of the most profound sharp points in the entire creation narrative, second only, perhaps, to the Big Bang itself.

Homogeneity of the Universe. One of the puzzles about the early universe is why it is apparently so homogeneous. Such a condition would not be expected because one would expect the initial BB to be chaotic rather than smooth (something like the immediate aftermath of an explosion) -- in particular portions that could not communicate in the very early fractions of a second, because they were separated by more than the distance that light could travel. The solution to this puzzle is that very soon after the BB there was a cosmic expansion that suddenly occurred so that the universe almost instantly expanded in size in a minute fraction of a second. The result was a very smooth and homogeneous universe with little variation.

The Cosmic Inflation event suddenly expanded the universe by a factor of 1025 -- as if an average-sized microbe (10 micron diameter) suddenly expanded to the size of the Milky Way galaxy. At the end of the inflation, the universe would fit nicely in the palm of your hand (but be rather hot and heavy!). There is speculation but no firm understanding of just why this expansion occurred, and there is no experimental way yet devised that would allow laboratory demonstration, so it must be accepted as a mysterious outside-the-box fact. But this cosmic expansion was absolutely necessary so that a livable universe could evolve.

After the Cosmic Expansion, the universe continued to expand in the normal way, at nearly the speed of light, and it continues to expand to this day

Although the early universe is smooth, it must not be too smooth, or galaxies would not form.
There is a need for minor variations in the homogeneous density to permit the formation of stars and galaxies (see howeve the above remarks on the tendency of a plasma to be neutrally charged over even small volumes). Measuring these minute inhomogeneities in the early universe is the primary task of NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) launched in June, 2001. The 2010 map that resulted from this project is shown below in Figure 7.

One of the first consequences of the Anthropic Principle (Chapter 15) is that a universe that could support life must be at least 1010 years old. But for the universe to achieve this age, it must find a precise balance between the impulses for expansion and contraction. In order for the universe to last for 10-15 billion years without either collapsing or expanding too fast, the early universe had to have exactly the correct density.

Only in the past few decades has it been discovered how precise that density had to be (See Figure 1). One nanosecond (10-9 sec.) after the BB the density had to be exactly

 447,225,917,218,507,401,284,016.0 gm/cc ± 0.2 gm/cc.

Density less than this, and the universe expands at an accelerating rate due to the decreasing gravitational retardation, with the result that galaxies and stars do not form, so that none of the elements needed for life are created. Density more than this, and the universe collapses in on itself too soon to support life. The required accuracy is less than 2 parts in 1025.  For comparision, consider that a gram-mole of an element has 6.02 x 1023 atoms (the Avogadro number). A change in the Avogadro number by a single atom would be a greater percentage change than the accuracy required in the density of the universe at one nanosecond after the BB.
Figure 3
Expansion of the Universe after the Big Bang

For times less than 1 ns, the densities become even more critical, so that the end of the Cosmic Inflation had to end at a very precise density. Ironically, scientists don't know why the expansion occurred or why it slowed down, and certainly don't know why the density of the universe ended up at such a precise value, but if any of these things had not happened, the universe could not have hosted life. In my mind I associate the Cosmic Inflation with the separation of light from darkness in Gensis 1:3 -- see the footnote15.

Thus the cosmic expansion accomplished two things: it smoothed out the universe and it stretched out the universe so that the density achieved the exact critical value that was needed for the universe to survive long enough to host life.

 Sharp Point

Critical Density of the early Universe

Matter Formation (10-32 to 10-7 s).

After inflation, the universe went through a series of broken symmetries that occurred as it cooled and became less dense (still very hot and dense when all is said and done!). These broken symmetries occurred because the energy of the universe, fixed since the BB, has a strong tendency to clump, and this occurred as the universe crossed a number of (irreversible) temperature/density thresholds. See the table on Clumpy Energy for a summary and timing of these broken symmetries.

Quarks. The first particles to form are the quarks. These are the particles that make up protons and neutrons. Quarks and electrons are (apparently) the most basic building blocks of ordinary matter, in that they do not appear to be made up from more basic particles.

Quarks are the particles that are subject to the strong force (Figure 3). This is a force between quarks that becomes stronger as the separation increases. Eventually the force becomes so large that its energy exceeds the quark mass-energy and spawns a quark-antiquark pair. For this reason, quarks cannot exist alone. In our world (with temperatures that reach less than a billion degrees, even inside of stars -- far less than the 10 trillion degree heat of the universe at this time) they only exist within protons and neutrons.

As soon as the ambient temperature dropped below the formation energy for protons and neutrons (10 trillion degrees, at about 10
-10 s after the BB) the fleeting protons, neutrons and electrons suddenly precipitated out as (relatively) stable protons, neutrons and electrons and their antiparticles. The prior 2-way symmetry between formation and dissociation of quarks ended discontinuously.  This is the first major break in symmetry and effectively ended the quark epoch. No longer was it possible for quarks to freely associate to form and re-form protons and neutrons. Once the end products can exist because the ambient temperature has fallen below the energy of formation, the quarks must completely convert, because quarks cannot exist independently. By 10-6 s this equilibrium was broken; independent quarks disappeared and all of the quarks combined to form Protons and Neutrons. To each proton an electron existed, so that the universe maintained zero net charge. The brief time between 10-10 s and 10-6 s is called the Quark Epoch, the only time that quarks could exist outside of protons and neutrons.

   The subject of sub-atomic particles is large and somewhat complex, so we will only make a few remarks. For a fuller discussion see the excellent book of Jonathan Allday, Quarks, Leptons and the Big Bang.

  Quarks are the buildingblocks of protons and neutrons, the components of an atomic nucleus. They are fundamental particles, meaning that -- like electrons -- they are not made up of smaller particles.

    The strong force binds Quarks together. It is a unique force because (unlike gravity) it becomes stronger as the distance between quarks increases, similar to the way a rubber band works. At a separation of about the diameter of a nucleus, the force between two quarks becomes so strong that the energy field between them exceeds the energy-equivalence of two quark masses, and then the force field spawns a new quark-antiquark pair (analogy: the rubber band snaps). This is why there are no free quarks.

     The quarks that make up protons and neutrons are of two types, called "up" and "down." The up quark has an electrical charge of +2/3 and the down quark has a charge of -1/3. A proton is made up of two u and 1 d quarks (uud), and a neutron is made up of 2 d and 1 u quarks (udd).
Quarks and Nucleons
Quark components.
Note the three  quark colors in each proton and neutron.16.

     Other combinations of quarks are possible, but they are all very unstable. The neutron has a half-life of 15 minutes outside of a nucleus (hence the significance of the "first fifteen minutes"). The proton is stable, as is the neutron when it is part of a nucleus.

Annihilation of Antimatter. Somewhere in (or before) the quark epoch, there was a titanic struggle between matter and antimatter, and matter won out. Scientists still have the problem with full understanding of this struggle. In all experiments to date, including ones conducted with high energy colliders, matter-antimatter pairs form and annhilate in pairs, without exception. But apparently antiparticles spontaneously disintegrate into energy (photons) at a slightly higher rate than do particles. The result is that one out of about a trillion antiparticles will disintegrate before it can meet with and annhilate the corresponding particle.  The result is that about 1 in a trillion particle-antiparticle pairs will result with a particle -- quark, proton or neutron -- left over. Hence our universe is filled with matter, and there are about a trillion photons left over from that annhilation, for every proton or neutron17.

At the end of this era, protons and neutrons existed independently in an equilibrium stew. For the next second, protons and neutrons constantly changed their identity. Neutrons are slightly more massive than protons, so they take more energy to form, and so more protons formed than neutrons.

Formation of protons and neutrons -- primordial hydrogen (~1 s).

At around 1 s, the ambient temperature dropped below the mass-energy difference between protons and neutrons, so that neutrons froze out of the stew, and the number of neutrons became fixed at a ration of 1 neutron to 6 protons. The protons are hydrogen nuclei, so this is the time that all of the primordial hydrogen formed. Throughout the subsequent history of the universe, this primordial hydrogen has fuelled star burning and the creation of all heavier elements. Virtually all hydrogen in the universe today was created at this time, about one second after the BB.

Formation of the Primordial Elements (100 s to 15 minutes).

The endgame in the first fifteen minutes is the creation of the primordial elements. Prior to 100 s. the only element that exists is the proton, the nucleus of ordinary hydrogen. The reason for this is that the universe is too hot for the weak force to hold protons and neutrons together in a stable nucleus.

All of the heavier elements involve combinations of protons and neutrons, and the first stage of this, in almost all cases, is the formation of deuterium -- the combination of one proton and one neutron

The agonizing (!) 100 s wait for deuterium to start forming is called the deuterium bottleneck (Figure 4). In the interim, neutrons decayed, so that by 100 s, there are about 7 protons to each neutron and more neutrons decayed into protons and electrons by the moment. The bottleneck occurred because at earlier times, the weak force was not able to overcome the intense heat of the universe. At 100 s the universe had an ambient temperature of about one billion (109) K, hotter than anything in the universe today, short of a supernova.

no stick
Figure 4a
Prior to 100 seconds:
too much ambient heat for the collisions to stick
Figure 4b
After 100 seconds: the weak force can (barely) hold
in the collision n + p -> deuterium

Beginning at 100 s, and to about 225 s, deuterium formed by the collision of a proton and a free neutron. Essentially all deuterium in the universe was formed in this time, because the reaction required free neutrons, which are rarely found in the later universe -- and the universe was still too hot for heavier elements to hold together.

Once the universe squeezed through the deuterium bottleneck, the primordial elements formed (Figure 5)19.

Nucleosynthesis of the Primordial Elements
Figure 5
Creation of the Primordial Elements
Deuterium, Helium-3, Helium-4, Lithium-7, and Berillium-7

Helium began to form at 225 s. This was the first opportunity for heavier atomic nuclei to form.  Since the half-life of free neutrons is about 18 minutes, all of the deuterium was formed in the next few minutes. at the conclusion, about 75% of the matter was H (protons) and about 25% was He, both of course fully ionized because stable neutral atoms could not yet form (and wouldn't for another 250,000 years). Lithium and Berillium also formed in very small amounts. All of the primordial nucleosynthesis had to occur by 15-20 minutes after the BB, when the temperature of the universe had dropped to the point that no further nucleosynthesis could take place.

In addition to Hydrogen and Deuterium, most of the Lithium in the universe today, formed in these early moments, because the conditions for its formation occurred at no other time in the history of the universe20. Most of today's hydrogen and helium are primordial, even though (relatively) small amounts are produced in star-burning and other processes.

The Missing Runaway Creation of Heavy Elements.

No elements with atomic numbers greater than 4 (H, He, Li, Be) formed in these early moments because all elements of with atomic numbers (sum of protons and neutrons) 5 or 8 are unstable, and so the fusion is blocked at that point (Figure 6). They are so unstable that their formation doesn't last long enough to allow another collision that might boost the atomic number past 8. Billions of years later, this barrier is overcome in the production of carbon, but at this time, the helium density and thermal time window were too small. The temperatures required for helium burning would not arise until stars began to form about 400 million years later. After 15 minutes, any remaining free neutrons quickly disintegrated into protons and electrons. All nuclear fusion ceased, and the universe was a plasma of free electrons and nuclei with atomic numbers 1, 2 and 3 (H, He, Li).

Lithium Barrier
Figure 6
The Lithium Barrier

The Missing Runaway Creation of Heavy Elements

The product of helium burning would normally be either Lithium (He + H with atomic weight 5, half-life about 6.83985×10-22 s) or Berillium (He + He, atomic weight 8, half-life 2.6×10-6 seconds). Both of these are exceedingly unstable and immediately dissociate again. This is the so-called Lithium Barrier at atomic numbers 5 and 8, that prevented the formation of heavier elements in the first few minutes after the Big Bang.

If the Lithium barrier (Figure 6) had not been present, the nucleosynthesis of the first 15 minutes would have rapidly produced ever-heavier elements, with the result that very little light material would have remained in the universe to form the elements needed for life -- especially carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, but more generally all elements lighter than the iron group that can be formed by thermonuclear burning in the interior of stars.

Thus the existence of a life-supporting planet depends critically on the "accidental" fact that this barrier exists. At present, it is not possible to determine exactly why this barrier exists -- perhaps at some future time it will be able to compute the precise mathematical reasons for these barriers -- but it appears to depend on some critical values of elementary physical constants -- much as the existence of a universe old enough to support life depends on a precise density of the very early universe (Figure 3).


I see this requirement for a cosmic expansion and the remarkable precision in the initial density of the universe to achieve flatness as sharp points, which are summarized in the box below. The first person to suggest this was Dr. Alan H. Guth in 1980[FOOTNOTE: Give Reference], He prepared a video lecture about it here.

 Sharp Point

Cosmic Inflation of the early Universe
The Separation of Light From Darkness (Genesis 1:4)
Beween 10-40 and 10-36 seconds after the BB the universe underwent cosmic expansion. This smoothed out the universe so that it would remain (nearly) homogeneous for the next 15 billion years.

At the end of this expansion the density of the universe was exactly the critical density required to within 1 part in 1025.



the Big Bang (BB)

The Bible teaches that the universe had a beginning[FOOTNOTE: Genesis 1:1; John 1:3, Colossians 1:17, etc.]. In contrast, most ancient cosmologies assume that the universe is a re-arrangement of pre-existing matter. Space-time and matter are in effect eternal[FOOTNOTE: Sources??].

When Robert Boyle defined the elements as the irreducible components of matter[FOOTNOTE: Robert Boyle, The Sceptical Chymist (1661)] -- and came to the realization that there are remarkably few elements (in comparison with the many common compounds) -- the proper science of chemistry began. It was not then necessary for science to take a view on the extent or duration of the universe, but the general secular view -- at least that part that did not take the Biblical account as authoritative -- eventually accepted that matter is eternal and that space and time extend indefinitely without a beginning. As a practical matter, science was largely silent on the subject, and by the 1800s generally viewed "beginnings" or "cosmology" as beyond the reach of proper science, and of no direct practical impact on its practice.

The Olbers Paradox (1823 -- see the box below) to an extent challenged this view, and made some scientific remarks that seem to point to a possible scientific aspect to cosmology. It was clear that something is wrong with the concept of a homogeneous universe that is of unlimited duration and extent, although the paradox does not indicate just what the correct solution might be.

Despite this paradox, the prevailing view in science by the early 1900s favored an eternal universe, and eternally existing elements, and considered questions of cosmology to be matters of religion or metaphysics, beyond reach of rigorous scientific investigation.

Two events profoundly changed this picture. The first event was Albert Einstein's theory of General Relativity, first published in 1915. This theory favored a finite universe that started from a singularity at a definite beginning. Suddenly, cosmology became an inseparable part of physics, although the cosmological details could vary widely, and were strongly dependent on assumed starting conditions: Einstein's theory gave no hint about what assumptions should be made about initial conditions.

The second event was Edwin Hubble's discovery (Hubble's Law, published 1929) that the universe (space itself) is expanding at a rate proportional to the age of the light received from distant galaxies, as measured by the redshift of the light. This was the first experimental support for the BB theory (not called that at the time) which had been proposed two years earlier by Georges Lemaître.

For the next 35 years there was a vigorous discussion among scientists about cosmological models, although at the time few believed that a definitive answer could be had from science itself.  Some scientists favored various self-regenerating universes in which matter was continually created and destroyed: in such universes the conservation of energy could not be literally true. Fred Hoyle favored an oscillating universe -- one with an unending series of expansions and contractions: but such a view could not explain how "bounces" would end the contractions. Hoyle coined the term "BB" as a somewhat derisive label for an Einsteinian universe with a finite beginning, and strongly argued against that cosmological view. The name stuck.

A third event finally confirmed the BB cosmology in the eyes of most scientists. In 1964, Penzias and Wilson discovered a residual cosmic background radiation that had earlier been predicted by George Gamow (1948) as the left-over signature of the BB -- the (red-shifted) heat energy from when the universe first became transparent to light radiation. Fred Hoyle continued to resist, but most scientists from that time onward, accepted the BB theory.

Detailed maps of the cosmic background radiation were conducted in recent years in NASA's COBE and WMAP projects. These have confirmed the Big Bang Cosmology and have added many refined details about early events in the evolution of the universe. The Cosmic Background Explorer satellite (COBE -- Launched in 1989) provided the first mapping of the background radiation and roughly confirmed both the uniformity of the radiation in all directions, its perfect blackbody radiation spectrum, and the (necessary) existence of minor variations in that radiation required to form the early galaxies. The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP, 2001) is a continuing investigation of the hyperfine structure of the background radiation. At this date (2010) the 7th report of that project has resulted in remarkable finely-detailed maps (Figure 7) showing the small but essential inhomogeneities needed to form the early galaxies.

The Taurus Constellation
Figure 7
Full-Sky WMAP Cosmic Background Map
This image shows a temperature range of ± 200 microKelvin.

Symmetry in the Universe17
One feature of the universe is that space and time are continuous -- at least to the dimensions that scientists have been able to determine to date. Depending on your inclinations, this may be surprising -- after all, since the time of Planck18 it has been known that energy is not continuous: it comes in chunks called quanta. If it appears to be continuous to us, that is only because the quanta are such minute quantities. But ordinary matter could not exist if energy were not quantized, because the electrons that exist around the nuclei of atoms would eventually dissipate their energy and collapse into the nucleus -- before the days of quantum mechanics, this was one of the inconsistencies of classical physics.

A "Symmetry" in Physics is a law or principle that does not change with position or time. For example, the total energy of a closed system does not change if its position or time of observation changes. The word comes from the fact that the mathematical expression for the "transformation" in position or time is symmetric.

Albert Einstein derived his general theory of relativity (1916) from an assumption of symmetry: that the laws of physics are the same as viewed from any intertial coordinate system (where inertial means free-falling or accelerating). The special theory of relativity (1905) assumed a constant velocity coordinate system. The famous equation E = mc2 which relates mass and energy was a surprising result of this simple assumption. The general law led to the profound conclusion that space and time are a 4-dimensional continuum in which massy objects tend to warp space, and which is non-Euclidean.

Emmy Noether
's Theorem states that
 -- that is a constant.  Thus the space/time symmetry of laws of physics leads to the following:

Conservation of energy: the total energy (mass equivalent + kinetic + potential) is a constant.
Conservation of Linear Momentum
Conservation of Angular Momentum
Constant Speed of light (this follows from Einstein's Theory).

Other constants particularly apply at the atomic level:

Conservation of Electrical Charge
Conservation of Electrical "spin"

All of these constants have been verified in numerous ways by literally millions of experiments.  For example:
• The laws of physics are unchanged since the Big Bang.
• Spectral analysis of light from distant stars and galaxies confirms that the speed of light (at the time the light was emitted) has not changed.

The very existence of matter (baryons) requires that symmetry broke very early, at about 10-10 seconds after the Big Bang (see the note on clumpy energy).

Physical Law
Physical Constant
Translation in Time
Conservation of energy
Total Mass/Energy
Translation in Space
Conservation of Linear Momentum
Total Linear Momentum
Rotation in Space
Conservation of Angular Momentum
Total Angular Momentum

Symmetry-Breaking in the First Fifteen Minutes. The symmetry breaking that occurs in the first fifteen minutes after the BB results from the ambient temperature and density of the universe dropping below a reaction threshold. Above that threshold, symmetry holds: a reaction can take place freely in both directions. Below that threshold, the reaction can take place in only one direction, or perhaps cannot take place at all.

A common example is the formation of particle/antiparticle pairs: for this to happen, the (local or global) ambient temperature (kinetic energy) must exceed the combined masses of a particle and its antiparticle. Below this level, the pairs cannot form, but mutual annhilation of pairs can take place. As the ambient temperature drops, what was a two-way reaction becomes a one-way reaction, and this occurs abruptly at the threshold (give or take a little excess random kinetic energy). The passage through the threshold is "symmetry-breaking".

Particle/Antiparticle Pair Formation
1011 10-03
1013 10-10
1013 10-10
1010 2
* Most of the proton mass is the binding energy (gluons) that binds the  quarks.

A break in symmetry always implies that equilibrium is broken, for one reason or another. For example, in this epoch symmetry is broken as the temperature/density of the universe drops below a critical value needed to maintain a reversable physical process.

Symmetry and Relativity. I don't know when the concept of Symmetry became such an important thing in physics. For myself, I first realized its vast importance when I came to understand the motivation behind Einstein's General Relativity. it is based on one over-riding idea: that the laws of physics are the same when viewed in any inertial system.

This is a symmetry that goes beyond rotational symmetry or symmetry under changes in position or time -- which are perhaps the reason why the concept is called "symmetry." An "inertial" system is one that is subject to acceleration, the closest example to hand being physics conducted on earth under the influence gravity. The classical illustration is a laboratory that is in free-fall -- such as on an elevato. Measurement of all physical constants in such a laboratory or conduct of all physical experiments in such a laboratory will give the exact same results as it would if the laboratory were at rest (whatever that means). Further, one could not tell if the inertial system was influenced by gravitational force or some other force, as long as the system was free-falling (whatever that means!).

Carry this concept to its natural limits, and you have Einstein's General Theory of Relativity.

According to Noether's theorem, every symmetry has a corresponding conservation law and constant. In this case the constant is the speed of light, c.

I hope this example shows that the concept of symmetries in physics has far-reaching consequences.

An Example of Symmetry-Breaking.
Symmetry breaking is commonly associated with rapid temperature changes and other disruptions. There are many common examples of symmetry breaking in our daily lives.

     Two states of a substance are in equilibrium when the substance can smoothly move in both directions between the states. For example, if salt is dissolved in a container of water, it reaches a point of saturation, and excess salt crystals will remain undissolved on the bottom. If left undisturbed, the solution reaches an equilibrium state in which there is a constant exchange between dissolved and crystalline salt. Eventually all of the undissolved salt will be replaced with salt in solution, so that in time, a particular molecule of salt will move back and forth between the crystalline and dissolved state. This equilibrium state is an example of a symmetry, with unconstrained movements between different states.

    If the water is heated until all of the crystals are dissolved, and then slowly cooled, the solution becomes super-saturated, but stays in symmetric equilibrium. However if a crystal (or a granular impurity) is introduced into the supersaturated liquid, it will suddenly precipitate out the excess salt. This is a break in symmetry, and a momentary disequilibrium occurs. In time, the disequilibrium will again equalize, with some of the salt in crystalline form.

     In the early moments of the universe, the rapid change in temperature and density causes many instances where symmetry breaking occurs, with the result that some physical quantity "freezes out" or "precipitates" and produces a sudden disequilibrium. Before the break in symmetry, matter freely associated and dissociated in equilibrium between the "before" and "after" conditions. The "after" condition was a transient state until the break in symmetry, and afterward became a permanent state.

chainlink.gif     Connection with the Genesis Creation Account

I believe that Genesis 1:1-2 preface the creation account, situated just prior to the Big Bang.

This is my belief, but at the same time I realize that Genesis 1 is a majestic and sweeping account of God's vast creative activity, condensed into very few words and intended for the enlightenment of humans in all ages. At all times since it was first put down into words (including the present), its subject matter has always been well beyond the ability of its readers to comprehend all details. This means that the full grasp of the words, their scope and true meaning is something that requires effort, and cannot, this side of heaven, be truly, fully and certainly known.21 On the other hand, the overall message of God's direct personal activity in creation is clear, even if some of the details are not. In caution therefore, I offer these remarks.

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
2 Now the earth was formless and empty, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of  God was hovering over the face of the waters.

St. Augustine (late 4th Century AD) puzzled over the question: What does it mean that the earth was formless and empty? He concluded (and I agree) that the author here describes the earth before there was an earth. It was shapeless and void because it didn't exist at this point22. As it turns out (but this isn't the reason I agree!) the science of his day had the view that there were four elements: earth, water, air and fire, corresponding to solids, liquids, gases and fire. In this view, every solid had its characteristic "form," and this "form" (more than just shape) is what distinguished different solids -- such as gold from copper or diamond from ruby. So "formlessness" would be comparable to non-existence, or existence as an ideal or concept, but not in fact.

The darkness here is the absence of light, which is created in verse 3. The "face of the deep" and the "face of the waters" are expressions that refer to the vast nothingness before the beginning. The "deep" refers to the vastness and the "waters" refers to the fluid shapelessness23 -- exactly the picture that an artist might use to represent the emptiness before the beginning.

Genesis 1:3-5 describe the Big Bang and its immediate aftermath.

3 And God said, "Let there be light" and there was light.
4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from darkness.
5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and morning, the first day.

Light here is radiant energy: the full spectrum, not just the visible part. At the instant of creation, the entire universe was a miniscule, immensely hot speck of pure energy. An instant later (10-36 to 10-33 seconds)  the newly created light ripped apart in a unique and extraordinary explosion that suddenly expanded the universe by a factor of 1025 -- as if a small microbe suddenly grew to a size greater than the Milky Way galaxy. I believe that in this incredible act, God created darkness throughout the intense light and that is -- the effect expressed in a way that can be understood by anyone -- the separation of light from darkness in verse 4. From this point on, the universe expanded at roughly the speed of light. Without this "separation of light from darkness" at the very first instant, the universe would have collapsed back on itself and vanished. Literally this day began in the darkness of evening and ended in the light of morning.

The formation of the elements from the primordial light is not explicitly mentioned in the Genesis creation account.  In effect, this occurs between days 1 and 2, because the earth is present as day 2 begins.

The Second Day
Genesis 1:6-8: And God said, "Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

   I suggested earlier that the First Day refers to the creation of radiant energy in the Big Bang. Continuing with this suggestion, I suggest that the Second Day is the creation of the Cosmos, the Solar System and Earth -- viewed as are all of the Days, from the perspective of an observer on the Earth.
It seems to be difficult for modern readers to avoid projecting modern meanings into the very general terms used in these verses. Readers are strongly cautioned to avoid this -- it is a particular affectation of academic scholars who tend to view the ancients with unwarranted condescension.

The term "waters" is a general term for the fluid "stuff" of the Cosmos. It does not refer specifically to water per se. This is a universal usage of the word in many ancient cosmological stories, and it reads too much into the word to assume that it means what we call water. Many modern narrators of ancient cosmologies make this mistake and assume that, for example, the Egyptians assumed that the original stuff of the universe was literal water. [GIVE REFERENCES ] This is silly. It is a much more general term that encompasses a meaning of undifferentiated fluidity. And again, "fluid" here doesn't mean just the liquid state of matter -- fire and air can also be viewed as fluid. The term is more of an expression of visual impression than of actual physical composition.

The term "expanse" (which some translations starting with the LXX interpret as "firmament") similarly has nothing to do with a solid dome or any specific physical construction. All uses of the term that may imply this are simply figurative or poetic, as in "the sky was brass."

The term "separate" implies assignment of identity and  differentiation. This task changes the undifferentiated "water" into specific objects with form, function and meaning. Some of this separation is into "below" and "above." In a very general sense, the "below" is the Earth, and the "above" is the Cosmos, with the atmosphere in between.  But again, the reader is cautioned not to make the meanings too concrete.

What is being described is the incomprehensible and inconceivably vast process by which God made the Cosmos and differentiated it into various parts with purpose and function.

In the Beginning - The Creation of Space and Time
Genesis 1:1 In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

   I believe that this first verse in the Bible and the first verse of the Creation account is a declaration of the first event in the Creation Narrative: God created the universe. It is clear in John 1:1 and Colossians 1:17 that the created world had a beginning. This is also the conclusion of science: the universe began with the Big Bang.

   Some interpreters take this verse to be an introductory statement: " [or ...when] God created the heavens and the earth" so that it is a sort of summary statement of all that follows. But in my view the clear scientific evidence of a beginning confirms the meaning of this verse as I understand it. It expresses the actual creative act that began space and time.

The Creation of Light
Genesis 1:3 And God Said, "Let there be light."

   I believe that this introduction to the First Day refers to the creation of radiant energy as the first tangible act of creation. This energy is expressed as "light" because that is the equivalent expression for radiant energy that was familiar to the author's audience. All of the matter in the universe began as radiant energy, some of which precipitated out as matter when the universe cooled in the first seconds and minutes.

   Some authors take this verse to refer to visible light on the earth (the "Day" of verse 5), but I see verse 5 to be an instantiation of the more general light of verse 3, rather than equivalent to it.

The Creation of Darkness
Genesis 1:4b And God separated the light from the darkness.

   I see the separation from darkness is a specific action of God that is today recognized as the "cosmic inflation", in which light was figuratively torn apart, or shredded, with "darkness" intersticed. Without this specific creative act, the universe would have imploded.

   Again, I see the "Night" of verse 5 to be an instantiation of the more general darkness of verse 3, rather than equivalent to it. I realize that this view is speculative, and do not insist on it -- it is not fundamental to my beliefs!

Clumpy Energy
From Einstein's Special Relativity formula, E = mc2, and the dual particle/wave nature of light, one concludes that energy is clumpy: that is, it has a tendency to form particles when the conditions are right. As the temperature of the early universe falls, the clumpiness of energy results in various particles precipitating out of the energy stew -- beginning with quarks (the components of protons and neutrons) and continuing through the formation of protons, neutrons, electrons, deuterium, helium nuclei, etc. As the temperature falls below the binding energy for a given type of particle, that particle tends to persist, rather than convert back to energy. There is a kind of stickiness that keeps the energy in that particular clumpy condition.

For an imperfect example of this sort of thing,  consider what happens when hot, very salty water cools.  Crystals of salt precipitate out -- the cooled water is still salty, but not as salty as it was. Similarly, as the universe cools, the radiant heat energy precipitates the particles that will eventually become matter. In a manner of speech, the particles "freeze out."

Free neutrons are unstable in the free state, but when they decompose, the reaction is  n -> p + e + neutrino (ν), and all of the products are stable.

The mass of an elementary particle yields its mass-energy, which in turn gives the equivalent temperature (°Kelvin) and the first time after the  that the universe cools down to the temperature at which the particle can precipitate out. Prior to this margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;time the particle-to-energy and energy-to-particle conversions occur in equilibrium (in similar quantities), but after this time the conversions rapidly become more difficult, and depend on increasingly unlikely local energy spikes. In effect, the particles that precipitate out are frozen in the particle state. Here is a timeline for when the basic particles of ordinary matter and the primordial elements (primarily hydrogen and helium) precipitate out.

time (after BB)
Particle precipitation
Temp °K
Mass Energy
10-42 s gravity separates out
1032 8.6x1010 TeV

prior to this all forces are unified:
gravity, electromagnetic, strong & weak forces.
10-36 s cosmic inflation

The universe expands suddenly (much faster than the speed of light) by a factor of 1025.  The expansion factor is as if a small marble suddenly grew to a size greater than the Milky Way Galaxy.
10-33 s end of cosmic inflation

At the end of this expansion the universe is about the size of a grapefruit.

10-30 s strong force separates out
1020 8.6 TeV

prior to this all forces are unified:
gravity, electromagnetic, strong & weak forces.

CERN Hadron Collider achieved 7 TeV in early 2010[FOOTNOTE:].
10-12 s weak force separates out.
1015 86 GeV

The 4 forces are now distinct.
10-10 s electroweak phase transition
baryon formation
(quark plasma)
1013 860 MeV
matter-antimatter pair formation (quark-antiquark); antimatter annihilation leaves 1 particle of matter for 109 mutual annhilations. (Today there are 109 photons for every baryon). From this point baryon number is conserved.
10-09 s

4.47x1023 Critical density of universe ± 2 parts in 1025. This is the so-called Flatness Problem., which amounts to a remarkable sharp point.
7 x 10-7 s protons & neutrons form

All quarks form into protons & neutons. Neutrons beta decay, forming a proton and an electron (and anti-neutrino). 
10-02 s
1 x 1011
8.6 MeV

10-01 s


1 x 1010

1.1 s
neutrinos decouple

1010 0.86 MeV
400,000 24% n 76% p
14 s
electrons precipitate
3 x 1009 0.25 MeV

electron-positron pairs dissociate
100 s

109 0.1 MeV

Deuterium formation begins.
3.2 min.
deuterium and Helium form
1 x 1009 0.086 MeV

Hydrogen burning requires a temperature of over 50 MeV to overcome the coulomb barrier.

Helium burning to carbon requires a temperature of  180x1006 AND a density of 3.8 gm/cc.  This is achieved only in stars.

13.6x1006 0.01 MeV

Temperature for H fusion (p-p process) in stars, but it is a very slow process, and cannot occur here. See Chapter 4 discussion.
15 min.
fusion ceases
1006 86 eV

deuterium/helium ion plasma

300,000 yrs.
neutral hydrogen and helium atoms form
The universe becomes transparent.

The temperature drops below the ionization temperatures.

gravitational forces dominate;
galaxies and stars form.

13.6 Ga
Universe Today

* For comparision, air at sealevel has a mass density of about 1.25x10-3 g/cc.

    • For online lectures on this topic, see lectures 5 to 7 of Cosmology and the Origin of Life, from the University of Oregon.
    • SOME CONJECTURE that total gravitational PE = total mass Energy so that the sum is zero.
    • Quark/Antiquark annhilation occurs prior to 10-35 s leaving an excess of quarks (so that matter dominates over antimatter)
    • Conservation of charge requires an electron to form for each proton.
    • Primordial electrons formed from neutron beta decay:   n -> p + e + antineutrino.
   • Small amounts of primordial lithium also form, but no elements with atomic number 8 or higher because of the lithium barrier.
    • Binary collisions are the primary mechanism for nuclear fusion of deuterium into helium (triple collisions are rare)
    • The relative numbers of primordial elements is determined by the ???
   • The CERN Large Hadron Collider is designed to accelerate protons to 7 TeV with 14 TeV collisions from opposite directions. This energy level corresponds to the temperature at roughly a trillionth (10-12) of a second after the .
   • Star ignition occurs when gravitation causes matter to collapse towards a local center of gravity. Gravitational acceleration heats up the matter until the high energy collisions achieve nuclear fusion.  A newly ignited star begins with hydrogen fusion to form helium. As the helium  accumulates at the core of the star it fuses in turn to form heavier elements. Sir Arthur Eddington was the first to suggest that starlight comes from nuclear fusion.19
    • Convert eV <-> Kelvin: 1 MeV = 1.1605x1010 °K; 1°K = 8.6170 x 10-11 MeV.
    • Density is proportional to T3.

   Jonathan Allday, Quarks, Leptons and the Big Bang, (1998) p235ff.
This has a clear and readable explanation of the creation of the primordial elements.
   Amir D. Aczel, God's Equation: Einstein, Relativity and the Expanding Universe, (1999)
   Malcom S. Longair, Our Evolving Universe, (1996)
   Weinberg, The First Three Minutes.

Finely Tuned Physical Properties
That are Essential for the Universe to Exist

The Anthropic Principle concerns many remarkable "coincidences" in physics and chemistry that are essential for life to exist. Here we will mention a few critical physical constants that are necessary for a material universe to exist at all, whether life-supporting or not.

Physical Event
Pivotal Property

Cosmic Inflation
space homogeneity: large-scale mass distribution uniform (COBE radiation uniform to within 1 part in 100,000).
Expansion of the universe by a factor of 1026  from 10-36 to 10-32 seconds after the big bang -- as if an average-sized microbe (10 micron diameter) suddenly expanded to the size of the Milky Way galaxy (100,000 light-years  = 9.5×1017 km diameter). At the end of the inflation, the universe would fit nicely in the palm of your hand (but be rather hot and heavy!). The effect of this expansion is to make the universe fairly homogeneous, but with just enough inhomogeneity to allow the galaxies to form later. See Alan Guth's article (1997).

The magic number 137. Note that the resonance of carbon and oxygen (see below) implies very precise values for fundamental physical quantities -- but it is impossible to know how precisely tuned they are because the computation of the resonance levels is far beyond the present ability.
Annhilation of antimatter
asymmetry between baryons and anti-baryons (1 excess baryon in 109).
Apparently this goes back to the generation of the quarks and antiquarks. There appears to be a slight bias in favor of quarks over antiquarks. However all of this is based on levels of energy that as yet are not able to be experimentally verified.

See the Wikipedia article on CP Violation. "In 1964, James Cronin, Val Fitch with coworkers provided clear evidence (which was first announced at the 12th ICHEP conference in Dubna) that CP symmetry could be broken, winning them the 1980 Nobel Prize. This discovery showed that weak interactions violate not only the charge-conjugation symmetry C between particles and antiparticles and the P or parity, but also their combination. The discovery shocked particle physics and opened the door to questions still at the core of particle physics and of cosmology today. The lack of an exact CP symmetry, but also the fact that it is so nearly a symmetry created a great puzzle. (¶) Only a weaker version of the symmetry could be preserved by physical phenomena, which was CPT symmetry. Besides C and P, there is a third operation, time reversal (T), which corresponds to reversal of motion. Invariance under time reversal implies that whenever a motion is allowed by the laws of physics, the reversed motion is also an allowed one. The combination of CPT is thought to constitute an exact symmetry of all types of fundamental interactions. Because of the CPT symmetry, a violation of the CP symmetry is equivalent to a violation of the T symmetry. CP violation implied nonconservation of T, provided that the long-held CPT theorem was valid. In this theorem, regarded as one of the basic principles of quantum field theory, charge conjugation, parity, and time reversal are applied together. ... The Big Bang should have produced equal amounts of matter and antimatter if CP symmetry was preserved; as such, there should have been total cancellation of both. In other words, protons should have cancelled with antiprotons, electrons with antielectrons, neutrons with antineutrons, and so on for all elementary particles. This would have resulted in a sea of photons in the universe with no matter. Since this is quite evidently not the case, after the Big Bang, physical laws must have acted differently for matter and antimatter, i.e. violating CP symmetry." [emphasis added - dcb]
Production of the Primordial Neutrons, Protons and Electrons mn - mp mass excess 1.29 MeV. Free neutron half-life 885.7±0.8 s (14.76 m) Quarks were the first particles formed after the Big Bang. They quickly formed free neutrons, which decomposed into protons and electrons by the equation (beta-decay): n0 → p+ + e + anti-neutrino. Some protons and neutrons combined to form Deuterium and Helium.

Stephen Hawking remarked, "[If the neutron-proton mass excess] were not about twice the mass of the electron, one would not obtain the couple of hundred or so stable nucleides that make up the elements and are the basis of chemistry and biology."6 The reasons for this remark are well-described in Barrow & Tipler, pp 398-400.

All of the primordial neutrons and protons were formed between 0.04s and 500s after the big bang, corresponding to the ambient temperature range 5x1010 °K  (4.3 MeV)  > T > 5 x 108 °K (0.043 MeV).  This time range matches closely with the free neutron half-life. At first, all neutrons are free (and hence disintegrate with a half-life of about 15 minutes). But at about time 100s, the temperature dropped to the point that proton capture begins. Neutrons attach to protons and become stable, forming H2, H3, He3 and He4. This sequence stops at He4 because there are no stable elements with atomic mass 5. At 500 s, the collision energy can no longer overcome the coulomb barrier, so the fusion stops.

Essentially all of the (ionized) hydrogen in the universe is primordial and was created by 15 minutes after the Big Bang. Although hydrogen burning in stars can produce helium, there is no effective way to increase the supply of hydrogen; further, the helium burns in its turn to produce heavier elements. Thus the amount of helium in the universe is essentially unchanged from the amount of primordial helium produced.

B&T p399-400
mp - mn ~ mB&T p400

quark mass:  current mass = quark by itself; constituent mass = quark + gluon energy (binds into hadron). Most of proton/neutron mass is constituent mass.

up quark charge +2/3.
    current mass 2.4 MeV
    constituent mass           

down quark mass 4.8 MeV charge -1/3.

proton UUD mass = quarks 9.6 MeV; gluons 928.7 MeV

neutron UDD mass =  quarks 11.0 MeV; gluons 928.6 MeV

electron mass 0.51099906 MeV/c2
proton mass 938.272310 MeV/c2
neutron mass 939.565630 MeV/c2
Planck constant h 4.1356692e-15 ± 1.2e-21 eVs
Planck time 5.39056e-44 ± 3.4e-48 s

the mass of proton/neutron is mostly binding energy (gluon field) not the constituent quark masses.

asymmetry in annhilation matter/antimatter: 1 + 109 quarks to 109 anti-quarks

planck constant?  electron orbitals?  ties in with the emission spectrum of elements.

Production of the Primordial Elements
5Li half-life 3.7×10−22 s

Be half-life  0.968 × 10−16 s
Because 5Li is unstable, the reaction  4He + 1H -> 5Li ends the production of primordial elements combining H and He; and because 8Be is unstable, the reaction 4He + 4He -> 8Be effectively ends the primordial production combining 2 Heliums, and thus of all heavier elements in the first few minutes after the big bang. 4He production continued for about 15 minutes, until the universe cooled below 86 eV (106 °K), the minimum energy required for helium fusion to occur.




* The background is Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel painting "Dividing Light from Darkness." The term "First Genesis" is inspired by Alexander Meinesz', The Three Geneses. concerning the "Geneses" of evolution. His "First Genesis" is the creation of bacterial life which would correspond to my Second Genesis (Chapter 6).

Dividing Light from Darkness
Michaelangelo,Sistine Chapel

^n01 See "The Role of Time in the Creation Narrative." The beginning of space and time is an unavoidable consequence of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. The discovery by Hubble that the light of distant galaxies is red-shifted led to "Hubble's Law" which plots the expansion of the universe and can be projected back to the time of the  when the universe began from an infinitesimal point.

^n02  Radiant energy is positive energy. Gravitational potential energy is negative energy. It is an open question whether the gravitational potential energy of the universe exactly matches its radiant energy -- leaving a universe with zero net energy!

^n03 The universe is sometimes said to have begun as a point of zero size and infinite energy -- physically impossible by most accounts. For myself, I visualize the universe at the very beginning as a minute (but not zero) 1-dimensional loop of exceedingly high energy -- an example of a "string" as some cosmologists visualize the smallest physical components of the universe. However in general, I think string theory is highly speculative and probably impossible to prove. Not that I am an expert on the subject!

^n04 Fred Hoyle, the brilliant but enigmatic scientist who coined the term "Big Bang" in a disparaging reference to the phenomenon, was one of the few holdouts, who as late as the 1980s continued to argue for a steady-state universe. The fact that Hoyle's work was considered eccentric by the general science community is a testimony to the wholesale acceptance of BB  cosmology. One of Hoyle's brilliant insights was an explanation of the triple-alpha process by which the element carbon is formed in stars. This is discussed further in Chapter 4.

^n05 It is generally agreed by scientists that physics as we know it does not apply to the universe prior to 10-43 seconds after the BB. This time is called the Planck Time. The Planck Time (5.39 x 10-44 s) and the Planck Length (1.62×10−35 m) are lower bounds in quantum physics: scientists don't know what happens at smaller distances and times, partly because there is no concensus among scientists as to how the theories of general relativity and quantum mechanics can be merged into a single theory. General relativity concerns gravity and a description of the large-scale behavior of the universe; quantum mechanics concerns the behavior of particle interactions and the small-scale behavior of the universe.

The Planck quantities are determined by three fundamental constants: the speed of light, c; the gravitational constant, G; and the Planck constant, h. The Planck Time is the time it takes for light to travel the distance of a Planck Length, which is about 1020 times smaller than the diameter of a proton. Known physics is not able to model what happens when the universe is smaller than this. At the Planck Time, the temperature of the universe was at the Planck Temperature,
(1.42 x 1032 °K).

^n06 Although (of course) it is impossible to go back to the beginning, just as it is impossible to go to the interior of a star, it is possible to reproduce the energy levels and study the physics of the (near) beginning, and of star interiors. The recently operational CERN Hadron Collider can (or will soon) reproduce the kinetic energies that occur in star interiors and in universe as early as 10-20 s after the BB. Thus the assertions of events at those times and places are based on actual experimentation, and not just on speculation.

^n07 This is an application of the Creation Principle.

^n08 The orbiting electrons collapse into the nucleus driving the electrons into the protons of the nucleus, which releases a vast amount of energy. When the conditions are right for this collapse, the process proceeds in a runaway explosion, resulting in a supernova.

^n09 John D. Barrow & Frank J. Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, Oxford 1986. See also the Wikipedia article. The history of investigations into the anthropic principle go back much further than this, but it seems that this book started an explosion of further work on the subject.

^n10  Max Planck (1858 – 1947) discovered that energy comes in discrete "quanta" in 1900 as a way to explain the energy spectrum of black body radiation, the distribution of radiant frequency that is emitted from a hot source at a fixed temperature (think of the heat coming from an open furnace door). This is a dramatic example where classical physics fails because the classical solution predicts the emission of infinite energy (clearly impossible). At first, Planck proposed the energy quantum as an ad-hoc "fix" to get an answer that fits experimental results. Later (with the help of Einstein and others) it was discovered that the quantum is a fundamental and essential part of the physics of the universe: without it, the universe as we know it, with ordinary material elements, could not have existed. In effect, Planck was the father of modern physics (although there are many contenders, including Einstein, for that honor).

The Importance of the Quantum
    One of the facts of nature that Classical Physics did not consider is that energy -- radiant energy in light waves, as well as the potential energy of electrons bound in atoms -- comes in discrete chunks called quanta: it is not continuous. This fact was discovered by Max Planck, whose name is celebrated in the Planck Constant h, He used the concept of quantum energy to explain the classical paradox of black body radiation, which the methods of classical physics as it was then known could not explain (classically the energy would be infinite, which is absurd). Shortly after he published his discovery, Einstein and others used the concept to explain spallation of electrons off a metallic surface when bombarded by high energy,  and eventually the energy levels of electrons in atoms. Without discrete quanta, atoms -- and therefore ordinary matter -- could not exist.

^n11 A familiar example of a conservation law is one asserted by Robert Boyle (1661) in his definition of elements as the irreducible components of matter. The law would be the conservation of matter, leaving aside radioactivity, which was unknown in his day. This law is basic to ordinary chemistry. However, if the temperature is high enough (for example, in nuclear explosions), elements can be changed into other elements and energy, and at sufficiently high conditions of temperature and density, such transformations are reversable.

To give an example, Uranium-238 can break down into Thorium-234 and Helium, releasing energy to its surrounds, and at the same time Helium and Thorium-234 can combine into Uranium-238, taking energy from its surrounds. Clearly the surrounds must be sufficiently energetic -- i.e. hot enough -- to provide the needed energy to allow this combination.

As the temperature drops, this reversability stops and the reactions can go only in one direction (U-238->Th-234 in the example). At still lower temperatures, the elements are frozen and Boyle's definition becomes valid.

The date 1661 was the original publication date for Boyle's, which challenged the contemporary concept that the four elements were earth, fire, water, and air. The book is cast as a conversation in which one participant (Carneades) is Boyle. The book suggests the the universe is made up of atoms of different kinds which are the elements:

Boyle Sceptical Chymist
Figure ??
Proposition I, Postulating Atoms
"It seems not absurd to conceive that at the first production of mixt
bodies, the universal matter whereof they among other parts of the universe consisted, was actually divided into little particles of several sizes and shapes variously moved."

Boyle, Sceptical Chymist, First Part  (1677 Ed.)

Boyle gave as (suggested) examples, gold and silver. The book presents a number of interesting arguments for and against his concept of "atomic" elements, but ends without a definitive conclusion. He defines an element as follows: "I mean by elements, as those Chymists that speak plainest do by their principles, certain primitive and simple, or perfectly unmingled bodies; which not being made of any other bodies, or of one another, are the ingredients of which all those called perfectly mixt bodies are immediately compounded, and into which they are ultimately resolved...."

^n12 Noether's Theorem discovered by Emmy Noether (1882-1935) states that every (differentiable) symmetry corresponds to a conservation law, and vice-versa. See Leon N. Lederman and Christopher T. Hill, Symmetry and the Beautiful Universe (2004).

^n13 Alan H. Guth proposed Cosmic Inflation in 1980. The original proposal was made to resolve a puzzle: why is the universe so uniform in all directions? Since that time, scientists have come to the realization that this event had to be executed with extreme precision, as described here. To date there is no firm understanding of why this inflation occurred or a physical explanation for how it ended to provide such a precise but critical density for the universe.

^n14  The radiation energy moves at the natural speed of light, c, but it is retarded (or bent) by the gravitational effects of the universe's mass so that the universe as a whole expands at a slower speed.

^n15 Separation of Light From Darkness. I wrote a brief skit called "Ariel" about this need for a cosmic expansion. You may find it amusing (whether or not you accept the interpretation as accurate). In the skit the cosmic expansion is viewed as the insertion of "darkness" into Creation, as a way of understanding the "separation of light from darkness" in Genesis 1:4, a thought that I developed in the review of a recent book by the late Dr. David Medved.

^n16 We will not discuss the matter here, but there are other features that arise, such as Color Charge, which has three varieties. Each quark has one of the three colors, and color is preserved in all interactions. The three quarks in the proton and neutron must all have different colors. Hence in the depictions of the quarks in a neutrons or proton, each quark is a different color.

^n17 This assymetry in the decay of particles and antiparticles has never been seen in a laboratory -- but of course if the probability is only 1 in a trillion, that is not unexpected -- recall that the formation of these pairs only occurs under very high energy conditions, which are themselves fairly rare. For further information see See Eric Sather, The Mystery of Matter Assymetry.

^n18  Almost all element creation begins with a binary collision -- two particles colliding with enough energy to fuse into a single particle. From purely geometric reasoning, other types of collisions -- triple collisions -- are exceedingly rare, because they require three particles to meet at a single very small point in space and time, all three with sufficient impact energy to fuse. For practical purposes, triple collisions do not occur at the densities and temperatures that prevail at this time. This common-sense, near-universal rule is honored by the single exception -- the triple-alpha process which forms the element carbon in the interior of stars. This exception will be considered in Chapter 4.

^n19  For fuller accounts of the creation of the primordial elements, see the UCLA lecture, Big Bang Nucleosynthesis (2004) and the Lecture series Formation of the Elements. (1997)

^n20 Deuterium is formed in hydrogen burning, one of the most common processes in stars (such as our Sun), but it is immediately converted to other elements: only in the first 15 minutes were conditions suitable for deuterium formation that did not immediately lead to the formation of heavier elements. This is that (rare) situation in which the temperature was low enough for stable deuterium to form, but too energetic for stable helium to form.

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Amir D. Aczel, God's Equation: Einstein, Relativity, and the Expanding Universe. (1999)
Jonathan Allday, Quarks, Leptons and the Big Bang (2nd Ed. 2002)
Paul Davies, Cosmic Jackpot: Why our Universe is Just Right for Life. Houghton-Mifflin, (2007)
Leon N. Lederman and Christopher T. Hill, Symmetry and the Beautiful Universe (2004)

Martin Rees, Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces that Shape the Universe (2001)
Steven Weinberg, The First Three Minutes (1988).
Martin Wright, Table on Big Bang Nucleosynthesis gives a useful summary of nucleosynthesis of the primordial element

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Posted February 2011.