Before the Beginning
Before the Beginning
The following is a version of the Big Bang, up to the time at which the universe was little more than ten minutes old.
Billions and billions of years ago, there were no atoms, sub-atomic particles, quarks, or anything we would recognize today as something that exists. For all intents and purposes, there was nothing.
Suddenly a tiny, infinitesimal glob of “stuff” (substance) popped into existence, essentially out of nothing at all. It was immensely dense…in fact a level of density that was literally beyond being infinite. Almost immediately after its birth, the speck of stuff began to grow. It inflated like a balloon. The inflation was super-fast; perhaps even faster than the speed of light! This was possible because there was no universe, as yet, and the theoretical “speed limit” of light speed simply didn’t apply. Throughout its inflation, the mass of stuff remained in a state of super-infinite density.
When the rapidly-inflating glob reached a certain size, its mass was no longer infinite and it shattered. The shattering was prompt, and occurred throughout the entire bulk of the glob. It shattered into a mind-bogglingly-countless number of incredibly tiny, extraordinarily hot pieces. The pieces were so hot that they were in a state of an extremely concentrated gas. Analogous to steam, but more like a gaseous form of lava fresh from a volcano. Further, the incredible rate of inflation at the moment of shattering caused the pieces to fly apart from each other at enormous speed.
As the pieces flew apart, what we now call space occurred between them. Though they were still extremely close to each other, the tiny globules immediately began to lose heat to the newly-formed space between them and rapidly cooled. In but a few moments, the liquid-like gaseous drops became too cool to remain in the hot-globule state, and the body of countless little pieces condensed into the sub-atomic particles we call neutrons. Neutrons have no electromagnetic charge. They are electromagnetically neutral; hence, the name neutron. For but the fleetingest of moments, the entire new-born universe was comprised purely of neutrons.
Atoms did not yet exist. For atoms to exist there must also be protons and electrons. They had yet to happen. The freshly-formed neutrons of the universe were what we call “free”. Free neutrons are naturally radioactive. Those contained in the nuclei of atoms are not radioactive.
A neutron decays by spitting out a tiny, negatively-charged bit of itself. That tiny piece is what we call an electron. The remaining particle left behind, which has more than 1,000 times greater mass than an electron, instantly becomes positively charged. We call this a proton.
Neutrons have a half-life of bit more than 10 minutes; a half-life being the amount of time it takes half of a quantity of radioactive particles to give off their radiation. In this case, the radiation being given off was electrons; also known as beta radiation.
Thus, within a little more than ten minutes of the neutrons of our fledgling universe condensing into existence, all the protons and neutrons needed to form a universe of atoms came into being. Because these brand-new neutrons, protons, and electrons were still extremely close together, a countless number of the universe’s first atoms formed; probably hydrogen (one proton and one electron) and helium (two protons, two electrons, and one or two neutrons). Eventually, proto-stars clumped together and began the process of forming other atoms, and subsequent generations of stars produced every atom in the universe that exists today.
The moral of this story is this…
If it were not for radiation, our universe would not exist. Radiation is just about the most ancient phenomena in the cosmos. It is not to be feared. It is to be understood.