Lucas is the third winner of our science writing competition, and entered the 16-18 year old category. He is 17 years old and his home country is the UK. Lucas’ piece about the the life of the universe was a brilliant read, incredibly well written and thought provoking. Another impressive piece from someone so young. Congratulations Lucas. The following is entirely Lucas’ work, enjoy…
A JOURNEY OF THE LIFE OF THE UNIVERSE
Where do we come from? How will the universe end? Both the past and the future of the universe has intrigued scientists, philosophers and the curious for millenniums. The first creation myths were that the physical world was animated by higher beings, sometimes being able to interfere with it. Humans have always been fascinated by what was above them and what they could not directly understand. Accordingly they created their own ideas of the worlds surrounding them, thinking that if you were born when the sun was at a certain place in the sky you would have a predetermined personality, leading to astrology. Using this same idea they tried to predict the future, for themselves, their communities and their world.
The Big Bang theory is the principal, most accepted scientific theory about the beginning of the universe. It is commonly known as a sort of ‘explosion’ that created all the building blocks for the entire cosmos as seen presently. The starting point of the universe, from which point time can be measured. What happened before the big bang? That question can only be answered in guesses, as the laws of physics break down beyond that point. There is the thought that there was nothing at all, from which the point sprung into existence. But why? No one knows. There are numerous ideas, such as a divine being, a spark from a reaction in another universe, or that gravity pulled in a previous universe together into an area of infinite density, which caused the event.
Seconds after the Big Bang, the universe would have been extremely hot, and dense, so much so that it would not have been possible to see through it as now. In 13.7 billion years, there has been an enormous evolution of the universe. At present, it is estimated that the observable universe spans a huge 93 billion light years. Quite an expansion. Imagine that: a tiny space, even smaller than an atom, has evolved into the most mysterious, grandiose and gigantic preoccupation of all humans. It has been expanding ever since its starting point, and unlike what it was thought, it does not seem to be showing any signs of stopping. Edwin Hubble made a critical discovery that the universe is expanding. It was observed that the most distant objects, appeared redder than closer objects. This phenomena is called redshift and is concrete proof for the expansion of the universe, as the space the light occupies is stretching which causes the radiation to stretch making them appear redder.
This is contrary to the belief that gravity would slow and eventually stop the expansion, before pulling everything back together. Of course, this led to another theory as scientists constantly try to explain observed events. Dark energy; a driving force that makes up most of the universe, pulling everything away from each other, but is unobservable. Recapitulating, we have a cosmos that began in a ‘Big Bang’, expanding and cooling ever since. But how will it end, if it does so? Seeing as the space is stretching, and getting faster, it could be assumed that this will go on forever, the distance between galaxies becoming so large that they would not even be visible. It would then go on to break apart galaxies, ‘ripping’ everything apart into sub-atomic particles. This theory is suitably called the Big Rip. The Big Freeze is another concept based on the present evolution of the universe, which suggests that it will keep cooling forever, eventually becoming too cold to sustain life anywhere. Now this raises a very intriguing point: the loss of information. If at some point in the future all galaxies are so far away from one another that radiation never reaches another object, they become invisible to others. Does that mean they still exist, if no information of it can reach anything?
Gravity could still dominate in the future, though, and could start pulling everything back together. Could it cause another Big Bang? Is the universe undergoing a never ending, cyclic life? Although it is impossible to tell for certain the fate of the universe, we can make predictions based on past and current events, all as surreal as one another.
- Tyson, N., Strauss, M. and Gott, J. Welcome to the universe.
- Coles, P. Cosmology. Oxford University Press.