I don’t know what is was that engaged me; to the point that I have written this blog post.
We rise around 4:30 am, thanks to the dogs, and after they have been out we retire to the bedroom and lay on the top of the bed and have a couple of cups of tea. Come 5am, week days, we listen to BBC Radio 4 and the World at One. Then immediately after the World at One, at the moment, is a fascinating series on A History Of The World in 100 objects.
A few days ago, after the end of the programme, I drifted off into some form of introspective gaze about the past. I mean the past big time!
When and how did it all start? That seems to be the Big Bang. The Big Bang was an incredibly long time ago, some 14 billion years ago (rounding it up!).
Here’s an extract from Wikipedia:
The current measurement of the age of the universe is around 13.8 billion years (as of 2015) – 13.799±0.021 billion years within the Lambda-CDM concordance model. The uncertainty has been narrowed down to 20 million years, based on a number of studies which all gave extremely similar figures for the age.
That’s 13.8 times 10 to the power of 9!
Our solar system
Again, pretty old by human standards; 4.6 billions years ago.
Again, an extract from Wikipedia:
The Solar System formed 4.6 billion years ago from the gravitational collapse of a giant interstellar molecular cloud. The vast majority of the system’s mass is in the Sun, with the majority of the remaining mass contained in Jupiter. The four smaller inner planets, Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, are terrestrial planets, being primarily composed of rock and metal. The four outer planets are giant planets, being substantially more massive than the terrestrials. The two largest, Jupiter and Saturn, are gas giants, being composed mainly of hydrogen and helium; the two outermost planets, Uranus and Neptune, are ice giants, being composed mostly of substances with relatively high melting points compared with hydrogen and helium, called volatiles, such as water, ammonia and methane. All eight planets have almost circular orbits that lie within a nearly flat disc called the ecliptic.
So our solar system came along 9 billion years after the formation of the Universe.
Our planet formed not long after our solar system. That’s pretty obvious if you ask me.
Thus Planet Earth formed 4.5 billion years ago. Again, thanks to Wikipedia.
Life on Planet Earth
Southampton University have published an extremely interesting chart of the timeline of the human condition. In it is revealed that the earliest atmospheric oxygen was 3.5 billion years ago, a necessary prerequisite to air-breathing life. But it took an extremely long time before monkeys appeared; some 36 million years ago. That’s 36 times 10 to the power of 6, or 383 times shorter than the start of the universe.
The earliest hominins (Australopithecus spp) among the hominids in Africa, bipedal, larger brain came along some 4.2 million years ago.
Among them were humans using stone tools, some 2.5 million years ago. Then 2 million years ago came the earliest direct ancestor of modern humans, Homo erectus (South Africa), co-habiting with Australopithecus and Paranthropus.
Then 40,000 years ago Neanderthals make flutes from bone, then 14,000 years ago the domestication of dogs in China, 7,000 years ago the world population passed 5 million souls, and 3,500 years ago the earliest alphabet (North Semitic, Palestine and Syria).
3,000 years ago the world population passed 50 million.
Come forward to just 195 years ago and the first public railway for steam locomotives (George Stephenson, UK, 1825) came into existence. In 1945, Alan Turing created the world’s first programmable calculator which lead directly to the first computer.
Then just 34 years ago the total population passed 5 billion souls (1986).
This and much more in the timeline which really is a fascinating read. Put together by C. Patrick Doncaster, 7 April 2020, one of the then 7,641,557,720 (rising by 148 per minute, 77 million per year).
The discovery of quarks in 1968 caused us humans to think again about matter.
A quark (/kwɔːrk, kwɑːrk/) is a type of elementary particle and a fundamental constituent of matter. Quarks combine to form composite particles called hadrons, the most stable of which are protons and neutrons, the components of atomic nuclei. Due to a phenomenon known as color confinement, quarks are never directly observed or found in isolation; they can be found only within hadrons, which include baryons (such as protons and neutrons) and mesons. For this reason, much of what is known about quarks has been drawn from observations of hadrons.
Then there’s antimatter, now that’s really weird.
Again, an extract from Wikipedia:
There is strong evidence that the observable universe is composed almost entirely of ordinary matter, as opposed to an equal mixture of matter and antimatter. This asymmetry of matter and antimatter in the visible universe is one of the great unsolved problems in physics. The process by which this inequality between matter and antimatter particles developed is called baryogenesis.
So, to put it in layman’s terms, the fact that I am sitting here at a computer trying to make sense of it all and failing is just down to luck. The observable universe and my perception of it comes down to matter as opposed to antimatter!
I’ve got a headache!
N.B. It’s a little after 12:30 am (PDT) on the Saturday and I am going to leave this post up as the latest for tomorrow as well. There have been so many wonderful comments.