Anna's Big Bang
Anna Edmonds Astronomy 0.001
While the Big Bang is thought to have happened only once, refried beans keep reappearing on our menus. (See BPAA Newsletter, Spring 2007, p. 11) But is there any reason to continue to compare them? Like beans, or dry seeds, the theory is that about 0.05 seconds after the Big Bang there were “seeds,” or protons—the future parts of atomic nuclei. It was at this instant that both time and space began. In about three minutes the protons combined to form deuterium, or heavy hydrogen. A minute or so later some of the hydrogen fused—melted together—to form helium. The temperature at the moment of the Big Bang was extremely hot, about 3 x 109 K, and the point of the Bang was extremely dense—all matter and energy was contained at one point. This nuclear fusion of hydrogen and helium continued, with the two elements accumulating and space expanding. Within the short time of about a hundred years, beryllium and lithium had formed. By around 500 years after the Big Bang the temperature had cooled to only 108 K, and it was too cold for this primordial synthesis to continue. (Too cold for elemental creation; much too hot for refried beans.) Physicists trying to understand the theory of the Big Bang think that some of its evidence can be found in the earliest proportions of isotopes of hydrogen, helium, beryllium, and lithium—a great cosmic mishmash. They see these isotopes in the spectroscopic analysis of the light coming from galaxies as far away and therefore as far back in time as they have probed so far. They calculate that this light is about 14± billion years old.
Time is thought to have begun about 15 billion years ago, calculated according to our human—and therefore earth-bound—definition. (This may be a conservative estimate; another suggests tens of trillions of years for the beginning.) The place of primordial space is a bit less definable. Because both time and space in these meanings are intangibles, they are dependent on human reasoning and understanding. While we base our mathematics and sciences on our time-space logical systems, we cannot exclude the possibilities that other systems (realities) are equally existent. At 108 K helium fuses to create beryllium for only a fraction of a second. When the beryllium fuses with helium, the result is the creation of a different, stable element, carbon. (All of these events of fusion are violently hot and explosive.) Carbon fusing with helium produces another stable element, oxygen. Carbon and oxygen are the most common elements found in all forms of what we call life. In relation to our human perspective, it would seem that a great lot of carbon and oxygen have been created, but when we think in terms of time and space, the immensities of both dwarf even our solar system almost to nothingness.
When the accumulation of protons, electrons, and neutrons combine into elements and clump together making a critical mass, thanks to electromagnetism and gravity, the whole begins to “burn” hydrogen and radiate the light that we can see. (This is part of what is happening in our Sun.) Thus we can see a new galaxy and new stars forming. The hydrogen in any one of the billions of stars will be burned up in time—millions or billions of years—resulting, if the mass is sufficient, in what appears to us as a supernova with its elemental beauty and its gut-terrifying violence. In a supernova elements are split apart and flung off in billions of fragments. It is out of the repeated heat and violence of supernova explosions that the heavier elements such as iron and silver and gold and uranium are created—the ancient alchemists’ dream!
What does all this have to do with something as earth-bound as refried beans? The beans soak, combining with the different elements of water (H2O). They are cooked until their skins split open, and mashed into fragments. Then they are subjected to the high heat of frying, sometimes with the addition of other elements, such as garlic and salt and cayenne pepper, before they become part of our bodies as we eat them. Further similarities are left to the reader’s imagination.