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The first ten million

millennia or so

by Don L. Anderson

(Published in Physics Today-January 1999 magazine)


In the "beginning", nothing

No time, no space, no matter.

No energy, no strings


not even a point, not even a void



No laws of physics,

No myths, no gods;

Nothing, absolutely nothing


Then, a singularity . . .

Call it a bang, call it a Big Bang, call it light, call it God.

Perhaps a thought.

In the beginning , the Laws of Logic began the Laws of Physics.

The rules.

From Nothing, expansion,

False vacuums, phase changes, beginning of time, and space.

Potential for something. Everything.

Energy, potential.

Waves, strings;

Vibrating strings

Monopoles, sheets, threads



From the void, chaos

Out of vaccuum, Genesis.

Condensation, knots,

Cosmic freezing,

Wrinkles in time, defects, domains,

Bubbles, foams. A detergent universe.

Strong force, weak force,

Symmetry breaking; machos, wimps,

Tubes of energy, gigantic loops.

A pasta universe.



Plasma mist, quarks, gluons, muons,

Nuclei, electrons


Collisions, bouncing




Add neutrons-


Plus proton, Trasmutation!

Helium 3, Alchemy.

Tritium swallows proton

Helium 4!

3 billion degrees or more.

A helium universe

Three minutes gone.

Aeons more to go

Before the Rest.


A Quantum world. The Dreams that Stuff are made of.

4 minutes into it

mostly light, protons swarm; electrons,

positrons annihilate

positrons gone.

A proton-electron world

A ghostly neutrinos and heir anti's.


Lots of light, but no where to go;opaque.

Universe rests at helium,

But time goes on,

Cooling the first millennium,

Space expanding,

Great attractors,



Still Opaque

300 000 years

3000 degrees

electrons and protons

hydrogen and photons


protons and electrons unite



Create, annihilate

Cleate, annihilate

Cooling universe, changing color.


In the beginning, lurid gamma, off the spectral scale;

Shades to x-ray

Fades to UV, then violet and blue

3000 degrees, yellow.


Visible matter, not the half of it,

Dark matter, the cosmic glue...

Dark invisible matter, holds the cosmos together

Not baryonic

But what?

Gravitino, photino, axion faith?

Invisible dark matter

Closes the universe

Gas and dust and that. Clumps.


Then, the stellar delivery room

The crucibles of elements, the "metals".

Mostly nothing, a few dense spots,

Patches made of "less nothing"

In a spider web of strings,


Clusters of galaxies,

150 million years into it.



Light moves off.

Dense clumps

Nebular womb



Star birth ! Here and there.

Condensing, collapsing, heating.


Hydrogen, helium fuse

150 million years into it

Matter everywhere, Energy(Kinetic)

Flat whirling disks

Black Holes

The whole Shebang





Space, flat and isotropic and clumpy,

Burning stars,

The philosophers' stones

Hydrogen coal to helium gas

Helium coal

Carbon coal

Coal coal

Real coal for middle-aged stars.


Silicon cores

Finally, iron

The end of the road



Collapse, rebound



All the rows and columns of Mendeleev's Table


Stable, unstable.

Scattered to space.


The stuff of fable

Two millennia ago, at 3BC

A beacon in the east.


Cobalt, nickel, xenon

Strontium, platinium, uranium and the rest

Blasted to space

Stuff of Stars.

Building blocks of us


Movie stars and railway cars

Blown to a distant eddy

A new congealing gas-dust cloud,

On the edge of a spiral,

Gravity attracts

Rotation shapes

Knots and eddies

A central star seed

Ignites, lights

Driving off its dust.


A disk

A gassy ring

Condensing, cooling

Ice at the edges

In bulbous middle

Gas balls grow,


The Giant Gods of Legend

Jovial, Neptunian, Saturnalia.



Fe and Ni to dense cores of embryo planets, proto Earth

Then rocks, oxygen, silicon, aluminium,

A growing world,

Dante's Inferno, layer by layer.


Earth emerges, Gaea

Bright it gleams, molten,

Heated by energy within and without

Uranus and Thor's Daughters,

Alpha and Beta,

And stoned by Jove and Oort,

Pebbles from space.


A hot birth

Volatiles boiled off, gone

Blown away by sunlight

Rarely, giant impacts

Towering walls of ejected lava,

Liquid craters

Magma oceans

Dante's nightmare

Violent rebirths, Begin again.


Time. . .

Cooling, congealing

...heals all

rafts of rock, floating under

a moonless sky.

A cinder, healing,

A cooling lump.

A lonely sky.


Another world, passing by

Perturbed, no doubt, closes in

Smashes, crashes,

Splashes molten mantle to orbit.

A moon made out of Earth

Drying out our planet,

Already bone dry.


All gases, long gone; never there.

No water, methane, CO2,

Ammonia, hydrogen; no air.


No noble gases

Others either.

Dry Dearth, nothing to breathe,

In a hydrogen Universe.


Cooling again

Freezing again

A crystalline sphere

A merger of planets and their Luna child

A Newtonian accident

From chaos to Gaea

Mother Earth.


Pelted from above by cosmic debris;

A Jovial sneeze

Rocks, stones, dirty iceballs

Asteroids and meteoroids



The final 1%

Carbon, water

Stirred in from the top

Sulfur, phosphorous

Potential life.


Silicon, iron, aluminium,

Oxygen, nickel, calcium

A boring planet make

A lifeless crystal

A hard hard world

An elastic brittle world.


Add a dash of water

Watch the action be gin

A flowing, viscous world

A volcanic world

A round opaque lava lamp

Renewing itself



Steam, the water

A gentle rain from far-off heavens

Holy water

Without it . . .

No geology, no theology

No arcs, islands nor Noah

No regurgitation

No renewal

No Life.


A static dry Venereal planet

No ridges, no plates

No oceans, in or out

Nor myths

Nor gods

Nor prayers or devotions.


The final 1%

A pinch

An afterthought

Brings in hydrogen and helium

Argon and krypton

Xenon and carbon

A final veneer.

And earth becomes Earth.


So, we finally arrive

At Four Point Five.

Earth and the brethren.


Look at Mercury,

Quick, silvery,

Dense, dry

Tide to Sol


Look at Mars



Thin air


Look at Moon



Can't live there


Look at Venus

Swirling motions,

Cloudy and fair

Much too



Look at Earth






A trivial speck, an afterthought

But all we got.


So here we are,

Simple and meek,

Now how do we get through the rest of the week?



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