Canto I: Before the beginning
St. Augustine was asked, "What happened before creation?"
He replied, time is a part of creation--
if there is no time, there is no before.
Now many conjectures--
We don't really know, but Augie could be right.
Canto II: The earliest and furthest we can see
400,000 years after the beginning,
the atomic plasma combined, and light broke free of matter.
3000 degrees then, 3 degrees now, expanding and cooling--
The Cosmic Microwave Background: escaped light, fiat lux.
Canto III: The big bang starting point
Dense, hot spacetime with physics different from ours.
What is to become the visible universe is the size of a proton
(give or take).
Separation and emergence of the four forces, gravity first.
All the energy of the universe is present--
It's all in a low entropy state,
primed for almost unimaginable transformations
Canto IV: Inflation, an evidence supported theory of crazy expansion
Superluminal expansion of spacetime.
In an instant, inflation begins and ends, from proton-sized to inches.
Within spacetime the speed of light is energy's maximum,
but need spacetime itself be so limited?
We don't know the full extent of spacetime, just what we can backtrack.
After inflation, a coasting slowing expansion begins
Canto V: Particle creation and cooling
Age of subatomic particles--
Is this when dark matter appears or is it already there?
Quark creation, fusion and confinement into particles.
Neutrons, protons and others.
Recognizable physics processes occur.
Cooling, coasting expansion.
Canto VI: Normal matter
Protons, electrons and photons appear in a hot plasma state.
With cooling, electrons are captured and atoms appear.
Light, with fewer charged particles to dance with,
leaves matter behind to create the Cosmic Microwave Background.
Free at last!
Canto V: Changes slow, but expansion continues and then spurts
Clouds of matter, normal and dark, gravitational compaction.
Two billion years: Proto-galaxies and stars form
Things are starting to look normal.
Feeding on dark energy, expansion speeds up. Surprise!
Galactic accretion continues
Canto VII: Life
Four billion years ago earth forms.
A billion years later, there is life.
Are we special? Does life exist elsewhere?
The visible universe is 14 billion years "old" and counting.
Everywhere we look we see uniformity:
We may not be alone.
Canto VIII: The end?
All distant terrible fates:
Don't worry, be happy!