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    Ben Kilminster: How The Universe Works - In 10 Sentences
    By Tommaso Dorigo | January 19th 2013 08:53 AM | 12 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Tommaso

    I am an experimental particle physicist working with the CMS experiment at CERN. In my spare time I play chess, abuse the piano, and aim my dobson...

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    Ben Kilminster is a friend and a distinguished colleague working for the CMS and CDF experiments. Besides being a long-time higgs hunter, having sought that particle for over a decade in the two mentioned experiments, Ben is a veteran of science outreach since for many years he has published summaries of CDF results for the public on the online magazine "Fermilab Today". When I saw him posting on a social network an earlier version of the text below, which I liked a lot, I asked him to make it a guest post entry for my blog, and he graciously agreed. The piece is titled "How The Universe Works - in Ten Sentences". Thanks Ben!

    I mark with a * some logical leaps that scientists make.

    The universe began*, and when it  was just a 10 billionth of a second old, and about 100 trillion times hotter than today, the weak nuclear force that mutates matter into other types of matter and the electromagnetic force that attracts charged objects spontaneously broke apart.

    At some point in these first moments, matter became favored* over anti-matter, and as the universe grew colder, bound states of quarks were created from the strong nuclear force, producing protons which later attracted electrons through the electromagnetic force to make hydrogen. 

    Due to a large amount of an unknown component* of matter called dark matter, hydrogen clumped into various scales of structure, which later collapsed into clusters of galaxies and galaxies within them. 

    Another unknown component* of energy kept the universe expanding at ever increasing speeds, resisting the gravitational urge to collapse everything, but meanwhile the hydrogen in the galaxies was gravitationally collapsing into stars. 

    The stars burned for a while using the weak nuclear force to produce energy to avert their total gravitational collapse, but finally  ran out of hydrogen, and the extreme pressure of the collapse fused hydrogen into heavy elements while blowing up the stars. 

    The stars coalesced again with hydrogen and these heavier elements, and began burning again, providing tremendous heat and gravity even hundreds of millions of miles away, while some of the ejected material was attracted into stable structures, gravitationally bound to the stars, called  planets, composed of metals and other heavy elements that made them heavy enough to attract an atmosphere and provide lots of elements for molecular structures. 

    In planets far enough from the stars for liquids not to freeze or evaporate, the heat and elements started chemical reactions which produced complex molecules, and as the molecules starting interacting, more complex molecular chains were formed, and eventually generated structures which were capable of replicating. 

    The successful chains continued to engulf other materials to sustain their growth*, and life was born, competing until some of them were dominant over the others, successfully garnering more of the molecules available, and over time, some living structures began to work together forming more complex structures in order to eat more stuff, and reproduce themselves, using a detailed molecular plan of their properties. 


    Finally, the complex structures began asking silly questions like how the universe works in less than 10 sentences.

    Comments

    rholley
    Now if one could hook up the last sentence to the first, and get a Perpetuum Mobile like this one from Heinz Erhardt:

    Und der Herbststurm treibt die Blätter,
    die ganz welk sind, vor sich her,
    und es ist so schlechtes Wetter —
    ach, wenns doch schon Winter wär!

    Und es fallen weiße Flocken,
    zwanzig Grad sind es und mehr,
    und man friert in sienen Socken —
    ach, wenns doch schon Frühling wär!

    Und der Schnee schmilzt auf den Gassen,
    und der Frühling kommt vom Meer,
    einsam ist man und verlassen —
    ach, wenns doch schon Sommer wär!

    Und dann wird es schließlich Juli,
    und die Arbeit fällt so schwer,
    denn man transpiriert wien Kuli —
    ach, wenn es doch Herbst schon wär!

    usw. usw.


    And the autumn gales toss the leaves,
    so withered, here and there
    and the weather is so terrible
    Oh, if only winter would hurry up!

    And white flakes are falling,
    twenty degrees or more below,
    one freezes in one’s socks —
    if only spring would hurry up!

    Now the snow is melting in the streets,
    And spring comes in from the sea,
    One is alone and forlorn —
    if only summer would hurry along!

    And now at last it’s July,
    and work is so laborious,
    one is sweating like a coolie —
    Oh, if only autumn would hurry up!

    etc. etc


    I was thinking of verse 2 because it has been snowing in Britain these last two days.

    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    UvaE
    it has been snowing in Britain these last two days.


    I just photographed this graupel that fell about three hours after an unusual January incidence(in Montreal) of lightning and thunder. Graupel , or at least  snow and ice in the form of comets, also played a key role in sentence 10. 
    Thanks a lot for sharing this interesting post and I will be waiting for other great news from you in the nearest future.

    UvaE
    In planets far enough from the stars for liquids not to freeze or evaporate, the heat and elements started chemical reactions which produced complex molecules, and as the molecules starting interacting, more complex molecular chains were formed, and eventually generated structures which were capable of replicating. 
    The step might want to mention what may very well be the energy-key to the origin of life: chemiosmosis

    The Stand-Up Physicist
    The "*"'s look like they mark areas we do not understand, but do have a "most popular" hypothesis*.
    1. The universe began* I view as being a reference to the inflation hypothesis because we don't know of a stable start to the Universe that will have all the matter moving at the same speed up to one part in ten thousand.

    2. matter became favored*: I am not sure what to call this issue...


    3. unknown component* of matter called dark matter:  This is the dark matter hypothesis to help explain why Newton's theory of gravity cannot explain a variety of rotation profiles, all of which are stable, some of which have all the matter moving at the same speed.

    4. Another unknown component* of energy kept the universe expanding at ever increasing speeds: The most popular proposal is known as dark energy, a problem at the largest scales, but also an acceleration ten orders of magnitude smaller than here on Earth (a point some who study the subject are not aware since they talk in units of energy density).

    It is common in the history of physics for "most popular" proposals to be tossed out for another idea that is radically different, yet logically and aesthetically as tough and beautiful as a diamond. I expect a defender of dark energy to claim it is proven, but one is not obligated to eat the 4% known matter pie.  I prefer to wait for the story to take a fun plot twist.
    Halliday
    Doug:

    You expressed:

    2. matter became favored*: I am not sure what to call this issue...

    This is the problem of the apparent asymmetry between matter and anti-matter (matter/anti-matter asymmetry).  So far, we have yet to find enough asymmetry to explain why our universe appears to be almost entirely dominated by matter.

    David

    "The stars burned for a while using the weak nuclear force to produce energy"

    I don't really understand this. Isn't it the strong force of nuclear binding energy that allows fusion reactions to produce net energy?

    Helio George
    Yes, the bulk of the energy produced is a result of fusion involving the strong force. Nevertheless, the weak force plays a role, too.
    Lighten Up! You're made of stardust!
    UvaE
    "The stars burned for a while using the weak nuclear force to produce energy"
    I don't really understand this. Isn't it the strong force of nuclear binding energy that allows fusion reactions to produce net energy?
    The weak force starts the process.

    Helio George
    The following may be worth considering for the green statement:

    The first generation of stars enriched the giant clouds of hydrogen and helium with heavy elements (elements heavier than helium are called metals). As these clouds were triggered into condensing, they fragmented creating strong gravitational fields that caused large accretion discs to form around them. From within these disks were born a host of various sized objects, including planets, which were composed of metals and, for the more massive objects, gravitationally bound gases, whereby atmospheres formed and provided lots of elements for molecular structures. Fusion began once again in these newly formed stars and their intense radiation and stellar winds dissipated their accretion disks leaving their family of orbiting bodies.

    Lighten Up! You're made of stardust!
    Nice job Ben, wondering if you can work this down to a tweet.

    "more complex molecular chains were formed, and eventually generated structures which were capable of replicating. "And then you have those forms alive competing, with no mention of how replicating structures either saw the need or acted on that need intelligently.  But isn't that what "alive" means, the ability, among others, to choose ones competitive acts?