The Universe: Of Beginnings and Endings

by Maryka Exconde

Art by Chassey Fiesta for Hiraya Zine.

The beginning of the universe is perhaps one of the greatest mysteries of all time.

People once believed that a huge tortoise vomited out our entire universe. Some also believed that the Earth was a flat plate resting on that tortoise’s back. If other people thought otherwise, they’d probably be branded as weird.

It wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century that scientists figured out that the universe is finite and won’t last forever.

Over the years, our perception of the world around us and the universe have immensely improved. Still, scientists haven’t exactly proved how the universe began. We are still in the process of unlocking the mysteries of our past. Surely, this isn’t the first time you have heard of and thought about how the universe came to be. The Big Bang Theory and the Creation Theory have been taught to us since we were in grade school.

But did you know that there are many theories about how the universe began other than the Big Bang? However, the most accepted and supported theory of how the universe began is the Big Bang Theory.

What are the other theories, and why is the Big Bang Theory the most acceptable out of them all?

Let’s take a closer look.

Discoveries of Theories

Atoms. Image by Unsplash.

Because of Einstein’s works, our understanding of gravity and the universe changed forever. This led to a breakthrough made by Georges LeMaitre entitled “The Big Bang Theory” back in the 1920s.

He theorized that the universe began in a single primordial atom and that the universe is expanding.

LeMaitre had no data to prove this, so evidently, many scientists ignored it. A few years later, Edwin Hubble discovered that galaxies were moving away at high speeds in all directions. This gave a significant boost in providing evidence for LeMaitre’s theory.

Most physicists throughout the 1920s and 30s debated that the universe was in a steady state; it had no beginning or end. Other theories were made as well, such as the Milne Model and the Oscillation Theory. Both of these theories were based on Einstein’s theory of general relativity and held that the universe follows infinite, or indefinite, self-sustaining cycles.

Eventually, the discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation in 1965 is thought to be the leftover radiation from the beginning of the universe. From then on, it secured the Big Bang as the best theory of the origin and evolution of the universe.

The Big Bang Theory

Image by Getty Images via NBC News.

It was believed that the universe was born from a dense point called a singularity around 13 to 15 billion years ago. It then began a period of cosmic inflation a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang, expanding and stretching dramatically at unimaginable speeds. Afterwhich, the universe continued to grow and cool, but at a far slower pace.

Initially, the universe was permeated only by energy. The inflation caused by the Big Bang stretched space so quickly that it became highly uniform; it amplified the small density fluctuations in the matter present in the early universe.

Some of the universe’s energy transformed into particles, which assembled into the creation of the lightest elements in the universe, namely hydrogen, lithium, and helium. These atoms clumped first into galaxies, then stars, inside whose fiery furnaces all the other elements were forged, eventually shaping the universe we know today.

How will the universe end?

Apocalypse, the end of the world. Image by Unsplash.

Like all beginnings, our universe also has an end.

At some point in our lives, we have thought of apocalypses and formed our own hypothesis as to how the universe would collapse, but will we ever see the end of it?

On a cosmological scale, we don’t have to worry about the ending of the universe. Well, maybe not in a billion (or more) years. However, judging by the fact that we have other issues going on, like the climate crisis and the possible asteroids that can end us all in an instance, the ending of the universe would be the last thing on your mind. 

References

#ARCHIVES: This article was previously published in Hiraya Zine Volume 2, Issue 1: Origin of Origins last January 2022. Download the zine for free here.

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