Monday, May 31, 2010

Much Ado about Practically Nothing

by Richard Crews
When the Universe was born in the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago, all the matter that exists in the Universe today was created in the twinkling of an eye (less than a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second).

Actually a good deal more than exists today was created, since matter and anti-matter were created in almost equal amounts, and they went to work annihilating one another. Luckily (I suppose) there was a slight excess of matter--about 1%--and that's what we see in the stars and Earth and everything else around us.

Well, not quite. It seems that most of the matter and energy in the Universe is "dark"--it can't be seen or otherwise observed by our usual senses and scientific instruments. In fact, only about 4.6% of the mass and energy in the Universe is observable (is not "dark energy" or "dark matter").

That doesn't seem to leave very much, does it? Only about 4.6% of the 1% that remained after matter and anti-matter were done with each other.

But that still doesn't take account of the calculation that most of the mass/energy left over from the Big Bang after the big matter and anti-matter shoot-out has been lost, during the ensuing 13.7 billion years, down black holes. Over 99.999% of the observable mass and energy in the Universe has collapsed into black holes.

Yup. Everything we feel around us and see in the night sky represents only about a bucketfull of the ocean of Universe that was originally created.