In Celebration of Psalm Nineteen:
God's handiwork in Creation


The Creation Narrative -- Creation of the Universe
The First Fifteen Minutes

The Science of Cosmology and Beginnings

  It is astonishing that science can determine what happened in the earliest moments of creation. This discovery has only been made in the past few decades. Prior to this, many scientists questioned the very notion that it would be possible to study these early moments with rigorous scientific precision, or even that the universe had a definite beginning: that concept was relegated to the realm of religion or superstition -- declared to be beyond the methods of rigorous science.
Today, the science of Cosmology -- the physics of the universe and its beginnings -- is universally recognized as among the exact sciences -- capable of fully rigorous mathematical treatment.

    In contradiction to this former view, there is now a general understanding of
how the early universe grew from the Big Bang, as well as the precise age of the universe (2010 data):  13.73 ± 0.12 billion years, a finding of NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) program to investigate the fine structure of the cosmic background radiation. This is a remarkable example of the Silent Speech of Psalm 19 preserved by God since the very beginning of time to reveal his glory and handiwork.

Many lines of research underlay the science of cosmology. All of them use the Silent Speech that God intentionally embedded into his Creation. The WMAP work is a very literal example: analysis of the fine structure of cosmic background radiation which has been preserved for over 13 billion years -- a Silent Speech with extensive and valuable content, waiting to be heard since the beginning of time.

Overview. The Creation Narrative begins with the Creation of the universe and of the elements.  Time and space both began with the Big Bang, In this cataclysmic instant, all of the energy content of the universe was created in the form of radiant energy. No further energy has been created in the entire lifetime of the universe, making the Conservation of Energy the most fundamental law in all of physics. All space and time and energy were warped into itself in that infinitesimal first instant, which then grew at explosive speed[FOOTNOTE: The universe is sometimes said to have begun as a point of zero size and infinite energy -- physically impossible by most accounts. For myself, I visualize the universe at the very beginning as a minute (but not zero) 1-dimensional loop of exceedingly high energy -- an example of a "string" as some cosmologists visualize the smallest physical components of the universe. However in general, I think string theory is highly speculative and probably impossible to prove. Not that I am an expert on the subject!].

The near-universal agreement among scientists that the universe began with the Big Bang is a relatively recent phenomenon -- as recently as the 1950s, scientists held a variety of views about the beginning of the universe -- or even if there was a beginning. There wasn't even agreement whether Cosmology -- the science of beginnings -- was even a respectable science. See the box How Scientists Came to Accept the Big Bang.

There is no natural explanation of how the Big Bang occurred, except that there is abundant evidence (suggested many times but decisively refuted) that the event has not been repeated -- at least within any part of the observable universe. This grand beginning is beyond the reach of science. The Big Bang was a creative act of God, well-summarized by the statement "Let there be light" (Genesis 1:3 -- see the box The Creation of Light).

The Big Bang was followed by the formation of matter. This aspect of the Creation Narrative does appear to be within the reach of scientific explanation, and so my view is that matter was formed from the initial radiant energy (the light of Genesis 1:3) by natural processes[FOOTNOTE: Although (of course) it is impossible to go back to the beginning, just as it is impossible to go to the interior of a star, it is possible to reproduce the energy levels and study the physics of the (near) beginning and star interiors. The recently operational CERN Hadron Collider can (or will soon) reproduce the kinetic energies that occur in star interiors and in universe as early as 10-20 s after the big  bang. Thus the assertions of events at those times and places are based on actual experimentation, and not just on pure speculation.]. In my understanding, the Biblical Creation account does not specifically describe the creation of matter, except for statements that imply that there was a beginning before which there was no material universe. Since the age of the universe is (barely) sufficient for the creation of matter by natural processes, I believe that matter was indeed created by natural processes. This web page describes the details of this process during the critical first fifteen minutes. Although matter was created using natural processes, it depends on some finely-tuned features that have no scientific explanation, and so these features are, I believe, the results of fiat "monkeying with the physics" (as remarked by Fred Hoyle) set in place in the very first instant of time.

Matter tends to be clumpy -- see the box on Clumpy Energy. Because of this the original pure radiant energy becomes clumpy and eventually forms the ordinary matter of the universe, as soon as the heat and density allow this to happen -- less than a second after the Big Bang.

Element creation by natural processes, requires sufficient heat (kinetic and radiant energy) and density. There are only three natural situations when this happens:

Within 15 minutes after the Big Bang when the universe was dense and hot. This time is short because the universe's initial intense heat and high density rapidly drop as it expands at nearly the speed of light.

When stars burn. The first stars began to burn many millions of years after the Big Bang as clouds of matter coalesced and heated under gravitational attraction. Of course stars still burn, so creation of matter within stars continues today.

• When stars explode in supernovas. After all of a star's fuel is exhausted, it collapses under gravity. Depending on the star mass, a number of possible ends may occur. One end is a sudden collapse in which the very atomic structure of matter collapses and sets off a violent supernova explosion[FOOTNOTE: the orbiting electrons collapse into the nucleus driving the electrons into the protons of the nucleus]. The result is so violent that  heavy elements that could not be formed in normal star burning get created in the intense cataclysm.

Modern high-energy colliders can reproduce conditions of high kinetic energy on a minute scale, and by this means verify the physical interactions that take place under such conditions. The CERN Hadron Collider is projected to reach energies of 5-10 TeV in 2010 and following years. This energy matches the temperature just 10-20 seconds after the Big Bang. Thus the physical events that happen in these early fractions of a second after the Big Bang can be tested and verified by physical experimentation, giving scientists good confidence that they understand the actual developments at these remote and inaccessible times, as well as later in the interiors of stars -- the subjects of a later chapter.

Figure 1, developed by NASA illustrates the universe over its entire life from the beginning to the present. The subject of this chapter begins with the cosmic inflation and ends 15 minutes later. After this, the initial element creation ceased with the universe a hot plasma of elementary particles, too cold for further element creation, but too hot for proper atoms to form -- the atomic binding forces between electrons and nuclei were overwhelmed by the kinetic heat energy. This situation ended after about 380,000 years when the temperature dropped to the point that nuclei could capture and hold electrons (about 9,000°K). After this, neutral atoms formed, and the universe became transparent to visible light. With matter now neutralized, powerful electrical forces no longer dominated the much weaker gravitational forces,  so that the effects of gravity gradually caused matter to clump into clouds. As the gradual collapse increasingly converts gravitational energy into hot kinetic energy, the matter eventually ignites into stars. This is the next stage in the Creation Narrative, the subject of the next Chapter.

The Taurus Constellation
Figure 1
Cosmic Timeline
Credit: NASA/WMAP Science Team (February, 2010)

It is only about fifty years since the details of this evolution of the universe were first understood. There still are, and probably always will be, some gaps in our understanding, but the basic details are now known, and it is utterly remarkable and was totally unexpected that science could make sensible and confident statements about these early moments. It is a marvelous example of the power of the Silent Speech that God has woven into his creation.

The First Fifteen Minutes

All of Creation divides up naturally into life, the biological world, and non-life, the physical world. The remarkable thing is that only a very special physical world can produce life. So the story life's beginnings must start with creation of the physical world -- creation of the very special sort of physical world that can support life. This is the essential point of the "Anthropic Principle," the concept that our universe is fine-tuned for life to an astonishing degree. There are many examples of this fine-tuning that have been explored within the science community, especially in the time since Barrow and Tipler's book The Anthropic Principle appeared in 1986[FOOTNOTE 1 1 John D. Barrow & Frank J. Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, Oxford 1986. See also the Wikipedia article. The history of investigations into the anthropic principle go back much further than this, but it seems that this book started an explosion of further work on the subject. An early book Lawrence J. Henderson, The Fitness of the Environment (1913). argues that the Earth is the only location for life in the entire universe.].  See some remarks about this in the previous Chapter.

In the first 15 minutes after the Big Bang, the universe rapidly passed through several stages as it grew and cooled. This is the era that we now turn to.

The Big Bang -- prior to the Planck Time (0 to 10-43 s). The Planck Time (5.39 x 10-44 s) and the Planck Length (1.62×10−35 m) are lower bounds in quantum physics: scientists don't know what happens at smaller distances and times. These quantities are determined by three fundamental constants: the speed of light, c; the gravitational constant, G; and the Planck constant, h. The Planck Time is the time it takes for light to travel the distance of a Planck Length, which is about 1020 times smaller than the diameter of a proton. Known physics is not able to model what happens when the universe is smaller than this. At the Planck Time, the temperature of the universe was at the Planck Temperature, (1.42 x 1032 °K).

The Importance of the Quantum
    One of the facts of nature that Classical Physics did not consider is that energy -- radient energy in light waves, as well as the potential energy of electrons bound in atoms -- comes in discrete chunks called quanta: it is not continuous. This fact was discovered by Max Planck, whose name is celebrated in the Planck Constant h, He used the concept of quantum energy to explain the classical paradox of black body radiation, which the methods of classical physics as it was then known could not explain (classically the energy would be infinite, which is absurd). Shortly after he published his discovery, Einstein and others used the concept to explain spallation of electrons off a metallic surface when bombarded by high energy,  and eventually the energy levels of electrons in atoms. [CHECK ACCURACY]

All of the energy of the entire universe was created by the time that the universe reached the Planck Time, making the Conservation of Energy the ultimate conservation law. All other conservation laws came about as the result of symmetry breaking that occurred at times later than the Planck Time -- that is, as the universe passed through irreversable stages of disequilibrium. Perhaps the Conservation of energy came about in this way too, but our understanding of physics breaks down prior to the Planck Time. Perhaps the constants c, G and h also came about as a result of symmetry breaking prior to the Planck Time: we simply don't know.

Symmetry-breaking occurs when an equilibrium condition ceases to be possible. The occasion is caused when the temperature and/or the density of the universe falls below a critical threshold. Before reaching the threshold, symmetry occurs: a process moves both directions with complete ease; after the threshold, the process can only move in one direction, so it "freezes" and a new conservation law is born[FOOTNOTE: A familiar example of this is the "law" discovered by Boyle in his
definition of elements as the the irreducible components of matter: if the temperature is high enough, elements can be changed into other elements, and at sufficiently high conditions of temperature and density, such transformations are reversable. As the temperature drops, this reversability stops and the reactions can go only in one direction. At still lower temperatures, the elements are frozen and Boyle's definition becomes valid.]. A number of these thresholds occur in the first small fractions of a second after the Planck Time[FOOTNOTE: Noether's Theorem discovered by Emmy Noether (1882-1935) states that every (differentiable) symmetry corresponds to a conservation law, and vice-versa.].

It is thought that during this era, all four of the known physical forces were combined. The force of gravity -- by far the weakest of the four forces -- became as strong as the others. Figure 2 illustrated how the forces separated out.

Four Fundamental Forces
Figure 3
Separation of the Four Forces

Cosmic Inflation (10-36 to 10-32 s). Between 10-36 to 10-32 seconds after the Big Bang, the universe experienced Cosmic InflationThis remarkable event suddenly expanded the universe by a factor of 1025 -- as if an average-sized microbe (10 micron diameter) suddenly expanded to the size of the Milky Way galaxy. At the end of the inflation, the universe would fit nicely in the palm of your hand (but be rather hot and heavy!). There is speculation but no firm understanding of just why this expansion occurred, and there is no experimental way yet devised that would allow laboratory demonstration, so it must be accepted as a mysterious outside-the-box fact. But this cosmic expansion was absolutely necessary so that a livable universe could evolve. Without it, the universe would have expanded too fast for galaxies to form, or collapsed back in on itself too soon for life to fluorish, which required a minimum of 10 to 15 billion years -- see the discussion of The Necessary Size and Age of the Universe.  At the end of the inflation, the universe reached a critical density and flatness, which was necessary to achieve this necessary age.

The Epoch of Symmetry Breaking and formation of matter (10-32 to 10-6?? s). What happens next, after inflation, is that the universe goes through a series of broken symmetries that take place as it cools and becomes less dense (still very hot and dense when all is said and done!). These broken symmetries occur because the energy of the universe, fixed since the Big Bang, has a strong tendency to clump, which occurs as the universe crosses a number of (irreversible) temperature/density thresholds.

What is a Symmetry in Physics?
A symmetry in physics is a condition in which smooth changes (continuous, differentiable) occur between ??? DO THIS ??? These changes occur in equilibrium, meaning ???

The symmetry breaking that occurs in the first fifteen minutes after the Big Bang results from the ambient temperature and density of the universe dropping below a reaction threshold. Above that threshold, symmetry holds: a reaction can take place freely in both directions. Below that threshold, the reaction can take place in only one direction, or perhaps cannot take place at all.

A common example is the formation of particle/antiparticle pairs: for this to happen, the (local or global) ambient temperature (kinetic energy) must exceed the combined masses of a particle and its antiparticle. Below this level, the pairs cannot form, but mutual annhilation of pairs can take place. As the ambient temperature drops, what was a two-way reaction becomes a one-way reaction, and this occurs abruptly at the threshold (give or take a little excess random kinetic energy). The passage through the threshold is "symmetry-breaking".

Particle/Antiparticle Pair Formation
1011 10-03
1013 10-10
1013 10-10
1010 2
* Most of the proton mass is the binding energy (gluons) that binds the  quarks.

A break in symmetry always implies that equilibrium is broken, for one reason or another. For example, in this epoch symmetry is broken as the temperature/density of the universe drops below a critical value needed to maintain a reversable physical process.

Noether's theorem asserts that every continuous symmetry in physics is associated with a conservation law (a physical constant) [GET EXPRESSION CORRECT]. For example, the geometric symmetries are:

Physical Law
Physical Constant
Translation in Time
Conservation of energy
Total Mass/Energy
Translation in Space
Conservation of Linear Momentum
Total Linear Momentum
Rotation in Space
Conservation of Angular Momentum
Total Angular Momentum

Two big happenings occur in this epoch. First, the strong, weak and electromagnetic forces become separate -- in our language we could say they "freeze out" or are "precipitated" as the universe cools and becomes less dense. We will not say much further about this.

The second big happening is that this epoch begins with pure energy (or a "soup" of latent energy "clumps" forming and unforming in equilibrium)  and ends with a mixture of energy (photons) and particles: protons, neutrons and electrons -- and a variety of other ghostly exotica such as neutrinos.

The Quark Epoch (ending about 10-06 s with the formation of matter). The universe started out electrically neutral, and all particles enjoyed only a fleeting existence because they were constantly being made and immediately un-made. The result was an electrically neutral soup of quarks and electrons existing in equilibrium with their anti-particles -- meaning that they are constantly being made and un-made with not even a fleeting permanency.

Quarks are strange creatures and have an even stranger force field -- see the box below. Normally they exist only as the components of protons, neutrons and other fleeting objects. But very early in the universe, it is too hot for these objects to themselves exist independently -- or perhaps it is better to say that the quarks in the quark soup may associate to form fleeting protons and neutrons which immediately dissociate.

As soon as the ambient temperature drops below the formation energy for protons and neutrons (about 10-10 s) the fleeting protons, neutrons and electrons suddenly precipitate out as (relatively) stable protons, neutrons and electrons and their antiparticles. The prior 2-way symmetry between formation and dissociation of quarks ends discontinuously.  This is the first major break in symmetry and effectively ends the quark epoch. No longer is it possible for quarks to freely associate to form and re-form protons and neutrons. Once the end products can exist because the ambient temperature has fallen below the energy of formation, the quarks must completely convert, because quarks cannot exist independently.

We still have the problem of particle-antiparticle annhilation, which is a separate issue from quark association into protons and neutrons (or their antiparticles). But this, too,  breaks symmetry in a discontinuity. Proton-antiproton and neutron-antineutron pair formation cannot take place once the temperature drops below 10-10 s. But apparently antiparticles spontaneously disintegrate into energy (photons) at a slightly higher rate than do particles. The result is that one out of about a trillion antiparticles will disintegrate before it can meet with and annhilate the corresponding particle.  The result is that about 1 in a trillion particle-antiparticle pairs will result with a particle -- proton or neutron -- left over. Hence our universe is filled with matter, and there are about a trillion photons for every proton or neutron.

This assymetry in the decay of particles and antiparticles has never been seen in a laboratory -- but of course if the probability is only 1 in a trillion, that is not unexpected -- recall that the formation of these pairs only occurs under very high energy conditions, which are themselves fairly rare. For further information see See Eric Sather, The Mystery of Matter Assymetry.

A number of physical constants and conservation laws are associated with this period: baryon number and lepton number [EXPLAIN FURTHER].

   The subject of sub-atomic particles is large and somewhat complex, so we will only make a few remarks. For a fuller discussion see the excellent book of Jonathan Allday, Quarks, Leptons and the Big Bang.

  Quarks are the buildingblocks of protons and neutrons, the components of an atomic nucleus. They are fundamental particles, meaning that -- like electrons -- they are not made up of smaller particles.

    The strong force binds Quarks together. It is a unique force because (unlike gravity) it becomes stronger as the distance between quarks increases, similar to the way a rubber band works. At a separation of about the diameter of a nucleus, the force between two quarks becomes so strong that the energy field between them exceeds the energy-equivalence of two quark masses, and then the force field spawns a new quark-antiquark pair (analogy: the rubber band snaps). This is why there are no free quarks.

     The quarks that make up protons and neutrons are of two types, called "up" and "down." The up quark has an electrical charge of +2/3 and the down quark has a charge of -1/3. A proton is made up of two u and 1 d quarks (uud), and a neutron is made up of 2 d and 1 u quarks (udd).

Quarks and Nucleons

     Other combinations of quarks are possible, but they are all very unstable. The neutron has a half-life of 15 minutes outside of a nucleus (hence the significance of the "first fifteen minute"). The proton is stable, as is the neutron when it is part of a nucleus.

Formation of the Primordial Elements
(100 s to 15 minutes). Electrons and protons are stable, as are neutrons that are bound up in the nuclei of elements -- but free neutrons are unstable, with a half-life of about 15 minutes. All elements other than hydrogen require neutrons. Thus the events of the next 15 minutes after electrons, protons and neutrons first formed, determined how many neutrons would survive in the universe, and whether the universe would have the resources to create the elements needed for life.  It was necessary that an abundant supply of neutrons would be bound up into the nuclei of elements.

After about 3 3/4 minutes the temperature had dropped below the energy of formation for deuterium. This was the first opportunity for any composite atomic nuclei to form. Beginning at this time, deuterium is formed by the collision of a proton and a free neutron. Essentially all deuterium in the universe was formed in the next few minutes, because the reaction requires a free neutron, which are rarely found in the later universe. Since the half-life of free neutrons is about 18 minutes, all of the deuterium was formed in the next few minutes.

The formation of deuterium at this time is another symmetry-breaking event that occurred by the discontinuity when the temperature dropped below the energy of formation of deuterium.

Almost all of the helium and heavier elements were formed from deuterium, which is why the agonizing (!) wait for deuterium to start forming is called the deuterium bottleneck. By this time the abundance of free neutrons had decayed by ??%. All of the subsequent nucleosynthesis had to be completed in the next 15 minutes -- before the temperature of the universe had dropped to the point that no further nucleosynthesis could take place.

no stick
Prior to 225 seconds:
too energetic for collisions to stick
After 225 seconds:
n + p -> deuterium

[FOOTNOTE: Figures from]

Helium-4 formed (usually) by the collision of two deuterium atoms. The result, after 15 minutes or so, was that the main elements formed were Hydrogen, Deuterium, Helium-4 and other elements through Beryllium produced in trace amounts.

No elements with atomic numbers greater than 3 formed in these early moments because all elements of with a total of 5 protons + neutrons are unstable, and so the fusion is blocked at that point. In addition, helium burning, which later on produced carbon in stars could not take place because the helium density and thermal time window were too small. The temperatures required for helium burning would not arise until stars began to form about 400 million years later (see Figure 1). After 15 minutes, any remaining free neutrons quickly disintegrated into protons and electrons. All nuclear fusion ceased, and the universe was a plasma of free electrons and nuclei with atomic numbers 1, 2 and 3 (H, He, Li). See the box on the Missing Runaway Creation of Elements.

The physical properties of the universe follow exquisitely precise and logical laws. This precision is what gave rise to Einstein's remark noted above. Shortly after his work in general relativity, the mathematician  Emmy Noether  summarized the essence of these properties by proving a mathematical theorem about the Symmetries of the Universe. Einstein almost immediately recognized the value of Emmy Noether's work, because it was an extension of what had motivated his own work in general relativity. Because of the importance of symmetery in understanding the physics of the universe, I briefly summarize its essence in the following sidebar:

In the Beginning - The Creation of Space and Time
Genesis 1:1 In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

   I believe that this first verse in the Bible and the first verse of the Creation account is a declaration of the first event in the Creation Narrative: God created the universe. It is clear in John 1:1 and Colossians 1:17 that the created world had a beginning. This is also the conclusion of science: the universe began with the Big Bang.

   Some interpreters take this verse to be an introductory statement: " [or ...when] God created the heavens and the earth" so that it is a sort of summary statement of all that follows. But in my view the clear scientific evidence of a beginning confirms the meaning of this verse as I understand it. It expresses the actual creative act that began space and time.

The Creation of Light
Genesis 1:3 And God Said, "Let there be light."

   I believe that this introduction to the First Day refers to the creation of radiant energy as the first tangible act of creation. This energy is expressed as "light" because that is the equivalent expression for radiant energy that was familiar to the author's audience. All of the matter in the universe began as radiant energy some of which precipitated out as matter when the universe cooled in the first seconds.

   Some authors take this verse to refer to visible light on the earth (the "Day" of verse 5), but I see verse 5 to be an instantiation of the more general light of verse 3, rather than equivalent to it.

The Creation of Darkness
Genesis 1:4b And God separated the light from the darkness.

   I see the separation from darkness is a specific action of God that is today recognized as the cosmic inflation, in which light was figuratively torn apart, or shredded, with "darkness" intersticed. Without this specific creative act, the universe would have imploded.

   Again, I see the "Night" of verse 5 to be an instantiation of the more general darkness of verse 3, rather than equivalent to it. I realize that this view is speculative, and do not insist on it -- it is not fundamental to my beliefs!

Creation of the Primordial Elements

Super-colliders such as the CERN Large Hadron Collider can achieve proton energies up to 7 TeV (14 TeV for protons colliding from opposite directions).This energy level compares to the temperature of the universe about a trillionth (10-12) of a second  after the Big Bang. This gives physicists the ability to perform experiments that in effect simulate conditions that prevailed at these times, and reconstruct the entire story of how the elements were formed, with the help of direct experimentation.

All of the energy of the entire universe was created at the instant of the Big Bang. Since that time, energy has neither been created nor destroyed. This is the principle of the conservation of energy.

B2FH == Geoffrey Burbidge, Margaret Burbidge, William Fowler and Fred Hoyle, Synthesis of the Elements in Stars, Reviews of Modern Physics 29 (1957) p547-650.

Energy wants to particleize -- resonance between radiation energy & the particle with same mass equivalent.

When temperatures were very high, there was a continual conversion between energy and matter -- but as long as the temperature was higher than the equivalent mass-energy of the particle, the conversions would immediately reverse, leaving no stable particles.

In less than a second after the Big Bang, protons, neutrons and electrons condensed from the initial pure energy. By the time 3 minutes had passed, ... [DO IT] H He ions. The universe was too hot for these primitive nuclei to capture and hold electrons and so the entire universe of matter consisted of radiation energy, and charged particles - electrons, protons, helium nuclei and small amounts of heavier element nuclei -- a plasma universe. The plasma universe expanded at the speed of light, and cooled until at about 250,000 years after the BB it had cooled (to about 3000° K) to the point that the elements could capture and hold electrons, forming neutral atoms. Up to this point, the electrical forces vastly overwhelmed the much weaker gravitational forces, but once neutral atoms formed, the first stars and galaxies started to coalesce under the force of gravity. At the same time the universe became transparent because the background radiant energy could no longer interact with the electrons captured in the newly formed hydrogen

Sharp Point          The Missing Runaway Creation of the Primordial Elements
The primordial elements were all formed within the first fifteen minutes after the Big Bang.  The fifteen minutes is closely tied to the 10.3 minute half-life of a free neutron -- neutrons that are bound in a nucleus are quite stable, but not free neutrons.

At the earliest stages the universe abounded in hot, energetic neutrons, protons and electrons and there was a brief period of time when the heat and frequent high energy collisions of neutrons and protons could have produced elements of high atomic number in an explosive, runaway process. If this had happened, the universe would never have produced the stars -- in short, no Sun, no Earth. Most likely the universe would have collapsed back onto itself.

This did not happen because of the Lithium/Boron barrier. It was not possible to create Boron-8 or Lithium-3, and so the runaway conditions could not occur.

[develop this. Show WHY it was important that these element had to be possible in order for runaway to occur.]

Creation of the Primordial Elements

Nucleosynthesis of the Primordial Elements

Note that the only reaction that produces an electron is the first, which also produces an anti-neutrino. An anti-neutrino does not interact with matter (??)

Missing is the collision between Helium-3 and Deuterium to form Lithium-5, because the end product is unstable (half-life about 6.83985E-22s). There is no stable element of mass 5. If this element were stable, then there would be a runaway production of all heavier elements (GIVE REFERENCE) and the universe as we know it would never have existed. [GIVE REFS]

    • The only reaction that produces a Deuteron is the first one listed on the upper right.  ??? All deuterons are primordial. They cannot be formed after the first 15 (???) minutes.



This section contains various notes and boxes that supplement the discussion.

Clumpy Energy
From Einstein's Special Relativity formula, E = mc2, and the dual particle/wave nature of light, one concludes that energy is clumpy: that is, it has a tendency to form particles when the conditions are right. As the temperature of the early universe falls, the clumpiness of energy results in various particles precipitating out of the energy stew -- beginning with quarks (the components of protons and neutrons) and continuing through the formation of protons, neutrons, electrons, deuterium, helium nuclei, etc. As the temperature falls below the binding energy for a given type of particle, that particle tends to persist, rather than convert back to energy. There is a kind of stickiness that keeps the energy in that particular clumpy condition.

For an imperfect example of this sort of thing,  consider what happens when hot, very salty water (or any mineral dissolved in a solvent) cools.  Crystals of salt precipitate out -- the cooled water is still salty, but not as salty as it was. Similarly, as the universe cools, the radiant heat energy precipitates the particles that will eventually become matter. In a manner of speech, the particles "freeze out."

Free neutrons are unstable in the free state, but when they decompose, the end product is:  n -> p + e + neutrino.

The mass of an elementary particle yields its mass-energy, which in turn gives the equivalent temperature (°Kelvin) and the first time after the Big Bang that the universe cools down to that temperature. Prior to this time the particle-to-energy and energy-to-particle conversions occur, but after this time the conversions rapidly become more difficult, and depend on increasingly unlikely local energy spikes. In effect, the particles that precipitate out are frozen in the particle state. Here is a timeline for when the basic particles of ordinary matter and the primordial elements (primarily hydrogen and helium) precipitate out.

time (after Big Bang)
Particle precipitation
Temp °K
Mass Energy
10-42 s gravity separates out
1032 8.6x1010 TeV

prior to this all forces are unified:
gravity, electromagnetic, strong & weak forces.
10-36 s cosmic inflation

The universe expands suddenly (much faster than the speed of light) by a factor of 1025.  The expansion factor is as if a small marble suddenly grew to a size greater than the Milky Way Galaxy.
10-33 s end of cosmic inflation

At the end of this expansion the universe is about the size of a grapefruit.

10-30 s strong force separates out
1020 8.6 TeV

prior to this all forces are unified:
gravity, electromagnetic, strong & weak forces.

CERN Hadron Collider is projected to reach 5 TeV in 2009.
10-12 s weak force separates out.
1015 86 GeV

The 4 forces are now distinct.
10-10 s electroweak phase transition
baryon formation
(quark plasma)
1013 860 MeV
matter-antimatter pair formation (quark-antiquark); antimatter annhilation leaves 1 particle of matter for 109 mutual annhilations. (Today there are 109 photons for every baryon). From this point baryon number is conserved.
10-09 s

4.47x1023 Critical density of universe ± 2 parts in 1025.
7 x 10-7 s protons & neutrons form

All quarks form into protons & neutons. Neutrons beta decay, forming a proton and an electron (and anti-neutrino). 
10-02 s
1 x 1011
8.6 MeV

10-01 s


1.1 s
neutrinos decouple

1010 0.86 MeV
400,000 24% n 76% p
14 s
electrons precipitate
3 x 1009 0.25 MeV

electron-positron pairs dissociate
60 s


3.2 min.
deuterium and Helium form
1 x 1009 0.086 MeV

Hydrogen burning requires a temperature of 37 x 1006

Helium burning to carbon requires a temperature of  180x1006 AND a density of 3.8 gm/cc.  This is achieved only in stars.

13.6x1006 0.01 MeV

Temperature for H fusion (p-p process) in stars
15 min.
fusion ceases
1006 86 eV

deuterium/helium ion plasma

300,000 yrs.
neutral hydrogen and helium atoms form
The universe becomes transparent.

The temperature drops below the ionization temperatures.

gravitational forces dominate;
galaxies and stars form.

13.6 Ga
Universe Today

* For comparision, air at sealevel has a mass density of about 1.25x10-3 g/cc.

    • For online lectures on this topic, see lectures 5 to 7 of Cosmology and the Origin of Life, from the University of Oregon.
    • SOME CONJECTURE that total gravitational PE = total mass Energy so that the sum is zero.
    • Quark/Antiquark annhilation occurs prior to 10-35 s leaving an excess of quarks (so that matter dominates over antimatter)
    • Conservation of charge requires an electron to form for each proton.
    • Primordial electrons formed from neutron beta decay:   n -> p + e + antineutrino.
   • Small amounts of primordial lithium also form, but no elements with atomic number ??? or higher because of the "barium barrier" ??? WHAT (that would require triple collisions which are very rare)????
    • Binary collisions are the primary mechanism for nuclear fusion of deuterium into helium (triple collisions are rare)
    • The relative numbers of primordial elements is determined by the ???
   • The CERN Large Hadron Collider is designed to accelerate protons to 7 TeV with 14 TeV collisions from opposite directions. This energy level corresponds to the temperature at roughly a trillionth (10-12) of a second after the Big Bang.
   • Star ignition occurs when gravitation causes matter to collapse towards a local center of gravity. Gravitational acceleration heats up the matter until the high energy collisions achieve nuclear fusion.  A newly ignited star begins with hydrogen fusion to form helium. As the helium  accumulates at the core of the star it fuses in turn to form heavier elements. Sir Arthur Eddington was the first to suggest that starlight comes from nuclear fusion.19
    • Convert eV <-> Kelvin: 1 MeV = 1.1605x1010 °K; 1°K = 8.6170 x 10-11 MeV.
    • Density is proportional to T3.

   Jonathan Allday, Quarks, Leptons and the Big Bang, (1998) p235ff.
This has a clear and readable explanation of the creation of the primordial elements.
   Amir D. Aczel, God's Equation: Einstein, Relativity and the Expanding Universe, (1999)
   Malcom S. Longair, Our Evolving Universe, (1996)
   Weinberg, The First Three Minutes.

Symmetry in the Universe17
One feature of the universe is that space and time are continuous -- at least to the dimensions that scientists have been able to determine to date. Depending on your inclinations, this may be surprising -- after all, since the time of Planck18 it has been known that energy is not continuous: it comes in chunks called quanta. If it appears to be continuous to us, that is only because the quanta are such minute quantities. But ordinary matter could not exist if energy were not quantized, because the electrons that exist around the nuclei of atoms would eventually dissipate their energy and collapse into the nucleus -- before the days of quantum mechanics, this was one of the inconsistencies of classical physics.

A "Symmetry" in Physics is a law or principle that does not change with position or time. For example, the total energy of a closed system does not change if its position or time of observation changes. The word comes from the fact that the mathematical expression for the "transformation" in position or time is symmetric.

Albert Einstein derived his general theory of relativity (1916) from an assumption of symmetry: that the laws of physics are the same as viewed from any intertial coordinate system (where inertial means free-falling or accelerating). The special theory of relativity (1905) assumed a constant velocity coordinate system. The famous equation E = mc2 which relates mass and energy was a surprising result of this simple assumption. The general law led to the profound conclusion that space and time are a 4-dimensional continuum in which massy objects tend to warp space, and which is non-Euclidean.

Emmy Noether's Theorem states that to each "symmetry" in physics there corresponds a conserved quantity -- that is a constant.  Thus the space/time symmetry of laws of physics leads to the following:

Conservation of energy: the total energy (mass equivalent + kinetic + potential) is a constant.
Conservation of Linear Momentum
Conservation of Angular Momentum
Constant Speed of light (this follows from Einstein's Theory).

Other constants particularly apply at the atomic level:

Conservation of Electrical Charge
Conservation of Electrical "spin"

All of these constants have been verified in numerous ways by literally millions of experiments.  For example:
• The laws of physics are unchanged since the Big Bang.
• Spectral analysis of light from distant stars and galaxies confirms that the speed of light (at the time the light was emitted) has not changed.

The very existence of matter (baryons) requires that symmetry broke very early, at about 10-10 seconds after the Big Bang (see the note on clumpy energy).

Symmetry and Relativity

<>I don't know when the concept of Symmetry became such an important thing in physics. For myself, I first realized its vast importance when I came to understand the motivation behind Einstein's General Relativity. it is based on one over-riding idea: that the laws of physics are the same when viewed in any inertial system.

This is a symmetry that goes beyond rotational symmetry or symmetry under changes in position or time -- which are perhaps the reason why the concept is called "symmetry." An "inertial" system is one that is subject to acceleration, the closest example to hand being physics conducted on earth under the influence gravity. The classical illustration is a laboratory that is in free-fall -- such as on an elevato. Measurement of all physical constants in such a laboratory or conduct of all physical experiments in such a laboratory will give the exact same results as it would if the laboratory were at rest (whatever that means). Further, one could not tell if the inertial system was influenced by gravitational force or some other force, as long as the system was free-falling (whatever that means!).

Carry this concept to its natural limits, and you have Einstein's General Theory of Relativity.

According to Noether's theorem, every symmetry has a corresponding conservation law and constant. In this case the constant is the speed of light, c.

I hope this example shows that the concept of symmetries in physics has far-reaching consequences.

A Common Example of Symmetry Breaking

     Symmetry breaking is commonly associated with rapid temperature changes and other disruptions. There are many common examples of symmetry breaking in our daily lives.

     Two states of a substance are in equilibrium when the substance can smoothly move in both directions between the states. For example, if salt is dissolved in a container of water, it reaches a point of saturation, and excess salt crystals will remain undissolved on the bottom. If left undisturbed, the solution reaches an equilibrium state in which there is a constant exchange between dissolved and crystalline salt. Eventually all of the undissolved salt will be replaced with salt in solution, so that in time, a particular molecule of salt will move back and forth between the crystalline and dissolved state. This equilibrium state is an example of a symmetry, with unconstrained movements between different states.

    If the water is heated until all of the crystals are dissolved, and then slowly cools, the solution becomes super-saturated, but stays in symmetric equilibrium. However if a crystal (or a granular impurity) is introduced into the supersaturated liquid, it will suddenly precipitate out the excess salt. This is a break in symmetry, and a momentary disequilibrium occurs. In time, the disequilibrium will again equalize, with some of the salt in crystalline form.

     In the early moments of the universe, the rapid change in temperature and density causes many instances where symmetry breaking occurs, with the result that some physical quantity "freezes out" or "precipitates" and produces a sudden disequilibrium. Before the break in symmetry, matter freely associated and dissociated in equilibrium between the "before" and "after" conditions. The "after" condition was a transient state until the break in symmetry, and afterward became a permanent state.

Pathologies and Logical Inconsistencies of Classical Physics
Despite its overwhelming success in describing the physical world, classical physics has a number of logical inconsistencies. Here are some of them.

1. The model of electrons orbiting around a nucleus consisting of protons is impossible to explain in classical physics for the following reasons.
a. The rotating electrons would radiate energy and eventually collapse into the nucleus.
b. The protons could not stick together in the nucleus because of their mutual repulsive force.

2. In classical physics, two electrons can approach arbitrarily close because they are point masses, approaching infinite potential energy, which in turn leads to inconvenient infinities when calculating field effects. One could calculate the separation distance at which two electrons would have a potential energy equal to the total energy of the universe. [WHAT IS IT?]

3. For an infinite universe, and infinite speed of light, the reasoning of the Olber's paradox would imply that nights would be infinitely bright.

4. Blackbody radiation would be infinite under classical physics.

chainlink.gif     Connection to the Creation Account in Genesis One

I believe that Genesis 1:1-2 preface the creation account, situated just prior to the Big Bang.

This is my belief, but at the same time I realize that Genesis 1 is a majestic and sweeping account of God's vast creative activity, condensed into very few words and intended for the enlightenment of humans in all ages. At all times since it was first put down into words (including the present), its subject matter has always been well beyond the ability of its readers to comprehend all details. This means that the full grasp of the words, their scope and true meaning is something that requires effort, and cannot, this side of heaven, be truly, fully and certainly known.21 On the other hand, the overall message of God's direct personal activity in creation is clear, even if some of the details are not. In caution therefore, I offer these remarks.

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
2 Now the earth was formless and empty, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of  God was hovering over the face of the waters.

St. Augustine (late 4th Century AD) puzzled over the question: What does it mean that the earth was formless and empty? He concluded (and I agree) that the author here describes the earth before there was an earth. It was shapeless and void because it didn't exist at this point22. As it turns out (but this isn't the reason I agree!) the science of his day had the view that there were four elements: earth, water, air and fire, corresponding to solids, liquids, gases and fire. In this view, every solid had its characteristic "form," and this "form" (more than just shape) is what distinguished different solids -- such as gold from copper or diamond from ruby. So "formlessness" would be comparable to non-existence, or existence as an ideal or concept, but not in fact.

The darkness here is the absence of light, which is created in verse 3. The "face of the deep" and the "face of the waters" are expressions that refer to the vast nothingness before the beginning. The "deep" refers to the vastness and the "waters" refers to the fluid shapelessness23 -- exactly the picture that an artist might use to represent the emptiness before the beginning.

Genesis 1:3-5 describe the Big Bang and its immediate aftermath.

3 And God said, "Let there be light" and there was light.
4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from darkness.
5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and morning, the first day.

Light here is radiant energy: the full spectrum, not just the visible part. At the instant of creation, the entire universe was a miniscule, immensely hot speck of pure energy. An instant later (10-36 to 10-33 seconds)  the newly created light ripped apart in a unique and extraordinary explosion that suddenly expanded the universe by a factor of 1025 -- as if a small marble suddenly grew to a size greater than the Milky Way galaxy. I believe that in this incredible act, God created darkness throughout the intense light and that is -- the effect expressed in a way that can be understood by anyone -- the separation of light from darkness in verse 4. From this point on, the universe expanded at roughly the speed of light. Without this "separation of light from darkness" at the very first instant, the universe would have collapsed back on itself and vanished. Literally this day began in the darkness of evening and ended in the light of morning.

The formation of the elements from the primordial light is not explicitly mentioned in the Genesis creation account.  In effect, this occurs between days 1 and 2, because the earth is present as day 2 begins.

Finely Tuned Physical Properties
That are Essential for the Universe to Exist

The Anthropic Principle concerns many remarkable "coincidences" in physics and chemistry that are essential for life to exist. Here we will mention a few critical physical constants that are necessary for a material universe to exist at all, whether life-supporting or not.

Physical Event
Pivotal Property

Cosmic Inflation
space homogeneity: large-scale mass distribution uniform (COBE radiation uniform to within 1 part in 100,000).
Expansion of the universe by a factor of 1026  from 10-36 to 10-32 seconds after the big bang -- as if an average-sized microbe (10 micron diameter) suddenly expanded to the size of the Milky Way galaxy (100,000 light-years  = 9.5×1017 km diameter). At the end of the inflation, the universe would fit nicely in the palm of your hand (but be rather hot and heavy!). The effect of this expansion is to make the universe fairly homogeneous, but with just enough inhomogeneity to allow the galaxies to form later. See Alan Guth's article (1997).

The magic number 137. Note that the resonance of carbon and oxygen (see below) implies very precise values for fundamental physical quantities -- but it is impossible to know how precisely tuned they are because the computation of the resonance levels is far beyond the present ability.
Annhilation of antimatter
asymmetry between baryons and anti-baryons (1 excess baryon in 109).
Apparently this goes back to the generation of the quarks and antiquarks. There appears to be a slight bias in favor of quarks over antiquarks. However all of this is based on levels of energy that as yet are not able to be experimentally verified.

See the Wikipedia article on CP Violation. "In 1964, James Cronin, Val Fitch with coworkers provided clear evidence (which was first announced at the 12th ICHEP conference in Dubna) that CP symmetry could be broken, winning them the 1980 Nobel Prize. This discovery showed that weak interactions violate not only the charge-conjugation symmetry C between particles and antiparticles and the P or parity, but also their combination. The discovery shocked particle physics and opened the door to questions still at the core of particle physics and of cosmology today. The lack of an exact CP symmetry, but also the fact that it is so nearly a symmetry created a great puzzle. (¶) Only a weaker version of the symmetry could be preserved by physical phenomena, which was CPT symmetry. Besides C and P, there is a third operation, time reversal (T), which corresponds to reversal of motion. Invariance under time reversal implies that whenever a motion is allowed by the laws of physics, the reversed motion is also an allowed one. The combination of CPT is thought to constitute an exact symmetry of all types of fundamental interactions. Because of the CPT symmetry, a violation of the CP symmetry is equivalent to a violation of the T symmetry. CP violation implied nonconservation of T, provided that the long-held CPT theorem was valid. In this theorem, regarded as one of the basic principles of quantum field theory, charge conjugation, parity, and time reversal are applied together. ... The Big Bang should have produced equal amounts of matter and antimatter if CP symmetry was preserved; as such, there should have been total cancellation of both. In other words, protons should have cancelled with antiprotons, electrons with antielectrons, neutrons with antineutrons, and so on for all elementary particles. This would have resulted in a sea of photons in the universe with no matter. Since this is quite evidently not the case, after the Big Bang, physical laws must have acted differently for matter and antimatter, i.e. violating CP symmetry." [emphasis added - dcb]
Production of the Primordial Neutrons, Protons and Electrons mn - mp mass excess 1.29 MeV. Free neutron half-life 885.7±0.8 s (14.76 m) Quarks were the first particles formed after the Big Bang. They quickly formed free neutrons, which decomposed into protons and electrons by the equation (beta-decay): n0 → p+ + e + anti-neutrino. Some protons and neutrons combined to form Deuterium and Helium.

Stephen Hawking remarked, "[If the neutron-proton mass excess] were not about twice the mass of the electron, one would not obtain the couple of hundred or so stable nucleides that make up the elements and are the basis of chemistry and biology."6 The reasons for this remark are well-described in Barrow & Tipler, pp 398-400.

All of the primordial neutrons and protons were formed between 0.04s and 500s after the big bang, corresponding to the ambient temperature range 5x1010 °K  (4.3 MeV)  > T > 5 x 108 °K (0.043 MeV).  This time range matches closely with the free neutron half-life. At first, all neutrons are free (and hence disintegrate with a half-life of about 15 minutes). But at about time 100s, the temperature dropped to the point that proton capture begins. Neutrons attach to protons and become stable, forming H2, H3, He3 and He4. This sequence stops at He4 because there are no stable elements with atomic mass 5. At 500 s, the collision energy can no longer overcome the coulomb barrier, so the fusion stops.

Essentially all of the (ionized) hydrogen in the universe is primordial and was created by 15 minutes after the Big Bang. Although hydrogen burning in stars can produce helium, there is no effective way to increase the supply of hydrogen; further, the helium burns in its turn to produce heavier elements. Thus the amount of helium in the universe is essentially unchanged from the amount of primordial helium produced.

B&T p399-400
mp - mn ~ mB&T p400

quark mass:  current mass = quark by itself; constituent mass = quark + gluon energy (binds into hadron). Most of proton/neutron mass is constituent mass.

up quark charge +2/3.
    current mass 2.4 MeV
    constituent mass           

down quark mass 4.8 MeV charge -1/3.

proton UUD mass = quarks 9.6 MeV; gluons 928.7 MeV

neutron UDD mass =  quarks 11.0 MeV; gluons 928.6 MeV

electron mass 0.51099906 MeV/c2
proton mass 938.272310 MeV/c2
neutron mass 939.565630 MeV/c2
Planck constant h 4.1356692e-15 ± 1.2e-21 eVs
Planck time 5.39056e-44 ± 3.4e-48 s

the mass of proton/neutron is mostly binding energy (gluon field) not the constituent quark masses.

asymmetry in annhilation matter/antimatter: 1 + 109 quarks to 109 anti-quarks

planck constant?  electron orbitals?  ties in with the emission spectrum of elements.

Production of the Primordial Elements
5Li half-life 3.7×10−22 s

Be half-life  0.968 × 10−16 s
Because 5Li is unstable, the reaction  4He + 1H -> 5Li ends the production of primordial elements combining H and He; and because 8Be is unstable, the reaction 4He + 4He -> 8Be effectively ends the primordial production combining 2 Heliums, and thus of all heavier elements in the first few minutes after the big bang. 4He production continued for about 15 minutes, until the universe cooled below 86 eV (106 °K), the minimum energy required for helium fusion to occur.

The Flatness of the Universe implies an exceedingly precise density of the universe early on.  Fourteen billion years after the Big Bang, the universe still does not indicate whether it is expanding or contracting. This implies that the density at 10-9 seconds after the Big Bang is exact to less than 0.2 gm/cc -- precisely 447,225,917,218,507,401,284,016 gm/cc, a precision of less than 2 parts in 1025. For comparison, this is as if the universe would collapse if the Avogadro number (6.02x1023 atoms/mole) were off by 1 atom.
Expansion of the Universe after the Big Bang3


Cosmic Expansion Constant

Sharp Point
accurate to 2 part in 1025.
• IF the density of the matter  1 nanosecond from the Big Bang is equal to 447,225,917,218,507,401,284,016.2 g/cc, the Universe would have collapsed by now.

• IF the density of the matter 1  nanosecond from the Big Bang is equal to 447,225,917,218,507,401,284,015.8 g/cc,  galaxies and stars could not have formed.

• To get the (flat) Universe in which we (probably) live in, the density of the matter 1  nanosecond from the Big Bang must be equal to 447,225,917,218,507,401,284,016 g/cc – not 0.2 g more nor 0.2 g less.2

The creation of the elements in stars begins with Carbon and Oxygen which are the products of Helium Burning.  The conditions required to form these elements are so precise that the astronomer Fred Hoyle remarked:
"A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question."1, 5

 Sharp Point

Fred Hoyle on the Laws of Nuclear Physics.

   "The genesis [of about half of the elements] depends on the oddest array of apparently random quirks you could possibly imagine.

   "I will try to explain what I mean in terms of an analogy....We would scarcely expect to find Government policy depending in a really crucial way on the fact that the Prime Minister possesses a moustache while the Foreign Secretary does not. These are my random quirks. And if we should find that Government policy depended in a really vital respect on the Minister of Works possessing a mole beneath his left ear, then manifestly we should be justified in supposing that new and hitherto unsuspected connexions existed within the field of political affairs.

   "Yet this is just the case for the building of many complex atoms inside stars. The building of carbon depends on a moustache, the building of oxygen on a mole, and if you prefer a less well known case, the building of the atom dysprosium depends on a slight scar over the right eye.

   "If this were a purely scientific question and not one that touched on the religious problem, I do not believe that any scientist who examined the evidence would fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce inside the stars. If this is so, then my apparently random quirks become part of a deep laid scheme. If not, then we are back again to a monstrous sequence of accidents." Fred Hoyle, Lecture in Mervyn Stockwood, ed. Religion and the Scientists SCM 1959, p.64.

Carbon Synthesis in stars. 7.65 MeV Carbon Resonance.
[7.36-7.7 MeV]

He burning at 108°K (8.6 keV).
12C production requires a triple collision of He nuclei called the triple alpha process: 4He + 4He + 4He-> 12C.  A two-step process: 4He + 4He -> 8Be followed (within about 10−21 seconds) by 8Be +  4He -> 12C is possible when the helium temperature and density are very high. A nuclear resonance of 12C (excited state of the nucleus)4 has an energy level (7.6542 MeV) just over the mass-excess in the two-step process (7.26 MeV). By using ambient energy during 4He burning, about 4 of 10,000 interactions result in 12C.  If no carbon resonance had existed between 7.358 and about 7.7 MeV, no carbon would have been produced in the stars - an observation by Fred Hoyle a year or two before the resonance was discovered by William Fowler.
Readable Account of Carbon Synthesis.
See also Barrow & Tipler.
Oxygen Synthesis in stars.
7.1187 MeV is 0.05 MeV under mass-excess for the reaction, so no resonance occurs.
O16 production is the binary collision: C12 + He4 = O16.  The O16 nucleus has a resonance at 7.1187 MeV but this is just under the the mass-excess of the collision (7.1629 MeV). Hence resonance is not possible (thermal energies are always positive which moves the reaction further away from the resonance). Had resonance been possible, virtually all of the C12 would convert to O16 with little available for the next stage of stellar burning (Carbon burning) and carbon-based life could not exist. As it is, about half of the Carbon converts to Oxygen in Helium burning.
These resonance levels in Carbon and Oxygen ultimately trace back to fine-tuning in the nuclear strong and weak forces, and the masses of electrons, protons and neutrons. The complexity of the multi-body calculations makes this trace back impossible at present. The implication, however, is that the values of those forces and masses must be very precisely determined for the material universe and life to exist.

The nucleosynthesis of all elements with atomic numbers above carbon begin with carbon burning.

How Scientists Came to Accept the Big Bang

The Bible teaches that the universe had a beginning[FOOTNOTE: Genesis 1:1; John 1:3, Colossians 1:17, etc.]. In contrast, most ancient cosmologies assume that the universe is a re-arrangement of pre-existing matter. Space-time and matter are in effect eternal[FOOTNOTE: Sources??].

When Robert Boyle defined the elements as the irreducible components of matter[FOOTNOTE: Robert Boyle, The Sceptical Chymist (1661)] -- and came to the realization that there are remarkably few elements (in comparison with the many common compounds) -- the proper science of chemistry began. It was not then necessary for science to take a view on the extent or duration of the universe, but the general secular view -- at least that part that did not take the Biblical account as authoritative -- eventually accepted that matter is eternal and that space and time extend indefinitely without a beginning. As a practical matter, science was largely silent on the subject, and by the 1800s generally viewed "beginnings" or "cosmology" as beyond the reach of proper science, and of no direct practical impact on its practice.

The Olbers Paradox (1823 -- see the box below) to an extent challenged this view, and made some scientific remarks that seem to point to a possible scientific aspect to cosmology. It was clear that something is wrong with the concept of a homogeneous universe that is of unlimited duration and extent, although the paradox does not indicate just what the correct solution might be.

Despite this paradox, the prevailing view in science by the early 1900s favored an eternal universe, and eternally existing elements, and considered questions of cosmology to be matters of religion or metaphysics, beyond reach of rigorous scientific investigation.

Two events profoundly changed this picture. The first event was Albert Einstein's theory of General Relativity, first published in 1915. This theory favored a finite universe that started from a singularity at a definite beginning. Suddenly, cosmology became an inseparable part of physics, although the cosmological details could vary widely, and were strongly dependent on assumed starting conditions:
Einstein's theory gave no hint about what assumptions should be made about initial conditions.

The second event was Edwin Hubble's discovery (Hubble's Law, published 1929) that the universe (space itself) is expanding at a rate proportional to the age of the light received from distant galaxies, as measured by the redshift of the light
. This was the first experimental support for the Big Bang theory (not called that at the time) which had been proposed two years earlier by Georges Lemaître.

For the next 35 years there was a vigorous discussion among scientists about cosmological models, although at the time few believed that a definitive answer could be had from science itself.  Some scientists favored various self-regenerating universes in which matter was continually created and destroyed: in such universes the conservation of energy could not be literally true. Fred Hoyle favored an oscillating universe -- one with an unending series of expansions and contractions: but such a view could not explain how "bounces" would end the contractions. Hoyle coined the term "Big Bang" as a somewhat derisive label for an Einsteinian universe with a finite beginning, and strongly argued against that cosmological view. The name stuck.

A third event finally confirmed the Big Bang cosmology in the eyes of most scientists. In 1964, Penzias and Wilson discovered a residual cosmic background radiation that had earlier been predicted by George Gamow (1948) as the left-over signature of the Big Bang -- the (red-shifted) heat energy from when
the universe first became transparent to light radiation. Fred Hoyle continued to resist, but most scientists from that time onward, accepted the Big Bang theory.

Detailed maps of the cosmic background radiation were conducted in recent years in NASA's COBE and WMAP projects. These have confirmed the Big Bang Cosmology and have added many refined details about early events in the evolution of the universe. The Cosmic Background Explorer satellite (COBE -- Launched in 1989) provided the first mapping of the background radiation and roughly confirmed both the uniformity of the radiation in all directions, its perfect blackbody radiation spectrum, and the (necessary) existence of minor variations in that radiation required to form the early galaxies. The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP, 2001) is a continuing investigation of the hyperfine structure of the background radiation. At this date (2010) the 7th report of that project has resulted in remarkable finely-detailed maps (Figure 2) showing the small but essential inhomogeneities needed to form the early galaxies.

The Taurus Constellation
Figure 2
Full-Sky WMAP Cosmic Background Map
This image shows a temperature range of ± 200 microKelvin.
Credit: NASA/WMAP Science Team (February, 2010)

The Olbers Paradox
    The Olbers Paradox stated by Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers (1758-1840) in 1823 (but understood in some form by Kepler and perhaps even earlier) is the observation that if the universe is infinite and eternal, and if star types and density distribution are uniform throughout space, then the night sky should be intensely bright, not dark -- and  in fact life could not exist because we would be roasted by high radiation intensity.

The reasoning is this:
The sky would be bright because a line extended sufficiently far in any direction would eventually end up in a star. There would be no dark gaps between stars.
The received intensity is infinite. The intensity of starlight from a spherical shell at distance R (#stars)/R2, where (#stars)  R2. Hence each range increment δR on average adds the same constant amount of intensity. As R goes to infinity, the total intensity adds up linearly to infinity.

The logical conclusion is that one of the assumptions is false:
• The universe is not infinite, or
• The universe had a beginning, or
• The stars are not uniformly distributed in space, or
• The star properties (physics, type, etc.) change with distance.

It turns out that all of these assumptions are false to one extent or another.



2.  References:

Also see Wikipedia article on Antimatter: "The presence of remaining matter, and absence of detectable remaining antimatter, also called baryon asymmetry, is attributed to violation of the CP-symmetry relating matter and antimatter. The exact mechanism of this violation during baryogenesis remains a mystery."



Jonathan Allday, Quarks, Leptons and the Big Bang (1998),  p234ff.

Paul Davies, Cosmic Jackpot: Why our Universe is Just Right for Life. Houghton-Mifflin, (2007)

Dr. Martin Wright, Table on Big Bang Nucleosynthesis gives a useful summary of nucleosynthesis of the primordial elements.