The Standard Model

Approximately 13.7 billion years ago a patch of false vacuum 10-28 meters across began an exponential expansion. Driven by the negative gravity of the false vacuum, the patch doubled in diameter each 10-37 seconds for at least 100 doublings, while maintaining a constant energy density. By 10-35 seconds, the bubble had grown to at least 100 meters, an increase in size of 30 powers of ten. This period of exponential inflation ended when everywhere within the bubble the false vacuum decayed to a uniformly hot soup of extremely massive particles at a temperature of 1028 K.

The universe of particles and energy expanded and cooled, now driven by the pressure of the enormous energy density. The original unstable massive particles decayed rapidly to smaller, but still unstable particles. By 10-5 seconds, stable protons and neutrons formed. By 1 second, the nuclei of deuterium, helium, and lithium were forming. By 3 minutes, the universe became too cool to continue the fusion of these light elements.

The next major transition occurred when the temperature dropped below 3000 K after 300,000 years. This marks the time when stable atoms could form and photons could travel long distances — the universe became transparent.

By 1 billion years, stars and galaxies formed, beginning the fusion of elements beyond lithium. Many generations of stars have produced trace amounts of heavier nuclei: carbon, oxygen, iron, and the rest. These impurities formed the planets orbiting later generations of stars.

Four and a half billion years ago our Sun and the Earth were formed out of a cloud of hydrogen and helium enriched with these trace elements. Primitive life developed on Earth within a billion years from the elements available on our planet. Over the last 3.5 billion years life has evolved to fill every available niche.

This story of our universe has been pieced together over the last 500 years by the best human minds. Observation, testing, and questioning have produced this Standard Model. Predictions based on this model have continually refined and improved its accuracy and acceptance. If data is discovered that refutes this theory, it will have to be replaced by a more accurate model. This constitutes an essential difference between science and religion.

This site is a study of the relative size of things. Throughout these pages I will make reference to this Standard Model and how it relates to specific powers of ten. Sit back and enjoy the ride.