More than 13 billion years ago, everything in the Universe was contained inside a singularity tinier than a proton. There were no planets, no stars, and the laws of physics didn’t exist. So how did we get from there to where we are now?
In this video, Business Insider takes a shot at packing everything we know about the evolution of the Universe so far into less than 3 minutes. And we have to say, the abridged history of how we came to be is pretty damn awesome.
So let’s start at the very beginning, with inflation. You’ve probably heard a lot about this before (*cough* Big Bang *cough*) but it’s hard to wrap your head around just how quickly the Universe expanded at the beginning.
So think of it this way: the Universe’s growth in that first tiny fraction of a second is comparable to an ant expanding to the size of the Milky Way almost instantaneously.
As it expanded, the Universe got cooler, but was still too hot for atoms to form, so for the first couple of minutes it was made up of a scorching hot soup of quarks and gluons – the fundamental building blocks of matter.
Three minutes after inflation, things cool down enough for quarks and gluons to combine to form protons and neutrons and eventually the first atoms. That’s when we start to see the nuclei of hydrogen, helium, and lithium emerge – but it’s too hot for them to capture electrons, so all the electrons are flying around freely, smashing into photons, which scatters light making the Universe opaque.
That opaque, ionized state lasts for a while… 47,000 years to be precise. But then a shift happens. Matter is now more prevalent than radiation, which means that clumps of dense matter – the seeds of stars – can start to form.
More than 300,000 years later, the Universe FINALLY gets cool enough for atomic nuclei to begin capturing electrons. That means the Universe becomes transparent, and the coolest thing of all is that we can detect light from this era today – it’s the earliest light we’ll ever be able to see.
But we’re still in the very early days here. Over the next 450 million years, the very first stars and galaxies start to form.
Check out the video bellow to get a full appreciation of just how far we’ve come from that tiny singularity 13.8 billion years ago. If nothing else, it’s pretty incredible to consider everything that had to happen just for our little planet, and ourselves, to exist.