Year of Faith: The whole universe started out the size of a pebble

Benjamin God & Faith

During this year of faith, I am going to try to do regular posts on some topics related to the faith.

Our Bible starts with the creation of the universe, which is actually where the universe starts too. Unfortunately, most Catholics ignore our amazing world and leave the talking about creation to the Protestants and to the secularist scientists: but since our Father made this would we should be very interested in learning about it.

The leading scientific theory about the beginning of the universe is called “the Big Bang theory.” The scientist who first proposed this theory, in about 1927, was a Catholic priest from Belgium, Fr. Georges Lemaitre. A great audio story on his life can be found on the BBC. After ordination to the priesthood, he pursued advanced studies in physics, and spent his life teaching and working on the problems of the cosmos.

In the early 1900’s the leading scientific theory on the universe was called the “steady state” theory, which Einstein himself accepted, and which said that the universe was changing very slowly. It was not radically different than what the ancient Greeks believed, which was that the universe was eternal.

At the time of Fr. Lemaitre, science was processing evidence that the universe was rapidly expanding. It was Fr. Lemaitre who ran the observations backwards and proposed that the whole universe had its origin at a single point, what he called a “primeval atom.” That theory has now been verified by observations.

In the beginning, when the universe began, all the matter and energy now in the universe was a super-dense, super-heated ball the size of a pebble. This article says it was “a few millimeters across”. I do not fully understand the theory, but it is possible for the universe to be packed into a tiny space because atoms are mostly empty space. I also think there is something to the way particles behave at super-high energy states, but no one has ever explained to me how we are certain it was this small and not the size of a golf ball, or a grapefruit.

What is just as amazing as the tiny size of the universe is what happened next, which is what gives the theory the title “Big Bang theory”. The article says: “The theory maintains that, in the instant—a trillion-trillionth of a second—after the big bang, the universe expanded with incomprehensible speed from its pebble-size origin to astronomical scope. Expansion has apparently continued, but much more slowly, over the ensuing billions of years.”

That rate of expansion was far too rapid to be described as an explosion, because matter cannot move that fast (faster than the speed of light). The best explanation is that space itself expanded, or that the tiny universe was stretched to cosmic size by some force we do not understand.

There you have it folks, it all started with a pebble. In fact, science believes that while energy can be converted into matter or matter can be converted into energy, the mass-energy in the universe is a constant. This means that your own body is made up of what was once parts of stars, and that it all began inside that little pebble, over 13 billion years ago. +