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LESSON 1 – UNIVERSE AND THE SOLAR SYSTEM

OBJECTIVES
At the end of the lesson, you should be able to:
1. State the different hypotheses explaining the origin of the universe;
2. Discuss the story of the Big Bang;
3. Discuss the evidences supporting the Big Bang;
4. Compare and contrast the Big Bang and the Steady State theories;
5. Discuss the String Theory.

SUBJECT MATTER
Introduction to Science
This course will probably
be your first encounter of
science under the Senior
High School Program.
Thus, now would be the
right time for you to know
what Science really is and
appreciate how it works.
Science came from the
Latin word scientia which
means “knowledge”.
Science is a systematic
body of knowledge that
discovers the world
through observation and
collection of facts and
establishes relationships
among these facts by
means of logic and reason. Figure 1.1. Science is basically done through this method. Any judgment
In simpler terms, science that cannot be tested through this method is outside the realm of science.
is done by observing the world through our senses and formulating theories that explain
these observations. The theories are verified through repeated experimentation or testing
and then accepted as long as all observed facts and experimental results satisfy the
conditions of the theory. A single observation that does not fit into the theory is enough to
reject or revise the theory. Hence, Science is not a mere collection of facts but is an active
process of trying to look for explanations on how things work. The entire process is broken
down into smaller steps and is called the scientific method (Figure 1.1).

Since Science relies on repeated experimentations, it is limited only to being testable. Science
cannot prove anything that is not testable. For example, there is no test to tell whether a
philosophical belief is right or wrong; nor whether a work of art is beautiful or not.
Nevertheless, Science still contributes in our daily lives in the sense that it has expanded our
view of the world. In the first steps of our journey in Science, we will try to take a look at the
scientific theories explaining how our Universe came into being.
Creation Myths and Stories
In ancient times, most people tried
to explain natural events as a result
of the action of gods and spirits.
This includes the question on how
the world, the Universe rather,
came into being. A popular theory
of the origin of the universe is the Figure 1.2. In the Bible, God created everything—from light to
Biblical account of creation written life—in six days.
in the book of Genesis where it says
that God created everything in six days (Figure 1.2). In the Tagalog mythology of Malakas at
Maganda, God (or Diyos in Filipino) created the entire world by raising His hand then
pointing them down. Shortly, the first man and woman appeared from inside a bamboo
shoot. These are just many examples of creation myths and stories passed down from
generation to generation as a way of perpetuating the culture of a particular society.

The ancient Greeks were among the first people to use systematic observation and reason to
explain natural events. In fact, they were among the first ones to construct models of the
entire universe. In Earth and Life Science, we will focus on the theories on how the universe
began; models of the universe are discussed under Physical Science.

Theories on the Origin of the Universe


Under this course we will discuss four scientific theories on the origin of the universe,
namely: (1) Big Bang Theory; (2) Steady State Theory; and (3) String Theory.

Big Bang Theory


We will dedicate most of our
discussion of the origin of the
universe in this section
because the Big Bang theory is
the most accepted theory on
how the universe came into
being. So far, the details of this
theory are consistent with the
known laws of physics.

Do you recall a moment when


Figure 1.3. Doppler effect as illustrated by a moving ambulance. The
an ambulance was coming frequency decreases as it moves away and increases as it moves towards
towards you, then away from the observer.
you? You might have noticed
that when it moved away from you, the pitch of its siren became lower. This phenomenon is
called the Doppler effect (Figure 1.3). Waves, when coming from a moving source, decrease
in frequency as it moves away and increase as it moves toward the observer. In the language
of sound, a lower frequency means a lower pitch and a higher frequency means a higher
pitch.
A similar phenomenon is also present in light, a wave.
In 1924, Edwin Hubble discovered that stars are not
uniformly distributed in space, as seen by the naked
eye in the night sky. Instead, stars form clusters called
galaxies. The distance of any galaxy from the Earth
can be estimated by measuring the amount of light
the galaxy emits. Through this, Hubble found out that
nearly all galaxies tend to move away from the Earth.
His evidence is based from the fact that the Figure 1.4. Redshift—an illustration of
measured light from galaxies tends to move towards how light also decreases in frequency as it
the red end (lower frequency) of the visible light moves away from the source.
spectrum, a phenomenon called redshift. If you look at Figure 1.4, the illustration of redshift
is similar to that of the Doppler effect in the ambulance siren, implying a source that is
moving away.

With this observation, it was speculated that if the galaxies are moving away from us, there
must have been some point in time when they must have been closer together in the past;
they may have even come from a single point in the beginning. In 1927, George Lemaitre
used this notion of an expanding universe to conceive the Big Bang theory.
The Big Bang theory basically states that about 13.7 billion years ago, everything (every
matter, energy, space and time there is) in the universe started from an infinitely small,
infinitely dense, and infinitely hot entity called a singularity. Where this singularity came
from and why it expanded in the first place is still unknown.
Big Bang theory today also narrates how the fundamental
particles and forces molded the universe as we know it
today. It is summarized as follows:

1. Inflation – the universe exponentially expanded from a


singularity to about 1035 meters in width.
2. Formation of the universe – as the universe
expands, the four fundamental forces separated and
the universe was made of elementary particles such as
quarks, electrons, photons, and neutrinos.
3. Formation of proton and neutron - protons and
neutrons were formed from quarks.
4. Nucleosynthesis – protons and neutrons combined to form the very
first nuclei. One proton and one neutron became hydrogen; two
protons and two neutrons became helium.
5. Radiation era – up to this time, the universe is dominated by
radiation. Through time, this radiation is now in the form of cosmic
microwave background (to be discussed later).
6. Matter domination – at this point,
electrons joined hydrogen and helium to
form the very first atoms.
7. Birth of stars and galaxies – hydrogen
and helium, which are gases, were
produced in large quantities and formed
large masses of gas clouds. Under gravity,
they began to increase mass and ignite to produce stars.
Multiple stars also began to cluster together through gravity to form galaxies.

Hubble’s discovery was not the


only evidence presented to
prove the Big Bang. Two more
proofs, the (1) cosmic
microwave background (CMB)
and (2) the presence of
hydrogen, helium, and lithium in
stars, laid the foundations to
solidify this comprehensive
theory.

In 1960, scientists Arno


Figure 1.5. A map of the sky showing the values of the temperature of
Penzias and Robert Wilson the cosmic microwave background. The temperature only ranges by
tried to construct a radio ±200 microkelvins.
antenna with zero background
noise. However, no matter what point in the sky they point, there is still background noise.
This background noise was speculated to be a remnant energy from the explosion of the Big
Bang. Further data (Figure 1.5) shows that the radiation carries a temperature range of only
±200 microkelvins. This homogeneity suggests that these very distant radiations should
have had interaction in the past. Thus, they might have been so close together back then,
suggesting again the existence of a singularity that once contained all of them together.

Modern technology enabled man to detect what elements are present in stars however far
they are from us. The nucleosynthesis narrative of the Big Bang suggests that stars should be
made of the simplest atoms hydrogen and helium. True enough, it was found out that stars
indeed contained mostly hydrogen and helium, with little traces of lithium and beryllium.

In its first version, the Big Bang has encountered problems: flatness, monopole, and horizon
problems. These three problems were resolved by an elegant idea called the inflation theory,
proposed by Alan Guth, Andrei Linde, Paul Steinhart, and Andy Albrecht. Through inserting
an exponential inflation in the story of the Big Bang, the problems were resolved and the
theory is back on track. The problems and the solutions are summarized in the table below.

Problem Expectation (Big Reality (Observation Solution (Big Bang +


Bang says…) says…) Inflation says…)
Flatness The universe is curved The universe is nearly flat An exponential inflation
according to sophisticated allows a very large curved
measurements universe but we can only
observe the flat geometry. In
the same way that the Earth is
curved but, in our scale, we
perceive it as flat

Monopoles There should be heavy There are no magnetic An exponential inflation


stable magnetic monopoles detected so far would have dramatically
monopoles in the early decreased the temperature of
universe because of the the expanding universe, no
very high temperature longer allowing monopoles to
form
Horizon The universe is about According to the math, the An exponential inflation
13.7 billion years old. observable universe is 93 faster than the speed of light
Everything 13.7 billion billion light years across. How will allow these points to
years ago must have can two points 93 billion light have been in contact 13.7
been in contact with years apart have been in billion years ago
one another contact?

Steady State Theory


A theory opposing the Big Bang was
proposed by Hermann Bondi, Thomas
Gold, and Fred Hoyle in 1948. This
theory states that though the universe
is expanding, matter and energy
density remains the same (Figure
1.6). The discovery of the CMB
debunked this theory because we saw
in Figure 1.5 that the universe is not
constant in composition.

String Theory
Scientists did not stop at the Big Figure 1.6. A comparison of the matter density of Big Bang and
Bang. They wanted to know what Steady State universe. Evidences suggest that the amount of
came before it. However, knowing matter and energy in the universe is constant. Matter is diluted
as space expands.
what came before the Big Bang
would require scientists to be able to come up with a theory that unifies the four fundamental
forces of nature: strong nuclear, weak nuclear, electromagnetic, and gravitational force. The
first three forces were discovered to be produced by elementary particles. Gravity, however,
according to Einstein, is produced by curvature of spacetime, not by particles. In string
theory, elementary particles are said to have been made from the mode of vibration of a
string whose dimensions are smaller than a particle. This theory speculates the existence of
gravitons—particles carrying gravity. The problem with this theory is that its mathematics
can only work in a 10-dimensional space, something that has not yet been observed.