Rick's Critique of the Cosmic Coincidences: Appendix A


The First Millisecond

The Cosmology Tutorial and the Critique of the Cosmic Coincidences both start the story of the universe at around a millisecond. There is a good reason for this. The universe is then simpler than it was before, and simpler than it will be again. But in this Appendix, just for fun, we look briefly at what might have happened within the first millisecond. We present a mythopoeic version of the modern scientific creation story. But we also discuss its possible shortcomings. The merits and achievements of inflationary cosmology are alluded to in summary.

In the beginning there was nothing. There was neither matter nor energy. There was no space and no time. But there was Law, which is everlasting. One of the Laws is called Quantum Mechanics. This Law permits mass-energy to arise out of nothing but only very briefly, a mere fluctuation. Quantum Mechanics is a loan bank with stringent bookkeeping. The mass-energy debt must be repaid, and quickly. The terms are harsh: the greater the loan, the shorter the loan period. Under the Law of Quantum Mechanics, many small acts of creation are possible, if only for an instant. Each one is a tiny snap, crackle and pop amounting to nothing of significance. Each one dies as soon as it arises, leaving nothing once again. A single pair of nucleons, the building blocks of matter, created in this way would last less than a millionth of a millionth of a millionth of a millionth of a second (10^-24 s). The creative loophole allowed by Quantum Mechanics is prodigiously tiny. And the creation of large quantities of matter would last proportionately less time. This is no way to create a universe, you may think.

But there is another Great Law, called Gravity, which conspired with Quantum Mechanics. Under the Law of Gravity, all mass is attracted to other mass. As a consequence, a form of negative energy arises when a mass is close to another mass, called "gravitational potential energy". Because of this, the Law of Gravity permits spacetime to exist containing ponderable matter such that the net mass-energy content is exactly zero. So Quantum Mechanics and Gravity combined their powers to create a fluctuation in which the positive mass-energy was exactly balanced by the negative gravitational potential energy. The net energy was zero, and thus the repayment period was permitted to be infinitely long. By this ruse, a long lived universe was brought into being from nothing by these Laws. It has been called the ultimate free lunch (Guth, 1997).

But there was a price to pay for this success: the content of such a universe adds up to nothing. Nor can time alter this. The apparent content of the universe consists of the separation of the positive and negative parts of nothing. No matter how complex and full of wonderful structure the universe may become in its middle age, recall that it will always amount to nothing. A free lunch, maybe, but the lunch is a mirage.

The rigorous scientific position is rather more uncertain. One reason for this is that the status of the gravitational potential energy is problematic. However, this perspective allows a simple rationalisation of the Big Bang, specifically why it was hot, dense and expanding. Gravity, having conspired with Quantum Mechanics to take the lid off Pandora's box, cannot stop the contents flying out.

We also discuss very briefly the first microsecond, from the inflationary era, through baryogenesis, the electroweak phase transition and the QCD phase transition when hadrons condense out of the quark-gluon soup. But there is a great deal in the physics which is not yet understood.

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