from A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson:

How to Build a Universe

No matter how hard you try, you’ll never be able to grasp just how tiny, how spatially unassuming, is a proton. It is just way too small. A proton is an infinitesimal part of an atom which is itself, f course, an insubstantial thing. Protons are so small that a little dib of ink like the dot on a printed “i” can hold something in the region of 500 billion of them. Rather more than the number of seconds contained in half a million years. So, protons are exceedingly microscopic to say the very least. Now, imagine if you can, and of course you can’t, shrinking one of those protons down to a billionth of its normal size into a space so small it could make a proton look enormous. Now pack into that tiny, tiny space about an ounce of matter.


You are ready to start a Universe.

I’m assuming of course that you wish to build an inflationary Universe. If you prefer to build a more old fashioned, standard Big Bang Universe, you’ll need additional materials. In fact, you will need to gather up everything there is, every last mote and particle of matter between Here and the Edge of Creation, squeeze it into a spot so infinitesimally compact that it has no dimensions at all. It is known as a Singularity.

In either case, get ready for a really big bang.

Naturally, you will wish to retire to a safe place to observe the spectacle. Unfortunately, there is nowhere to retire to because outside the singularity there is no Where. When the Universe begins to expand, it won’t be spreading out to fill a larger emptiness. The only space that exists is the space it creates as it goes.

It is natural, but wrong, to visualize the singularity as a kind of pregnant dot, hanging in a dark, boundless Void. But there is no space, no darkness. The singularity has noaround around it. The is no space for it to occupy, no place for it to be. We can’t even ask how long it has been there, whether it has just lately popped into being, like a good idea, or whether it has been there forever, quietly awaiting the right moment. Time doesn’t exist. There is no past for it to emerge from.

And so from Nothing our Universe begins.


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