The Big Bang And All That
One billion is a large number. Actually, that’s an understatement because one billion is a very large number — so large that most people can’t really comprehend its immensity. Consider this: If you were to start counting right now from one to a billion at the rate of one number per second, and took no breaks whatsoever, you would have aged more than 30 years by the time you finished your count. Does that help provide some perspective? In this chapter of the book, we will be dealing with some very very large numbers — in some cases as large as a billion billion. If you will remember how long it takes to count to a billion, perhaps that will help you begin to fathom the enormity of the numbers under discussion.
Back in the beginning, or perhaps I should say “before the beginning,” everything in the Universe was gathered together in one tiny location (known as a “singularity” — in which the laws of gravitational physics as we know them don’t apply) that was extremely dense and extremely hot. About 14 billion years ago (“Before the Present” or “B.P.”), a very rapid expansion of that singularity, today known as the “Big Bang,” occurred. That expansion caused the Universe to cool sufficiently to allow energy to be converted into various subatomic particles, including protons, neutrons, and electrons. While protons and neutrons combined to form the first atomic nuclei only moments after the Big Bang, it took many thousands of years for electrons to combine with them and create electrically neutral atoms. The first element produced was hydrogen, along with traces of helium and lithium. Over a period of approximately one billion years giant clouds of these primordial elements coalesced with continued expansion and cooling, resulting in the beginning of the formation of galaxies about 13 billion years B.P.
Our own galaxy, the Milky Way, was formed about 10 billion years B.P., and our solar system came into being about 4.6 billion years B.P. Indications are that about 4.5 billion years B.P., the Earth, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt, and several comets were created by the collision of a “local” planet with another planet, and/or its moons, that intruded from outside our solar system. Heavy cosmic bombardment of our Sun’s terrestrial planets, that is, those nearest the Sun — Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars — continued to occur at least until 4.0 billion years B.P. The earliest known life forms appeared on Earth about 3.8 billion years ago. This is far too soon to have occurred by evolution alone, and it has been theorized that these life forms were “seeded” by the moons of the intruding planet.
The average galaxy contains 1011 - 1012 (100 billion to 1 trillion) stars, the Milky Way having about 200 billion. Estimates are that there are 1011 - 1012 galaxies in the Universe, so that would suggest that there are a total of 1022 - 1024 (10 sextillion to 1 septillion) stars in the Universe. If one in a billion of those stars has a planet capable of supporting life as we know it, that would mean that there are at least 1013 (10 trillion or 10,000,000,000,000) such planets. If one in a billion of those 10 trillion planets developed life in a time frame as little as 1% earlier than the development of life on Earth, that would mean that there are at least 10,000 planets in the Universe that have a 38 million year lead on the Earth in the development of technology. The numbers alone then suggest that there are thousands of intelligent life forms
scattered throughout the Universe; whether earthly humans can be counted among them depends on one’s individual take on the matter. When all is said and done, however, the odds are in favor of there being intelligent life forms that can, and probably have, visited the planet Earth. Given the advanced level of their technology, the constraints of time and space, as we know them, would presumably not be applicable. Moreover, “worm holes” could perhaps be used to rapidly traverse distances of light years. Of course, if just one of those planets were located within, or occasionally “visited” our solar system — such as the “intruding” planet mentioned above — the odds in favor of extraterrestrial visitations are increased many fold.
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