Mark Twain said “Truth is stranger than fiction”, and I’d say that that truth is getting stranger all the time. But as strange as that truth is, it is becoming abundantly clear to me that true reality is WAY stranger than that truth and that it is WAY stranger than any of us know.
Which brings me to the subject at hand, our universe is assembling itself and atoms are the inventors and the builders. We only know bits and pieces of the process, but what I have recently come to realize and know, it is incredible, and it is incredible in the true meaning of the word incredible, that is, it is not credible. And yet, credible or not, here it is and here we are. The following brief summary highlights some of the incredible-not-credible, unbelievable-not-believable inventions, many of which I myself have only recently come to appreciate since a rainbow commanded me to begin the project that I call OSAU, Our Self-Assembling Universe, and had me write my first book on the subject in 2015.
Invention 1: The appearance of the force. Nearly 18 billion years ago a single force, contained in a speck smaller than an atom, magically brought itself into being to announce the birth of our universe. And, here, one has to really let the significance of this invention sink in. All of the energy and all of the information needed to assemble our universe was packed into the single-force contained within that speck! And, whereas, many of the inventions that followed required many billions of years of hypothesis-testing and experimentation by atoms to realize, this first and most important invention was realized in much less than an instant!
Invention 2: The assembly of the four forces. Within the first few Planck moments the force began to expand, creating existence within nonexistence and dividing itself into four, separate, vectored energies: the weak, the strong, the electromagnetic and the gravitational forces of quantum mechanics.
Invention 3: The assembly of light rays and other subatomic wave-particles. Within the next few Planck moments those same forces transformed themselves into light rays, electrons, quarks and other positive and negative-spin, wave-particles, i.e., the fundamental building blocks of our universe.
Invention 4: The assembly of protons. Within the first second, the speck expanded itself into a crazed, super-hot plasma, cram-packed full of quarks and other wave-particles that are the builders of protons.
Invention 5: The assembly of neutrons. Also within the first second members of the electron division of the building team slammed themselves into protons to assemble neutrons.
Invention 6: The invention of atoms. For me, this is the most remarkable, fantastical, ingenious invention of all. Think about it. Aside from the electron, an atom is assembled with a binary construction consisting of nothing but protons and neutrons. And it’s the protons with their positive charges working together with the negative charges of electrons that determine each atom’s particular function. On the other hand, and I might be wrong about this but I don’t think so, I believe that neutrons act as insulators. But, even if I’m wrong about that, it is well known that the neutrons contribute to the heft, density and stability variability of atoms. Now, here is where one really needs to stop and think. The atoms are, themselves, the inventors and the builders of ALL that we know about our universe. Of course there is no way one can really get one’s head around this, but just trying to think about it can add to one’s appreciation.
For example, I like to try to think of what I would have to do to come up with this invention. At first it seems as simple as 1,2,3. One proton is hydrogen, two protons is helium, three protons is lithium, four protons is beryllium, five protons is boron and so on. Now I just need to add some neutrons for insulation, heft, density and variety. Add one neutron to the hydrogen nucleus and voila! I have the somewhat less stable deuteron. Add two neutrons to hydrogen and I have the radioactive version, triton. Add one electron to each and I have the atoms of hydrogen, deuterium and tritium! Add two neutrons and two electrons to the nucleus of helium and I have the stable atom of helium, helium-4! Simple, right? I can just keep going, adding protons, neutrons and electrons to make every atom in the periodic table, and I’m done! I have invented everything one needs to assemble a universe!
But wait. What about function? Let’s see, I have an idea for a fluid. I’ll call it water! I’ll give hydrogen just the right properties for two hydrogens to bind to another one of my atoms that I’ll call oxygen, an atom I’ve already invented that contains 8 protons, 8 neutrons and 8 electrons. And I will call the thing that I made, by putting two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom together, a molecule of water and it will be a fluid that people can see through, with a density that people can swim in and float on, and it will boil at 212 degrees Fahrenheit at sea level, and rapidly evaporate at that temperature, and it will freeze at 32 degrees, and dissolve salt, and be the primary fluid in blood, and its H will be the H in pH, and its H will be the proton, and hydrogen will be the electron donor in a whole series of coupled enzymatic reactions, and, and, OMG!!
And that’s just water and a little information about the properties of its hydrogen atoms! I’ve not even begun to talk about all the properties of oxygen! Obviously, I’m way over my head!!
Invention 7: Primordial assembly of atomic nuclei. For the next twenty minutes the proton and neutron builders of our universe assembled the first atomic nuclei of hydrogen, deuterium, helium, lithium and beryllium.
Invention 8: The twenty-minute deuteron bottleneck. After 20 minutes the assembly of atomic nuclei came to a sudden halt because our rapidly expanding universe had diluted its contents to a point where electrons had trouble finding protons that they could slam into at a rate fast enough to assemble the neutrons needed to make deuterons. And with deuterons being an essential intermediate in the assembly of atomic nuclei, and with deuterons being thermodynamically unstable as well as being used up in the assembly of helium, deuterons got depleted to the point that the assembly of our universe came to a sudden halt.
I think this latter invention is especially clever because without the deuteron bottleneck our universe would have blasted away until all that was left would have been the thermodynamically-stable nuclei of iron. A universe of iron might have been nice to look at, but I think we can all agree it would not have been very useful.
Invention 9: Pauli exclusion – The electron-shell, energy-level stability rules. The first energy level of every atom must contain two electrons for stability. Save for hydrogen the outermost obitals of other atoms, for the most part, must contain eight, eighteen or 32 electrons. After 32 things get a little more complicated. The invention of these rules is the basis for the bonding reactions that are key to most of the processes involved in the universe assembling itself.
Invention 10: Recombination, the assembly of atoms from nuclei and the invention of protostars. After about 7000 years of cooling, conditions had cooled enough for the primordial deuterium, hydrogen, helium, lithium and beryllium nuclei to capture their electrons to assemble themselves into true atoms. This part of the invention of stars is critical as it leads to the assembly of protostars. The primordial nuclei having turned themselves into true atoms, gathered together by gravitational attraction into massive clouds of dense, increasingly hot, protostar gas, that eventually became hot enough to ignite the first stars.
Invention 11: Assembly in stars by proton-proton fusion. With the passage of about 300 million years the clouds of primordial atoms coalesced to a point that the jiggling of the atoms contained therein was frantic enough, in other words hot enough, for hydrogen and the other atoms to once again shed their electrons and transform the protostar cloud into a hot plasma capable of fusion and consisting primarily of protons. It’s here, from the assembly and maturation of such a protostar, that we get our first example of proton-proton fusion where some protons fuse, and stick around long enough to pick up gamma rays and throw off positrons and neutrinos to transform themselves into the proton-neutron pairs called deuterons. With that event, after the 300-million year hiatus, deuterons once again begin fusing to assemble helium-4, and with lots of heat and light the invention of the first hydrogen-burning star is announced.
Invention 12: The triple alpha process.
Invention 13: The CNO cycle.
Invention 14: Alpha-ray fusion.
Invention 15: Alpha-ray spallation.
Invention 16 – ?: To be continued (To include the inventions of rocks, molecules, macromolecules, tissues and carbon-based life).