fredagen den 10:e juni 2011

Introduction

About 13.7 billion years ago, the Universe we live in got started as a dot in space-time. Whether it is the only Universe or there is an infinity of Universes parallel to our own is still an unsolved question. Please answer it!

Due to expansion, the dot-universe soon found itself spread out in what today can best be described as everywhere. A consequence of the expansion being that energy got less dense, resulting in the separation of the fundamental forces. After a Planck second, gravity got dismissed by the other three, though the universe were to dense at the time for this to really matter (pun intended!). After a further ten to the power of minus thirty-four seconds, the strong force, governing the particularities of quarks and gluons, were freed. Now the fundamental particles could be detected, if you somehow were able to put a detector into the densely packed blob of plasma that our Universe now resembles. Which you sort of can if you have access to CERN. Lucky bastards...

Anyway, as the universe grow old enough even the weak force, governing radioactivity and fusion, separated from the electromagnetic force, which for instance interacts with your eyes as you read this text, and the Universe as we know it and experience it in everyday experience can be said to be complete. Mind you it is still about 1 000 000 000 000 000 Celsius out there, which would boil even the best sunbather. As time passes and expansion spreads this energy even less dense, we will eventually be able to detect neutral matter. From here on out, gravity starts to dominate the development of the Universe on cosmological scales.

The (mostly) hydrogen and helium formed at the time got clustered together by gravity to initiate fusion in stars and the stars, in turn,  formed galaxies via the very same force. As generations of stars died, the heavier elements formed by the fusion and subsequent supernova explosions got released into the ambient galaxy. As these heavier elements inevitably got clustered together by the same force that formed their parent stars, we can observe planets.

On one particular planet, most likely on some particular afternoon 3.5 billion years ago, a self-replicating cluster of organic molecules is in the act of leaving the remnants of what we today call the first clear-cut evidence of life. Is it the first life ever? Most probably not, we can never know, but still be confident that the first life-form was not advanced enough to leave a detectable trace of its existence. Though this specific self-replicating organic cluster most certainly represent a cross-section of what our ancestors experienced in that distant past.

So how did life get started on our particular planet? Was it even formed on the planet itself, or did it form in some distant part of the galaxy? Was it formed in the sea or in the sky? Does life require the heat and pressure of an underwater volcano or the swirl and thunder of a great storm in the sky to form? Maybe a combination of both? No one knows, but most importantly, we cannot know how this particular life was formed. We know, however, that the process which forced the lifeforms of 3.5 billion years ago to develop into the array of animals and fauna of present day, was one of blind chance and natural selection. Evolution: let the best population survive! And using the circular logic this entails; evolution: the best population survives.

Anyway, on this particular planet, on an afternoon known as June 10, 2011, at around 14:00, a blog-post is being written by a student enjoying way to much spare time to think about issues of politics, philosophy, science, religion, love, joy, sorrow, hatred, life and questions of no pressing concerns. This is the post you've just read. I hope you enjoyed it, and if you did I promise that there will be more to come.

My name is Richard Larsson, I'm currently a 23 year old student of Space Science living in Kiruna, Sweden, enjoying the auroras of wintertime and the never setting sun of summertime. My plan is to go into the sciences after graduating next year. The main interest I hold at the moment is in astrophysics and astrobiology. I wish to study the limits of life on cosmological scales. Where can life exist? How common is life-like environments? What is the atmosphere like on planets orbiting distant stars? What does this tell us? Questions I find extremely thrilling.

I think this will do as an introduction, expect more rants in the future!