The Big Bang Theory
There have been many theories concerning what the universe looks like, how it became this way, and where it is going. The most popular theory that people hold today is that the universe began when all the matter ever present in the universe was contained in a tiny speck and that spec exploded. This is known as the Big Bang. This theory has developed a great deal since it was first conceptualized and continues to evolve today. Many different scientists have had a hand in this.
Throughout time people have held different ideas of what the universe looks like, from the Aristotelian universe centered around the Earth to the Copernican universe with our Sun at the center. After Sir Isaac Newton invented physics, natural philosophers started to think that perhaps at one time there were no planets or stars but a cloud of matter. Then the gravity that is inherent to matter, which is what Newton explained, pulled the matter together into clumps and that is how the stars and planets formed.
There has also been the question of how old the universe is. Until the theory of the Big Bang the most widely held belief was that which the Catholic church taught, that is that the world was created on October 23 at 9 o’clock in the morning 4004BCE. This is the date that Newton himself would have been taught. This was obtained by Archbishop James Ussher going through the Bible and recounting the generations of people born from Adam and Eve all the way up to Jesus. Scientists before the publication of Newton’s Principia did not argue this number, simply because they had no way of testing and refuting it. (Gribbin, 11)
After Newton’s work, the scientific community finally had a place to start. Newton himself stated that a globe of red-hot iron as big as the earth would take 50,000 years to cool to the Earth’s current temperature, but no one paid much attention to this because it was overshadowed by the rest of the concepts in Newton's Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687). A century later the French naturalist George-Louis Leclerc, later made Comte de Buffon by Louis XV, would improve on this idea in 1778. He did this by carrying out a set of experiments with balls of metals heated to the point where they were glowing read and about to melt and then observing the time that is too them to cool. Buffon came up with a number of 75,000 years. Theologians did not like this revision of their timescale and the encroachment of science into their area of knowledge. (Gribbin, 14)
In 1820 another French man named James Fourier took the next step in estimating the Earth’s age. He accounted for the fact that the Earth is still hot in its core and using mathematical techniques that he developed and we still use today for time-varying phenomena, came up with a number too staggering foe him to write down. He did however leave us his equations and it is easy to plug in the same numbers and get the answer that he could not say, which...