I am glad to say, I for once haven’t followed Pope’s advice. I can’t simply switch off my curiosity. I believe it’s what cosmologist to be, to try and work out from where the universe came from. Luckily it’s not quite as difficult as it seems. Despite the complexity and variety of the universe it turns that to make one you need just three ingredients.
Let’s imagine we could list them in some kind of cosmic cookbook. So what are the three ingredients to cook up the universe. First is matter, stuff that has mass. Mater is all around us, in the ground, beneath our feet and out in space (dust, ice, rocks, liquids, vast clouds of gas, massive spiral of stars, each containing billions of Suns, stretching away for incredible distances).
The second thing you need is energy. Even if you have never thought about it you would know what energy is. Something we encounter everyday. Look up at the Sun and you could feel it on your face. Energy produced by star 93 million miles away. Energy permeates the universe, driving the processes that keep it a dynamic, endlessly changing ways.
So we have matter and we have energy. The third we need to build the universe is space, lots of space. You can call the universe many things awesome, beautiful, violent but one thing you cant call it is cramped. Wherever we look we see space and more space and even more sace stretching in all direction. Its enough to make your head spin.
So where could all this matter, energy and space come from. We had no idea until when into the 20th century. The answer came from the insights of one man. Probably the most remarkable scientist who was ever known. His name is Albert Einstein. Sadly I never got to meet him, since I wasn’t born when he died. Einstein realized something remarkable that the two of the main ingredients needed to make the universe, mass and energy, were basically the same thing. Two sides of he same coin if you like. His famous equation E=mc2 simply means that mass can be thought of as a kind of energy and vice versa. So instead of three ingredients, we can now say that the universe has just two – energy and space.