The Big Bang: Crash Course Big History #1


Hi. I’m John Green and this is Crash Course
Big History, in which we’ll be looking at the history of, like, everything. I’m talking about
13.8 billion years, from the big bang to now. I mean, in this series, we are literally
going to attempt to tell you the story of what Douglas Adams famously called
“life, the universe, and everything.” Mr Green! Mr Green! That’s not history. That’s
science, and science is for nerds! Oh, me from the past! Things would be so much
easier for you if you would just accept that you are, in fact, a nerd! And that’s okay!
I mean, look at this picture, dude! Anyway, academics often describe history as
like, all the stuff that’s happened since we started writing things down, but they only start there
because that’s where we have the best information. And yeah, I think that the advent of writing
was a huge deal, obviously, but as a start date for history, it’s totally arbitrary! It’s just a line we
drew in the sand and said “okay, history begins now!” In Big History, we’re gonna start history
when it really starts – at least, we think – at the creation of the universe, and we’re
gonna end that story where it ends – please let that be after I die! Well, I guess it will definitely
be after I die, just – I want it to be a while after I die! So we’re even gonna terrify traditional historians
by using physics to make some predictions about the future, and we’re gonna end many
trillions and trillions of years from now, when the universe itself, spoiler alert: dies.
At least, in a manner of speaking. [Theme Music] Hey! I’m not John. If you’re thinking we look
a little bit the same, that’s because we’re brothers. I’m Hank. Anyway, if you wanna learn the 13.8 billion
year history of the universe in the same amount of time that we usually cover the 238 years of American
history, you’re not gonna get the same resolution. Of course, knowing the names and dates of American history is important, but we just can’t do that in Big History. There are much broader historical questions
in the story of the universe that can only be explored by zooming out to the ultimate
scale. As you zoom out, you see a lot more of the picture. The details get a little fuzzy,
but we quickly realize that history is everything. Cosmology, geology, biology, social sciences,
literature, physics… Everything! You might think that such a scale would be
filled with way too much detail, but the amount of detail an answer requires, depends on the
nature of the question. Some questions can only be explored by zooming out. That is what
Big History does. Speaking of zoomed out, this is Earthrise,
one of the most famous photographs of all time. William Anders, an Apollo astronaut,
took it in 1968. From the surface of another world, we see our planet as a little ball
in space. No borders, no people, no buildings. Just oceans and clouds and continents being
shined upon by the sun. That sheer expansion of scale gives me perspective.
It lets me imagine all the complexity of life on Earth, from the gasoline engine that powered
my trip to the studio, to political instability in Nepal as part of a thriving, living, teeming
mass of life floating in the emptiness of space. So what that photograph does for physical
space, Big History aims to do for everything. I mean, we wanna contextualize all of existence.
We wanna outline the most powerful and important breakthroughs, the tremendous scale of existence, and how we
know what we know, and why we’re sure we know it. All right, let’s go to the Thought Bubble. So
the universe is big. Like, really big. And it’s also old. Like, 13.8 billion years old, which is enough
years that there is no way to actually comprehend it. So let’s just compress that age to 13 years,
small enough that our puny brains can handle it. On that timescale, the universe would have
begun 13 years ago, in 2001. George W Bush had just been sworn in as president, most Americans on
the internet were connecting to it with dial-up modems. Right, so the first stars and galaxies would
have formed 12 years ago, but seven and a half more years would pass until the Earth
formed, about 4.5 years ago. Move a little bit up to four years ago – that’s when the
first single celled life formed on Earth. Then leap forward nearly three and a half
more years before the first multi-cellular organisms in the Cambrian explosion… What I’m trying to explain is that all complex
life on Earth is a fairly recent development. Like, on this scale, the dinosaurs went
extinct about three weeks ago — roughly the last time I changed my Facebook status. Humans and chimpanzees split from their last
shared ancestor about three days ago! The first homo sapiens emerged fifty minutes ago,
roughly the last time I checked my email. We left Africa 26 minutes ago. The American-Indians
reached the Americas 6 minutes ago — roughly the last time I checked my Twitter. We invented agriculture 5 minutes ago. Ancient
Egypt? 3 minutes ago! The Black Death? 24 seconds ago. The Industrial Revolution – 6
seconds. World War One, 2 seconds. The Cold War, th e first man on the moon, your birth, the internet,
the Big Mac? All within the last second. But in many other ways, complex life and humanity
are exceptional. Thanks, Thought Bubble! Also exceptional, by the way, the Mongols!
[Mongoltage] Okay, let’s begin at the beginning! The big
bang! Hank, wait a second! Woah, woah, woah, woah,
woah. I- I don’t understand how we know that the big bang is really the beginning. Like,
what happened before the big bang? Well. Okay. Uh… Theoretical physicists say
that space and time are not two different things. They are two expressions of one thing
– space-time. And space-time was created by the big bang, thus time didn’t exist before
the big bang, so it doesn’t make much sense to ask what happened before it. There was
no “then”, then! Of course, this, like many ideas in cosmology,
doesn’t really make any sense to our puny human brains. It’s largely beyond our comprehension,
rather like explaining color to a blind person. We know that it’s true because the math works
and it explains our observations so elegantly, but it’s so far outside of how we directly
perceive the world, that I don’t think it’s something even the most genius physicists
are able to imagine. But yeah, if you’re gonna do a chronological
study of the universe, the creation of time is probably a pretty good place to start the
story. So the big bang wasn’t something that happened
inside the universe, nor did it expand into some kind of void. It was literally the moment
when both time and space were created. The thing that was banging was the universe itself.
It was expanding from an unimaginably tiny point to an unimaginably large universe, unimaginably
quickly. Unimaginable is basically the subtitle to
the story of the big bang, but then again, it’s also kind of the subtitle to everything
else in big history. I mean, I can only do this occasionally, but
sometimes you look outside and you’re like, “Oh, my goodness! This is nuts! How did we get trees?”
Needless to say, we will be talking about that. Anyway, the universe is a hard worker, and
it got most of the heavy lifting done in those first few seconds. For comparison, it takes
me about twenty minutes after I wake up for me to even get myself into a standing position.
But the universe is somewhat more efficient. In the barest fraction of the first second,
the universe inflated from something many, many, many times smaller than an atom to about
the size of a grapefruit. Like, think of it this way: in much less than a blink of an
eye, if it’d originally been the size of a tennis ball, it would have inflated to over
ninety billion light-years across. This inflation theory has been well backed-up
by mathematics for a long time now, but it has recently received some staggering new
support from the BICEP project at the South Pole, which sadly has nothing to do with my
guns. Ten seconds after the big bang, the universe
had expanded enough that the normal rules of the universe, with atomic forces and gravity
and electromagnetism that we know and love today, were already in charge. All of the
anti-matter created in the big bang had combined with matter and annihilated itself, leaving
behind only one billionth of the matter created in the big bang, and that billionth is everything!
And I mean everything. Every grain of sand, every blueberry you will ever eat, every star
that you will ever see – everything! We’ve already tried to understand how big a billion is,
but just pause to think about that – everything! Everything! Is one billionth of the matter
created in the big bang. [Explosion sound] The first law of thermodynamics is that matter
and energy cannot be created or destroyed. Everything we have now, we had then. The matter
that makes up your body right now has been around since those moments 13.8 billion years
ago. It’s simply changed form. After just three minutes, the universe was
cool enough that the nuclei of atoms started forming – just hydrogen and helium back then,
the two simplest elements – keep those two in mind, however, because it turns out, if
you take a bunch of hydrogen and you wait like, several billion years, you might just
grow yourself some humans! Let’s remember: at this time, the universe
was still very, very hot. I don’t wanna use the word unimaginable too often, but it was
unimaginably hot! The universe remained like an uber-hot sea
dominated by radiation, but then luckily, it simmered down to a balmy 5,000 degrees
Fahrenheit about 380 thousand years after the big bang, allowing matter and radiation
to separate. And remember, matter is just a more congealed
form of energy. I mean, you are a somewhat firm bag of energy. In my case, not that firm. So anyway, at 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, radiation
was finally able to move freely through the universe, and we see that radiation today
as the end of the Dark Ages that followed the big bang, and the beginning of a brilliant
flash that we call Cosmic Background Radiation, which is a great name for a band. Physicists call it the fingerprint of the
universe and it’s one of the most important pieces of historical evidence we have for
the big bang, because CBR is everywhere. Tune your radio to a frequency that doesn’t
have a station – a portion of the static you hear is actually that cosmic background radiation
being picked up by your radio. So you can literally hear the universe in its infancy! Sometimes it can be tricky to know what’s
true, especially when we’re talking about stuff that happened so far in the distant
past. That is why we created science, that elegant system for sorting out the facts from
the fertilizer. So just using your limited human senses, you
might come to the same conclusion as 19th century scientists, that the universe is static,
eternal and infinite… But then, using our minds, if the universe is infinite and contains
infinite stars and it has always existed, then the night sky, and the day-time sky for
that matter, would literally be filled with stars – so much that day and night would be
indistinguishable! This is clearly not the case, so something must be amiss. The universe must either be not static, not
infinite or not eternal. So which is it? You know how when an ambulance drives towards
you, the sound-waves are compressed and the siren sounds higher pitched, and as it speeds
away, the waves are stretched out and the pitch is lower? It’s the Doppler effect. Well, here’s another name you’ve heard. Edwin
Hubble. He realized that light does the same thing. Galaxies and stars moving away from
us have their light stretched out, making it more red, and stars moving toward us have
their light compressed, making it more blue. Combined with the work of Henrietta Leavitt,
which allowed us to accurately estimate how far away stars are, Hubble was able to determine that
stars, on the whole, are flying away from each other. He discovered that the most remote objects
in the sky were all red-shifted and were actually other galaxies beyond the milky way, moving
away from us. From here, he built upon the work of Belgian Catholic priest Georges Lemaitre,
who hypothesized that the universe began at a single point. Big bang cosmologists wanted
proof though. They knew that the amount of radiation released by the big bang would be
massive, and they wanted to see it. It wasn’t until the 1960s that it was found
accidentally, by two guys working on an antenna at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey. They were
trying to eliminate all the background noise from an extremely sensitive radio antenna, but they
found this faint hum coming from every direction. They tried everything they could to get rid
of it, including murdering the pigeons that kept pooping on the antenna – kinda sad, but
those pigeons – they gave their lives for one of the most profound discoveries in modern
science. A conversation with a local radio astronomer lead them to show their findings
to an astronomer at Princeton, who confirmed the existence of what had been predicted for
years. The final piece of that big bang puzzle is
that we can see it. Light has a speed. When we look at the sun, we’re seeing the light
that left it eight minutes ago, but if we look at something that’s 13.8 billion light-years
away, we’re seeing the stuff that happened 13.8 billion years ago! That radiation has been
traveling since the very beginning of the universe. Not only can we tell very clearly that there
was just nothing there before that, we can now study that radiation to learn the sequence
of events of the big bang. We can also see that the chemical composition of the early
universe is what we’d expect to see – a lot of hydrogen, a lot of helium and a tiny pinch
of lithium. The rest of the periodic table had to wait for the fiery furnaces and the
bellies of stars to be created. But more on that, next episode! As far as we’ve come in the past century in
crafting a history of the universe, there are still many things cosmologists have yet
to discover. For instance, the universe behaves as if there’s a bunch of matter in it that
we can’t see or detect. Galaxies’ gravitation is affected by this matter, but it’s otherwise
completely invisible to us. Physicists call it dark matter, but we have no idea what it
is! But as in any historical endeavor, new discoveries will alter the story in future
years, so expect the big histories of ten or twenty years from now to look very different
from today’s. But this isn’t discouraging, because like,
knowing everything would be boring! There’s a lot left to discover, and at the current
pace of scientific inquiry, many of those amazing discoveries will await us in our lifetime!
Or at least in your lifetime. Whether it be World War Two or the life of
Abe Lincoln, all histories ultimately start with the big bang. Yeah, it would be silly
to start your typical World War Two textbook with the big bang, but it would be about a
hundred trillion, trillion times more ridiculous to say the big bang – the mother of all historical
events – was not history. And that’s why big history reaches into the
lives of every person on this tiny speck of dust we call home, regardless of nation, class
or creed, and forms our common story. See you next time!

Comments 23

  • How can the universe inflate in seconds to a size of 90 billion light year across when fastest speed possible is that of light, so it would take 90 billion years to expand to this size

  • Terrible video…..

  • Time and space are an illusion created by light. If light did not exist we would have no reference of space or the movement through it which we measure by time. without light there would be no motion and without motion there would be no time because because we measure everything on the amount of time it takes to go from point A to point B. Without light, we could not measure this.

  • If you speek fast enough you can tell a load. The First Law of Thermodynamics states that heat is a form of energy, and thermodynamic processes are therefore subject to the principle of conservation of energy. This means that heat energy cannot be created or destroyed. It can, however, be transferred from one location to another and converted to and from other forms of energy. So if matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, (a wrong explaining of the First Law of Thermodynamics ) because there must have being something before the Big Bang and of course therefore space enough to grow to our universe that's stil growing, we should be possible to recreate a new Big Bang with use of the first 2 elements and collide them in space!? Explain the Big Bang the way you do to not as wel educated á voila, the big bang exists, like the deities books existed after being written, it doesn't proof although that deities exist.
    Nothingness filled with nothingness is stil nothing. Space, time and Space-time are human inventions.

  • Only 14 minutes and wasting 1/3 with rubbish comments.

  • Hey just about the universe not being infinite. You said that if it was the whole night sky would be as bright as day. I don't understand this as what about dust particles and planets blocking light from sun, what about black holes etc. I don't think this logic works. At least I don't fully understand it.

  • I don’t have to watch this cuz the big bang is a hoax, never happened. Dark matter is everywhere in the universe and in all things and through all things, and is the building blocks of all celestial bodies, and keep such bodies on their fixed path. Jesuschrist says, I’m with no beginning and Endless is my name. His Father has eternal life too, and controls dark matter and everything with it. We are His spirit children and exist forever also and there’s life after death.

  • too much for my head to get around 🙂

  • He's wrong about the start date of the Universe. The most accurate time would be 13.779 billion years ago, not 13.800.

  • The whole universe was in a hot dense state, then nearly 14 million years ago expansion started, wait? The earth began to cool, the autotrophs began to drool, neanderthals developed tools, we built a wall, we built the pyramids. Math, science, history, unraveling the mystery, it all started with a Big Bang, Bang!

    Not sorry.

  • You forgot to mention you only have 2000 years left.. on that little ball of earth..because the magnetic field is diminishing at a known constant and will reach 0 in 2000 years and you can't run from that in science… it is a fact soooo about 80 generations if you breed at 14 if you wait til 18-23 about 70  and if you wait beyond 30 to have a family about 40 generations before the earth is no more no atmosphere no life … the end.. you don't have much time.. better get it right …

  • Some of those hieroglyphs look like rhythmic music coo

  • The Infinite Cosmic Library or the Library Of Infinite knowledge (L.I.K.) for short

  • “Simmer Down” Bob Marley

  • the big bang is only perceived as a big explosion to us human folk. But it's actually a quantum shift in dimensions from old universe to new. put that in your pipe and smoke it! no such thing as a beginning or starting point. It's like hamster on a hamster wheel. Always trying to find the start point. You will not. Humans have a hard time with FOREVER no start no end>>just perceived starts and end based on our current tech and observational intellect. There is no starting point. It's like the song that never ends it just goes on and on my friend, some people started singing it not knowing what it was, and they continue singing it forever just because>>"It is the song that never ends…."""""""" = universe origin

  • 8:12 we're just one cosmic organism experiencing itself

  • Have not those who disbelieved known that the heavens and the earth were one connected entity, then We separated them?… ( 21:30)

  • Dislikes are from salty freshmen.

  • Im just looking for the summer homework video resource that i need to watch

  • Don't believe in God or religion so to speak but in consideration of first cause and the fact that we cannot explain this first cause we seem to be left with only one rational explanation : that being God.
    It's not a satisfying one but it'll
    do untill, if ever, we learn different.

  • it's somehow mindblowing that humans created a math, that explains circumstances that we cannot comprehend.

  • You could see it as before the big bang everything was one dimensional, kind of like a dot that never changed, never did anything, and was in general probably pretty boring. Of course being one dimensional you could not see it because anything had acted as a moving particle, it still could not move as the universe was one dimensional and movement was ,well, impossible.

    There is also the issue that as it was one dimensional there would be no such thing as mass, density, or volume. My reasoning behind this is that all of our subatomic particles that make up matter would not exist, as they would have no sphere of influence. As a result this singularity would both be absolutely nothing, and everything.

  • I think Welcome to Night Vale had the perfect phrase for cosmic background radiation.

    "The great glowing coils of the universe"

  • Nepal is peace country now…

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