Wednesday, November 17, 2004

What I think about while I lie awake at night, Part IV: Is there an astro-physicist in the house

If you haven't read parts I - III, don't read this. It'll seem strange.

All that other stuff led me to one other question of cosmic significance. How did our solar system come to have its present form.

The main question is why is it flat?

There are a few subordinate questions..

Lets start from the beginning. God said "Let there be light," and behold, there was light. Or a Big Bang, if you prefer. Either way, its something from nothing.

But lets leave God out of it for now and just look at what happened. We can save the "why?" questions for another time.

So we've got a singularity of nothingness that suddenly divides into the component parts which, if joined together, would cancel each other out and return to nothingness. Pluses and minuses, yins and yangs, or whatever.

But what do we have? An expanding cloud of unconnected subatomic particles? Protons and electrons? Whole atoms? Rocks? Something else entirely?

My big problem here is that I have to guess because I've never studied this stuff. Of course, the people who have studied this stuff have to guess too, but at least they can cite publications where other people have guessed the same way.

But I'm guessing that we start small, Really small. Just how small that is, I wouldn't hazard a guess. But I'm guessing not rocks or water or oxygen. Maybe hydrogen.

Anyway, I have to assume that the dispersion pattern is not entirely uniform because if it were, assuming gravity and such works in the ways I'm accustomed to thinking about it working, the forces that might otherwise pull bits of whatever it is into clumps would cancel each other out.

But whatever it is, you end up with stuff drawing together in clumps within clumps within clumps. Or vice versa, depending on your perspective. Anyway, as these clumps come together with bits coming from all different directions, drawn by each other's gravitational or magnetic or whatever forces. Sooner or later what started out as a cloud ends up as a spinning ball.

And if you have a spinning ball with nothing holding the parts together, centrifugal forces the faster-spinning things around the equater to move farther and farther from the center, turning the ball into a disc. Or something like that, anyway.



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