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The Big Bang

The idea that the universe had a beginning was first suggested by the general theory of relativity, completed by Albert Einstein in 1916. Einstein's equations, which describe the structure of space and time, suggested that the universe should not be static, but that it ought to be expanding. Both Einstein and other physicists realized this consequence of the theory fairly early on, but at the time most scientists believed wholeheartedly that the universe was static. Einstein himself was so swayed by this idea that rather than accept his equations at face value, he added and extra (and extraneous) term to this formulae to still the cosmic motion they implied. Later, when it was discovered that the universe was indeed expanding, Einstein called this "the greatest blunder of my life". He had missed the chance to make what would surely have been one of the most spectacular predictions in the history of science.

One of the very first people to take seriously the idea of an expanding universe, and hence the idea of a cosmic origin, was the Belgian priest Father George Lemaitre. An early relativity physicist, Lemaitre suggested that the universe began with what he called a "cosmic atom". In his cosmic evolutionary scenario, this superatom then broke apart, gradually forming all the atoms and particles that make up the universe today. Physicists have since rejected Lemaitre's cosmic atom, but they have embraced his idea of a universe that began as a tiny dense point which expanded outward to produce the vast structure we see today. Father Lemaitre had an illustrious career as a cosmologist, and for many years was head of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, situated in the elegant grounds of the Vatican.

Email link | Feedback | Contributed by: Margaret Wertheim

Topic Sets Available

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AstroTheology: Religious Reflections on Extraterrestrial Life Forms

Agency: Human, Robotic and Divine
Becoming Human: Brain, Mind, Emergence
Big Bang Cosmology and Theology (GHC)
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Cosmic Questions Interviews

Cosmos and Creator
Creativity, Spirituality and Computing Technologies
CTNS Content Home
Darwin: A Friend to Religion?
Demystifying Information Technology
Divine Action (GHC)
Dreams and Dreaming: Neuroscientific and Religious Visions'
E. Coli at the No Free Lunchroom
Engaging Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence: An Adventure in Astro-Ethics
Evangelical Atheism: a response to Richard Dawkins
Ecology and Christian Theology
Evolution: What Should We Teach Our Children in Our Schools?
Evolution and Providence
Evolution and Creation Survey
Evolution and Theology (GHC)
Evolution, Creation, and Semiotics

The Expelled Controversy
Faith and Reason: An Introduction
Faith in the Future: Religion, Aging, and Healthcare in the 21st Century

Francisco Ayala on Evolution

From Christian Passions to Scientific Emotions
Genetic Engineering and Food

Genetics and Ethics
Genetic Technologies - the Radical Revision of Human Existence and the Natural World

Genomics, Nanotechnology and Robotics
Getting Mind out of Meat
God and Creation: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on Big Bang Cosmology
God, Humanity and the Cosmos: A Textbook in Science and Religion
God the Spirit - and Natural Science
Historical Examples of the Science and Religion Debate (GHC)
History of Creationism
Intelligent Design Coming Clean

Issues for the Millennium: Cloning and Genetic Technologies
Jean Vanier of L'Arche
Nano-Technology and Nano-ethics
Natural Science and Christian Theology - A Select Bibliography
Neuroscience and the Soul
Outlines of the Science and Religion Debate (GHC)

Perspectives on Evolution

Physics and Theology
Quantum Mechanics and Theology (GHC)
Questions that Shape Our Future
Reductionism (GHC)
Reintroducing Teleology Into Science
Science and Suffering

Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action (CTNS/Vatican Series)

Space Exploration and Positive Stewardship

Stem-Cell Debate: Ethical Questions
Stem-Cell Ethics: A Theological Brief

Stem-Cell Questions
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Current Stats: topics: >2600, links: >300,000, video: 200 hours.