The Anderson Institute Logo 
   Where history is becoming an experimental science      
Innovation and Excellence in Time Technology The Official Site of the World Encyclopedia of Time, the Time Shop, and the Time Research Association.    
  Home  |  About Us  |  Educational Resources  |  Encyclopedia  |  The Time Shop  |  Time Research Association  |  Contact Us

History of Time

Some of the world’s most timeless questions relate directly to time itself. Humans have always wanted to know when the world began. Perhaps even more important is their curiosity with when it will end or if it will ever end at all. Scientists and theologians alike have continuously modified their theories regarding the inception and demise of the world. Some think that the “Big Bang” will someday be followed by a “Big Crunch” when all goes back to the way it was before the beginning of time, and perhaps the cycle will start all over again. Others say that the world is destined to be eternal, while still others argue over whether the final days will come in the heat of fire or the cold burns of ice. Perhaps the best way to find out what the future holds is to analyze how the world has changed from the time of its creation until now.

History of time - Beginning of time

“Only barbarians are not curious about where they come from, how they came to be where they are, where they appear to be going, whether they wish to go there, and if so, why, and if not, why not.”
Isiah Berlin

The origin of the universe has been a topic of debate for millennia. It seems to be human nature to want to trace our ancestry back to its roots. Even the ancient Greeks tried to figure out where our universe came from. Aristotle argued that nothing can come from nothing, and therefore something had to have always existed. He believed there was never a time when the world did not exist. Many philosophers and scientists agree with this stand today, arguing that it is impossible to find such roots because we can reach backwards in time eternally without ever reaching the very beginning. Others say that there was a defining moment when the universe was created, whether it was through divine intervention (creationism) or through a cataclysmic explosion (evolution).

A leading theory concerning the origin of the universe today, takes the latter approach. The Big Bang Theory explains the existence of the universe by arguing that at some point, approximately fifteen billion years ago, an explosion of cosmic proportions sent matter flying in different directions. This matter would then become the building blocks of the universe – galaxies, stars, and ultimately planets. The Big Bang Theory can, at least in part, be traced back to the ideas of Einstein in the early 1900’s. The theory rests on the foundations of the Cosmological Principle and general relativity. The Cosmological Principle suggests that matter in the universe is spread out somewhat evenly across the galaxies in a stable way and that one part of the universe looks pretty much like any other part. Einstein’s concept of general relativity transformed gravity from a field into something able to bend time and space, changing the world from a three dimensional entity to a four dimensional one, with the addition of time as the fourth dimension.

In 1927, Georges Lemaitre unveiled his Big Bang theory proposing that the universe was created through the cataclysmic explosion of a cosmic egg or super atom. He theorized that this explosion launched the expansion of space and the beginning of time. Hubble found proof to support Lemaitre's theory when he determined that other galaxies are indeed moving away from us, which is in line with the idea that at some point in the past, there was an explosion that sent all matter flying away from some point of origin. In addition, radiation left over from this hypothesized explosion was found in 1964 by Nobel Prize winners Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias.

Not everyone looks at the beginning of the world from a strictly scientific point of view. Then again, those who oppose the Big Bang theory (mainly those who believe in creationism) do not all agree either. There are many different versions of creationism, some closely associated with religious beliefs and some not. Three of the most closely associated with religious beliefs are: Old-Earth creationists, Young-Earth creationists, and Gap creationists. Old-Earth creationists believe in the Big Bang theory and in evolution, with God's intervention. That is they believe God created the world in 6 days but that God's days lasted thousands, maybe millions of our years. In essence, they believed that God created the universe over time. Young-Earth creationists do not believe in evolution nor the Big Bang theory. They believe that the universe is less than 10000 years old and that God created it in six 24-hour days. Gap Creationism places a long period of time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. Genesis 1:1 says that God created the heaven and the earth in the beginning and Genesis 1:2 talks of an empty, formless earth with dark waters. They believe that God created the universe and filled it with angels. The angels, led by Satan, rebelled so God destroyed the earth and allowed it to remain barren for eons. They hold that the six-day period of creation came after this long gap. So, though everything was created in six days, it was not created in the first six days.

There are also a number of non-Christian creationist beliefs held by members of different cultures. One named the Scientific View proposes that the universe was created over 15 billion years ago. Parts of the universe came together to form the earth 4.5 billion years ago. Life then evolved on earth, probably from bacteria found in rocks, into the life forms we see about us today with no help or intervention from God. Another similar creationist belief called Panspermia, supports the Big Bang theory and evolution but disavows any deity intervention. They believe that life came from spores that could survive space travel. They hypothesized that these spores came from distant galaxies and once they reached earth, life forms evolved from them over time.

All of these ideas, some compatible with the Big Bang Theory and some incompatible with it, have helped mold our perspectives on the way that life as we know it came into being. We have tried in this article to bring you back in time by visiting theories like these, not only to figure out how and why it all started, but also to envision what it might have been like back "then".

There is no measurement for “time zero”, the exact moment when time was essentially created. How do you measure a moment that had no previous moment to measure it from? The search for the origin of the universe and life's beginning continues to be a mystifying journey. How much of what we "know" today is fact, fiction, or theory? The experts still don’t agree so we continue the journey and hope that you will come along.

History of Time - End of time

Related quote goes here.
Said Who
Some say the world will end in fire;
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
-Robert Frost “Fire and Ice”

Though not the same theories that Robert Frost offered in the poem above, there are two theories that leading cosmologists subscribe to concerning the probable future of the world. One of these is the possibility of “endless expansion,” and the other is the idea of a “Big Crunch.” The two of these together, expansion and gravity, form a tug-of-war in which the evolution of the universe hangs in the balance.

We can tell that the universe is expanding because all galaxies appear to be moving away from us. That does not mean that we are the center of the universe, but rather that if the entire universe is expanding, the perspective of anyone from any star or planet would be such that everything else seems to be moving away from where they are. The Hubble Constant, whose value is hotly debated among the leading experts, is a measure of the rate of this expansion. The fact that the Hubble Constant is speeding up seems to indicate that the universe will simply always continue to expand. This theory parallels the second law of thermodynamics, where entropy and thus disorder are always increasing. If the expansion were slowing down, it would make sense to assume that it will eventually stop, but since the expansion is still accelerating, no stoppage is in sight.

Gravity is dependent primarily on the density of the universe. There is a certain Critical Density that is especially important in determining the fate of the world. It is calculated that if the actual density of the universe falls below this Critical Density point, the universe will continue to expand forever. If the actual density of the universe surpasses this point, the universe will stop expanding and begin contracting upon itself. We appear to have nothing to worry about however since the most recent measurements reveal that the two densities are nearly equal. This means that the universe will stop expanding, but will not collapse upon itself either. There are some that believe that even if the Big Crunch did occur, the universe would remain eternal anyway by returning to the state that it was in prior to the Big Bang and then starting over again. That is, the universe would exist indefinitely in a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.

To put the beginning and end of the universe on a timeline, scientists have attempted to divide the time between the two events into the following 4 eras: Star-Filled Era, Degenerate Era, Black Hole Era, and Dark Era.
Star-Filled Era (10^6 - 10^14 years after the Big Bang)
We are in the middle of this era right now. Here, energy is generated by the creation and destruction of stars such as our sun.
Degenerate Era (10^15 - 10^37 years after the Big Bang)
Stars will no longer be created, the mass and energy level of the universe will continue to decline, and all that will be left is dead planets and black holes. According to physicist Greg Laughlin, there will occasionally be remaining energy when dead stars collide with each other, but “on average this will happen only once every quadrillion years in a galaxy the size of the Milky Way” (Pobojewski).
Black Hole Era (10^38 - 10^99 years after the Big Bang)
Black holes will grow larger for awhile but will begin dissipating into radiation along with the remaining stars.
Dark Era (10^100 years after the Big Bang)
All black holes will evaporate. As the universe continues to expand, all free energy will be spread so thin throughout the universe that the temperature will reach absolute zero and all movement will cease.
If all this seems bleak, fear not. Even if all this theory is true, we are not scheduled to enter into the next era for another million years, so we have plenty of time to develop a solution!