When it comes to the study of the cosmos, the time scales used to analyze events are usually – certainly relative to human history – extraordinarily large. Most cosmic stories, like the lifetime of a Sun-like star, take billions and billions of years to unfold. But there is one area of cosmology where the tiniest fractions of a second make literally astronomical differences. Where mere minutes mean the universe goes from being an infinitely dense singularity, to being all of space and time as we know it, expanding at a nearly unimaginable rate, while also forming the subatomic particles that will make up all of the matter in existence. This area of cosmology is the study of the beginning of the universe: the Big Bang.
While cosmologists can spend their whole careers analyzing these first few moments of the universe’s existence, we laypeople have access to actor Gillian Anderson, who, in the above video, gives a summary of the Big Bang Theory in just under 2 minutes (or your universe is free!).
The video is one in a series of “60 Second Adventures in Thought” created by the BBC in conjunction with UK’s Open University, which aims to deliver brief overviews of difficult concepts and theories like “The Grandfather Paradox”, “The Chinese Room” and even “Free Will vs. Determinism.” And with these latest entries, the education collaboration is providing the same kind of quick, yet digestible, look at the beginning of the universe in animated videos narrated by Anderson, who’s best known as the ultra-rational Dana Scully M.D. from The X-Files (returning in January 2016!) and Stella Gibson in The Fall.
In the video, Anderson covers everything from the “Steady State theory” to an overall look at the Big Bang to Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation to what happened before the Big Bang, when there was “no time, and no place [for the universe] to be.” (Scully would, of course, likely be highly skeptical of any theories about what happened before the Big Bang, as they are not observable in any known way.)
In related videos, Anderson covers other, more philosophical and theological takes on the beginning of the universe (including William Paley’s “Divine Watchmaker” theory, Thomas Aquinas “First Mover” argument, and Hindu creation myths), which you can check out below:
What do you think about the BBC, UK Open University and Gillian Anderson teaming up to make bite-size educational videos? Would Scully approve, or would she want us to dig deeper into the truth that’s out there? Let us know in the comments section below!