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The Universe: A History

by LukeStarkiller


Nothing. An absence of matter, of light, of information. Energy, entropy, nonexistent.

The first conceptual object to come into being is a sound.

BOOM

One bombastic chord, a cataclysmic catalyst. And instantly, the universe is set in motion. For a short time, matter is pressed tightly together, millions of times denser than any earthly object. But the seeds of galaxies are soon expanding across the empty caverns of nothingness, and as they accelerate, they form light years in the blink of an eye.

As matter is spread out, order becomes chaos. In the infant days of the universe, matter diversifies and invites conflict. Movement happens without purpose, and all matter is aimless. It is a confusing time.

Energy, on the other hand, is growing exponentially and conglomerates into floating entities. These entities are pinpricks in the scope of the ever-expanding universe, but in this age, scale is irrelevant. These new stars are rumbling with activity, giant furnaces that produce many important elements that will one day form the basis for life. Some stars reach the end of their lifespan and explode, releasing these elements into space.

It is not long before many stars gain followers, who traverse wide circles around them. In some cases, these followers increase in size until they themselves gain followers, irresistibly pulled into orbit by an invisible force.

Conditions on these star-followers vary widely. The concept of weather is new, and it is very much unsure of its identity. Temperatures are fluctuating rapidly in the scale of cosmic time. The planets orbiting closest to their star are hot and fiery, while those farther away are eerily still, cold, and equally inhospitable. A very small number of planets in the universe orbit at a distance that guarantees a moderate temperature, an even smaller number of these planets has solid matter on the outside, and only one of this select group has a thick atmosphere: Earth.

At this point, change begins occurring so rapidly that the universe sees it pass in a moment. The newly-trapped air surrounding Earth contains all the necessary ingredients, and soon much of the planet is covered with water. These vast aquatic spaces provide a safe haven for the formation of the first life. These life forms are microscopic and non-thinking. They don’t comprehend how or why they are here. They are minuscule in comparison to the vast oceans of Earth, which is minuscule in comparison to the fiery mass of the star Earth orbits, which is minuscule in comparison to the panoramic white blanket that is the Milky Way galaxy, which is minuscule in comparison to the unfathomably vast expanses of what our universe has become.

These tiny life forms evolve and diversify until they are spread out across the oceans, forming ecosystems teeming with organisms desperate for survival. As these organisms increase in size, their functions also become more diverse. In an evolutionary instant, plants come about, and even simple animals. As the animals grow more and more complex, some venture onto the land, where there is already an entire world of plants. The planet is swept up in the inexorable sweep of evolution, and before long life is everywhere.

The animals that come into being are hugely dependent on both the surrounding plants and friendly climates. Many extinctions occur when one of these is thrown out of balance, but animals always come back in some form after a while. Intelligence increases with each new iteration, but the most important leap is the incalculably precious gift of self-awareness. This gift transforms these early humans from barbaric animals to thinkers, planners, and innovators. Through this newfound ability, these humans will master fire, build sophisticated shelters, and even begin to farm. Weapons are fashioned from whatever was readily available. It is a time of great experimentation.

Abruptly, bronze bursts onto the scene, pushing the already-hurried development of humans into overdrive. Civilizations sprout up all over the world, bound together by another astonishing development: written language. Oral communication is finally standardized into something that can be represented in simple scratch marks.

For millennia, while these humans were making great strides, they had a desire for understanding. They felt that there was something Beyond, something that they did not yet understand. And from this desire, religion was born. It was something to hold onto amidst everyday struggles, and it caught on quickly. New religions now spread like wildfire, serving as a bridge across cultures and interweaving itself through the dense fabric of trade. Religion and government are soon so closely linked that governments misuse religion as a means for punishment. This distrust of government and religion leads to a revolution of science and of the arts, a period that sees literary and visual works coming to the forefront. Individualism and reason soon experience a comeback, leading to the colonies of imperialistic empires to rise up in the face of perceived tyranny. Monarchy is no longer the norm, and democracy becomes more and more prevalent.

Chaos ensues in the years after these revolutions, as sophisticated technology allows for mass production while composers and writers rail against a logic-driven world. The economy booms and collapses under its own weight. Wars break out, and the world is left confused and fearful of the future, setting the stage for the rise of modern technologies. The Information Age has begun.

New machines arise that can receive and display data, and these machines grow more and more complex by the year. Soon they can do complex calculations and display information from across the world. They can eventually fit on your desk, and then on your lap, and finally in your pocket. The knowledge of millions of books can now be carried with you and accessed at any time. In the business world, data and analytics are paramount. Information can be shared at the touch of a button; everyone can see what everyone else is doing. New ways to express yourself and share activities make their way into the mainstream in a matter of days. Art made with nothing but a digital camera can be viewed by millions of people in a matter of hours. We are more interconnected than ever, but never have we been more disconnected from reality. Our digital lives occupy virtually no space in the scale of the all-encompassing universe, and our biological lives are an evolutionary blink.

In the end, all we have is our desire. Our desire to push history forward and to challenge what was thought to be impossible. Our desire to learn, to connect, to understand how insignificant we are in this universe. And our desire to see Beyond, to comprehend an underlying purpose behind that which started with a single sound.


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Tue Jul 25, 2017 10:46 pm
Panikos wrote a review...



Hi, LukeStarkiller! Pan here to fry up a review for you today.

I like a bit of astronomy and history, so this was an enjoyable read for me. You've got a good grasp of language - nice and clear, well structured and thought out, never overly floral. The style is pleasant and simple, which complements the topic well. No issues there, nor any real nitpicks. I think I spotted a typo but I can't blimming well find it now - you'll have to give it a read over and see if you can spot it. For my part, I'll stick to overall comments.

1) Is this a short story? This is my main struggle with this piece, because it's caught in the strange territory between an essay and a story. On the one hand, it really is just a description of the history of the universe/Earth - there's no real narrative to it, nor any progression of conflict or dilemmas or anything you'd expect of a short story. Nevertheless, it doesn't really have the style of an essay. You've got some (nice) bits of personification characterising planets and moons as 'followers' of the bodies they orbit, as well as stylish, humourous touches with lines like 'It is a confusing time.' So there's the stylistics of a story meshed with the clinical topic and structure of an essay. I'm not personally sure it gels. A story is about inventing something, I think, and about finding something new to say. I don't think this piece really does that. Were it classified as an essay, I wouldn't have an issue with it, but I don't think this flies as a story.

2) Even though the topics covered are interesting, I'd like to see you delve more into the fact that progress isn't really linear. Ancient societies grew and flourished, creating things that we still can't understand today, and then fell. Knowledge is discovered and lost and discovered again - over 2000 years ago, people in the Levant forged steel of such high quality that nothing would come close to it until modern times. We're still trying to replicate Egyptian methods of making linen. Social morals change, growing more tolerant and less tolerant depending on the location and the time period. It isn't a case of uncivilised to civilised or undeveloped to developed, so it would be good to see you explore the changes and setbacks in human progression a little more. It would enrich the account.

3) I'm not a science buff, but would the first thing to come into existence really be sound? I thought sound couldn't travel in space, and thus that the Big Bang didn't really make a bang. Again, not sure about this, but I thought I'd bring it up.

Hope this review helped! If I was unclear about anything or you've any questions, don't hesitate to ask.

(I love your avatar by the way. The Incredibles is my jam!)

Keep writing! :D
~Pan






Thanks for reviewing! Interestingly enough, all three of your critiques were things I struggled with when I was writing this.

1) I thought about putting it in the essay category, and in hindsight, it would've been much better. I'll definitely go back and change that.
2) I struggled to write the section about humanity developing because I didn't really know how much to include. I sort of fixed the problem by not mentioning any specific cultures, but I think you're absolutely right that I should expand that section and talk about the nonlinear progress of knowledge and innovation.
3) And with the sound thing, I suppose I was trying to interpret the Big Bang in a more mystical way (I've heard some spiritual people talk about a chord as being the first thing to come into being). I'll definitely consider changing that, since what follows is a lot more scientific.

Thanks again, and I appreciate the Incredibles comment. I can't wait for the sequel! Less than a year to go . . .



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Tue Jul 25, 2017 4:48 pm
LeutnantSchweinehund wrote a review...



As an amateur astronomer with a great interest in history, I quite liked it.

Certainly, it wasn't flawless. Some parts seemed a tad rushed, others too long. The rhythm of prose wasn't always clean and some parts were rather rigid, but overall, it was a nice, quick, enjoyable read!

Now, I did very much enjoy the beginning and the end. The way you refer to the beginning at the end is actually very fitting. I do like it when writers do this; when they remind us of the object's humble origins; and invoke a slight sense of nostalgia.

Still, despite this, I have but one qualm, and it's an extremely irrelevant nitpick. I personally wouldn't exactly call it a sound. Rather I'd call it "a sudden, rapid expansion which birthed some strange quark-gluon soup."
Indeed, that doesn't really fit into the work too well.

If you make more of these, I'd enjoy reading them. Astronomy is Godly.






Thank you so much for your comments. I definitely agree with your issues with the pacing; I wrote this in the span of about 7 hours on a whim, and I didn't stop and think so much about what was unnecessary and what needed to be added.

As for the "sound," I'll definitely consider changing it to something more scientific (which would probably fit with the piece better anyway), yet also something that would fit stylistically.





I write in a similar fashion. I write in spurs of imagination, usually finish the piece in one sitting and am far too tired to edit, so I just put it out.

I'm in poetry mode right now, as horrid as my poetry generally is, so I can't really give proper critiques. Can't think in prose at the moment. Constantly trying to rhyme everything.

Good luck with the edits, but if you're like me, you'll just start writing another piece.





I write in a similar fashion. I write in spurs of imagination, usually finish the piece in one sitting and am far too tired to edit, so I just put it out.

I'm in poetry mode right now, as horrid as my poetry generally is, so I can't really give proper critiques. Can't think in prose at the moment. Constantly trying to rhyme everything.

Good luck with the edits, but if you're like me, you'll just start writing another piece.





I wrote the reply twice. Motherfuck!




How can I be king of the world? Because I am king of rubbish. And rubbish is what the world is made of.
— Kate DiCamillo, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane