The History of the Universe: A Poem

In the beginning, the universe began. All points expanded away from all other points in an unimaginably colossal explosion. It was everywhere hot. Naked particles careened and collided through dense-packed space, barely moving a billionth of an inch before running into its neighbor.

But soon the universe began to cool. Particles began sticking to one another and quickly the universe became transparent.  It expanded still until a relatively weak force, gravity, pulled these collections of particles and forged them into new particles. The first stars were born.

These stars also were pulled together by gravity into great clouds, spinning, orbiting each other, in various shapes such as spirals and spheroids. The first galaxies had formed. After a few billion years and generations of stars formed, grew up, and exploded in supernova, the heavy elements began building up in the universe. Eventually, newly formed stars would have curious companions along with them: planets, formed out of this heavier material.

These planets circled their respective star, occasionally being tossed out into interstellar space or nudged into their parent stars by unruly bigger brothers. On rare occasions, they even collided, smashing their contents and filling the local space with debris.

On many of these planets another unusual form of matter arose out of the heavy elements: life. This life had many different forms and nearly just as many beginnings, but all were in essence the same: a self-replicating, negative entropy phenomenon, an apparent rebellion against the laws of thermodynamics.

But this life by and large was merely a local curiosity. It did little beyond float, swimming, flying, or crawling around its native planet. It wholly reconfigured the faces of their planets, but still remained confined there, trapped by the pull of gravity and the harsh environment of space. When their local star died, they too also died.

On one planet, however, orbiting a yellow dwarf star almost indistinguishable from any other, a special kind of life developed. This life had the means to get off their world and into space. This life could figure out how the universe operated, and used that knowledge to better its own existence. This life called itself humanity.

Not that anything was special about this particular planet to allow the development of humanity. The emergence of intelligent life could have happened anywhere. It just happened to have evolved here first. A random roll of the dice that, by chance, smiled on these fortunate creatures.

The development of this type of life progressed swiftly. As soon as it learned to walk, it ran. As soon as it learned to jump, it flew. As soon as it discovered fire, it lit the machinery that carried it to the heavens. And as soon as it learned the true nature of its own existence it moved beyond it, into post-biology.

These new members of humanity were no longer made of the same material that had made their predecessors. They were stronger, more durable, and ultimately indestructible. And they lived in worlds of their own creations, simulations in which they were gods.

In the middle of the era that humanity called the 21st century, they became immortal in this way, or as immortal as one could get given the laws of physics. They realized that the resources of the universe, no matter how vast, were finite and their own survival depended on the acquisition of these resources.

So they launched into space and in doing so forever transformed the universe. They deconstructed their own solar system and reformed it into a giant hollow sphere to collect every drop of raw energy and store it for later use. They then realized that the entire universe was running through its energy reserves far too quickly for them and they sent out automated servants to colonize and exploit the resources of their whole galaxy. The galaxy itself grew dim. The light of a hundred billion stars no longer radiated wastefully into empty space, but was captured and stored, frozen in blocks of matter and antimatter and hurled towards the small sector of space where humanity still called its home.

But the galaxy itself was not enough. Billions more galaxies lay beyond in the void of intergalactic space. So humanity sent its robotic servants there as well, colonizing and enclosing countless trillions upon trillions of stars, distilling their photonic essence and shipping it back home across the millions of light-years.

Eventually, the entire universe was dark. Not a single photon was wasted, and humanity remained living in it small sector of space, enjoying its mastery of the universe. After trillions of years, the stars themselves wound down and the enormous galactic power plants which gave them their store of energy were switched off.

But it was not yet time for humanity’s time to go. No, for its life had barely begun. For quadrillions of years, quintillions of years, humanity remained in its simulated paradise, slowly feeding off their enormous store of energy. They would occasionally find and colonize coalescing black holes, bleeding off their enormous store of rotational energy, but it was merely a stop-gap until their reserves ran out.

Eventually it would run out, the laws of physics demanded that. As humanity lived on even the particles that they had stored their vast wealth of energy began decaying. Protons spontaneously transmuted into positrons and gamma-rays, the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics magnified over trillion trillion trillion years.

And at last humanity would take its last breath, having essentially become the universe itself, and passed on as everything else had.

But the universe itself continued in unconscious slumber. It would never end. It would expand beyond measure, until perhaps one day the process started over again.


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