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The Silence of the Big Bang and the Birth of Sound


The great explosion that may have given rise to our universe was completely silent: sound needed both matter and gravity to exist.

Despite what the term suggests, the Big Bang made no sound whatsoever; the universe was born silently. This apparent paradox, and the history of sound from its cosmological origins, is what Mike Goldsmith explores in his fascinating book Discord: The Story of Noise. According to his fascinating study, the silence of the explosion at the beginning of the universe was due to the fact that space was non-existent, that is: there was no medium through which sound could travel. But this primordial silence didn’t last long.

380,000 years after the Big Bang (only .0003% of the universe’s existence up until now) sound began to fill space. Sound, like us, is a result of that initial explosion ––something that was triggered solely because some regions of the universe were more dense than other; a phenomenon which isn’t yet fully explained. This density eventually formed the stars and the galaxies and generated a gravitational force which attracted matter (then in the form of plasma), and that dance caused a compression that then heated the plasma and produced a radiation that offset the gravitational force. And there and then sound was born. A sound that would have been inaudible for us, however, because it was as low as one trillion Hertz.

Goldsmith explains the evolution of matter into sound:

In the early Universe, as new generations of stars formed using the nuclear reaction byproducts of the old, planets like ours formed with them — and sound waves surged and echoed through their structures and their atmospheres and, later, their hydrospheres too. But, as far as we know, for ten billion years there was nothing to hear them.

Discord is a fascinating book from cover to cover, and it reminds us that way before human reason existed, the universe moved in paradoxes. The great cosmic concert had no audience.

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