Two Models: Gravity and Electromagnetism
Throughout history, astronomers have had different ideas about where it all came from. Until recently, in the past hundred years, it was also thought that our own galaxy, the Milky Way Galaxy, was all there was 'out there.' Now we know better. Our galaxy is one of, perhaps, billions of galaxies, each one having billions of stars. The earliest, and truthful, rendition of the beginning may be found in the Bible: In the beginning, God created the heavens (shamayim -- that which is lofty, lifted up) and the earth (eretz -- that which is firm, or having substance). For a quick review of some other historical ideas, "Cosmological Theories Through History" gives a good summary.
Today there are two main models concerning how everything came to be 'out there.' The one best known and most widely taught is the gravitational model, which says gravity is responsible for almost everything we see in the night sky and through our telescopes. However, in the past fifty years, another model has started to gain a great deal of respect, as it appears to answer a number of problems which exist with the gravitational model. The new model is the electromagnetic, or plasma, model. Let's take look at both.
First, though, we need to take a look at something called the "Big Bang."
Wikipedia gives a very good summary of this:
Because the Big Bang theory includes what happened after the initial expansion, the entire concept is often held at arm's length by Christians and others who believe in a created universe. But in the Bible, God tells us twelve times that He stretched out the heavens. So that initial expansion is true. It is just that it was discovered by scientiests several thousand years after God had told us it happened. The Big Bang theory does not know where the initial material came from or where the energy came from to expand it. That is where the Bible fills in the gaps. God created matter, and He stretched it out.
It has been estimated from the current temperature readings we get from the Microwave Background Radiation that the initial temperature at the beginning of the expansion must have been about ten billion degrees (at that temperature it doesn't matter if you are talking Farenheit, Celsius, or Kelvin). This heat would have 'traveled' along with the expanding matter as a form of radiation.
Both models presented here agree onone thing: the initial state of the beginning matter was something called a plasma. We know the three common states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. Plasma is the fourth state, a state in which one or more electrons have been stripped from the atoms involved. The 'wandering' electrons now form a free negative charge (which, if they are moving together, form an electric current) and the resulting atoms now form a positive charge (which, if they are moving together, also form an electric current).
After that point, however, there are major differences in the two models presented here.
The Gravitational Model
As the Wikipedia quote above mentions, the gravitational model says that the cooling caused by the expansion allowed the subatomic particles in the plasma to come together to form atoms. This is referred to as 'decoupling.' In this model, the only atoms formed by this method were hydrogen atoms (one proton with one electron circling it) and helium atoms (two protons, a couple of neutrons, and two electrons circling this nucleus). There may also have been a bit of the third element, lithium (three protons, some neutrons, and three electrons).
This model states that at that point gravity took over, causing the elements to come together to form the first big stars where the other elements were formed inside the stars. These first stars then exploded, releasing the elements into space.
After enormous amounts of time, gravity brought more stars and entire galaxies into being.
The gravitational model has some major problems, however. These problems are primarily related to the fact that gravity is a very weak force. Maybe it does not seem like it when you fall off something, but every time you lift your foot, or a book, or a cup, you have defied the gravity of something as relatively big (compared to those items) as the Earth itself.
Here are the main problems with the gravitational model:
1. Until atoms form, (heat) radiation pressure prevents particles from collapsing under gravity; the radiation pressure re-expands the collapsing particles. So while the universe is a plasma, gravity is unable to form anything. Radiation and matter have to decouple, so neutral atoms can form.
2. The initial clouds of hydrogen could come together. However they could not collapse beyond a certain point. As the attraction and initial collapse were in progress, heat would have been generated by this process. This is standard physics. This means that the generated heat itself, as it built, would drive the atoms back apart and not allow them to coalesce into stars.(One of the given explanations trying to get around this problem is to say there were carbon and oxygen atoms which formed carbon monoxide which then radiated the heat away from the collapsing hydrogen cloud. Problem: no carbon or oxygen existed at that point.)
3. As the plasma and newly formed atoms were expanding at enormous speed, there would have been only a very small window of time for gravity to have been able to exert the attraction needed to form anything. It is estimated it would take several billion years for galaxies to be'pulled together' gravitationally. James Trefil, in his book, The Dark Side of the Universe, states this problem very well:
4. We can see how gravity works in our own solar system. Here, on a small scale (universally speaking), gravity is the main force holding the planets to the sun. We see that little Mercury speeds around the sun once every 88 days. It takes us, on Earth, a bit more than 365 days. When we get out to Neptune, it takes 165 earth-years to go around the sun. In other words, when gravity is acting, the farther away the object from the center of gravity, the more slowly it moves around that center. This was expected with the spiral galaxies. The rotation rates in the centers were expected to be quite rapid while the rotation rates for the outer arms were expected to be much slower. This was not what was seen. Instead measurements showed the outer arms were moving as quickly around the center of the galaxy as the inner arms were. Gravitationally, this is impossible. The galaxy should disrupt rapidly, flying apart. In order to save the gravitational model, astronomers have then come up with the invention of "dark matter," or a massive amount of matter we cannot see which is exerting the gravitational force necessary to hold these galaxies together. Dark matter has never been seen, measured, or otherwise shown to exist, despite thirty years of searching. But if the gravitational model is correct, it is considered necessary for it to be there.
It is very important to note that gravity is the main force on a small scale in the universe. By small scale, we are referring to the movements of planets around stars, such as our solar system. But beyond that, the fact is that gravity, being a weak force, is easily disrupted itself and overpowered by other forces.
The Electromagnetic, or Plasma, Model
Essentially, the electromagnetic model claims that gravity never took over on any large scale. Evidence for this is seen in the massive amounts of plasma in the universe today.
Plasma exists in three modes: dark, which means you cannot see it, but you can see through it; glow, such as neon signs and the auroras; and arc, such as lightning and the sun. We know now that every planet is surrounded by its own plasma sphere, often referred to as an ionosphere. It has also become apparent that our entire solar system is surrounded by its own plasma sphere.
Plasma in motion is an electric current, by definition. Every electric current is surrounded by a circling magnetic field. It is this magnetic field which keeps plasma in a stream, or filament form. The strength of the electromagnetic fields in space is 1039 times as strong as gravity (That's a 1 with 39 zeros after it).
A very hot plasma, such as was in the beginning, is quite capable of forming the known elements very quickly if the first two elements are there: hydrogen and oxygen. Interestingly, the Bible may be indicating this. The very word for 'heavens' is shamayim. But mayim is the word for water. If the initially created elements were hydrogen and oxygen, in the water ratio of 2:1, and they existed as an extremely hot plasma, no gravity was needed to form all the known elements extraordinarily quickly -- in the space of hours, not billions of years.
Work in labs has shown that two plasma filaments, interacting, quickly start rotating around each other, forming a concentration of energy in the middle and spiral arms. Interestingly, the outsides of the spiral arms of these miniature galaxies spin as fast around the center as the insides of the arms do. No dark matter is needed -- it's an electromagnetic phenomena.
Plasma filaments are known to be very reactive, twisting and pinching in response to all manner of outside interferences. We can see this quite easily with lightning. It does not go in a straight line from cloud to ground or ground to cloud, but forks and twists in response to atmospheric conditions. When a plasma filament in space pinches, it forms a star. This is something we can see with the Bug Nebula and the Ant Nebula.
A much more detailed explanation of the Plasma Model is on a separate page.
Of the two models, gravitation and electromagnetic (plasma), we hold to the plasma model. It answers questions which the gravitational model cannot, and is supported by what we actually see when we look out into space.