Genesis According to George Gamow

Apr 10, 2006

I’ve been reading Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe by Simon Singh, an excellent history of all cosmology. The book starts with the very beginning of astronomical exploration, such as Eratosthenes who was the first to estimate the Earth’s diameter. I’m nearing the end of the book (the mid 1900’s, shortly after the Big Bang theory was created) and ran across this, George Gamow’s version of the bible’s Genesis:

In the beginning God created Radiation and Ylem. And the Ylem was without shape or number, and the nucleons were rushing madly upon the face of the deep.

And God said: “Let there be mass two.” And there was mass two. And God saw deuterium, and it was good.

And God said: “Let there be mass three.” And there was mass three. And God saw tritium, and it was good.

And God continued to call numbers until He came to the transuranium elements. But when He looked back on his work, He saw that it was not good. In the excitement of counting, He had missed calling for mass five, and so, naturally, no heavier elements could have been formed.

God was very disappointed by that slip and wanted to contract the universe again and start everything from the beginning. But that would be much too simple. Instead, being Almighty, God decided to make heavy elements in the most impossible way.

And so God said: “Let there be Hoyle.” And there was Hoyle. And God saw Hoyle and told him to make heavy elements in any way he pleased.

And so Hoyle decided to make heavy elements in stars, and to spread them around by means of supernova explosions. But in doing so, Hoyle had to follow the blueprint of abundances which God prepared earlier when He had planned to make the elements from Ylem.

Thus, with the help of God, Hoyle made all heavy elements in stars, but it was so complicated that neither Hoyle, nor God, nor anybody else can now figure out exactly how it was done.