Happy New Year 2011

Here’s a poem for new beginnings, called “How It All Began,” that may be sung to “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” Enjoy.

Bang! It went, and off we go
Fourteen billion years ago
First the fireball, hot and dense,
The energy within, immense.
Then the matter nucleated,
Particles precipitated,
And then they’d annihilate
When they met their anti-mate.
This is most of what we know
Of fourteen billion years ago.

Though it’s harder to create
When particles annihilate,
They released the energy
That soon set all four forces free.
Then the heat and radiation
Pumped up history’s first inflation
And, as our new cosmos grew,
Standard matter made it through.
That’s what our equations show
Microseconds from the go.

Matter started filling space
When particles flew every place.
Most of them were just debris
So atoms formed from only three.
Nuclei were made of protons
Often clumped with several neutrons,
And electrons tightly bound
In discrete shells buzzed around.
Elements popped from the glow
Of the Big Bang long ago.

After years when things had cooled
The universe had been retooled.
Hydrogen and helium
Were building blocks for things to come.
Then the force of gravitation
Led to even more creation.
Fusion made the first stars shine
And more baryons combine.
That’s what our equations show
Of thirteen billion years ago.

Generations came and went,
For when their hydrogen was spent
Little stars collapsed and died.
Bigger ones were glorified.
They exploded with a flash
Spewing elemental trash;
Then some clouds of starry dust
Fused again with cosmic lust.
That’s what Hubble’s pictures show
About ten billion years ago.

Planets formed from dust and gas,
Sized according to their mass.
They accrete by gravity.
(Accrete means forming gradually.)
Back when Earth was somewhat hotter
Life could start in pools of water.
RNA could replicate
Then took protein for a mate.
That’s what modern studies show
About four billion years ago.

Then it seems that RNA
Through its mutant, DNA,
Rearranged to code for genes
And translate some genes to proteins.
Most genes spelled out protein enzymes
That replaced old ribozymes
Those producing lipids well
Found themselves inside a cell.
That’s what micro fossils show
About three billion years ago.

Living things were first marine.
And early cells were bluish-green.
Microbes formed stromatolites
Spreading out on seashore sites.
Then somewhere some more mutation
Followed by more incubation
Made some creatures exoshelled
Leaving fossils where they dwelled.
This is what the data show
Six hundred million years ago.

Simple creatures in the sea
Increased in their diversity.
Sponges, plants, and fish evolved.
Soon the shore was re-involved.
Amphibians crawled from the water,
Ate each other, what a slaughter!
Big ones were selected for
And produced the dinosaur.
That’s what tons of fossils show
Two hundred million years ago.

Then there came a meteorite
Bang! It hit us. What a fright!
Smoke and dust flew through the sky
So all the plants began to die.
This disastrous complication
Caused the dinosaurs’ starvation.
Furry animals survived.
It’s from these that we’re derived.
That’s what still more fossils show
Some sixty million years ago.

Selection then could recommence.
The record’s clear, unless you’re dense.
In Africa, the apes diverged.
Australopithecines emerged.
Homo Habilis made fire.
Lucy got stuck in the mire.
Now we’ve seen her skeleton
On display in Washington.
Tanzanian fossils show
Some three million years ago.

Lucy’s nice, but she’s not all
Next appeared Neanderthal.
His descendants are at play
Throughout the NFL today.
Then Cro Magnon made his entrance;
Others faded from existence.
Bronze age man began to write,
So you can read the rest tonight.
This is how it all began
From the Big Bang, up to man.

©Stephen Baird, updated 2010