That the universe started with the big bang about 14 billion years ago
How hydrogen and helium were made in the big bang universe from quarks
How heavier elements essential for life were made later in stars
This course will start with the nuclear structure of atoms and discuss the creation of hydrogen in the big bang universe and the fusion of hydrogen to make heavier elements in stars. Three pillars of the big bang cosmology will be elaborated.
Ch. 1 “Atomic Nucleus” Rutherford’s 1908 Nobel Lecture will be used to discuss identification of the alpha particle as a possible building block of elements such as carbon and oxygen. The discovery of the proton as the ultimate building block of all nuclei will also be covered.
Ch. 2 “Origin of Elements” The modern view of the big bang synthesis of light elements and the stellar synthesis of heavy elements will be discussed. The 1978 Nobel Lecture by Penzias, titled “The Origin of Elements”, will be the primary source material.
Ch. 3 “Cosmic Background Radiation” How big bang cosmology was established by the discovery of the cosmic background radiation by Penzias and Wilson in 1965 will be discussed using Wilson’s 1978 Nobel Lecture.
Ch. 4 “Expansion of the Universe” How the foundation for big bang cosmology was laid out by the works of Leavitt, Slipher, and Hubble is the subject of this chapter. Hubble’s 1929 paper in PNAS about Hubble’s law will be the primary resource.
Week 1 : Atomic Nucleus
Week 2 : Origin of Elements
Week 3 : Cosmic Background Radiation
Week 4 : Expansion of the Universe