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The Theory of Everything: The Origin and Fate of the Universe

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In this series of lectures I shall try to give an outline of what we think is the history of the universe from the big bang to black holes. In the first lecture I shall briefly review past ideas about the universe and how we got to our present picture. One might call this the history of the history of the universe.

In the second lecture I shall describe how both Newton’s and Einstein’s theories of gravity led to the conclusion that the universe could not be static; it had to be either expanding or contracting. This, in turn, implied that there must have been a time between ten and twenty billion years ago when the density of the universe was infinite. This is called the big bang. It would have been the beginning of the universe.

In the third lecture I shall talk about black holes. These are formed when a massive star or an even larger body collapses in on itself under its own gravitational pull. According to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, anyone foolish enough to fall into a black hole will be lost forever. They will not be able to come out of the black hole again. Instead, history, as far as they are concerned, will come to a sticky end at a singularity. However, general relativity is a classical theory—that is, it doesn't take into account the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics.

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