What’s it about?

Genesis (2019) lays out a gripping, blow-by-blow account of the first 13.8 billion years of our universe. From the mysterious initial void to the birth of the very first stars, it conjures up vistas no less dizzying than the grand creation myths of old.

About the Author:

Guido Tonelli is an Italian particle physicist who played a key role in the discovery of the Higgs boson. He’s currently a CERN visiting scientist, and professor of General Physics at the University of Pisa.


The universe emerges from a void and stretches quickly.

At first, all that exists is a void – some mysterious vacuum, which contains nothing technically but several significant events.

Even an “empty” void, like our universe, undergoes quantum fluctuations, according to the laws of physics, by which fleeting virtual particles appear and then again disappear in a blind eye.

These fluctuations occur only on a tiny scale at first. But suddenly, something happens which magnifies this process – and nothing will ever be the same afterward.

A particle called an inflaton is starting to have a powerful impact as the vacuum fluctuates. The void bubbles with transient energy and this inflaton’s field do something enormously consequential: it inflates the process to every extent.

With this single action, the small vacuum bubble expands at an incredible pace – even faster than light speed. What was microscopic immediately becomes macroscopic and rushes ferociously outwards. The universe has been born.

It is still poorly understood this birth time of the universe – and the closer the origin is, the more turbulent things are. But, interestingly, the universe emerged from a void – in short, that the universe is still a sort of vacuum that transformed.

This claim does not make sense on the face of it now. You can see a lot of things you know exist – for starters, like your own body. Does your hand and leg existence not show that we are not living in a void??

Well, no. The idea that we live in a void means nothing: it means that the universe has null net energy. In other words, the negative energy of its gravitational fields cancels all the positive energy that the universe possesses as matter.

If you could take a calculator and add all the energy in the universe and then subtract the negative gravity energy, you would be left with a number, zero, to show that we have emerged from a vacuum fluctuation.

“The total energy of the universe is the same as if it were a void.”

Guido Tonelli

The Higgs boson gives mass to particles and induces variation in a uniform and indistinct universe: 

The cosmos has completed its initial inflationary phase at once, but we would not realize anything about us if we could look at this early planet.

All that is at the present moment is a shapeless sea of gas, consisting of tiny particles, each without mass and flowing at light speed. Indeed, the universe appears precisely the same from every perspective and location.

The universe would have been perpetually barren if things had stayed in this way. But, just as the inflaton interfered with increasing a slight initial fluctuation, another particle is now involved, once again changing things for good: it is the Higgs boson this time.

The main message is: The boson of Higgs gives the mass of particles and provides variation in a cosmos that was otherwise even and indiscriminate.

Many particles that come into touch with the boson field of Higgs suffer substantial changes: as they go through, their speed decreases and mass acquires.

Some particles acquire so much mass that in the cosmos, they become unstable and cannot live. Such particles will gain mass but remain light enough to live — they will play a significant role in material form in the cosmos.

Since various particles gain different masses in contact with the Higgs field, homogeneity is unexpectedly broken in the early universe.

Where all was once the same, there is no difference. The atmosphere for the Higgs bosons grows uncomfortable with the cosmos expanding and refreshing – they can no longer exist without the heat that they use.

They disappear for 13.8 billion years at this time, with their task finished.

After eons, the Higgs boson will not be resurging until 2010. Then, when an enormous intensity team of scientists at CERN engineering collides reappears briefly – demonstrating that what was until that point simply a hypothesis existed.

Particles create subatomically and, ultimately, light is present:

For several reasons, the Higgs field was crucial. First, it let particles, as we saw, have mass and vary an entirely uniform cosmos.

This unbelievable particle didn’t do, however. It also changed the very forces of the world, enabling two of them to distinguish for good between weak interactions and electromagnetic strength.

This division has enormous repercussions. The sub-sub atomic particles are now becoming more stable forms of organization. Some of the elementary components of the cosmos – paper that is, in turn, the ancestors of the material world around us.

The universe is becoming more familiar at this stage.

The main lesson here is subatomic particles form and light ultimately.

The appearance of the first protons – tiny particles that are one of the fundamental ingredients of other more completed forms of matter – is one of the most important breakthroughs in this early universe.

Protons can be considered some of the entire building buildings of the universe: simple yet lasting particles that play a crucial role in producing large and complex cosmic structures.

In this phase also, electrons play a critical function. As the temperatures drop, these particles get tamed and domesticated: electrons are now destined to securely orbit protons in a union that permits the development of atoms and molecules.

Another crucial milestone is achieved with electrons kept busy orbiting protons. Photons were formerly unable to move freely. At each turn, large clouds of electrons that interrupted their transit and restricted their movement absorbed them and released them.

Now photons are rid of their interference with electrons taking on a new role. These photons are newly released — and disperse the first light it has ever held into the universe.

“Suddenly, after 380,000 years, there was light.”

Guido Tonelli

Gravity is the first star on gas:

At this moment in our universe evolution, the tempo is slowing, and things are starting to drag. So far, much had occurred in some sort of rush – but the trend is now considerably gradual: processes are measured in hundreds of thousands of years instead.

In addition to a rhythm alteration, a new essential character appears in this period: gravity.

Gravity has, until now, played a minor role in universe development. But this familiar power begins to take the stage in this new, slower phase.

Gravity has to operate on stuff to become apparent – and therefore, it operates on gas at this point.

The main message is: Gravity works with gas to form the earliest stars.

As now the universe contains the components of atoms, at this earliest stage matter, can start taking the form of stable elements: hydrogen and helium.

Therefore pockets of more significant material density are dispersed here and there and spread matter uniquely through the universe. The force of gravity means that this stuff attracts more substance—thus, the gas density in these particular places grows slowly but steadily.

The process is slow, yet it is incredibly consequential over millions of years. The huge, highly compressed, gaseous spheres are taking shape.

Finally, the heat gets too intense, and the isotopes are fused with nuclear hydrogen. The outcome is unparalleled. There is a vast abundance of heat and a large fire, which gives birth to the first star after 200 million years.

These early stars are so massive that they are regarded as megastars – but they don’t just impress. The nuclear processes that sustain these stars work as furnaces, generating heavily heavy materials that will create other, future stars – and, ultimately, planets.

Stars, gas, and dust make the first galaxies:

There have been hundreds of millions of years since the cosmos began, and now space is surrounded by a brilliant network of stars.

These flaming gas aggregations are nonetheless of a limited length and sometimes exhausted in large pyrotechnic displays — dispersing hydrogen and helium with heavy elements into their surroundings.

Again, this distributed stuff is subject to the gradual and well-known pull of gravity so that with time, the places of most excellent density draw increasingly material. A new and more sophisticated creature, a galaxy, will develop from the dispersed material of the cosmos.

Now it’s well known that practically every galaxy has a supermassive black hole; our own, the Milky Way, surrounds Sagittarius A*, which weighs about 4 million times the sun.

As these dark center troughs attract matter to themselves, momentum prevents several stars and agglomerations from engulfing their mighty caves. They circle this central nucleus in a rotation disc rather than vanishing into the black center.

A giant halo of dark matter is held on our Milky Way, a revolving collection of suns, dust, and gas. It’s massive, with its large dimensions collected in a large spiral structure, like the shell of the seashell, compared to most galaxies. It has almost 200 billion stars—all in all.

Moreover, the figure of astronomers has also reached 200 billion in estimating the number of existing galaxies. Think for a second about that: there are as many galaxies in the cosmos as our stars.

It has been around 4 billion years since the universe began, and there are many galaxies in space presently.

There is an especially quiet galaxy among them, whose central black hole has become tame and sleepy. Something remarkable is about to take place in the Milky Way.

In an era of tranquility in the Milky Way, our solar system forms:

Since Milky Way was formed, it has been trillions of years. Everything assumed a reasonably steady orbit around the supermassive black hole in the center of the galaxy, which has ended for a long time.

In short, Sagittarius A* has now entered a peaceful era, having swallowed up certain stars, gas, and maybe even other black trousers and not endangering the bodies that orbit it again.

Under such circumstances, the conditions are ripe for organizations to start developing amid progressively complex forms in this galactic calm that reigns in the Milky Way.

The primary message is: During an era of calm on the Milky Way, our solar system is formed.

In a specific area of our galaxy, gas and dust have spread into space in bursts, generating so-called molecular clouds. However, the helium and hydrogen components contain most traces of all the elements in the regular table — from carbon and nitrogen to oxygen and iron.

These molecular clouds gradually start to cool down, and the gravity slows down considerably and draws the whole range of stuff into increasingly widespread masses.

Finally, the red-hot, dense star we know as the sun collapses a big part of this substantial molecular cloud, with the leftover matter moving round in a circle known as a protoplanetary disc.

As this matter builds up, the planetary bodies we know begin to develop. The gas planets, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, are the first to come, and the rocky ones — Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars – form when celestial more minor bodies crash.

One of those planets, the third from the sun, is powerful enough to retain an air of gasses in orbit. As the globe is tangled over milliards of years with water-rich asteroids and comets, more and more oceans are covering its surface.

Naturally, the planet in question is earth – and life has started to form deep in its waters 3.5 billion years ago.

At that time, these organisms were nothing more than single-cell algae. But life on earth has flourished through the intervening time, increasing in complexity over eons — in the measure that one species, humanity, can gaze around the world and trace its roots for 13.8 billion years.