Print | Illustration

The Story of the Universe

How do you discover, understand, and appreciate the universe around you?

The Story of the Universe: A Visual Exploration of Space and Time is a five part book collection that utilizes a variety of artistic techniques to explain and express what science tells us about the timelapse of the universe. Based on the book, The Five Ages of the Universe, by Fred Adams and Greg Laughlin, this new book series translates complex scientific concepts into visual studies to be absorbed and enjoyed by readers of all ages and backgrounds. While most people lack the drive, means, or time needed to learn more about how vast and complex our universe actually is, each book provides overarching explanations of a variety of natural phenomena in addition to artistic interpretations of said phenomena.

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I’ve always been interested in astronomy and space since I was a kid, and over time my sense of curiosity and sheer awe have grown immensely. This project is inspired by an art series I had started in highschool, which focused on understanding how natural phenomena interrelate in the larger scheme of the universe. While a biologist or geologist (I actually have both in my family) would be able to explain certain aspects of nature after observation, I also feel as though one can discover through artistic observation.  This project is an exploration and exposition of myself and how I find ways to understand and appreciate the larger environment around us.

The primary target audience is primarily 20-40 year olds with academic backgrounds, but they are still accessible and understandable to anyone with or without an extensive education. The goal of this project was to explore different means of understanding scientific concepts as well as provide others with the opportunity to learn about alternative ways to learn about and appreciate the larger environment around them.

These books are organized by five large sections of time, spanning from the first moments of the Big Bang to the dissipation of the last particles at the end of time. Each book opens with an introduction from The Five Ages of the Universe to give a high level explanation of the subject matter and main events. While most are accustomed to learning about and experiencing space phenomena in film or photography, these books provide a unique experience through the use of physical touch. They contain hand-made drawings and paintings as well as a variety of papers in different colors, textures, and transparencies to better illustrate phenomena and events. Some pages on photo paper allow the reader to gaze at NASA photography, some pages on textured paper allow the reader to feel scratches and bumps that emulate particles, and some pages on colored vellum allow the reader to play with the layering of illustrations to better understand the progression of an event. Overall, the experience of interacting with a book provides a very personal and engaging experience of a subject matter that is normally intactile.

When people really understand the Big Bang and the whole sweep of the evolution of the universe, it will be clear that humans are fairly insignificant.

--- Stephen Hawking

Book 1: The Primordial Era

This book begins by describing the intense amount of events occurring within the first few seconds of the Big Bang. The first 10 pages, printed on different paper colors and textures, only show the drastic change in temperature over fractions of seconds with simple typography. Later on, the book provides explanations of the initial universal inflation, the formation of the first quarks and antiquarks, the formation of the first protons and neutrons, and the formation of the first hydrogen and helium atoms. As dark matter inflates the universe and immense amounts of particles begin to coalesce under gravity, the universe begins creating larger masses. First, dust. Then, rocks. Eventually, stars. The book ends at the birth of the very first star.

Book 2: The Stelliferous Era

We currently live within the Stelliferous Era, or "Age of Stars." This book describes how the first stars and planets form, live, and die in life cycles millions of years long. Taking a pause to acknowledge the history of the Earth and humanity in one section, the book also points out the extremely small amount of time that humans have existed. Because we know the most about this section of time, this book is the longest and has the most descriptions of events and phenomena. While it's hard to imagine, this era ends when stars stop being created due to the universe continuing to expand and pull stars and galaxies farther and farther away from each other. The book concludes by reflecting on the unique time period we live in currently: the only time in the universe where stars continue to be born and life can continue existing on planets.

Book 3: The Degenerate Era

Much like the name describes, this book covers the span of time where all the galaxies, stars, planets, and potential lifeforms die out. Because stars stop having enough nearby materials to form, and gravity does not slow down the expansion of the universe, space becomes much darker as stars die and are not replaced. The last energy-producing bodies existing are neutron stars, brown dwarfs, black dwarfs, and black holes. Black holes swallow up stray matter and remnants of stars and planets. This book visualizes the decay of everything created billions of years after the Big Bang and ends with the death of the last star, leaving only black holes.

Book 4: The Black Hole Era

This book begins with explaining how black holes work and how they outlast all other bodies in the universe over the courses of billions of years. With no more solar systems or galaxies, black holes form their own kind of systems by orbiting supermassive black holes. Over the course of time, gravity pulls many of them into each other in dramatic black hole mergers. The end of this book explains how these black holes are, in fact, mortal and how they start dying off through the phenomena known as "Hawking radiation." The last large era of time ends when the last black hole evaporates completely, leaving an impossibly darker universe only filled with subatomic particles.

Book 5: The Dark Era

While it is impossible to really understand the amount of time that passes to reach this point, the Dark Era begins when space has expanded "too far" and large bodies can no longer exist in space. This book is the shortest, partially because we know so little about this extreme future, and partially because not much happens at the end of time. This book explains how entropy is "achieved" when the cosmos cannot become more disorder, and how time becomes "meaningless" when no more events can happen. The very end of this book includes a note from the designer and a final statement.

Humans have used all methods of research, logic, feeling, intuition, expression, and creativity to understand reality. Yet, reality is a fickle thing.

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