How it All Began
For People Who Don't Take Reality Seriously
PART 1: GETTING STARTED
Once upon a time there was a Big Bang. I begin the Big Bang story like a fairy tale because that's pretty much what it is. This theory is the creation of everything out of nothing for no reason, meaning the entire universe is an effect without a cause. This is magic not physics, hence the fairy tale beginning.
Whether this really made a bang sound or not nobody knows as there wasn't anyone in the forest to hear it. Before the beginning, the pre-begining I guess, there was nothing. Not a vacuum, or the empty half of a half empty glass (or half full, depending on your mood). More of a less than nothing smaller even than a mole on the nose of one of a thousand angels dancing on the head of a pin. How and why angels waltz, mambo or frug on the head of a pin is a mystery. You can ask a medieval theologian, if you can find one because he'd be pretty old by now.
A thousand angels dancing on the head of the pin seems rather absurd. Now-a-days they talk about how many masses of the sun can fit on the point of a pin which has no size at all, which is not supposed to be absurd. But absurdities don't bother modern astrophysicists so they won't deter us either.
So the story is like the entire universe springing from the mole on the nose of an angel gyrating on the head of a pin, only there were no pins, angels, moles or anything else. I imagine it went something like this:
Nonexistent Nondimensional Point: "I'm bored. Nothing ever happens around here. Is there anything out there? Is there anyplace out there? Is this all there is? Man, this is literally pointless. I'm so bored I could just explode."
And so it did.
After this initial big bang, boom, kapow, or whatever, things really began hotting up. A phantasmagoria of billions of trillions of super-excited bits all atwitter grew in hyper fashion. Once a thing like this gets a notion to expand infinitely at near warp speed it's pretty hard to apply the brakes.
At some point, space and time got together forming a continuum which established a speed limit for light and rules for the conservation of energy. It's hard to see why it needed conserving considering the universe contained more energy than you could shake a stick at. (I don't imagine shaking a stick at a universe full of energy would accomplish much though.) But the Space-Time Continuum was thinking long term intending to last forever and ever. (How much longer "forever and ever" is than just plain "forever" is hard to make out. Some folks are never satisfied, even though enough is enough.)
The Space-Time Continuum also passed the laws of gravity and motion. To apply the laws they assembled a bunch of Newtonian Principals who outlawed perpetual motion machines. Some people still try to smuggle in all types of these outlawed devices, but the arms of the laws of physics are particularly long and the machines only work outside the known universe which is very hard to get to.
The continuum also hired some Quantum Mechanics to engineer the working parts of this business. Early on there was dissension in the ranks, the Quantum Mechanics didn't agree with the Newtonian Principals so they made up their own rules. Since there was two ways the universe worked, the Space-Time Continuum invented the Uncertainty Principle so sometimes things worked one way and sometimes the other depending on which was more convenient at the time. Whether or not this is intelligent design I leave others to debate.
Fast-forward a million years, give or take a millennium, things were still on the hyper-kinetic chaotic side. The Newtonian Principals began gathering together and organizing things by enforcing the law of Gravity. A very serious law, and hence the name. Their motto, "In unity there is strength. In strength there is opportunity. Opportunity only knocks once. Keep an ear peeled." (Not their best work, but it was a start.)
Why the Newtonian Principals chose gravity as the means to organize the universe is something of a quandry. Especially since gravity is the weakest force available for such an enormous place like the universe. In fact, there was a 95% shortage of gravity to make it work, so they invented great gobs of dark matter to make up the deficit. Even so, they also discovered there wasn't enough energy to make things move the way they did. So they made up dark energy. It's very easy to explain things if you can just make stuff up. That's how astrophysicists do it, and so will we.
Returning to our story, while organizing the cosmos exotic shapes like cones or pyramids may have been tried, but if you've ever tried to herd cats or shove hyper charged particles about you can understand why the "keep it simple, stupid" school prevailed. In the end (the beginning really) the consensus was that a ball was just the ticket. Cubes were right out because, as Einstein said, "God doesn't play dice with the universe." Even though he said it a long time after the fact.
So balls it would be. Balls are fun, they roll and bounce and can be used for all sorts of fun and games. Plus no particles get stuck in a corner feeling left out and so join in the fun. If a ball gets big enough you can make a planet. A planet can have plants and animals and people who can start civilizations, building things like houses and cities and starting governments and generally mucking things up if they're not careful. People can also make lots of other, though admittedly much smaller balls; baseballs, soccer balls, basketballs, and footballs, which aren't shaped like balls at all. Perhaps this amuses the Newtonian Principals, it's hard to say.
In some cases there seemed to be a want of real leadership and instead of anything cohesive the particles congregated into great amorphous masses which succeeded only in turning chaos into anarchy. These space blobs are called nebula, plural for nebulous, meaning "not shaped like anything in particular." (Probably something from Greek or Latin, as is often the case.) So a nebula is shaped like a group of shapeless shapes, or something. I don't get it and neither do the particles that make one up, which may explain it.
Part 2: Getting Up to Speed
Part 3: Getting Back to Basics