Where were all of the things a long time ago? Can we find out by looking at things now?

I took a stab at writing about my research using only the thousand most common words in English, with the help of the upgoerfive text editor — and I had a blast. Restrictions breed creativity, and I like anything that makes it easier to get ideas across to a wider audience. Hopefully, you’ll find it interesting too.

Some of my friends and I use big computers to try to find out where stuff was — all of the stuff, in every place out in space — in the first tiny part of a second, at the beginning of time. We do this by looking at where all of the stuff in space is now, and trying to guess what that means about where stuff was before. But it is very hard to do that, even with a big computer.

Part of the reason it is hard is that the first tiny part of a second was a long time ago — say the word “hundred” five times, and then say “years,” and that will be close to how long ago it was. Because it was so long ago, most of the things that were around then are not around anymore — they changed, because time changes things.

It is also hard because there might be weird things out there in space, not like the things we know and see around us every day. We don’t know for sure that the weird things are there because they are very dark, which makes it hard to see them when we look out in space. (Some people think these weird dark things might be close by, and look for them around here. That is fun too, but that is not what I do with my friends.) We would like to know if those dark things are there, and what kind of dark things they are.

http://xkcd.com/428/So we want to know about the oldest old stuff, some of which is dark, and most of which isn’t around anymore. But just because something is gone doesn’t mean you can’t tell it used to be there. We know a lot of things about how stuff works around here on our world, and we think things work the same way in space. So using the things we know about stuff here, we can figure out how stuff changes in space, and try to figure out how stuff has changed since the beginning of time. When there is lots of stuff, it is hard to know how it will change, but the computer can help us with that.

People do not know for sure yet about the way stuff looked in the first part of a second. I spent a few years trying to find out more, and I learned a tiny new thing that no other people knew, which was very exciting. It was so exciting that my teachers decided to make me a doctor because of it, so now I am a doctor. But the thing I learned was still a very tiny thing, and it is still very hard to find out where stuff was in the first part of a second at the beginning of time.

But we try, even though it is hard, because we really want to know what happened at the beginning of time. Also, knowing where stuff was at the beginning of time tells us about how the stuff we are made of got here, and we really want to know more about that. But most of all, we do it because it is fun, and really cool, and my friends and I like to do fun cool things.

The upgoerfive text editor was put together by Theo Sanderson, and it was inspired by this XKCD comic. It’s been all over Twitter for the last few days under hashtag #upgoerfive. There’s some more examples of upgoerfive science here, here, and here, and some people have also been using it to write out the plots of some movies here.

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