How much energy and heat were produced by the big bang? I'm reading Bill Bryson's Short history.... He mentioned a point that to forage light elements like hydrogen, helium and lithium into elements like carbon, oxygen, it requires kind of heat and energy of a big bang. Can't we artificially make a carbon atom out of hydrogen atom in the particle accelerator? How much energy does it take approximately?


1 Answer 1


How much energy was produced in the Big Bang? All of it. Since energy can never be created or destroyed, all the energy in the universe was also there at the Big Bang, except that it was in one tiny spot.

Smashing small elements into each other to produce larger elements is called fusion, and it doesn't actually need energies as huge as those during the Big Bang to do it - even average stars like our sun can and will fuse larger elements.

It takes an awful lot of energy to do it, though. The sun is huge, so it just gravitationally compresses and heats the elements until they have nowhere to go but into each other. On Earth, it's considerably harder, and it's an active area of research since nuclear fusion can produce huge amounts of entirely renewable, entirely safe energy.

Video on how nuclear fusion works. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cb8NX3HiS4U

A Tokomak fusion reactor working with 100,000,000 degrees C plasma (those blue lightningish flashes). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8BZyiggEAE

Enjoy! :)

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. So what about Bill Bryson's statment in the book? Is it wrong? $\endgroup$
    – user40003
    Jan 26, 2015 at 5:54
  • $\begingroup$ Well, it's just an exaggeration, I suppose. Certainly, massive quantities of carbon/oxygen were created as a result of the Big Bang, but that's at a relatively low energy long, long after the interesting stuff is over. The interesting stuff includes things like formation of the subatomic particles themselves (quark confinement into protons and neutrons), splitting of various forces (gravity, electromagnetism, strong, weak), etc. $\endgroup$
    – oink
    Jan 26, 2015 at 6:22

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