Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

The Evolution of the Universe

Abstract

THE discovery of the red shift in the spectra of distant stellar galaxies revealed the important fact that our universe is in the state of uniform expansion, and raised an interesting question as to whether the present features of the universe could be understood as the result of its evolutionary development, which must have started a few thousand million years ago from a homogeneous state of extremely high density and temperature. We conclude first of all that the relative abundances of various atomic species (which were found to be essentially the same all over the observed region of the universe) must represent the most ancient archæological document pertaining to the history of the universe. These abundances must have been established during the earliest stages of expansion when the temperature of the primordial matter was still sufficiently high to permit nuclear transformations to run through the entire range of chemical elements. It is also interesting to notice that the observed relative amounts of natural radioactive elements suggest that their nuclei must have been formed (presumably along with all other stable nuclei) rather soon after the beginning of the universal expansion. In fact, we notice that natural radioactive isotopes with the decay periods of many thousand million years (such as uranium-238, thorium-232 and samarium-148) are comparatively abundant, whereas those with decay periods measuring only several hundred million years are extremely rare (as uranium-235 and potassium-40). If, using the known decay periods and natural abundances of these isotopes, we try to calculate the date when they have been about as abundant as the corresponding isotopes of longer life, we find that it must have been a few thousand million years ago, in general agreement with the astronomically determined age of the universe.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. v. Weizsäcker, C., Phys. Z., 39, 633 (1938).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Chandrasekhar, S., and Henrich, L. R., Astrophys. J., 95, 288 (1942).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Gamow, G., Phys. Rev., 70, 572 (1946).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Alpher, R. A., Bethe, H. A., and Gamow, G., Phys. Rev., 73, 803 (1948).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Alpher, R. A., Phys. Rev. (in the press).

  6. Tolman, R. C., "Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology" (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1934).

    MATH  Google Scholar 

  7. Bethe, H. A., "Elementary Nuclear Physics" (John Wiley and Sons, 1947).

    MATH  Google Scholar 

  8. Jeans, J., "Astronomy and Cosmogony" (Cambridge University Press, 1928).

    MATH  Google Scholar 

  9. Spitzer, jun., L., Astrophys. J., 95, 329 (1942).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Whipple, F., Astrophys. J., 104, 1 (1946).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

GAMOW, G. The Evolution of the Universe. Nature 162, 680–682 (1948). https://doi.org/10.1038/162680a0

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/162680a0

This article is cited by

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing