Before the big bang, there was nothing. No time and no space. The big bang had nowhere to go so its expansion created space, as it was pushed out by unfathomable energy and the simple fact of change within its structure created time. It was small now it is big.
Fundamental particles obeying the laws of physics coalesced into atoms of hydrogen and helium. Eventually, after billions of years, these atoms began to form stars and these stars lived and died and out of their death throws were forged all the elemental particles we find today. Unimaginable pressures within dying stars produced gold, diamonds, uranium and iron. After billions more years these heavy elements formed planets which circled their stars and crashed and burned or withered and blinked out of existence.
At long last, our own solar system was born and within it, Earth. A water world gifted with all the elements necessary to produce and sustain life. Almost from the beginning, it was infested with organisms. Although numerous these were nothing more than a carpet of single-celled creatures passively absorbing our sun’s gifts, unaware and cosmically insignificant. Eventually, more complex life forms appeared and disappeared, victims of a still hostile universe and a constantly changing planetary environment.
About a million years ago a creature appeared which would become modern humans. A creature with a self-awareness sufficient to understand its place in the universe. At first, we told fantastical stories to locate us in the world but as we progressed technologically we developed tools to probe the furthest reaches of the universe. We could see the furthest stars and we gained a vision of our insignificance in the face of a vast and expanding universe. We could see the smallest particles and we gained an insight into the importance and deep significance of our observations and how they create reality.
The universe took 13.5 billion years to produce a creature with a mind capable of staring into the spaces between the moments of time created by the movement of particles which have existed from the beginning and for which time means nothing. A mind which gives these particles form and which seeks to see past the beginning to understand why there is something rather than nothing and give meaning to an otherwise bleak and unthinking universe.
This mind is also the mind which has planned the traffic system in Swansea City Centre for the past 42 years so I’m going out on a limb here and say we may never find out the meaning of life the universe and everything. Or if we do, we’ll build a one-way system around it which will be more difficult to figure out than the actual meaning of life.