INTRODUCTION


 

    Every culture, from the ancient tale-spinners of the Indus Valley to the modern technocrats of the Silicon Valley, has held its own unique view of the cosmos. Astronomy, the oldest science mainly based on observation, cannot be separated from physical law and mathematics. Big advances in space science and technology in this century have allowed astronomers to look both deeper into space and farther back in time, thereby discovering a close connection between particle physics and cosmology. The study of the creation, evolution, and structure of the universe has become a legitimate subject for astronomers, physicists, and mathematicians.

    The article presents an outline of the current knowledge about the structure - more precisely the structural elements - of the universe from the point of view of the standard "big-bang" model (dubbed macrocosmos) and the standard model of fundamental particles (dubbed microcosmos). In this regard an important point has to be made that the article does not consider the time dependent phenomena that ought to characterize the evolution of the universe but is focused on the structural elements of the universe as discovered by observation at the present stage of the evolution of the universe. One can ask the question of how it is possible to understand the universe on the basis of its structural elements? The ancient atomic philosophers may have answered: This objection is similar to that of someone saying, how can the entire poem of Homer, the Iliad, be composed of only 24 letters, those 24 letters of the Greek alphabet. Hidden in that thought is, that the richness of the poem is not compromised by the fact, that a method exists to ultimately trace it back to a few, very elementary and simple elements, such as the formal contents of the Greek language to the 24 characters, that are being referred to as the Greek alphabet. However, the degree of the current understanding of the structural elements of the universe (compared with the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet) reveals the fact, that the scientific establishment is still far away from understanding the beauty of the structure and evolution of the universe as a whole (compared with the Iliad).

    The article is divided into six parts. The first three parts recount the development of macrophysical and microphysical knowledge from prehistory to the present. Part four is devoted to the elements of the standard model of fundamental interactions, namely the leptons, quarks, and gauge bosons. The fifth part discusses the structural elements of the universe, from the large-scale structure down to the stars. Finally, the sixth part emphasizes the importance of mathematics for the physics and astronomy of the structure of the universe.