ANTIOCH – Charles Sven was not trained as an astronomer. And he doesn't spend a bunch of time looking through a telescope.
Yet, for 15 years, he has thought a lot about the beginnings of the universe. While he accepts the big bang theory, he wants to know what caused it.
In the late 1990s, he started a website – allnewuniverse.com – devoted to the topic. Early next month, he will present his conclusions during a conference of the International Big History Association in San Rafael, Calif.
The universe is not his only interest. His front yard on Westlake Avenue in Antioch contains a number of pieces of colorful artwork, all his creations. The first floor of his two-story house is one extended room, its crafted ceilings his work.
The back wall is all window, for an obvious reason: It faces Lake Marie, part of the Chain O' Lakes. The Chicago native moved there three decades ago.
Sven won't give his age, although he revealed he retired in 2002. Once a person gives his age, he said, everyone assumes he feels that number.
"It's hard to get past age," he said.
Sven's last job was as a math teacher for North Chicago High School, where he worked for two years.
"I did a lot of things before I became a teacher," he said. "I'm a jack of all trades, a master of none."
Except maybe when it comes to talking about the universe. Sven, who has three daughters and five grandchildren, became interested in the subject after he read a Chicago Tribune story about gamma rays in the mid-1990s.
For the association, he has a well-practiced 22-minute PowerPoint presentation ready to go.
"Scientists have no idea on what could have precipitated the big bang. According to them, there was nothing before the big bang. They believe the universe exploded into being from nothing. It's like saying, 'I know how you got here, but I am absolutely sure you have no mother," Sven said.
The estimated age of atoms is greater than the 13-billion-year-old universe, he said, so where were they before the big bang?
Sven gives a complex answer involving electrons and dark energy. Sometimes things seem to come from nowhere – for example, the flame from a match or an atomic bomb explosion, he said. But those atoms, he argued, were there before.
"All of space was filled with dark energy going back beyond," he said.
The association is limiting him to 20 minutes and then a 10-minute question-and-answer session. Sven said he can't find a way to speak any less than 22 minutes. So he's hoping he can get the extra two.
"Everything is needed to understand this."