Genesis of the Big Bang

Genesis of the Big Bang

Genesis of the Big Bang

Genesis of the Big Bang

Synopsis

The authors of this volume have been intimately connected with the conception of the Big Bang model since 1947. Following the late George Gamow's ideas in 1942 and more particularly in 1946 that the early universe was an appropriate site for the synthesis of the elements, they became deeply involved in the question of cosmic nucleosynthesis and particularly the synthesis of the light elements. In the course of this work they developed a general relativistic model of the expanding universe with physics folded in, which led in a progressive, logical sequence to our prediction of the existence of a present cosmic background radiation some seventeen years before the observation of such radiation was reported by Penzias and Wilson. In addition, they carried out with James W. Follin, Jr., a detailed study of the physics of what was then considered to be the very early universe, starting a few seconds after the Big Bang, which still provides a methodology for studies of light element nucleosynthesis. Because of their involvement, they bring a personal perspective to the subject. They present a picture of what is now believed to be the state of knowledge about the evolution of the expanding universe and delineate the story of the development of the Big Bang model as they have seen and lived it from their own unique vantage point.

Excerpt

One of the reasons for writing a preface is to explain why the authors have felt moved to write a book in the first place. A second reason in this case is not only to arouse curiosity and interest in cosmology and its scholarship but also to stimulate potential readers to read this book, since there are others dealing with many of the same topics we cover.

Our book has had a long gestation period. We have had in mind writing about the development of the Big Bang model of the universe ever since a landmark event took place in 1965. It was in that year that Arno A. Penzias and Robert W. Wilson, then at the Bell Telephone Laboratories, published their discovery of a residual cosmic microwave background, the nowfamous three-degree radiation, which pervades the universe. Almost overnight the scientific community as well as the lay public found reason to believe that a dynamic, evolving universe beginning with a singular event, the so-called Big Bang, was a credible model. This discovery was only the most recent significant step, because it had become clear many years earlier that the idea of an expanding universe was not only consistent with but virtually required by Einstein's general theory of relativity. Moreover, the observation of that expansion by the astronomers Vesto M. Slipher, Edwin Hubble, and Milton Humason had come to be widely accepted. Finally, it had also become evident that it was necessary to invoke an extremely hot, dense early stage in the expanding universe in order to understand the cosmic abundances of the lightest elements—namely, deuterium, helium, and lithium—relative to hydrogen.

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