The Big Bang theory was totally rejected at first. But those who supported it had predicted that the ignition of the Big Bang would have left behind a sort of ‘hot flash’ of radiation.
If a big black wood stove produces heat that you can feel, then in a similar manner, the Big Bang should produce its own kind of heat that would echo throughout the universe.
In 1965, without looking for it, two physicists at Bell Labs in New Jersey found it. At first, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson were bothered because, while trying to refine the world’s most sensitive radio antenna, they couldn’t eliminate a bothersome source of noise. They picked up this noise everywhere they pointed the antenna.
At first they thought it was bird droppings. The antenna was so sensitive it could pick up the heat of bird droppings (which certainly are warm when they’re brand new) but even after cleaning it off, they still picked up this noise.
This noise had actually been predicted in detail by other astronomers, and after a year of checking and re-checking the data, they arrived at a conclusion: This crazy Big Bang theory really was correct.
In an interview, Penzias was asked why there was so much resistance to the Big Bang theory.
He said, “Most physicists would rather attempt to describe the universe in ways which require no explanation. And since science can’t *explain* anything – it can only *describe* things – that’s perfectly sensible. If you have a universe which has always been there, you don’t explain it, right?
“Somebody asks you, ‘How come all the secretaries in your company are women?’ You can say, ‘Well, it’s always been that way.’ That’s a way of not having to explain it. So in the same way, theories which don’t require explanation tend to be the ones accepted by science, which is perfectly acceptable and the best way to make science work.”
But on the older theory that the universe was eternal, he explains: “It turned out to be so ugly that people dismissed it. What we find – the simplest theory – is a creation out of nothing, the appearance out of nothing of the universe.”
Penzias and his partner, Robert Wilson, won the Nobel Prize for their discovery of this radiation. The Big Bang theory is now one of the most thoroughly validated theories in all of science.
Robert Wilson was asked by journalist Fred Heeren if the Big Bang indicated a creator.
Wilson said, “Certainly there was something that set it all off. Certainly, if you are religious, I can’t think of a better theory of the origin of the universe to match with Genesis.”
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s installment: “Why the Big Bang was the most precisely planned event in all of history.”
For further reading:
“A Day Without Yesterday” – Albert Einstein, Georges Lemaitre and the Big Bang