The Cosmic Background Radiation

Several of his students, over the years, had asked him about the cosmic background radiation. George always felt so happy when the children would ask such questions. They would sometimes ask silly questions about microwave ovens and the like, but generally, once they understood the graphs and maps, they were intrigued by this notion of micro-wave background radiation –  a remnant of the Big Bang. He would sometimes capture their attention further by calling the serendipitous discovery of this “background” radiation one of the “greatest scientific discoveries of all time”. The kids always loved hyperbole.

George would go on to explain that the detection in 1965 of this faint, cold, micro-wave radiation – a remnant from a hundred thousand or so years after the Big Bang – very strongly confirms the Big Bang Theory of Cosmology. Big Bang Physicists had already predicted the existence of such a radiation. It was an interesting story of scientific research. And the kids liked the dramatic story of it’s discovery.

Even more interesting was the overall picture (in the micro-wave radiation detected) of a homogeneous dispersal of radiation – a state of homogeneity that existed in the universe at the time that this radiation had been sent out.

The Microwave Background Radiation was also isotropic. Isotrophy means that something looks the same from wherever you look. When we look out from planet earth on the surrounding universe it looks the same to us in all directions. Either we, on earth, are in a very unique position in the universe or it is that we are simply non-central. That indeed we are such a speck in the course of time and space. The universe is no longer homogeneous. Matter has formed. Since the time this micro-wave radiation was emitted, stars, galaxies, kangaroos and shopping malls have come and gone. Actually, I would say we’re not in a bad place at all.

3 thoughts on “The Cosmic Background Radiation

  1. Not just a not-bad place, but the only one we’ve got.
    Until we start figuring out how to access the multiverses of quantum physics…

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