Lost Interview With Big Bang’s Dad Reveals A Fascinating Conversation

Lost Interview With Big Bang's Dad Reveals A Fascinating Conversation
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In 1931 a Belgian cosmologist named Georges Lemaître shocked the world of astronomy.

In a provocative article, he speculated that our immense cosmic expanse may have begun as a singular, tiny dot 14 billion years ago. Still, he continued, this point probably burst and eventually expanded into the huge realm we call the universe — which is still inflating in all directions as if it were an unexploded bubble.

If this were true, it would mean that our universe did not always exist. This means that it must have a beginning.

A black and white photograph taken from the found footage shows a close-up of Georges Lemaître sitting in front of a bookshelf.

A frame from the found images of Georges Lemaître, the father of the Big Bang theory.

VRT/Screenshot by Monisha Ravisetti

Then, in 1965 – a year before Lemaître’s death – scientists used the discovery. cosmic microwave background radiation finally laid out the undeniable proofs of this theory.

Today we call it the Big Bang.

And on 31 December, the national public service broadcaster of the Flemish Community of Belgium — Vlaamese Radio- en Televisieomroeporganisatie or VRT — saved something quite remarkable.

It is thought to be the only video of Lemaître in existence.

Better still, this precious roll of footage, published in 1964, is from an interview with the esteemed physicist discussing what he calls the “primitive atomic hypothesis”—the foundation of the iconic Big Bang theory.

“It turned out that the film file was misclassified and Lemaître’s name was misspelled,” said Kathleen Bertrem, a member of the VRT archives. Said. “As a result, the interview remained untraceable for years.” But one day, while a crew member was scanning a few rolls of film, he suddenly recognized Lemaître in the footage and realized that he had struck gold.

The interview itself was done in French — and it’s available with Dutch subtitles if you want to watch it online — but experts in an effort to bring the film to a wider audience published an article this month this provides an English translation of the approximately 20 minute clip.

“Of all the people who found the cosmology framework we’re working with right now, there’s very little record of how they talked about their work,” said Satya Gontcho A Gontcho, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Department of Energy. Berkeley Lab, which manages the translation, said in a statement. “Hearing the words turn and how things are discussed…it feels like a glimpse in time.”

It’s actually pretty weird to read the entire discussion. It’s incredible to see a scientist go word-for-word about ideas that will change the course of history, physics, and even human perspective.

It is also striking how clear, convincing and modern the debate sounds. It’s almost like a podcast.

Here are some key points

“A long time ago, before the theory of the expansion of the universe (about 40 years ago),” Lemaître tells an interviewer, “we expected the universe to be stationary. We expected that nothing would change.”

He continues to call such a concept an a priori idea, that is, no one had an empirical idea. Evidence to prove that the fabric of space and time is indeed static. Yet, as Lemaître says (and we now know for sure), many proving facts are expansion of the universe.

“We realized we had to accept change,” he said. “But those who wanted it not to change… In a way, they used to say, ‘It should change as little as possible, even though we can only accept that it has changed’.”

On this front, Lemaître points to the beliefs of astronomer Fred Hoyle, who at the time firmly defended the fact that our universe was “immutable” or static. Hoyle was fascinatingly the first to use “big bang” terminology to describe what Lemaître was proposing, but he did it with rhythm. mockers. Still, the name stuck.

This does not mean that no one supports the universe expansion theory.

Numerous physicists have done so, most notably Albert Einstein and Edwin Hubble (yes, the Hubble Space Telescope’s namesake). In fact, it was Hubble who showed the scientific community why the universe should expand in all directions. He used a huge telescope in California. in 1929 to record how far distant galaxies move from us as time progresses.

In conjunction with Hubble’s observations, a 1927 paper by Lemaître eventually helped convince the majority of astronomers that our universe was definitely ballooning outward.

“Lemaître and others have given us the mathematical framework that underlies our current efforts to understand our universe,” said Gontcho A Gontcho.

Gontcho A Gontcho, for example, also points out how knowing the expansion rate of the universe helps us study elusive aspects of the cosmos, such as the grand universe. the mystery of dark energy.

Strangely, dark energy is forcing our universe to expand much faster than it should, and even faster as time progresses.

Millikan on the left, Lemaître in the middle and Einstein on the right.  The three of them are standing in front of a window.  The image is black and white.

Georges Lemaître (centre) is seen here interviewing Albert Einstein at the California Institute of Technology. The head of the Institute, Robert A. Millikan, is with them.

Getty Pictures

The second half of Lemaître’s interview focuses not on the scientific implications of his theory, but on its philosophical, even religious, implications. Besides being a prominent cosmologist, Lemaître was a famous Catholic priest.

For example, the interviewer asks him if the idea that the universe must have a beginning has any religious significance. Lemaître simply replied, “I am not defending the primordial atom for the sake of any religious ulterior motive.”

But at this point, the cosmologist says more details on the matter can be found in a separate interview. The interviewer challenges Lemaître with a question about how religious authorities might respond to his theories.

Accordingly, Lemaître touches upon how controversial questions about when, why, and how—religious or not—the beginning of time matter. “The beginning,” he said, “is so different from the current state of the world that no such question arises.”

He says that even if God theoretically exists, he does not believe that the existence of a god would interfere with the scientific nature of astronomical theory.

“If God supports galaxies, he acts like God,” Lemaître said. “He doesn’t act like a force that would go against everything. It’s not Voltaire’s watchmaker who has to wind his watch from time to time, is he . . . [laughs]. There!”

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