Robert Woodrow Wilson: Tuning in to the Big Bang | Summary and Q&A

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November 10, 2014
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World Science Festival
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Robert Woodrow Wilson: Tuning in to the Big Bang

TL;DR

Robert Woodro Wilson and Arno Penus discovered excess noise in their radio telescope, which turned out to be the cosmic microwave background radiation, providing evidence for the Big Bang theory.

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Questions & Answers

Q: How did Robert Woodro Wilson and Arno Penus discover the cosmic microwave background radiation?

They initially observed excess noise in their radio telescope and ruled out possible sources like atomic tests and city noise. A visit from Princeton researchers confirmed that the excess noise was cosmic microwave background radiation.

Q: What is the significance of the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation?

The discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation provided strong evidence for the Big Bang theory and offered insights into the early universe. It revolutionized cosmology and allowed scientists to study the origins of the universe.

Q: How did the presence of pigeons affect the initial measurements?

While pigeons were living in the antenna, they were not the cause of the excess noise observed by Wilson and Penus. Cleaning out the pigeons' nesting area did not significantly affect the noise levels, leading them to explore other possibilities.

Q: How has cosmology changed in the decades since the discovery?

The discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation opened up new avenues for cosmology. Scientists have made significant progress in understanding the universe's early stages and have derived a remarkable amount of information from the microwave radiation.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • In 1964, Robert Woodro Wilson and Arno Penus discovered excess noise in their radio telescope designed for satellite tracking.

  • They ruled out atomic tests and city noise as the source and discovered that pigeons nesting in the antenna did not contribute significantly to the noise.

  • A visit from Princeton researchers led to the realization that the excess noise was cosmic microwave background radiation, supporting the Big Bang theory.

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