A lost interview with Big Bang’s father reveals a captivating conversation

In 1931, A.A His name is the Belgian cosmologist Georges Lemaitre The astronomer was shocked.

Perhaps, he said in a provocative paper, our utterly colossal cosmic vastness may have begun as a very small singular point about 14 billion years ago. However, he continued, the blob may have exploded, eventually spilling over into a huge world that we call the Universe – a world that is still bursting in every direction as if it were an indomitable balloon.

If this is true, then this means that our universe has not always existed. This means that he must have had a beginning.

A still from found footage of Georges Lemaitre, the father of the Big Bang Theory.

VRT/screenshot by Monisha Ravisetti

Then, in 1965—a year before Lemaitre died—scientists used Discovery Cosmic microwave background radiation To finally provide undeniable proof of this theory.

Today, we call it the Big Bang.

And on December 31, Belgium’s national public service broadcaster for the Flemish Community – Radio Vlaamese- en Televisieomroeporganisatie, or VRT – He restored something very cool.

It is believed to be the only extant video of Lemaître.

Even better, this precious footage, broadcast in 1964, is of an interview with the respected physicist in which he discusses what he calls the “primordial atom hypothesis,” aka the basis of his famous Big Bang theory.

“It was found that the film file was misclassified and Lemaitre’s name was misspelled,” VRT Archives member Kathleen Bertrim said in a statement. As a result, the interview remained untraceable for years. But one day, while a staff member was scanning a few rolls of film, he suddenly recognized Lemaître in the footage and realized he had struck gold.

The interview itself was done in French – and is available in Flemish subtitles if you’d like to watch it online – but in an effort to make the film more widely available, experts I published a paper this month Provides English translation of a clip of approximately 20 minutes.

“Of all the people who came up with the framework of cosmology we’re working with now, there are very few records of how they talked about their work,” Satya Goncho A. Goncho, a scientist at DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who led the translation, said in a statement. “To hear the variations of the phrase and how things were discussed…it’s like peeping through time.”

Reading through the entire discussion is actually quite interesting. It’s incredible to see what a scientist had to say, literally, about ideas that will eventually change the course of history, physics, and even human perspective.

It’s also quite surprising how clear, compelling, and fresh the discussion seems. Almost like a podcast.

Here are some highlights

“A very long time ago, before the expansion theory of the universe (about 40 years ago),” Lemaître told an interviewer, according to the text, “we expected the universe to be static. We expected nothing to change.”

He goes on to call such a concept a preconceived notion, implying that no one has actually had any experience with it Evidence to prove how static the fabric of space and time really was. However, as Lemaître says (which we now know for sure) many evidentiary facts confirm expansion Universe.

“We realized we had to acknowledge the change,” he said. But those who wanted there to be no change… In a way, they were saying, ‘While we can only acknowledge that it is changing, it should change as little as possible.’

On this front, Lemaître points to the beliefs of astronomer Fred Hoyle, who at the time had firmly promoted the fact that our universe was “fixed,” or immutable. Hoyle was, astoundingly, the first person to use the term “big bang” to describe what Lemaître proposed, but he did so with a cadence. mockery. However, the name stuck.

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

A slew of physicists did, including, in particular, Albert Einstein and Edwin Hubble (yes, the Hubble Space Telescope’s namesake). In fact, it was Hubble that showed the scientific community why the universe is expanding in all directions. He used a huge telescope in California again in 1929 To record how far galaxies are from us over time.

Combined with the Hubble observations, a 1927 paper by Lemaître eventually helped convince the majority of astronomers that our universe is completely inflating outward.

“Lemaître and others have provided us with the mathematical framework that forms the basis of our current efforts to understand our universe,” said Gontcho A Gontcho.

For example, Gontcho A Gontcho also points out how knowing the expansion rate of the universe helps us study more elusive aspects of the universe, such as the great The secret of dark energy.

Oddly enough, dark energy seems to be forcing our universe to expand much faster than it should, even causing it to move faster and faster as time progresses.

On the left is Millikan, in the middle is Lumitri and on the right is Einstein.  The three are standing in front of a window.  The photo is black and white.

Georges Lemaitre (center) shown here with Albert Einstein during their fellowships at Caltech. With them, Robert A. Millikan, President of the Institute.

Getty Images

The second half of Lemaître’s interview focuses not on the scientific implications of his theory but on the philosophical, even religious, implications. In addition to being a well-known cosmologist, Lemaître was a famous Catholic priest.

The interviewer asked him, for example, whether the idea that the universe must have a beginning bore any religious significance. Lemaitre responded by simply stating, “I do not advocate the primordial atom for any ulterior religious motive.”

At this point, though, the cosmologist says more details on this topic can be found in a separate interview. Pushing the interviewer a little further, Lemaître asked a question about how religious authorities would react to his theories.

For this, Lemaître mainly touches on how the questions about the significance of when, why and how the beginning of time came about – religious or not – are a kind of debate. He said, “The beginning is so inconceivable, so different from the present state of the world that such a question is not asked.”

Even if God exists theoretically, he says he does not believe that God’s existence would conflict with the scientific nature of astronomical theory.

“If God supports the galaxies, then he acts as God,” Lemaitre said. “He does not act as a force that would go against everything. It is not a Voltaire watchmaker who has to wind his watch from time to time, is he … [laughs]. there!”

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