|By Steve Jurvetson - Flickr, CC BY 2.0|
I expect anybody reading this post will be familiar with the Big Bang theory (not the TV show) but just in case Wikipedia will be sufficient for our purposes. Suffice to say that scientific evidence from astronomical calculations - the background radiation that fills space, the red shift in galaxies and the like - all support the idea that the universe as we know it began in a huge expansion13.8 billion years ago. The thing about the BBT that gets everybody - doubters and believers alike - is what happened before the Big Bang?
Enter Brian Cox. Here's an interview he did with Jeff Forshaw and the Guardian newspaper in which they discuss a few ideas about the Big Bang.
I'm expecting that in the next episode of the show we'll see what evidence they're looking for at Australian observatories. Since we have so few people on our vast continent, we have a lot of very dark sky, and a number of very large telescope arrays. The biggest one is the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, located about 300km north-east of Geraldton, Western Australia. It is the home of the Australian SKA Pathfinder and the Murchison Widefield Array groups of radio telescopes. It will also shortly be the home of a significant part of the Square Kilometre Array, a radio telescope that will have a total collecting area of approximately one square kilometre (the other part will be in South Africa). When completed, the SKA will be 50 times more sensitive than any radio telescope in existence. (source Australian Geographic) Brian hasn't been to that one, but he did visit Siding Spring in NSW, located not all that far from the Parkes dish which Donna talked about in her recent post.
Anyway, here's a Youtube video with a rather good, easily understood description of possible theories. It's less than 5 minutes long.
I can't help but add a little personal story about how I first discovered the incomparable Terry Pratchett.
I’ll always remember the first Discworld book I read. I was kicking my heels in the domestic terminal at Perth airport, browsing for a book to read on the long flight to Sydney. I’d seen the book with the cartoon cover in the SF section a few times before, but had skipped over it for spaceships and things. This time, I picked it up and read the blurb. Then I read the prologue, in which TP introduced everybody to the great space-going turtles that carried worlds on their backs. It was an Indian legend that I’d come across in my studies.
Some scientists believed in the ‘steady gait’ theory, in which the turtles journeyed unendingly through the multi-verse, never changing pace. Others contended that the turtles were travelling to a meeting place, where they would mate and create more star turtles. This was known as the ‘big bang’ theory. After I’d wiped tears of laughter from my eyes, I made my way to the counter and bought the book. I bought hard copies of every book Sir T wrote.
Sigh. I will miss Terry Pratchett forever.