Cosmology and Controversy

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9780691026237: Cosmology and Controversy


For over three millennia, most people could understand the universe only in terms of myth, religion, and philosophy. Between 1920 and 1970, cosmology transformed into a branch of physics. With this remarkably rapid change came a theory that would finally lend empirical support to many long-held beliefs about the origins and development of the entire universe: the theory of the big bang. In this book, Helge Kragh presents the development of scientific cosmology for the first time as a historical event, one that embroiled many famous scientists in a controversy over the very notion of an evolving universe with a beginning in time. In rich detail he examines how the big-bang theory drew inspiration from and eventually triumphed over rival views, mainly the steady-state theory and its concept of a stationary universe of infinite age.


In the 1920s, Alexander Friedmann and Georges Lemaître showed that Einstein's general relativity equations possessed solutions for a universe expanding in time. Kragh follows the story from here, showing how the big-bang theory evolved, from Edwin Hubble's observation that most galaxies are receding from us, to the discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation. Sir Fred Hoyle proposed instead the steady-state theory, a model of dynamic equilibrium involving the continuous creation of matter throughout the universe. Although today it is generally accepted that the universe started some ten billion years ago in a big bang, many readers may not fully realize that this standard view owed much of its formation to the steady-state theory. By exploring the similarities and tensions between the theories, Kragh provides the reader with indispensable background for understanding much of today's commentary about our universe.


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From the Back Cover:


"The ultimate validation of the big-bang theory makes for a fascinating book. Kragh [tells] the story in comprehensive and compelling detail."--Jack Zirker, National Optical Astronomy Observatories


About the Author:

Helge Kragh is Professor of the History of Science at the University of Oslo.

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Helge Kragh
Published by Princeton University Press (1996)
ISBN 10: 0691026238 ISBN 13: 9780691026237
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Kragh, Helge
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Kragh, Helge
Published by Princeton University Press (1996)
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