Afterglow of Creation: From the Fireball to the Discovery of Cosmic Ripples

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9780935702408: Afterglow of Creation: From the Fireball to the Discovery of Cosmic Ripples
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This is the story of the cosmic background radiation, the "afterglow" of the Big Bang in which the Universe was born. Fifteen billion years after the event, the afterglow still permeates all of space, making it the oldest relic in creation and providing an imprint of the Universe as it was in its infancy.
But the most astonishing thing about the afterglow of creation is that it wasn't discovered until 1965, and then only by accident - despite the fact that it had been predicted in 1948 and the technology to detect it existed during World War II.
Chown brilliantly weaves a tale of the search for the origins of the Universe. Beginning in the 1920s and culminating with the flight of the COBE satellite and what it found, this book uncovers the secrets of the Universe.

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About the Author:

Marcus Chown is the cosmology consultant for New Scientist.  He graduated from the University of London with a first-class degree in physics, and four years later he gained a Master of Science in astrophysics from the California Institute of Technology. He has been a lecturer in Madagascar, a freelance writer, and a broadcaster for the BBC. He is the author of a children's book, Stars and Planets, and the coauthor of two science fiction novels, Double Planet and Reunion. Afterglow of Creation is his first venture into popular science. He is married and lives in Worcestershire, England.

From Kirkus Reviews:

This account of the scientific work that has created our modern picture of the origins of the universe was a best-seller in Britain; it deserves to be equally popular here. Chown, the cosmology consultant for New Scientist, begins by showing how scientists concluded that at some time in the distant past the universe, then very tiny, exploded. George Gamow was among the first to explore the consequences of the ``Big Bang,'' especially the fact that the early universe would have had an extremely high temperature. Two of Gamow's research students pointed out (in 1948) that the original explosion would in theory be detectable today as a residual layer of energy throughout the universe. More than 15 years passed before anyone attempted the measurement. Ironically, two teams worked on it within a few miles of each other--one at Princeton, the other at Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, N.J. The Bell team, composed of Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias, made the key discovery in 1965 and won the Nobel Prize for it. But a subtler measurement remained to be made. Theory implied that the Big Bang radiation would show irregularities--``ripples,'' as they were dubbed--to account for the present structure of the universe, which is far from uniform. In one of the largest scientific team efforts ever assembled, the COBE (COsmic Background Explorer) satellite was created to attempt the measurements, which Chown describes as the most difficult ever made. After rigorous testing, several redesigns, and unprecedented difficulties, COBE was launched. The results were stunning--including a measurement of the cosmic background radiation that matched the theoretical predictions within 0.25 percent. Chown concludes his account with a description of the resulting publicity and wrangling among team members who felt that one team leader, George Smoot (who had described a ``map'' of the ripples as ``like seeing the face of God''), was hogging the spotlight. A lucid account of the key developments in modern cosmology, especially good at capturing the human dimension of scientific work. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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