It’s not every day that you get to rediscover the words of a world famous, influential thinker of Albert Einstein himself.
A nearly 20-minute video interview with the “Father of the Big Bang” was found in the archive of a public service broadcaster called Vlaamse Radio- en Televisieomroeporganisatie (VRT), located in the Flemish region of Belgium.
Scientists say watching the lost footage feels like “peeping through time”.
The intellectual interview, conducted in French, was originally broadcast in 1964, and the footage is believed to have disappeared. Now, it has finally been recovered and is available online for all to see, albeit with Flemish translations. For those who do not speak Flemish or French, an English translation is also provided in the prepress on arXiv.
Georges Lemaître was a Belgian cosmologist and Catholic priest who was the first to discover that the universe was expanding, even before Edwin Hubble demonstrated the effect using the world’s largest telescope.
Lemaître’s logic convinced Einstein in the early 1930s to accept that he was wrong and that the universe could not be static, given the general theory of relativity.
According to Lemaître, the universe hatched from a primordial “cosmic egg,” an atom that exploded in an ever-expanding cosmic-ray fireworks display that continues to this day.
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However, not everyone was convinced by Lemaître’s theory, and much of his interview in 1964 was devoted to refuting his rivals.
“A very long time ago, before the theory of expansion of the universe (about 40 years ago), we expected the universe to be static. We expected that nothing would change,” Lemaître explains in the footage.
This is known as the Steady State Hypothesis, an idea championed by English astronomer Fred Hoyle in opposition to Lemaître’s ideas.
According to Hoyle, the universe was always creating new matter in a dynamic, unchanging way, like “a smooth-flowing river”.
If this is true, if matter is constantly being created and sent downriver, then there should be a mixture of young and old galaxies scattered throughout the universe.
On the other hand, the Big Bang (a term coined by Hoyle) means that ancient galaxies are farther away from the epicenter.
For many years, these two scenarios were hotly debated, and it was not until the 1950s that astronomical observations confirmed the validity of the latter position.
“What will be the first consequence of this disintegration, as far as we can follow the theory, is, in fact, that we have a universe, an expanding space filled with plasma, with very energetic rays going in all directions,” Lemaitre explains in the recently rediscovered interview.
“Something that does not at all look like a homogeneous gas. Then by a process which we can only vaguely imagine, unfortunately, which we cannot follow in many details, the gases must form locally; gas clouds move at great speeds…”
Hoyle and Lemaître agreed that these gas clouds are composed almost entirely of hydrogen. But scientists disagree about how these hydrogen gases came to be.
Hoyle believes they were produced naturally through a “reasonable physical process,” Lemaitre explains in the interview. Lemaître thought of the beginning as “a kind of dummy hydrogen appearing with just the right amount of hydrogen to verify a prior law.”
Cosmic rays shooting through the universe are essentially fossils of that phantom primordial atom.
says physicist Satya Goncho Goncho of the US Department of Energy, a co-author of the preprint paper.
One of the most interesting parts of the missing interview is when Lemaitre is asked how he reconciles his scientific theory with his religion.
“I don’t advocate primordial atoms for any religious ulterior motive,” he says in the interview.
“It’s obviously a bit of a sore spot,” he adds. “I’m a bit afraid to explain it in a few words now.”
The astronomer and priest did not find the Big Bang at odds with his religion, nor did he believe that science demanded a religious explanation. Obviously, the topic was not interested in discussing it openly.
“Lemaître and others have provided us with the mathematical framework that forms the basis of our current efforts to understand our universe,” says Gontcho.
“Cosmology tries to make sense of what happened in the universe’s past – and for most of us who make observations, that means measuring the rate at which the universe was accelerating at different moments in time very accurately. And if you understand how the universe expanded at different moments in time, then you can narrow down the energy range.” dark.”
The translated interview is available as a preprint on arXiv.