From the December 2018 issue

The Big Bad Bang

Efforts to disprove the theory have produced a century of failure.
By | Published: December 12, 2018 | Last updated on May 18, 2023

t’s been almost a century since Alexander Friedman and Georges Lemaître solved Einstein’s equations of general relativity for the case of an expanding universe. At the time the idea was something of a theoretician’s fever dream, and it seemed unlikely that cosmologists (back when they were just called astronomers) would have much trouble putting the idea in its grave.

Vesto Slipher and Edwin Hubble were the first to take a real shot at it, but they failed. Their observations showed that distant galaxies are moving away faster than nearby galaxies, just as Lemaître predicted. Yes, Hubble’s law was really Lemaître’s prediction. But when stuff gets named, the one who made the measurements usually gets the glory. Scientists have this funny notion that data matters more than anything.

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