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Feb 15, 2005
Temperature of Space

The discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR) is popularly believed to prove the Big Bang. That proof is spot on—if you allow a big enough spot. One of the first predictions was that it would indicate a "temperature of space" of 5 Kelvin (5K). That prediction was revised upward until it reached 50K shortly before the CMBR was discovered. When the discovery measured it to be only 2.7K, the Big Bang proponents claimed it and ignored the size of the spot required to cover the gap.

They also ignored a long history of other predictions from other theories that required much tinier spots. In 1896, Charles Edouard Guillaume predicted a temperature of 5.6K from heating by starlight. Arthur Eddington refined the calculations in 1926 and predicted a temperature of 3K. Regener predicted 2.8 in 1933.

The first astronomer to collect observations from which the temperature of space could be calculated was Andrew McKellar. In 1941 he announced a temperature of 2.3K from radiative excitation of certain molecules. But World War II occupied everyone's attention and his paper was ignored.

George Gamow, credited with the prediction from Big Bang assumptions, estimated 5K in 1948. In the 1950s he raised that estimate to 10K, and by 1961 he was predicting 50K, overlooking McKellar's prior measurement and another measurement of 3K by Tigran Shmaonov in 1955. Meanwhile, in 1954, Finlay-Freundlich predicted 1.9K to 6K on the basis of "tired light" assumptions.

The discovery of the excess temperature of 3.5 +/- 1K by Penzias and Wilson in 1965 can be claimed as proof of the Big Bang only by applying a cognitive spot that obliterates over half a century of history.


David Talbott, Wallace Thornhill
Amy Acheson
  CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Mel Acheson, Michael Armstrong, Dwardu Cardona,
Ev Cochrane, C.J. Ransom, Don Scott, Rens van der Sluijs, Ian Tresman
  WEBMASTER: Michael Armstrong

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