They recover lost video of Georges Lemaître, father of the Big Bang theory

They recover lost video of Georges Lemaître, father of the Big Bang theory

Statue of Georges Lemaitre. Credit: EmDee, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Fans of the history of science can now access a new gem: A 20 minute video interview with the father of the Big Bang theory, the Belgian Catholic priest and physicist Georges Lemaître.

The entire recording, originally issued in 1964, was thought to have been lost, with only a brief excerpt extant. In 2022, the 20-minute interview was discovered in the archives of Vlaamse Radio- en Televisieomroeporganisatie (VRT), the national public broadcasting network for Belgium’s Flemish community.

In the video, Lemaître analyzes the beginnings of the universe and his “primordial atom hypothesis,” the idea that our universe expanded from a single point. This concept, first proposed by Lemaître in 1931, evolved into the Big Bang theory, now widely accepted by cosmologists.

“Of all the people who came up with the cosmology framework that we’re working with now, there are very few recordings of how they talked about their work,” said Satya Gontcho A Gontcho, a scientist at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National. Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). “Hearing the turns of phrase and how things were discussed…it feels like looking through time.”

Gontcho A Gontcho teamed up with two Vatican Observatory researchers, Jean-Baptiste Kikwaya Eluo and Paul Gabor, to make Lemaître’s video more accessible. The interview was conducted in French and broadcast with Flemish subtitles. The English translation (directed by Gontcho A Gontcho) and the French transcription are now available in an article on arXivan open access collection of scientific articles.

The 20-minute pre-recorded interview with Georges Lemaître was first broadcast on February 14, 1964. The opening question was not recorded and was probably asked by journalist Jerome Verhaeghe in his live studio performance. Credit: VRT

“Lemaître and others gave us the mathematical framework that forms the basis of our current efforts to understand our universe,” said Gontcho A Gontcho, who works on the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI). In particular, scientists want to understand dark matterthe skeleton of our universe, and dark energywhich is making it expand faster and faster.

“Cosmology is trying to understand what happened in the past of the universe, and for most of us who make observations, that means measuring, very precisely, the rate of acceleration of the universe at different moments in time,” said Gontcho A. Gontcho. “And if you understand how the universe has expanded at different points in time, then you’ll be able to narrow down what dark energy might be.”

More information:
Satya Gontcho A Gontcho et al, Resurfaced 1964 VRT video interview by Georges Lemaître, arXiv (2023). DOI: 10.48550/arxiv.2301.07198

Newspaper information:

Citation: Lost Video of Georges Lemaître, Father of the Big Bang Theory, Retrieved (January 26, 2023) Retrieved January 27, 2023 from -lematre-father. html

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