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Cosmology's CenturyAn Inside History of Our Modern Understanding of the Universe$
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P. J. E. Peebles

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691196022

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691196022.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM PRINCETON SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.princeton.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Princeton University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in PRSO for personal use.date: 28 May 2022

Fossils: Microwave Radiation and Light Elements

Fossils: Microwave Radiation and Light Elements

(p.114) Chapter Four Fossils: Microwave Radiation and Light Elements
Cosmology's Century

P. J. E. Peebles

Princeton University Press

This chapter focuses on the informative fossils left from a time when the universe was very different from now, dense and hot enough to produce the light elements and the sea of thermal radiation that nearly uniformly fills space. It begins by reviewing the behavior of a sea of microwave radiation in an expanding universe. The chapter then considers how George Gamow and his colleagues, Ralph Alpher and Robert Herman, hit on the main elements of the hot big bang cosmology, including the sea of microwave radiation and the large helium abundance, but failed to capture the interest of the community. It assesses how it came to be seen that the abundance of helium is much larger than expected from production in stars but is readily understood as the result of thermonuclear reactions in the hot big bang cosmology. This attracted little attention prior to the recognition of a second fossil: the sea of microwave radiation. The chapter concludes with the steps to a persuasive measurement of the primeval abundance of deuterium and the implied baryon mass density.

Keywords:   fossils, light elements, microwave radiation, George Gamow, Ralph Alpher, Robert Herman, hot big bang cosmology, helium abundance, deuterium, baryon mass density

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