An Expanding Theory of an Expanding Universe

This page honors Alexander Friedmann (1888-1925), George Gamow (1904-1968), Ralph A. Alpher (1921-2007), and Robert Herman (1914-1997)

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The creation of the universe, by George Gamow. Revised edition. Viking Press, ©1952, 1961.

My world line: an informal autobiography, by George Gamow. Viking Press, ©1970.

Genesis of the Big Bang, by Ralph A. Alpher and Robert Herman. Oxford University Press, ©2001.

Alexander Friedmann presented a theory of an expanding universe in papers published in 1922 and 1924, a treatment of Einstein's basic relativity equations that would lead to a universe that contracts and expands rather than remaining static.

One of Friedmann's doctoral students was George Gamow, who continued working on a model of an expanding universe that began its existence with a hot and dense early stage.

Gamow, in turn, mentored Ralph A. Alpher, who offered an explanation of how hydrogen and helium might have been created in the first moments after the big bang.

Alpher and Robert Herman collaborated on additional extensions to the big bang model, including the prediction of residual radiation that resulted from the Big Bang, a luminous echo that could still be detected today.

Ylem, a strange mixture

"According to Friedmann's original theory of the expanding universe, it must have started with a 'singular state' at which the density and temperature of matter were practically infinite. No atoms or even atomic nuclei could have existed at that time, and everything must have been broken into protons, neutrons, and electrons merged into the ocean of high energy radiation. I like to call that mixture 'Ylem' since Webster's Dictionary defines this word as 'the first substance from which the elements were supposed to be formed.'"
(From My world line: an informal autobiography, by George Gamow.)

Early days in a warm vacuum

"If we could get H. G. Wells' 'time machine' and go back to the year 30,000,000 A. C. (After Creation), we would find ourselves floating in an almost complete vacuum, comparable to that which exists today in the space between the stars inside our galaxy. It would be pitch dark around us, since the brilliance of the first days of creation (comparable to that of the center of an exploding atomic bomb) had by that time been completely dimmed by the expansion process, and the stars which illuminate the universe today had not yet been formed. We would, however, be comfortably warm, since the prevailing mean temperature of about 300 degrees absolute is close to what we call room temperature!"
(From The creation of the universe, by George Gamow.)

A good model is a good start

"Although many questions about cosmological modeling are still unanswered, the Big Bang model is in reasonably good shape. We are certain that future theoretical and observational work will at the very least fine-tune it, but we do not anticipate that, after more than 50 years, the model will turn out to be basically inadequate. Would that we could come back after another 50 years and see how it all came out."
(From Genesis of the Big Bang, by Ralph A. Alpher and Robert Herman.)