This week I acquired a copy of Steven Weinberg's 1977 book The First Three Minutes, courtesy of an emeritus colleague downsizing his library. It was the first detailed popularisation of the Big Bang and is a pop sci classic, written by one of the leading theoretical physicists of the modern era.
As you can guess from the title, The First Three Minutes tells the story of the moments following the Big Bang. The early universe sets the stage for the development of the cosmos we see around us now, and the Cosmic Microwave Background is a key link between the distant past and the present day. Discovered just a dozen years before the book appeared in 1977, the microwave background is a a time capsule buried moments after the Big Bang, and Weinberg explains how it reveals the nature of the infant universe
And, as it happens, the latest addition to my library fell open to reveal these words:
This text is almost a time capsule on its own. In 1992 CoBE made headlines by providing a map of the microwave background sensitive enough to reveal minute variations in the temperature of different regions of the sky. In 2006, Mather shared the Nobel prize for his work on CoBE. Meanwhile, Rai Weiss moved on from CoBE to become a founder of LIGO which earned its own place in history by successfully detecting gravitational waves in 2015.
Bon voyage indeed.
CODA: And it goes without staying that Weiss is an odds-on favourite to get the call from Stockholm a few weeks from now when this year's prizes are announced.
CODA 2: And indeed Weiss did win the 2017 prize, along with Barish and Thorne.
IMAGE: The header image shows the temperature differences across the sky, as measured by the CoBE satellite. The temperature range corresponds to changes of a few parts in 100,000.