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Wednesday, February 16, 2005
A fight over the time of life of the universe

1. Page 1

Back in 1929, Edwin Hubble, the great American astronomer, took the globe by surprise: While observing the spectrum lines of the light emitted by several stars he came to the conclusion that these stars were gradually following a path leading them…far from us. The photographs of the galaxies clearly showed that the universe expands in space. That was a shock at a time when the universe was considered to be a determined as well as motionless entity. After all, back in 1917, the great Einstein had pointed out to a stock-still cosmos in his General Theory of Relativity. He became convinced about the opposite when he paid a visit to the Wilson observatory, where Edwin Hubble worked, and caught a glimpse of these photos.

The “Hubble law” (that gave birth to the Big-Bang theory or the “theory of the big explosion”) provides the conception of a universe expanding into space balloon-wise. The further the distance of the location a celestial body occupies from the heart of the cosmos, the higher the velocity it gains while moving away from it. Thus, the first question posed had to do with the rate the universe expands. By accepting the fact that the entire world of ours set off on its course at zero time from a unique spot in space, then its expansion should be characterized by a steady pace. Once, in fact, we are in the position of tracing this rate of expansion, we will be able to know the age of the universe, we will know in other words exactly when God uttered: “Let there Be Light”.

The discovery of the “Hubble constant” was not an easy case. When observing different sections of the empyrean, more figures come up. The differences are huge: they fluctuate between 50 and 100 and as a result the age of the universe ranges between 20-10 billion years. The aforesaid dissension triggered one of the toughest disputes in the world of science. What was said amongst the astronomers who took part in this conflict could only be equaled to what the people of the press have been launching against each other with regard to the coverage of war conflicts around the world.

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