Monday, August 31, 2009

Fire


Astronomer Michael Brown is known for his observations of Kuiper Belt objects like Sedna. This weekend, from his 9th floor window at Caltech, he made this photo of the fire raging in the California hills. JPL has already been evacuated, but appears to be out of danger. Presently Mount Wilson and it's famous telescopes are in the line of fire.

From Mount Wilson's 100 inch telescope Edwin Hubble found evidence that the Universe was expanding. Hubble's initial graph of redshift vs. magnitude was so scattered that it is amazing that anyone could see a trend. Despite the fuzzy data, Hubble's chart convinced even Einstein that the Universe expanded. In a well-publicized 1932 visit to Mount Wilson, Einstein conferred with Hubble and peered through the telescope. To the assembled reporters Einstein happily admitted that his Cosmological Constant was an error.

Old ideas eventually give way to better theories. Out of the ashes of the cosmological constant came the Big Bang theory. A simple expression like R = ct can predict an expanding Universe. Out of today's speculation about cosmological constants and "dark energies" will come a better theory of the Universe.

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