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April 26: Penzias and the Big Bang

April 26, 2014
maxresdefaultArno Penzias, winner of the 1978 Nobel Prize for Physics (with Robert Woodrow Wilson) for discovering faint electromagnetic radiation throughout the universe, presumably left over from the Big Bang, was born in Munich, Germany on this date in 1933. Penzias was evacuated to England as part of a 1939 Kindertransport, and his parents also fled Nazi Germany, with the family reuniting in the U.S. Penzias joined Bell Laboratories in 1961, where he participated in the Echo and Telstar communications satellite experiments. "While tuning a small, yet very powerful and highly sensitive horn antenna for conducting radio astronomy experiments," according to the Bell Labs website, Penzias and Wilson "noted a constant low level noise disrupting their reception. Despite their efforts, Penzias and Wilson could not find any evidence of malfunction in their equipment. Further, the static persisted regardless of the direction the antenna was pointing. As they continued their investigation, Penzias and Wilson came to realize that they had stumbled onto the most conclusive evidence to date supporting the Big Bang Theory." Penzias eventually became Chief Scientist at Bell, from which he retired in 1998. To see him discussing women in science, look below. "I began to realize that there were bad things that my parents couldn't completely control, something to do with being Jewish. I learned that everything would be fine if we could only get to 'America.'" -Arno Penzias