Fred Hoyle at Rice University ~1973 - click for larger image

By the early 1970s Fred Hoyle was already somewhat of a celebrity. He was an inventive and engaging astronomer who had written a science-fiction novel and had garnered considerable press coverage of his Steady State theory of the cosmos.

Quick context: the Copernican Principle says that the Earth isn't in a special location relative to everything else. Extending that, the Cosmological Principle argues that the universe looks the same in all directions (averaging out clusters of galaxies). Hoyle postulated a Perfect Cosmological Principle: not only are we not in a special place, we're also not in a special time --- so everything should look pretty much the same regardless of both where and when one is living. In order to keep things from thinning out as the universe expands, a Steady State demands continuous creation of matter.

Steady State cosmology is in many ways philosophically attractive, and I enjoyed believing in it during my teenage years. Alas, a multiplicity of observations (red-shift measurements of light from distant galaxies, ages of stars and star clusters, black-body microwave radiation, the abundances of various elements, ...) all suggest strongly that the universe had a hot, dense origin ~15 billion years ago --- the "Big Bang", to use a term coined by Hoyle himself in sarcastic reference to a theory he disagreed with.

Circa 1973 Fred Hoyle visited Rice University. I sat near the front row of the lecture hall and caught him in a pensive moment. (I used available light, 8mm Tri-X film, and a subminiature Yashica Atoron camera. A print surfaced here recently; click on the above image for a higher resolution version.)

Sir Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) --- continuously creative, now in a steady state ...

(see also CherishedBeliefs (19 Apr 2000), LatePhysicists (24 Sep 2000), CollegeCollage1 (29 Sep 2000), CollegeCollage2 (3 Oct 2000), UniversalKnowns (13 Jun 2002), ... )

TopicScience - TopicProfiles - TopicPersonalHistory - TopicHumor - 2004-09-25

(correlates: HannesAlfven, HansBethe, 2004-08-04 - Eight Eight-Eighties, ...)