Remember when we used to have those old television sets with antennas? We often experienced those white and black spots on them, and we knew that something was wrong. The only possible solution that occurred to us- beat the poor thing until our hands turned red while adjusting the antenna. The signal never arrived, obviously.
Here’s something interesting. 1% of the static that we see in old television sets is the radiation from the Big Bang billions of years ago! We’ve been so misinformed about the working of the very universe we’ve stayed in for eons . People have believed in any and all sorts of things told to them- from poets’ description of the universe as something divine to philosophers’ existential theories about the cosmic structure and origin.
It All Started With A Big Bang!
It was a Belgian priest named Georges Lemaitre who first said that the universe began from a single primordial atom in the 1920s. Later, in 1964, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson discovered Microwave Background Radiation, aka “Big Bang Echo”.
When the matter from the explosion transitioned from a Universe which was above the temperature to one with a lower temperature, the vast expanse filled with electrons and nuclei became neutral atoms. When matter ionizes, it scatters from the radiation in the vicinity, whereas, when it is neutral, radiation can pass through the particle. This transition became the truth of our universe’s past.
Therefore, through this breakthrough, it can be said that the radiation cooled down in our universe, making it easier for radiation to pass through and linger around in our world.
From Theory To Experimental Proof
In the 1960s, Bob Dicke, Jim Peebles (recent Noble Prize holder), David Wilkinson and Peter Roll from Princeton decided to detect and measure this theory. They built a radiometer capable of search for the radiations in space. They never got the chance to use it, as a few miles away, two other scientists were testing out their new equipment.
This was a big, ultra-sensitive, horn-shaped radio antenna which they were failing to calibrate. They received the radiations from the Sun and the galactic plane. But that wasn’t the only thing they received. They also received an omnidirectional noise that they could not pinpoint or get rid of- and it was everywhere.
Therefore, the scientists communicated with the Princeton team and deduced that it was the Big Bang’s leftover glow. After further exploring it, scientists found that this microwave background signal matched the Big Bang prediction.
To be very scientific and precise, this signal followed a blackbody distribution at 2.725 K. This extended to microwave and radio. This radiation was 99.9% evenly spread out throughout the universe.
The Rise of Television and Other Things About It No One Knew Of
After World War II ended, a simple device that would let you watch and hear about the things from different parts of the world became popular in the United States and Great Britain- the Television.
The T.V. uses powerful electromagnetic waves that are transmitted by a tower. This tower receives and sends these waves to the T.V. by an appropriately sized and positioned antenna.
What is an electromagnetic wave, you may ask?
An electromagnetic wave is a variation of an electromagnetic field that propagates through space. They are much more widespread than we believe.
Electromagnetic wave such as gamma rays, X-rays, ultraviolet and infrared rays, oven microwaves, the waves that operate the cell phones, radio waves, wi-fi waves, telephones etc., are only visible because of light, which itself is an electromagnetic wave. These are the waves that our T.V. uses to covert audio, colour, and images from around the world.
The black and white dots or the “static” or “snow” is a combination of all sorts of sources like:
Technology Always Changes Everything
It all changed in the 20th century when we had more gadgets, and much-advanced technology was invented and discovered. Development in physics and astronomy made it easier to write theories, conduct experiments, and observe the action in their chosen field.
When the black and white dots appear on our T.V., it is because there is no signal, right? Wrong. These black and white dots are, in fact, interferences that are always present. The most notable and mind-boggling thing about these interfaces is that 1 % of the interference is being caused as an aftermath of the beloved Big Bang.
The static we get on our T.V. sets is the signal that comes from the cosmic microwave background that has been around us for billions of years. Suppose we were to conduct an experiment where we extract the many sources causing the static and measuring whatever remains. In that case, we could have detected the cosmic microwave background at home.
Therefore in the words of Virginia Trimble, an Astronomer, “Pay attention. Someday you’ll be the last one who remembers“.