history of cosmology

Jim Peebles (Princeton) visited today. Roweis and I spent an hour or so advertising to him our data analysis projects. Late in the day he gave a talk on the history of cosmology, which made a number of remarkable points, like that Hoyle was (almost) the first person to identify the cosmic microwave background (despite the fact that he thought it was impossible). An argument broke out about the importance of Friedman; Peebles takes the (tough) view that to be really important in cosmology you must have not just done theory but connected it directly to experiment, or not just done experiment but had the theorists realize that it was relevant. That's a high bar.


  1. See

  2. Almost all solutions obtained in GR, and widely
    recognized today as being important for astrophysics,
    did not have any influence on observers or experimentalists at the time of their discovery.
    Examples: Friedman cosmological solutions,
    Oppenheimer-Volkov-Snyder results on gravitational
    collapse, Kerr metric, etc. We rightly name
    these theoretical discoveries after those who made
    them and hold them in high regard. This is
    justice, but also it teaches us
    to be attentive to new theoretical concepts
    and ideas, even if they are somewhat
    decoupled from
    the current mainstream.
    Peebles' way of doing science is great, but it is
    not the only way to make an important contribution.