Technology has influenced our interpretation of the origin and nature of the universe starting in the early 1900’s and continuing on until today. Technology continues to influence as people are willing to create and modify it. Applied science continues to advance and change bringing along with it changes in our theories about the evolution of this and other galaxies. In 1912 an astronomer named Vesto Slipher noted in his observances that all the spiral galaxies that he observed had a red-shifted spectrum. Using an instrument that splits light waves into spectrums, he split the light waves from the galaxies.
In this way he was able to measure if a galaxy is moving and if it is moving away or toward us. If a galaxy is moving toward us, the light waves will appear bluer (shorter wavelengths) and if they are moving away from us they will appear redder (longer wavelengths). In the early twenties Edwin Hubble used the technology of wavelengths developed by Slipher and realized that there was a definite trend of the galaxies moving away from us at a velocity directly proportionate to their distance. This brought about the first evidence that we live in a constantly evolving universe.
This was the first observational analysis to suggest an initial starting point to the universe. He used a ground-based telescope to investigate the masses of stars called nebulae to help with proving his theories. In the twenties some believed that we were all part of one huge galaxy and still others believed that the possibility of a whole world of galaxies outside our own was conceivable. What Edwin Hubble observed with his telescope led him to theorize that galaxies all began from a very densely compacted matter that exploded.
In 1929 he professed we were in a universe that was a billion light years across and that every part was moving away from every other part at speeds of 100 million miles an hour. These observations gave birth to the Big Bang theory and was an incredible feat for a time that had only inefficient telescopes and astronomical instruments. In the early part of the 1960’s two scientists Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson were looking for the remnants that would inevitably be left behind if the Big Bang theory were to be true. The year 1964 brought an announcement that they had found the energy left over from the big bang.
Incredibly their findings were close to what several others had theorized quite extemporaneously years prior. Unfortunately in the interest of finding answers in the most timely manner those finds went unnoticed. When the two scientists, Penzias and Wilson, published their short article it was seen as validation of the Big Bang theory and they won a Nobel Prize for their breakthrough pertaining to left over radiation. Technology advanced markedly in 1989. The United States launched the COBE satellite. The satellite was to look for particulars of the cosmic background radiation.
At this point things took a turn toward the confusing. The radiation appeared too smooth to have been the source of stars or galaxies. Unless there were some deviations in the original temperatures in outer space there would have been no rationality for matter to cluster and create the stars. Again, the scientific community advanced its technologic abilities in 1992. George Smoot and others proclaimed they had found temperature variations in the radiation data. Many assumed that the big bang theory had been proved. The only thing established was that the words “proved” and “Science” in the same sentence was still an oxymoron.
There still seems to be some “missing mass” making up what some theorize to be 90% of all matter in the universe. Technology at this point is unable to explain that. Any theory of galaxy formation needs to provide an answer to other questions. What is the structure that makes up the “walls” that are separated by “voids”found in the swirling pools of stars? What caused the “clumpiness” of the universe? Named after Edwin Hubble in 1990 the Hubble telescope was sent into the atmosphere to do what was previously impossible due to limited clarity and resolution.
The Hubble telescope has advanced science by vast amounts. It has been able to provide clear images of quasars, detect relic helium from the big Bang, discover the first ultraviolet light ever known in space and made the furthest perceptible look back into time when galaxies may have first taken shape, to name just a few of the things Hubble has enabled scientists and others to see. Scientists needed and will continue to need technology to advance their understanding of nature of the universe. The nature of the universe being what matter universe is composed of as opposed to how it came to be.
In the study of the origin of the universe how the universes were created is the main focus. In the 1900’s it was generally thought that atoms were similar to tiny balls. There were studies that showed that atoms could be placed into a category according to one like in a periodic table. This suggested that atoms were not fundamental. Furthermore, experiments which “looked” into an atom using probes showed that atoms had structure and were not just penetrable balls. These experiments helped scientists determine that atoms had a positive, dense nucleus and a cloud of electrons.
Years later, scientists found that the nucleus was composed of protons and neutrons. It turns out that even protons and neutrons are not fundamental, but they consist of even more fundamental particles called quarks. Some physicists theorize that the quarks and the electrons are fundamental. In the 1930’s with the quantum theory firmly in place it seemed as though the study of matter was almost complete. It was accepted that protons, neutrons and electrons were the building blocks of all matter. A new technological advance changed this.
The invention of the accelerator. The accelerator could look into the nucleus. The accelerator experiments showed an unexpected result. There were many more particles involved other than just protons and neutrons. These new particles are called baryons. There was also discovered a new family of particles called mesons. In all about 200 particles have been discovered leading to the creation of The Standard Model Theory. By the early 1960’s scientists were no closer to having a full understanding of the fundamental forces.
In 1964 two physicists Murray Gell-Mann and George Zweig came upon the idea that all the “new” particles could be explained by smaller objects that Gell-Mann named quarks. The world’s major accelerators and their accomplishments are the following: 1)Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, in California, discovered the charm quark. 2)Fermilab: Fermi National Laboratory Accelerator, in Illinois, where the bottom and top quarks were discovered. 3)CERN: European Laboratory for Particle Physics, crossing both Switzerland and France, where the W and Z particles were discovered. )Brookhaven National Lab: in New York; simultaneously discovered the charm quark with SLAC. 5) Cornell Electron-Positron Storage Ring, in New York does detailed studies of the bottom quark. 6)DESY: in Germany; gluons were discovered here. 7)KEK: in Japan, is constructing a B factory. 8)IHEP: Institute for High-Energy Physics, in the People’s Republic of China, performs elaborated studies of the tau lepton and charm quark. Many questions remain unanswered. Unanswered questions became the driving force in the scientific communities’ quest to create new higher energy, and better accelerators.
Some day scientists hope to answer questions that include for example; What particles form the dark matter of the universe? Is there a fifth force? Is there yet another substructure to the leptons and the quarks or are they the end? Will higher energy accelerators yield more results? The questions seem as infinite as the possibilities that exist. A look into the world of technology and how it has shaped the understanding of the universe would be incredibly lacking if it did not mention the computer. Computers are an essential part in speeding up studies of all types.
The complexities of natural science have threads that can be traced back to commonalities in mathematics. Computers make this task seem within the realm of possibility. In astrophysics there seems to be a minority of proven ideas and a majority of hypotheses. As Godel’s therom states, summarizing; no matter what we do, there will be some truths we will never obtain. So, at this point all the technology invented and envisioned cannot come to answer the question one starts to ask at an early age . . . where do I come from?