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1994

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August

  

From the history of physics


How Gamow calculated the temperature of the background radiation or a few words about the fine art of theoretical physics


Lomonosov Moscow State University, Shternberg State Astronomical Institute, Universitetskii prosp. 13, Moscow, 119889, Russian Federation

In a paper published in 1953, i.e., more than a decade before the observational discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation, George Gamow predicted theoretically the temperature of this radiation. He estimated it to be 7 K, which is very close to the subsequently measured value of about 3 K. Gamow found the present temperature of the background radiation on the basis of general formulas of cosmological dynamics. This prediction was in no way related to primordial nucleosynthesis.This circumstance has and is still causing misunderstanding in those cases in which the authors have raised doubts about Gamow’s results, although an actual error has never been demonstrated. A detailed analysis makes it possible to understand how Gamow’s calculation is possible. The problem lies in the fact that Gamow makes a certain additional implicit assumption which allows him to dispense with information on nucleosynthesis. This assumption is discussed in the context of the state of cosmology in the period from the fifties to the seventies, and of the current status of this branch of science.

Text can be downloaded in Russian. English translation is available on IOP Science.
PACS: 01.60.+q, 98.70.Vc (all)
DOI: 10.1070/PU1994v037n08ABEH000041
URL: https://ufn.ru/en/articles/1994/8/f/
Citation: Chernin A D "How Gamow calculated the temperature of the background radiation or a few words about the fine art of theoretical physics" Phys. Usp. 37 813–820 (1994)
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Оригинал: Чернин А Д «Гамов в Америке: 1934-1968 (К 90-летию со дня рождения Г.А. Гамова)» УФН 164 867 (1994); DOI: 10.3367/UFNr.0164.199408d.0867

G.A. Gamov is author of Physics-Uspekhi

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