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Dicke, Robert Henry

time microwave bang’ established

(1916–97) US physicist: predicted existence of cosmic microwave background.

Dicke studied at Princeton University and at Rochester, and in 1957 was appointed professor of physics at Princeton, where he became Albert Einstein Professor of Science in 1975.

In 1964, Dicke made the prediction that, assuming the universe had been created by a cataclysmic explosion (the ‘Big Bang’), there ought to be a remnant radiation, observable in the microwave region of the spectrum. At almost the same time, did in fact observe this cosmic microwave background, although they were unaware of Dicke’s theoretical work at the time. Together, their work established the ‘Big Bang’ model of the origin of the universe as far more plausible than the rival steady-state theory. Interestingly, and unknown to Dicke at the time, and others had made a similar prediction in 1948.

Dicke was also interested in gravitation and established that the gravitational mass and inertial mass of bodies are equivalent to an accuracy of at least one part in 10 11 , an important result for general relativity. However, in 1961 the Brans–Dicke theory suggested that the gravitational constant ( G ) was not in fact constant, but varied slowly with time (by about 10 –11 per year). Unfortunately the experimental observations required to verify this hypothesis are not yet sufficiently precise to prove it or disprove it.

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