Cool news for Catholic science geeks. From an article in ars technica:
Astronomers are engaged in a lively debate over plans to rename one of the laws of physics.
It emerged overnight at the 30th Meeting of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), in Vienna, where members of the general assembly considered a resolution on amending the name of the Hubble Law to the Hubble-Lemaître Law.
The resolution aims to credit the work of the Belgian astronomer Georges Lemaître and his contribution—along with the American astronomer Edwin Hubble—to our understanding of the expansion of the universe.
While most (but not all) members at the meeting were in favor of the resolution, a decision allowed all members of the International Astronomical Union a chance to vote. Subsequently, voting was downgraded to a straw vote and the resolution will formally be voted on by an electronic vote at a later date.
For those unaware of Georges Lemaître, he was a Belgian Catholic Priest and Physicist. He is most famous for putting forth the “Primordial Atom Theory”, which is better known as the “Big Bang Theory.” The Big Bang Theory was a mocking slur against the theory by Astronomer Fred Hoyle.
So it is interesting to find out that:
… In 1927, Georges Lemaître had already published an article on the expansion of the universe. His article was written in French and published in a Belgian journal.
Lemaître presented a theoretical foundation for the expansion of the universe and used the astronomical data (the very same data that Hubble used in his 1929 article) to infer the rate at which the universe is expanding.
This was published a year before American Astronomer Edward Hubble published his results using the same dataset. Since Fr. Georges Lemaître was published in a more obscure journal which at the time had not been translated, most were unaware of his original discovery.
Lemaître was apparently not concerned with with establishing priority for his original discovery. Consequently, the formula that describes the present-day expansion rate bears the name of Hubble.
Today, the resolution of the executive committee of the IAU wants to change the name to the Hubble-Lemaître Law, to honor Lemaître and acknowledge his part in the discovery.
It is often the case that discoveries like this often occur almost simultaneously. So renaming the law is a good compromise.
- Photo credit of statue: Wikimedia/EmDee, CC BY-SA