Gamma rays are the most intense form of radiation. As the Cold War focused on the spread of nuclear war, a U.S. spy satellite searching for clandestine nuclear weapons tests detected frequent, but brief, bursts of powerful gamma-rays, a possible signal of a hydrogen bomb explosion. Interviewing some of the original researchers of this phenomenon, Producer David Barrett Wilson takes us from that starting point through the beginning of scientific research into these bizarre surges of energy. Physicist Stirling Colgate, then at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, tells us that gamma-ray bursts remained so mysterious that astronomers could not decide whether they came from nearby stars or galaxies on the far edge of the Universe. Cosmologist Martin Rees, of Cambridge University in the U.K., outlines the debate and explains some of the science involved in the detection. Noted astronomer Bohdan Paczynski of Princeton University describes the search for evidence about how far away these bursts could be. And Luigi Piro, of Italy's Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche and the mission director for one the first X-ray detection telescopes put into space, can hardly contain his excitement as he tells us about the moment when scientists realized gamma rays do, in fact, come from galaxies tens of billions of light-years away. Winner of the 2000 AAAS-Whitaker Science Award for excellence in radio journalism.
"The Fate of the Universe" is part of a Soundprint special series called Exploring the Universe, supported in part by the National Science Foundation. Here are the other programs in the series.
"Einstein’s Blunder" Produced by: David Barrett Wilson
"The Fate of the Universe" Produced by: David Barrett Wilson
Soundprint Executive Producer: Moira Rankin
Technical Director: Anna Maria de Freitas
Managing Producer: Gemma Hooley
Science Editors: Julian Krolik and Robert Smith
Audio Engineer: David Wetzel