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Silk, Joseph, 1942-
Oral history interview with Joseph Silk, 1988 October 14.
In this interview Joseph Silk discusses topics such as: influence of Boy Scouts in childhood; family background; high school education; early interest in mathematics; coaching by high school math teacher; math at Cambridge; influence of Dennis Sciama at Cambridge and decision to go into astronomy; fellow students at Harvard; character of Harvard astronomy department in the 1960s; David Layzer's opposition to the standard big bang model; first interest in the problem of galaxy formation and the union of hydrodynamics, radiative transfer, and cosmology at Woods Hole in summer of 1967; influence of Richard Michie; thesis work on interaction of matter and radiation in galaxy formation; ignorance about the first second of the universe and the origin of the primordial fluctuations; history of the growing confidence in the meaning of the cosmic background radiation; the philosophy of simplicity in physics; the role of the cosmic background rdiation in testing theories of galaxy formation; history of the horizon problem and Silk's attitude toward that problem; change in attitude as a result of the inflationary universe model; attitude toward the inflationary universe model; reasons why the model has become so popular; first introduction to and attitude toward the flatness problem; Silk's acceptance of appropriate initial conditions as explanations of cosmological problems; attitude toward the missing mass required by inflation; reaction to de Lapparent, Geller, and Huchra's work on inhomogeneities; ignorance of nature of inhomogeneities on scales betwen 20 megaparsecs and 2000 megaparsecs; worry over large-scale velocity fields and reported anistropies in the cosmic background radiation as challenges to standard models for the origin of fluctuations; importance of reported distortions in the spectrum of the cosmic background radiation (CBR) and difficulties of explaining such distortions if true; outstanding problems in cosmology: distortions in the CBR, galaxy formation, suitable initial conditions, satisfactory theory of inflation, value of omega; importance of metaphors and good verbal descriptions in scientific communication; interplay of theory and observation in cosmology; ideal design of the universe; question of whether the universe has a point.
Ph.D. astronomy, Harvard University (1968). Worked at University of California, Berkeley and became Chair in Astronomy (1978-1998); Savilian Chair of Astronomy at the University of Oxford (1999-2011).
Geller, Margaret J.
Huchra, John P.
Layzer, David.
Sciama, D. W. (Dennis William), 1926-
Silk, Joseph, 1942-
Harvard University.
University of Cambridge
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Big bang theory
Cosmic background radiation
Galaxies -- Formation
Inflationary universe.
Radiative transfer.
Interviews. aat
Oral histories. aat
Transcripts. aat
Lightman, Alan P., 1948-, interviewer.
American Institute of Physics. Niels Bohr Library & Archives. One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA