Bernstein, Jeremy. Three Degrees Above Zero. New York: Mentor, 1986. (Originally,

 

Bernstein, Jeremy. Three Degrees Above Zero. New York: Mentor, 1986. (Originally,
Scribner's, 1984)

The subtitle of this book is "Bell Labs in the Information Age." Bell Laboratories are the focal
point for all these stories. This is the history of an enormously successful industrial laboratory
which has done very well for the American Telephone Company. It might well be a house organ.

Since the work of Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson was done at Bell Labs, Crawford Hill, New
Jersey, and since both are Nobelists, they figure prominently in this book (indeed, they have their
pictures in the book and there is even a shot of the horn radiotelescope). Each gets a chapter and
it is in the chapter on Wilson that Bernstein tells his version of the story of Gamow, Herman and
Alpher's discoveries in the late 1940s.

Among other things, it is clear that Wilson and Penzias did not know what they had found when
they first discovered the background noise for which they were seeking an explanation. They
were completely unaware of Gamow's work and had no interest in cosmology. It was only when
they got hints from the "Princeton group," which included Dicke, that they were to write the
short piece that won them the Nobel. Their article appeared in 1965, while their initial
observations were completed in May, 1963.

Bernstein relies heavily on Weinstein's book and has a long quote in which all Gamow's work is
described. He quotes the speculations of his source on why physicists ignored cosmology.