A Nobel Masterclass


In the legendary Penzias-Wilson discovery paper, no information was given about the polarization state of their antenna feed. From what information was available, I concluded that they were receiving linear polarization.

The cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) is unpolarized (randomly polarized.)

If Penzias and Wilson wanted to receive the total power from CMB, their antenna would have to have received this power in two orthogonal linear polarizations, which powers they would then have to add. If they had gone through this elaborate instrumental process, they surely had to describe this in the paper as the most crucial information pertaining to the discovery.

My inference: Penzias and Wilson were receiving unpolarized radiation with a linearly polarized antenna. They did not report this or any adjustments for this polarization mismatch.


carl-henrik heldin nobel foundation, christina moberg kth, royal swedish academy of sciences, kungliga vetenskapsakademien, nobel foundation, arno penzias, robert r. wilson, penzias and wilson, robert dicke, robert dicke princeton, p. j. e. peebles, jim peebles, jim peebles princeton, nobel prize physics 1978, cmb, cosmic microwave background, cosmic black body, big bang relic radiation, cobe satellite, holmdel antenna, nobel museum, nobel prize lessons, nobel media

carl-henrik heldin nobel foundation, christina moberg kth, royal swedish academy of sciences, kungliga vetenskapsakademien, nobel foundation, arno penzias, robert r. wilson, penzias and wilson, robert dicke, robert dicke princeton, p. j. e. peebles, jim peebles, jim peebles princeton, nobel prize physics 1978, cmb, cosmic microwave background, cosmic black body, big bang relic radiation, cobe satellite, holmdel antenna, nobel prize lessons, nobel media

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