by Paul Halpern
Today, the Big Bang is so deeply entrenched in our understanding of the universe that to doubt it would seem crazy. And that is pretty much what has happened to the last major opponent of the theory, British astronomer Fred Hoyle. If anyone knows his name today, they probably think he went off the deep end-or at least was so very wrong for so long as to seem completely obtuse. But the hot-headed Hoyle saw himself as a crusader for physics, defending scientific progress from a band of charlatans. His doggedness was equalled by one man alone: Russian-American physicist George Gamow, who saw the idea of the Big Bang as essential to explaining where the Universe came from, and why it’s full of the matter that surrounds us. The stakes were high! And the ensuing battle, waged in person and through the media over decades, was as fiery as the cosmic cataclysm the theory describes.