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Going Steady

Horror movies often inspire sleepless nights. But one that had its American premiere 75 years ago this week inspired something different: a new model of the universe.

“Dead of Night” was a British production. In it, an architect is invited to a country house for the weekend. Although he’s never met any of the people there, he recognizes them from a series of nightmares, which he recounts. At the end, he murders one of the people. He then awakens and realizes it was all a dream. But he then gets a phone call inviting him to the house — starting the nightmare all over again.

Three British physicists — Thomas Gold, Hermann Bondi, and Fred Hoyle — were pondering the beginning and end of the universe. They knew that the universe was expanding, but they didn’t agree with the idea that it had a single point of origin. Hoyle even called the theory the “Big Bang” as a term of derision. Instead, they thought the universe had neither a beginning nor an end.

After they saw the movie, Gold wondered whether the universe might be similar — constantly “starting over.”

So they came up with their own theory of the universe — the Steady State Theory. It said that matter was constantly being created as the universe expanded. That way, the universe would maintain a constant density. And it would just keep going — forever.

Observations confirmed the Big Bang, though, leaving the Steady State alone — in the dead of night.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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