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Unveiling the Cosmos: The Untold Story of Hubble, Humason, and The Big Bang.

In the fascinating world of scientific discovery, few stories are as compelling as the race to uncover the expanding universe. Our featured author today comes from a family steeped in curiosity, with interests spanning science, art, literature, architecture, technology, entrepreneurship, and invention. This rich background has fueled his passion for understanding origins, particularly those of humankind and the universe.

In his latest book, “Hubble, Humason, and the Big Bang: The Race to Uncover the Expanding Universe,” author Ron Voller explores the profound questions surrounding the birth of space and time. His journey began with a desire to grasp the Big Bang theory and its historical development. This led him to the often-overlooked astronomer Milton Humason, whose contributions alongside Edwin Hubble were pivotal yet underappreciated. Through meticulous research and narrative, the author brings to light the complex personalities and collaborative efforts that culminated in one of the greatest discoveries in cosmology.

Ron is a native of Chicago and has contributed insightful articles to Astronomy Magazine, exploring the life of astronomer Milton Humason, celebrating the 100-inch Hooker telescope at Mount Wilson, and detailing the history of the Ritchey-Chrétien telescope design.

Mr. Voller earned his undergraduate degrees in music and literature from the University of Denver and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies at Johns Hopkins University's Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.

Beyond his writing, Mr. Voller engages with astronomy groups, mentors young people, and consults with writers on story structure and strategy. He is a producer developing several documentary projects and an advocate for equality and human rights, advising a public charity that empowers young women and men in East Africa.

Continue reading for this exclusive interview.


Tell us a bit about your background.

I come from a family with diverse interests and pursuits driven by a curiosity about science, art and literature, architecture, technology, entrepreneurship, and invention. My own interest in origins – the how and why of things – in particular about humankind and human nature, is descended from that lineage.


What was your impetus for writing “Hubble, Humason, and the Big Bang: The Race to Uncover the Expanding Universe”?

This question really has a three-part answer. I was driven first by a need to understand the origin of space and time, better known as the Big Bang theory of expansion, and how science has arrived at the conclusions we have about universal beginnings. It was while reading about that history that I discovered Milton Humason, which led me on my own path of discovery to understand his life and career. That culminated in the publication of the Humason biography in 2015. This book was written to finally link Hubble and Humason in connection with the experimental discovery of the Big Bang – a link that had not yet been made formally. The book is also an attempt to explore their personalities, their relationships with each other and those in the public and scientific fields, as well as their legacies.


What was the most challenging part of researching this book?

Probably parsing the challenges to Hubble’s findings then and now, the feelings of many inside and outside the field of research, and what role Humason played as a research partner and friend. This required a detailed search of the arguments and counterarguments, the writing and correspondences between and about Hubble and Humason, and other anecdotal evidence wherever it was to be found. Edwin Hubble was a complex character who was and is criticized for his less-than-collegial personality. There is a dispute over whether his (and Humason’s) discovery was pure – meaning manifested on the basis of his own scientific reflections – or launched after learning of the possibility of expansion from others. I go into some detail in the book to discover who they were, what they did, and how they did it.


How do you feel your background influenced your approach to writing this scientific biography?

Well, as I said, I am curious about origins and the origins of humankind, thought and development, in particular. The more I’ve dug into this research the more I’ve come to understand that the links between our origins, our nature, our spiritual evolution, and science and philosophy were, in a sense, inevitable. Nothing fascinates me more than exploring these connections, and the Big Bang is the story of the beginning of everything. If there’s a more distinct origin, please tell me what it is.  


What inspired you to delve into the lives of Edwin Hubble and Milton Humason? Why do you feel the public should know about them?

There are three answers to these questions, as well. I was curious first about the developments in math and science that led to the discovery of the Big Bang and was driven further by the need to know who Milton Humason was and what his role was in the discovery. Humason is my favorite character of the past century. There’s never been anyone like him. One of the most interesting aspects of this story is that Hubble and Humason were able to work together at all. It couldn’t have been easy at first. They were very different people socially and philosophically. And discoveries don’t get made in a bubble. Lavoisier and Paulze, the Herschels, the Huggins’, the Curies, right across history you have duos and teams working together to help add to our understanding of the world. John Mulchaey, the director of the Carnegie Observatories, writes eloquently about this in the foreword to the book. These days there may be thousands of people working on a given project. So, anyone interested in a research career can learn from the lessons in this story.  Of course, the discovery itself, which is the greatest single finding in human history – to date, anyway. At the beginning of a talk, I like to ask for a show of hands from anyone who’s heard of The Big Bang Theory. Then I say, “Okay, now leave them up if you thought I was talking about the popular television show and not the discovery of universal origins.” Some hands inevitably drop amid some laughter. The Big Bang is the thing that got us started and the number of things that could’ve gone wrong that would’ve negated the advent of humankind on this planet is so far beyond the realm of comprehension as to be absurd. How can we not want to understand the world better? The astrophysicist Brian Cox paraphrases Carl Sagan when he talks about finding meaning and significance as a finite lifeform in an infinite universe. We are just collections of atoms assembled, over vast periods of time and space, here on Earth to provide the universe a chance to understand and explain itself. This almost spiritual notion resonates with me, deeply.


Hubble is often seen as a lone wolf of astronomy. How does your book challenge this perception?

The perception of Hubble as a lone wolf is persistent, and to some extent correct. But the real answer is more complex than that. I had a chance to talk with Freeman Dyson a year or two before he died, and he liked to categorize astronomers as either hedgehogs or foxes. He thought of Hubble as a hedgehog, a guy who worked his entire career in meticulous research on a single subject. Hubble’s colleague Walter Baade, a hedgehog in his own right, thought Hubble was a bit slipshod in his work. So, as usual in the science field, personal opinions vary. Hubble was, among other things, a pugnacious colleague and an arrogant, self-obsessed professional who sought public admiration for his genius. He was also a brilliant and intuitive observer who made at least two discoveries that should’ve earned him a Nobel Prize in his career. And Humason alongside him on one of them. As the book’s title implies, he was not a lone wolf, having spent the majority of his career working with Humason and others. Privately, Hubble admitted to being at odds with himself over the way he had dealt with disputes with various colleagues.


What do you hope readers will take away from Hubble, Humason, and the Big Bang?

First and foremost, I want people to know the extent to which Humason aided in the discovery. He truly always belonged in the conversation. Humason was Hubble’s deep field a half-century before Hubble’s eponymous space telescope began beaming back images of the farthest reaches of space. Second, the complexity of trying to uncover the mysteries of the cosmic order on a universal scale has required centuries of work that culminated in the work of Hubble and Humason, and their close associates. Third, that their work and the puzzles created by it continue to captivate, expand, and enrich the fields of research in cosmology to this day.


What other projects are you working on?

A podcast called Bang! Goes the Universe is entering its second season. A book by the same title intended to be the third book in this series on the Big Bang is in the works as well. A Humason screenplay is in the development stage. 

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1 Comment

Вельми вдячний за таку круту тематику, вона неаби як наразі потрібна, бо без новин особисто я не можу уявити вже свій день. З урахуванням цього, я почав користуватися якісним інформаційним порталом, котрий завжди надає мені всю необхідну та актуальну інформацію, завдяки якій, я можу без проблем перебувати в інформаційному просторі. Так нещодавно, я наштовхнувася на статтю про місячний посівний календар на червень 2024, що дуже важливо на сьогоднішній день, бо інформація такого плану має значення. Таким чином, я завжди можу дізнаватися інформацію на різноманітні тематики, що дуже круто, тим паче коли це так зручно зроблено, що вся необхідна та цікава інформація зібрана в одному місці. З їх допомогою я можу спокійно та без проблем завжди дізнаватися тільки актуальні новини…

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