At Bell Laboratory's Holmdel New Jersey site
A horn antenna built for the Echo satellite
Had long since been abandoned, and was starting to decay
When Penzias and Wilson resurrected it one day.
They measured across the seven centimeter band,
But they got results which they couldn't understand.
Whichever way they pointed, they got three K extra noise,
Which make little sense to our hapless Holmdel boys.
Two pigeons had nested within the waveguide horn.
They laid eggs and stayed there until their chicks were born.
They left within the structure a sticky residue.
Could that be the source of a stray dB or two?
So Wilson and Penzias worked by day and night
With steel wool and cleanser to make their antenna bright.
But even with the pigeon dung removed, the noise remained.
A shiny antenna is all that they had gained.
The source of the signal the Holmdel lads did seek.
As they turned their horn, they noted neither null nor peak.
The excess noise was uniform, it came from everywhere.
The confusion it caused them was more than they could bear.
On campus at Princeton, a few miles down the road,
Bob Dickie considered that if matter would explode
There should be radiation from when the universe was born.
Could that be the signal that reached the Holmdel horn?
The theoretician's praises we might sing,
But making a measurement is quite another thing.
Although they didn't comprehend what was right before their eyes,
It was Wilson and Penzias who shared the Nobel prize.
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this page last updated 11 January 2003
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