Unless you’re still using an old television, it has probably been years since you’ve last seen television static. The snowy mess was an annoyance; for the user, it meant the coaxial cable needed adjusted or the TV antenna needed leaves cleaned off. As it turns out, that static contained something pretty astonishing: a sliver of residue from the creation of the universe.
The static on televisions is electromagnetic noise, and it can have many sources. The analog nature of these old televisions means it was near-impossible to filter out all of the noise, unlike with modern televisions that receive digital signals. Many things can cause the static, one of them being cosmic noise.
In case you slept through this particular day in physics class or you just never heard the news, Science Channel recently drew attention to an interesting fact: 1-percent of your old TV’s static comes from the light of the Big Bang…the very creation of the universe. The episode provides a fast summary of this interesting fact, including scientists’ first awareness of it back in 1964.
A background hum first drew a couple researchers’ attention, though they believed it was the result of bird droppings on a large receiver. Cleaning away those droppings didn’t improve the hum, though, possibly even making it clearer. Eventually it was learned that the hum was the sound of the so-called ‘afterglow’ of the Big Bang. Want to know more? This short video covers it all.