Astronomy Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for astronomers and astrophysicists. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'm not in the industry myself, but as an interested member of the public the terminology of astronomy seems a bit funny. Astronomers who today talk publicly about the interstellar medium say that the solar system is in the "local fluff" inside the "local bubble" near a "local chimney". Cosmology uses a term like "the dark ages" to describe an era in the history of the phenomena they study. But geologists instead prefer to use terms like "cenozoic" to name a period. Early on, astronomers also used pompous words and names from antique languages.

  • Was "Big Bang" (coined in 1949, I think) the term which started off this fluffy bubble blob bang type of terminology? Or were there precursors?

  • Is there a connection to sci-fi literature?

  • Are the "blobby bang fluff" words just a mass media ("reach out") construction which professional astronomers don't use at all even as quick references in conversations with colleagues?

share|improve this question

migrated from Feb 6 '14 at 17:17

This question came from our site for spacecraft operators, scientists, engineers, and enthusiasts.

Maybe consider ticking an answer as accepted? – Jeremy Apr 1 '14 at 21:32

Any causal claims or associations relating to language use are never going to be able to be proven, so the best answer to your overall question is: "nobody knows".

You can use Google's ngram viewer to visualise the appearance of a specific term or terms over time.

Perhaps astronomers generally have been better as a field in making their research more approachable by not pitching their discoveries in superior-sounding high-falutin sesquipedal pomposity. But it isn't universal; for every approachable 'Hanny's Voorwerp' there is an ancient-language-originating label like 'heliosphere'.

Geologists also use non-latin terms like "slip" and "fault" and "hanging wall". Is that to make geology more approachable for mass-media public reach-out PR?

share|improve this answer

"Big Bang" was coined by supporters of the alternative 'steady state' cosmological theory, essentially as a form of ridicule, but the name stuck, even after the advocates of 'steady state' were forced to concede that their theory (essentially that, at a grand scale, the universe 'looks' the same at all times and places) was flawed.

The discovery of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) was essentially the nail in the coffin of steady state. CMB is well explained by the "big bang" but not by steady state. Of course, what we think of as the "big bang" has also changed over the years.

(Fred Hoyle, the principal advocate of the steady state theory wrote some interesting 'hard' science fiction, but I am not aware of any link between this and the term 'big bang'.)

share|improve this answer
Yes, but did that attempt of a PR coup misfire so greatly that it banged off a whole tradition of "big funny terminology" in astronomy? Geologists use glosaries like "Eonothem" to label their earliest possible findings. Astronomers instead use words like "Dark ages". Geologists say we are on the "Eurasia plate". Astronomers say we are in "the local fluff in the local bubble." It seems as if an astronomer dizzily going to sleep shorthands today's results in terms of yummy boogie bump hump flash bang scum object. While the geologist and biologist frenetically scroll their greek-latin lexicon. – LocalFluff Feb 14 '14 at 18:14

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.