Renaming the Big Bang: A Case Study of Popular Ideas on Cosmology

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Session 88 -- Teaching Astronomy
Display presentation, Friday, January 14, 9:30-6:45, Salons I/II Room (Crystal Gateway)

[88.10] Renaming the Big Bang: A Case Study of Popular Ideas on Cosmology

R. T. Fienberg, J. K. Beatty, D. T. Dinsmoor (S&T), T. Ferris (UC Berkeley), H. Downs (ABC-TV), C. Sagan (Cornell)

In the August 1993 Sky & Telescope one of us (T. F.) argued that the term "Big Bang" is misleading, trivializing, and inappropriately bellicose to describe the event that gave rise to the physical universe as depicted by the standard cosmological model. We issued a challenge to all interested persons to try to come up with a better name. Although we offered no prize, the challenge aroused widespread interest: over a period of three months some 13,000 entries were submitted from 41 countries. Some came from professional astronomers, but most came from nonscientists -- from kindergartners and octogenarians, prison inmates and physicians, and many others. This outpouring of creative, pedestrian, religious, ingenious, confused, profound, and insightful suggestions offers an unprecedented look at laypeoples' thinking about the origin of the universe. Some of the suggested new names for the theory are highly original and appropriate.

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