Why “The Big Bang” Is a Terrible Name

Article Updated: 30 Dec , 2015

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Have a discussion about the origins of the Universe and, ere long, someone will inevitably use the term “the Big Bang” to describe the initial moment of expansion of everything that was to everything that is. But in reality “Big Bang” isn’t a very good term since “big” implies size (and when it occurred space didn’t technically exist yet) and there was no “bang.” In fact the name wasn’t ever even meant to be an official moniker, but once it was used (somewhat derisively) by British astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle in a radio broadcast in 1949, it stuck.

Unfortunately it’s just so darn catchy.

This excellent video from minutephysics goes a bit more into depth as to why the name is inaccurate — even though we’ll likely continue using it for quite some time. (Thanks to Sir Hoyle.)

And you have to admit, a television show called “The Everywhere Stretch Theory” would never have caught on. Bazinga!

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dimar
Member
August 31, 2013 2:52 AM

It’s all very simple smile Two other Universes had a baby named Singularity, and in no time it started growing and developing like everything else…

JunoVidor
Member
JunoVidor
August 31, 2013 12:52 PM

A collision between TWO universes – that’s quite an assumption! Why not between 100 or 1000 universes for that matter? Like if the Universe we all are a part of with everything else was not big enough, hence the need for a second universe so everything makes sense after all.

SteveZodiacxl9
Guest
SteveZodiacxl9
August 31, 2013 1:53 PM

You missed the point about the “bang” thing Dima was referring to.

Brian Sheen
Member
Brian Sheen
August 31, 2013 8:01 AM

Hoyle, Gold & Bondi gave a series of Steady State lectures on the wireless in the mid 1950’s. Following each I would talk over the phone to one of my school mates about the details and implications of what we had just heard. Hoyle’s Book “Frontiers of astronomy” published1955 is a landmark text.
Roseland Observatory.

bdlaacmm
Guest
bdlaacmm
August 31, 2013 11:52 AM

Mostly a decent video, but it wildly misrepresents Lemaitre’s views on God’s role in what we now call the Big Bang. In 1951, when Pope Pius XII referred to Lemaitre’s work as a proof for Catholic doctrine, Lemaitre vigorously denied any such thing, and actually got the pope to stop saying so. Lemaitre, a devout Catholic of great faith, was also a champion of the strict separation of religion and science.

Bottom line: this video’s suggestion that Lemaitre would have been somehow satisfied with explaining why the Big Bang (sorry, Everywhere Stretch) occurred with a simple “God made it so” is a complete falsehood.

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
August 31, 2013 7:00 PM

Sigh! Strident accommodationists* are so predictable.

Maybe the video misrepresents Lemaitrês views, but not in the way you somehow conjure up from the disparate points that Lemaitrê didn’t like expropriation of science by religion and that they video speculated in Lemaitrês private reasons to combine cosmology with theology (astronomer within a church).

So the proposed misrepresentation, which we de facto know nothing about, is a strawman of your own imagination. (No accommodationist seem able to resist building a strawman effigy to religion.) In your own words, “a complete falsehood”.

* My own misrepresentation perhaps, but as we started with speculation why not throw in another likelihood which is unsubstantiated for the individual event?

bdlaacmm
Guest
bdlaacmm
September 1, 2013 2:38 PM
Sorry, Torbjorn, but you’ve got it entirely backwards. The strawman here was raised by the creators of this video, at 4 minutes, 17 seconds in. I quote: “For Georges Lemaitre, this might be where God finally comes into the picture, to explain the things science can’t.” This well-worn canard is the so-called “God of the Gaps”, a 100% made-up construct of religion bashers everywhere. (Yes, you can always point to some naïve rube out there who expresses himself this way – but come on now, we’re discussing Lemaitre here, not some pious simpleton.) The GotG is a strawman, easily ridiculed because educated people don’t think that way. The reality is quite the reverse. The more we discover about… Read more »
bdlaacmm
Guest
bdlaacmm
September 1, 2013 6:15 PM

Oh, and by the way, I have no idea what an “accommodationist” is – never heard the term before.

Boone_1781
Guest
Boone_1781
August 31, 2013 12:46 PM

“[Regarding Hoyle’s BBC programs] Lord Simon turned to Sydney Goldstein,
then professor of applied mathematics at Manchester, for an expert
opinion. Goldstein, who had been a fellow of St. John’s College,
responded by saying it all depended what programming the corporation
wanted. “If they want entertainment, the lectures are fine. If they want
science they are not fine. The best astronomers would not agree with
many of his conclusions. Hoyle has not the humility of a good scientist.”

— Conflict in the Cosmos, Fred Hoyle’s Life in Science – Simon Mitton (2005)

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
August 31, 2013 6:45 PM
Good subject! But this is why I don’t like minutephysics. It has a lot of thought provoking, nifty takes on science, but it gets some parts wrong and it mangles other parts. – Obviously wrong here is the idea that the universe expansion has been driven by curvature (or pressure) potential. Maybe it has, but not in the eras we know of. During inflation expansion was driven by the vacuum energy of the inflaton, during the following radiation dominated era by radiation (well, duh!), during the matter dominated era by matter (more duhs) and now during the dark energy dominated era once again by the vacuum energy. – Mangled is the idea that time had to start just… Read more »
Brent Simmons
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Brent Simmons
August 31, 2013 8:32 PM

Clearly we should have gone with Calving and Hobbes’ suggestion: Horrendous Space Kablooie.

disqus_HgXYvVovmd
Guest
disqus_HgXYvVovmd
September 1, 2013 12:17 AM

one thing I do not understand about this “big bang”. it does not account for the many different directions galaxy’s seem to be headed in. not only that but the last time I saw a big blast of any type everything went in opposite directions away from the epicenter of the blast. with every thing accelerating away from the epicenter, all matter would not be colliding together to form new universes. the idea that this bang went in one direction from the point on origin defies physics.

Olaf
Member
Olaf
September 1, 2013 9:08 PM

First the big bang is not an explosion.

Second local gravitational forces could be bigger than the expanding force.

Anas U
Guest
Anas U
September 2, 2013 6:34 AM

Right! Just think about why our universe is NOT round.

David Krauss
Guest
David Krauss
September 1, 2013 8:06 AM

Nice video, but the “everywhere stretch” is ongoing and doesn’t look likely to stop.

Isn’t the accepted term “cosmic inflation” quite apt enough? Inflation is when you give an object (like a balloon) volume without giving it significant “substance.”

The illustration they keep referring to seems to be a diagram of a finite universe, which stretches then flattens out. Doesn’t seem quite apt. But they make up for it with the infinite zoom-in.

Prism2Spectrum
Guest
Prism2Spectrum
September 1, 2013 3:38 PM
No “singularity”? Therefore, no “place” of origin? ( But there was an “ORIGIN”. ) This leaves a singular mystery: From whence unfolded the Spacetime fabric? From what bolt, did dimensions of Universe unroll? How were its folds measured, patterned and formed: galaxy-Systems woven, star-worlds sewn? What “Physics” explains a sudden creation so “staggering” in rapidity of appearance and expansion – “moment” incomprehensible, vastness unfathomable! Sudden Universe appearance by “The Everywhere STRETCH” of space? ( Can’t quite wrap my mind around that! ) There is, according to author, a blank-area, which leave cosmologists / astrophysicists in the dark – “the PART of the everywhere stretch where we don’t know what we are talking about”? ( If only other branches… Read more »
bugzzz
Member
bugzzz
September 1, 2013 4:30 PM

This won’t please the purists, but based on the video, I don’t see the Big Bang terminology as successfully dethroned. Not until you come up with an equally succinct phrase. By science’s own admission we don’t know what happened before the the universe cooled sufficiently to see backward. Therefore the Big Bang concept is neither disproven or proven. It’s the dominant model until someone does better. Therefore I’m still calling it the Big Bang. Besides, how is a massive expansion of space not a violent “bang”-like event?

Black Wolf Standing
Guest
Black Wolf Standing
September 1, 2013 10:46 PM

When I was eight years old, I described space/time to my mom remarkably similar to the video. When you look at the words Big Bang, they are indeed accurate. Just not the way as described. Big describes not the physical size of the event, but rather the nature of the event. Bang does not describe the energy release or sound of the event, but rather the suddenness of the event.

So, Big Bang is literally an important sudden happening.

ecb
Guest
ecb
September 1, 2013 11:57 PM

What was there to collide with because if there was a big bang what started it if you say molecular atoms then where did they come from there has to be a starting point so how did it just come to be

AmySoldier
Guest
September 4, 2013 8:38 AM

I infer the word Big is an adjective describing the noun Bang and not describing some idea of space. And the Cosmic Background Radiation is an “echo” of the initial “Bang.” Misnomer or not, writing for myself I say Big Bang is an apt, and quite trite phrase to give to the concept. #rebel

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