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The real story of how the Big Bang got its name

The real story of how the Big Bang got its name

It was first coined on a BBC radio broadcast in 1949.

Today, the term 'Big Bang' is widely recognised as the theory explaining the origin of our universe which is a result of extreme density and temperature.

But, how did this scientific theory get its name of fame?

The credit goes to British astronomer Fred Hoyle who, during a radio broadcast, coined the term to describe how the universe was created.

On 28 March 1949, Hoyle's talk to the BBC Third Programme referred to 'the hypothesis that all the matter in the universe was created in one big bang at a particular time in the remote past.'

This talk became the first time spoken of the work 'Big Bang.'

/ Xuanyu Han / Getty
/ Xuanyu Han / Getty

There's a misconception that Hoyle introduced the term to ridicule the small group of cosmologists who supported the idea that the universe's origin was a violent one - a theory at the time seemed far-fetched.

However, Hoyle later clarified that his use of 'Big Bang' was a visual metaphor to explain the complexities of the theory to the public.

Therefore, it wasn't intended to be derogatory or hold any value, for that matter.

The word ‘bang’ often refers to an explosion of some sort, and a 'big bang' is imagined to be a very large and loud explosion.

All in all, the phrase was purely metaphorical and in fact, Hoyle didn't actually believe the universe came from one big blast.

Over time, the phrase has become more commonplace, widely used by individuals outside the cosmology field, to describe what happened 14 billion years ago.

/titoOnz / Getty
/titoOnz / Getty

In 1995, when Hoyle was 80 years old, he explained his reasoning for the phrase, saying: 'Words are like harpoons. Once they go in, they are very hard to pull out.'

Although Hoyle despised the idea of a Big Bang until his death in 2001, it continued with the public being the major user of the word rather than scientists within the astronomy or cosmology field. For example, Georges Lemaître, who had the first cosmological theory of the Big Bang, never used the term ‘Big Bang’.

Seventy years on from the broadcast, searching for the 'Big Bang' on the internet finds you multiple sources of the universe's origin theory - as well as the popular US sitcom, showing just how quickly a term can be hard to disassociate once widely accepted.

Featured Image Credit: Xuanyu Han / titoOnz / Getty