While many are calling Americans stupid this week simply because 51 percent of the nation is skeptical about the validity of the Big Bang Theory; as it turns out, they may be on to something according to the man who named the theory of how the universe started, who was a non-believer himself. The moniker, Big Bang, is misleading and this is why.
When Sir Fred Hoyle named the theory in 1949, he was essentially being sarcastic. The astronomer disliked the theory. In two words, he diminished what is a rather complex explanation of how the universe was born. He was likely on board with most astronomers at that time. The idea that the universe could or would expand was considered ludicrous.
In 1931, Georges Lemaitre, a physicist and priest from Belgium, introduced what we now call the Big Bang Theory. Lemaitre did not call it that. Originally written in French, when the title of his paper is translated into English, it reads as A Homogeneous Universe of Constant Mass and Growing Radius Accounting for the Radial Velocity of Extragalactic Nebulae. Though not quite as catchy, the title clearly portrays more closely what this theory is attempting to explain.
Lemaitre was not the only one who was of the conviction that the universe was not static. Edwin Hubble was seeing proof of this through his telescope in California; far away galaxies seemed to be moving away from Earth. Plus, the farther away any given galaxy was, the faster it appeared to be moving.
Lemaitre applied some reason to the idea that the universe was getting bigger. At some point of time in the past, the universe was much smaller. Going even further back, Lemaitre concluded that there must have been one single pinpoint in time when the universe was just that: a pinpoint, or what he referred to as a primeval atom. When this single particle exploded approximately 13.8 billion years ago, the known universe was born. Even with this watered-down version, it is unmistakable that the moniker Big Bang is erroneous and misleading.
The contention that Americans are stupid because they have difficulty believing in not only the Big Bang Theory, but evolutionary theory and global warming, is indicative of arrogance. Truly, none of those three ideas have been proven beyond a doubt. In the final analysis, there may be a serious problem with semantics at work here. Like Sir Fred Hoyle’s Big Bang, global warming is turning out to be more of an issue of overall climate change. As well, the idea of evolution is proving itself to be a “sticky wicket” and too simplified for how DNA actually operates.
Perhaps the folks at Minute Physics, a scientific You Tube channel, can help straighten out all of this confusion. They suggest an appropriate replacement for the Big Bang name would be “The Everywhere Stretch Theory.” Minute Physics also has an idea about how to better explain “singularity,” the concept that states all matter in the universe existed in that primeval atom. While taking a humorous approach, these suggestions could go a long way toward helping the average American gain a better understanding of a theory of which they are rightfully skeptical. Americans are not stupid, they just know bad branding when they see it. The Big Bang moniker is misleading, erroneous, oversimplified and should indeed be replaced.
Opinion By Stacy Lamy