Top Ten Cosmology Principles Glossaries Compared

Here’s a guide to the best available Glossaries of Cosmological Principles. Some are online, others are only available in book form. Glossaries are vital to every scientific subject because without good definitions, there is no agreement on what you are discussing.

“Cosmology Key Terms”, 1999, University of Virginia

Very good online glossary, roughly 350 entries, coherently written at a Scientific American reading level and concise. It strictly focuses on cosmology principles, dodging temptations to include references to people or equipment. It laudably avoids excessive or gratuitous math and obscure language.

Up to Date? : Even though last updated in 1999 it remains reliable, except for its missing entries.

Missing: There are no entries for LCDM, space, Malmquist bias, or “Relativistic Doppler.” For large scale structure it includes Voids, but not Bubbles, Blobs, Filaments, or Walls though these were established years before the last update.

Big Bang Bias? : There is no clear Big Bang bias, however it is almost completely silent on cosmology principles other than Big Bang / Expansion based ideas. It properly has an entry for “Big Bang model” and none for “Big Bang theory.” There is no entry for any species of a Static Universe.

On the other hand, there is an unbiased entry for Steady-State model and it does describe three different Redshift mechanisms rather than the usual one.

References: It has some embedded web links to itself (internal references) but there are no links to outside references.

Errors: The single error I found is describing a model as a hypothesis. Except in rare cases, a model is never as strong as a scientific hypothesis because while a hypothesis is required to be unambiguous models almost always have many ambiguous (typically undisclosed) assumptions and adjustable terms.

Glossary of Physical Cosmology Principles (2016) at CosmologyScience.com

(Disclosure – this is my own glossary! so I may have just a tiny conflict of interest :-)

Nevertheless, this is likely the most up to date, complete and accurate Glossary of Cosmology principles from a physics point of view. Its 15,000+ words (which seems to make it the largest Cosmology Glossary reviewed here) in some 150 entries focused on cosmology principles, are written at a Scientific American reading level. It is rare because it presents all the best evidence and reasoning from both sides of the Big Bang controversy.

Up to Date? : Updated monthly, or immediately if an error is found.

Missing ? : It includes entries for LCDM, Static Universe, space, Malmquist bias, and “Relativistic Doppler.” It includes large scale structure entries for Voids, Bubbles, and Filaments, and new in 2012: Blobs and Walls.

Big Bang Bias? : No. It includes the best evidence and rationale for all sides of the Big Bang controversy. It properly has an entry for “Big Bang” and not “Big Bang theory.” It includes entries for Steady-State models (both types), Static Universes (both types), and Plasma Models.

References: It is abundantly referenced with external and internal web links.

Extra: It is unusual in including the html code to allow easy linking to major entries for cosmology papers, articles or websites. It provides entries for common logical fallacies and cognitive biases found in cosmology discourse.

Errors : Errors are corrected within 24 hours.

“Origins” by Lightman and Brawer, 1990 (Glossary is in book)

This is a very good glossary on cosmological principles (though not available online). It has more entries than the CosmologyScience.com glossary, (31 pages) and even though it was written in 1990 – it is still very good (e.g. it includes the new, at that time, large-structure concepts: Voids, bubbles and blobs). It is written at an astrophysics level a bit higher than Scientific American, but it is clear and does not employ an avalanche of equations.

It reveals a mild Big Bang bias and has a few errors but still is very credible. (For example it confuses the Steady-State model with Static Universe, claiming that Steady-State “does not change in time” – when Steady-State is an expanding universe model just like Big Bang.)

It properly has an entry for “Big Bang model” and none for “Big Bang theory,” though it has no Static Universe, space, Malmquist bias, or “Relativistic Doppler” entries.

The Big Bang (3rd Ed., 2001), by Joseph Silk (Glossary is in book)

This is a good glossary on cosmological principles (though not available online). Last updated in 2001, it has more entries than the CosmologyScience.com glossary, (24 pages), but significantly fewer than the Origins book. It is mostly written at a Scientific American level, but some explanations are in post-grad astrophysics language, and it employs more than a few non-trivial equations.

Up to Date : Last updated in 2001

Missing : Missing many important concepts including most large-scale structure entries (which were established a decade before this 3rd version was released) including Voids, Bubbles, or Filaments. It also has no entries for space, Malmquist bias, or Relativistic Doppler.

Big Bang Bias? : Strong Big Bang bias by opinions added to discredit ideas competing with Big Bang. It improperly has an entry for “Big bang theory” – when there is no such thing in astrophysics, and has no entry for Static Universe.

References : The book containing the Glossary lists 4 pages of reference books and articles distinguished by degree of background needed e.g. “Non-Mathematical.”

Extra : It puzzlingly has a large number of references that are not clearly cosmology principles, e.g. star phenomena and meteorites.

In spite of these drawbacks, for the entries it is a useful cosmology principles glossary, though with any cosmology reference I always need at least a second source before I feel comfortable that a claim is credible.

Just to be clear – this is not a review of the book (which is excellent) – just its glossary.

Inflationary Universe, Guth, 1997 (Glossary is in book)

20 page Cosmology glossary with a particle physics slant understandably focusing on principles related to Inflation. It does provide what I presume are the best available definitions of several different Inflation conjectures.

Up to Date? Last updated in 1997, a bit old as you will see by all the terms that are missing.

Missing terms: Big Bang (and it constantly uses the wrong and misleading term “Big Bang Theory”), LCDM, space, Static Universe. It is missing definitions for Walls, Voids, Bubbles, and Filaments even though these were firmly established a decade before this glossary was written.

It also has no entries for Malmquist bias, or Relativistic Doppler.

Big Bang Bias? Essentially complete Big Bang bias, though it does mention and define Steady-state.

Errors: Constant misuse of the term “theory,” as though it means the same as “conjecture” or “model.”

I can recommend this glossary only for its explanations of Inflation related topics.

UCLA Physics and Astronomy Dept Glossary, 2010

Short glossary (~2,000 words) with curt, mostly post-graduate astrophysics level explanations. It includes a good set of quantitative units and a few (not too many) formulas with a moderate Big Bang bias.

It properly has a “[Hot] Big Bang” entry and never refers to a Big Bang “theory,” but has no large scale structure entries — Voids, Walls, Filaments, and Bubbles are absent even though these were firmly established two decades before this glossary was last updated.

There are no entries for LCDM, space, Static Universe, Malmquist bias, or “Relativistic Doppler.”

It has a widely varying level of explanations: from the elementary — “Gamma Ray: a very high energy photon, more energetic than an X-ray” to the exceedingly intricate entry for “Fine structure constant.”

This glossary is probably most useful for its set of quantitative units and formulas.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Astrophysics online glossary, only 20 or so entries, barely touches on cosmology principles, mostly focused on particle physics. However, it does describe some astrophysics particle physics interactions that are not in any other glossary (e.g. Carbon-Nitrogen-Oxygen Cycle).

It is coherently and concisely written at a Scientific American reading level.

Up to Date? : Last updated in 2000.

Missing: There are no entries for LCDM, Space, Malmquist bias, “Relativistic Doppler” or large scale structure even though these were established years before the last update.

There is no clear Big Bang bias, there is not even an entry for Big Bang nor any other model e.g. Static Universe.

References: It has some embedded web links to itself (internal references) but there are no links to outside references.

A Glossary for Aspiring Cosmologists

    This describes a few scientific principles, however it is more of a guide to the tools (e.g. satellites, projects, equipment and laboratories). It does include some good explanations of polarization, and adds a nice dash of good humor :-)

Western Washington University Cosmology Glossary

    Good, but far too brief. Entire glossary fits on one page.

NASA Cosmology Glossary

    Fair, but far too brief.

Glossary Specific to Cosmic Microwave Research, NASA

Not a general Cosmology Principles Glossary. Very good for the narrow focus and terms it does include, as noted only those Specific to Cosmic Microwave Research.

(Let me invite you to nominate other glossaries that deal with Cosmology. Lets see some good competition.)

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