Who said it first, science or sci-fi?

Maria Trimarchi

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Did you know Frankenstein was 90 years old when the term "mad scientist" was coined in a 1908 novel? Or that while "droid" may have been first introduced in a 1952 story named "Robots of the World! Arise!," it's Lucasfilm that holds the trademark? See if you can tell which is truth and which is (science) fiction.

Big Bang

The Big Bang is the foremost explanation about the origin of the universe.

pocket universe

The earliest known use of the term "pocket universe," which is an artificially-created universe that exists within another universe, was in 1946 in the book "Pocket Universes," by M. Leinster.

genetic engineering

Genetic engineering, which involves manipulating DNA, was coined in 1951 in "The Dragon's Island" by Jack Williamson.

Big Crunch

The Big Crunch is another theory about the end of the universe.


Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis -- say that three times fast -- is a type of lung disease caused by inhaling very fine silicate or quartz dust.

Frivolous Theorem of Arithmetic

The Frivolous Theorem of Arithmetic says that almost all natural numbers are very, very, very large.

gas giant

Coined by James Blish in the story "Solar Plexus," a gas giant is a large gaseous planet with a solid core.


The phrase faster-than-light, coined in 1947, comes from Murray Leinster's "Manless Worlds in Thrilling Wonder Stories."


The term gravitics, the science of controlling or studying gravity or anti-gravity, was coined in "Tricky Tonnage" by Malcom Jameson.


Buckminsterfullerene is the most common naturally-occurring fullerene molecule that happens to resemble a soccer ball.

noble gases

The six noble gases are elements found on the periodic table: helium (He), neon (Ne), argon (Ar), krypton (Kr), xenon (Xe) and radon (Rn).

test tube baby

"Test tube babies," now an outdated term, are babies conceived via in vitro fertilization (IVF).


Positronic means it's powered by positrons, and was first coined by Issac Asimov in the story, "Reason" in the Astounding Science Fiction collection of 1941.

The O'Neill cylinder

Also known as an O'Neill colony, the cylindrical design of this space settlement was conceived by American physicist Gerard K. O'Neill in his book "The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space."


This iron-based alloy is virtually indestructible. It's also artificial and appears in Marvel Comics. For instance, Wolverine has adamantium-plated retractable claws.


This radioactive element (Th) has an atomic number of 90, which means it's a heavyweight on the periodic table. Apt, for being named after the Norse god of thunder, Thor.

Big Rip

Yet another theory about the end of the Universe. This one suggests continual rapid exansion of the cosmos could ultimately destroy everything.

Blue Shift

A Blue Shift describes changes that decrease a wavelength of light.

The Council of Giants

Council of Giants is a ring of 12 large galaxies.

parallel universe

The term can be traced back not to scientists, but to science fiction author H.G. Wells, in the 1923 novel "Men Like Gods."


Terraforming is the transformation of another planet's environment into one that can support life as on Earth. This word was coined by Jack Williamson in 1942, in the science-fiction short story "Collision Orbit."


Coined in the mid-20th century, collapsium refers to a variety of extremely high-density substances.


Xanthopsia is a deficiency in your vision, which makes objects appear yellowed.

galactic bulge

The center of a galaxy that's made of mostly old stars is called a galactic bulge.

sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia

Sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia is the scientific word for an ice cream headache.


Growling stomach? Those gurgles are known as borborygmi.


Horripilation is the scientific term for goose bumps.


Need a device to view small time intervals, past or future? Try a chronoscope, an idea coined by Isaac Asimov in his short story "The Dead Past" in 1956.


The word "neural" was first used in the 1955 story "Grandpa" by James H. Schmitz.

dark energy

It's hypothetical, but it's not science fiction. NASA estimates that nearly 70 percent of the universe is made of up dark energy.

zero gravity

Zero gravity is a real thing, but the term didn't come from the science community. Jack Binder was the first to use the phrase, in his graphic novel "If Science Reached the Earth's Core."


Introduced by mathematician Arthur Cayley (1852), "pfaffian" was named for the mathematician Johann Friedrich Pfaff who preceded him.


In 1970 author Gregory Benford named a destructive computer program "VIRUS" in his story "The Scarred Man."

event horizon

An event horizon is the point near a black hole where the gravitational pull is too strong to escape it.

Heat Death of the Universe

Heat Death of the Universe is a theory explaining the end of the universe.

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