The Name Number for Astronomy

The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research.

(Image credit: School of Earth and Space Exploration)

by Eric Schulman and Caroline V. Cox
Alexandria, Virginia

We have calculated the Name Number for our field, which is astronomy. The concept of the "Name Number" for professions was proposed by Kevin Krajick as a way to quantify a profession's Nominative Determinism, or the amount to which people choose a particular profession based on their last name.1

Krajick calculated the Name Number for geology by dividing the number of geology-related surnames for those who presented papers at the 2003 meeting of the Geological Society of America by the total number of authorial surnames for that meeting. The geology Name Number presented in Krajick's study was 117 / 8639, or 0.0135432.

Krajick pointed out that geology is the first branch of science to have a calculated Name Number, and concluded that "it remains to be seen whether other specialties will rise to challenge its supremacy." On behalf of astronomers everywhere, we have accepted this challenge and present our results here.

Calculating the Name Number for Astronomy

We calculated the Name Number for astronomy by examining the names of the approximately 7000 members of the American Astronomical Society in 2000 and finding the following matches to the profession of astronomy:

Sun -- 1, Sunshine -- 1
Moon -- 1, Mooney -- 1
Starr -- 1, Field -- 1, Starrfield -- 1
Light -- 1, Beam -- 1, Ray -- 5
Argon -- 1, Silver -- 1, Gold -- 1
Greenhouse -- 1, Gass -- 1

(Image credit: University of Maryland)

By this method, the Name Number for astronomy is 19/7000 or 0.0027143.

A naive interpretation of these data is that the Name Number for the field of astronomy is a factor of 4.9896126 smaller than the Name Number for the field of geology. However, since cosmology, which is a subfield of astronomy, is defined as "the study of the physical universe considered as a totality of phenomena in time and space" (, an argument could be made that the Name Number for astronomy is actually 1.0000000.

In fact, we do make this argument, and therefore conclude that the Name Number for the field of astronomy is a factor of  73.837607 larger than the Name Number for the field of geology.

(Image credit: NASA)

1. "The 'Name Number' for Geology, and for Other Professions," Kevin Krajick, 2005, Annals of Improbable Research, vol. 11, no. 2, March-April 2005, pp. 14-15.


This article is republished with permission from the May-June 2005 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!

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