Anna Frebel and Volker Bromm’s article “Precious fossils of the infant universe” (Physics Today, April 2012, page 49) was both intriguing and confusing to me. As a geologist who also holds a degree in archaeology, I found the use of the terms “fossil” and “archaeology” in the article inappropriate. In the fields of geology and paleontology, the term “fossil” means evidence of past life preserved in the geologic record. Likewise, in anthropology, “archaeology” is a specific term related to the study of past human activity through examination of material culture and environmental evidence of humans. As I read the article, I was sorely disappointed to discover that it had nothing to do with life or past human existence.

The terms in the Frebel and Bromm article might seem appropriate to astronomers and physicists. However, consistency in the use of scientific terms, especially by scientists, would help avoid misunderstanding and improve interdisciplinary communication. The misappropriation of the above terms is akin to the frequent misuse of the term “theory” in the news media when they really mean idea or hypothesis. Surely, scientists in physics and astronomy can devise accurate and descriptive terms to communicate their discoveries rather than hijacking existing scientific terms that are widely accepted to mean something completely different. Otherwise, the article was excellent.