When words mean different things in science

December 6th, 2010
submit to reddit Share

There are times when words have more than one meaning. One of the most confusing circumstances is when they have completely different meanings in common speech versus in scientific and technical contexts. It can cause a great deal of confusion when these terms are used by lay persons.

I’ve read a few news articles that quoted a study and then went on to say “but this study was found to have an error in it,” when in fact, what the reporter was reading was not that the study contained a mistake but rather that the statistical analysis contained reports of what the standard error was.

A few examples are listed bellow, but I’m sure readers can think of many more.

A few examples:

Error:

  • In Common Context: A mistake. Something done unintentionally.
  • In Computer Science: A misread or incorrect value, usually a bit. A one where there should be a zero or vice-versa, usually the result of noise or equipment problems.
  • In Statistics (and the context of scientific studies):Error” basically means the degree of confidence of the results. In most circumstances error is calculated according to the standard deviation of data. In some circumstances error may be based on the accuracy and precision of the instrument used to make a measurement. When a study is reported to “have found an increase of 20% with an error of +/- 2%” that does not mean someone made a mistake during the study, but rather that the data indicates a increase of between 18% and 22%.

(note that the above description of error is very simplified, and in reality, statistical error is a more complex subject which includes degrees of confidence, but this is a reasonably accurate, if abridged, definition)

Salt:

  • In Common Context: Usually simply refers to sodium chloride, the primary component of table salt and rock salt. The majority of sea salt is also sodium chloride. Sodium chloride is that familiar “salty” tasting granular white substance.
  • In Chemistry: Salt, or more accurately “salts” are an entire class of chemicals. This includes sodium chloride, but also a huge number of other chemicals. Salts are ionic compounds that can result of an acid-base reaction. Most salts are inorganic, but a few, such as acetate salts, are organic. Not all salts are white, many are not. Not all salts taste salty either, but many are toxic and thus would not be safe to taste to begin with.

Pinch:

Fluid:

  • In Common Context: A liquid
  • In science: A liquid or gas. Most would probably not think of a gas when a “fluid” is described, but in fact, a is a fluid.

Flip-Flop

Clock:

  • In Common Context: A device for measuring time.
  • In Electronics (in the context of circuit components): A pulser or a device that generates a regular timing signal for synchronizing circuit components.

Steam

  • In Common Context – “Steam” is often used to describe the white misty cloud seen coming from a tea kettle or from a steam engine or the cooling towers of power plants. Even hot food that is giving off a wispy cloud may be described as “steaming.” A hot humidifying shower may be described as a steam shower.

    These clouds are actually composed of tiny droplets of liquid water, so small that they may remain suspended in air and carried by currents. When large volumes of water vapor are present, some of it may condense into these tiny droplets.

  • In Science or Engineering: Technically, real “steam” is a vapor, an invisible gas that is entirely composed of gas-phased water. Steam may be considered “dry” if there are no microscopic droplets of water present and heated dry steam can even be used to light a match. Since steam exists at high temperatures, when it is released into the atmosphere it will rapidly condense into a mist of droplets, producing the familiar clouds, but when it does, it is no longer truly steam.

Organic:

  • In Common Context: It does not seem to have any consistent or coherent definition other than a belief that something is somehow “natural” or lacks “chemicals” (more on that bellow) or that something is produced by an organism grown in a manner that does not use modern technology (except for the mechanics of harvesting). The term organic is often applied to food and is increasingly applied to clothing and personal care products. Standards to exist, but there is very little rhyme or reason as to why certain things are considered organic and others are not. It appears to be primarily based on the concept of things being believed to be natural.
  • In Scientific Context: “Organic” has a very concise and non-ambiguous definition. Organic chemicals are based on the covalent bonds of carbon, usually with hydrogen and often also including oxygen and nitrogen. By convention, carbides and carbon dioxide are not considered organic. Organic chemicals are associated with life and were once believed to be produced exclusively by organisms, but this was found not to be the case.Plastics are all organic, as are many industrial chemicals. Hydrocarbons, such as petroleum-derived chemicals are all organic. An easy way to identify organic chemicals: Most anything that is squishy, slimy, gooey or smelly (with the exception of sulfur-based smelly chemicals) are organic. Many (but not all) organic chemicals will rot. Most will burn. Most highly complex molecules are organic.

Chemical:

  • In Common Context: The word “Chemical” is often used to define something artificial or possibly dangerous, toxic or otherwise fitting within the pre-conceived notion of what a “chemical” is. The term seems to have little formal definition, which results in what are essentially meaningless statements, such as “we don’t use chemical fertilizers.”
  • In Scientific Context: A chemical is any substance with a fixed formula or composition. With the exception of subatomic particles, all matter is either a chemical or a combination of chemicals. A chemical can be a compound, an element or a mixture of compounds and elements. Things which are *not* chemicals would be objects composed of many chemicals. An automobile, for example is not a chemical – although it is a combination many chemicals.The use of the word “chemical” in scientific context may also indicate that something relates to the chemistry of a substance. A chemical change is distinct from a physical change and a chemical reaction is distinct from a nuclear reaction or any other kind of reaction.

Radiation:

  • In Common Context: For most people, the term “radiation” relates to ionizing radiation, the type created by radioactive decay or x-ray tubes. It is also commonly used to describe the RF fields produced by wireless devices – this often causes a great deal of confusion to those who do not have a full understanding of the differences between the two types of radiation. The term has caused a great deal of confusion overall.
  • In Scientific Context: Ionizing radiation is certainly a form of radiation, and so too is rf radiation, but so too is light and infrared radiation, like that created by a radiant heater. All forms of electromagnetic energy are forms of radiation. Radiation is also the term used to describe radiant cooling or radiant heat transfer, in which the mechanism is electromagnetic energy. Radiation can also be in the form of emissions of classical particles, such as alpha, beta and neutron radiation.Radiation is not necessarily artificial, dangerous or in any way related to nuclear energy. Indeed, all objects that are not at a temperature of absolute zero do emit some form of radiation.

Alcohol

  • In Common Context: The word “alcohol” normally refers to ethyl alcohol or ethanol. This is the type of alcohol that is found in alcoholic beverages and is also commonly used in alcohol-based solvents as well as in medical uses such as “rubbing alcohol.” It may also be called “grain alcohol” to distinguish it from “wood alcohol” (methanol) or isopropanol, another common rubbing alcohol.
  • In Chemistry: There is not a single alcohol in chemistry but rather, “alcohols” are class of organic chemicals. This include ethanol, methanol and isopropanolbut also includes pentanol and butanol. Other compounds such as glycerin and ethylene glycol are also considered alcohols.

Theory:

  • In Common Context: To most people the word “Theory” means something close to what “hypothesis” really means, or indicates an unproven possibility or proposed idea about something. It could also be considered analogous to “hunch” or “educated guess.” For example “My theory about why the car won’t start is that the cold temperature has caused the battery output to drop.” The use of theory in this context in common context has lead to a great deal of misunderstanding over concepts like the theory of evolution, which some would say “is just a theory,” assuming this means it is thus unproven or just a guess.
  • In Scientific Context: In science, a theory is an explanation for how or why certain things are observed. Theories are based on constant logical rules which govern a system and can be used to make predictions. The hallmark of a theory is the ability to make predictions and the accuracy of these predictions is ultimately how the validity of the theory is tested.The fact that a theory is able to make some predictions accurately does not ultimately validate the theory.In some cases, a theory will show initial success in making accurate predictions in some circumstances, but will fail when it is examined more completely or is used in more varied situations. An example of this would be the ptolemaic planetary model, which makes reasonably accurate predictions of planetary motion in the short term, but cannot explain all aspects of planetary motion over the course of a longer period of time.

    The theory of evolution could be used as an example of how a theory is applied. Some of the observations made included: There is a great diversity of life; many lifeforms appear to share similar structures or traits; life forms are well adapted to their local enviornment; in areas that are distinct but geographically close to each-other, it is very common to find organisms which are similar but have differing traits adapted to each enviornment; changes in an enviornment produce changes in the life forms that inhabit it. Evolution by natural selection was proposed as a mechanism which would explain all these observations, and it has since been tested repeatedly and proven to accurately predict the development of life.The greater the amount of examination and testing a theory is put to the greater the confidence in its validity becomes. However, if it ever fails, the theory will have to be either revised or rejected entirely.

Even more confusing: When terms mean different things in different fields

Plasma:

Condenser:

Fusion:

  • In Physics: Usually means nuclear fusion of two nuclei to create a heavier nuclei.
  • In Chemistry: May mean the physical change of a substance between solid and liquid, as in “heat of fusion.”
  • In Biology: May refer to cell fusion.
  • In Materials and Structural Engineering: refers to bonding by fusing of materials, as in welding.

If this is not all confusing enough, the phrase “the circuits were fused” can mean two entirely different things. It could mean that they were soldered together (either intentionally or due to overheating) or that they are protected by a fuse. If the circuit in question is part of a bomb, it could mean yet another thing: fused meaning armed and primed for detonation.

Nuclear:

  • In Physics and Most Scientific Context: Referring to reactions or properties of an atom’s nucleus.
  • In Cellular Biology: Referring to reactions or properties of an cells s nucleus – as in nuclear DNA. This has lead to circumstances where descriptions of nuclear DNA have caused some to think that the reference was somehow related to nuclear radiation or nuclear technology.

Burn:

  • In Common Context (many scientific circumstances): Combustion, burning as with fire.
  • In Medicine: An injury often associated with heat, but which can also be caused by chemicals (such as acids and bases) or by light (as with a sunburn), friction or ionizing radiation.
  • In Nuclear Engineering: Fission. A reactor may be said to “burn” its fuel, even though it does not use combustion. This usage shows up frequently in the term burnup.
  • In Information Technology: To write information to media, often implying permanently, as in “burning a CD” but also used to describe “burning a rom,” meaning to write data or a configuration to a storage chip or FPGA.
  • In Aerospace: To activate a rocket engine or thruster for a period of time. This term is used even if the rocket engine is a mono-propellant rocket and thus does not actually use combustion.



This entry was posted on Monday, December 6th, 2010 at 7:34 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Culture, Education, Good Science, media, Misc. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
View blog reactions

30 Responses to “When words mean different things in science”

  1. 1
    TheOldBear Says:

    How about

    Momentum
    In politics, Momentum propels a candidate or idea across the voter’s attention. When it is exhausted, the idea or candidate drops out of sight. This seems to map to the pre-newtonian idea of Impetus.


    Quote Comment
  2. 2
    soylent Says:

    Don’t forget energy, which has been endlessly bastardized by the woo-mongers. Curiously they haven’t attacked entropy all that much.


    Quote Comment
  3. 3
    DV82XL Says:

    Bias:

    To the public it’s a willful manipulation of facts to suit political ideology.

    To scientists it’s a term used to describe a statistical sample in which members of the sample are not equally likely to be chosen.


    Quote Comment
  4. 4
    Stephen Says:

    I’d also like to add:
    Theory (Physics): Lagrangian equation. Often physicists will not recognize a hypothesis as a “theory” unless the form of a Lagrangian (equation of mechanics) has been derived from the hypothetical conditions or symmetry.

    Burn (Artificial Intelligence): Iterations of a learning algorithm intended to either assist in machine-learning or reduce correlations, not intended to produce output. (Used in Markov-chained Monte Carlo algorithms.)
    “I chose to burn 95% of the runs in my simulation” does means “I reduced artificial correlations between data” (implying good practice), not “I cut out 95% of my data” (implying falsified results).

    As bad as this confusion is, take a look at different definitions between common use and law.


    Quote Comment
  5. 5
    Mark Says:

    Interesting. How about Feedback.

    Feedback – public use, generally ‘Give me some feedback’ (i.e. what do you think).

    Audio – a noisy squeal positive feedback via audio equipment

    Positive or negative feedback in engineering (e.g. an oscillation in engineering such as a bridge under the influence of marching troops).


    Quote Comment
  6. 6
    Michael Says:

    one that confused me no end: when economists (although I’m not sure I’d count them as scientists) say “fair” they seem to mean something different from everybody else as well. It seems to mean “whatever the outcome of a completely unregulated market”. I think. But I’m a physicist and despise them, so maybe I’m being unfair (colloquial usage)


    Quote Comment
  7. 7
    Jason Ribeiro Says:

    Another good example would be the word power. In physics it is energy released over time. In common language it can mean the ability to act, legal rights, influence and so on. I see a lot of people confuse the term energy and power as if they are the same thing when speaking about energy issues. This is one reason why I prefer the term nuclear energy instead of nuclear power as nuclear power has political connotations.


    Quote Comment
  8. 8
    Michael Karnerfors Says:

    Skeptic/Sceptic

    In common language: someone who will not believe anything you say, even after being presented with solid proof.

    In science: someone who will believe anything you say, if you present solid proof.

    Also an addition to salt:

    In cryptography/computer security: a secret and (hopefully) random string added to data that need to be kept secret, to prevent an evesdropper or intruder from using rainbow tables or similar means of comparing encrypted/hashed data with sets of knowndito and thus deducing the data.

    Oh dear… I just notiecd. Steve… you just got a banner ad for “Tesla Secret” “Revealed: Nikola Tesla’s “Free Power” Device”.

    /Michael


    Quote Comment
  9. 9
    Jason Ribeiro Says:

    Power means something very different in common language whereas it is energy released over time in physics. Sorry if this comment is somehow a repeat as my previous comment seemed to vanish before it even appeared.


    Quote Comment
  10. 10
    Brian-M Says:

            Michael Karnerfors said:

    Oh dear… I just notiecd. Steve… you just got a banner ad for “Tesla Secret” “Revealed: Nikola Tesla’s “Free Power” Device”.

    I hadn’t noticed that either. I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for “perpetual motion” or “free energy” machines. I like figuring out how their proponents think they work and spotting the flaws. Unfortunately my outdated browser won’t play the video on that site which explains it. :(

    I can’t find any sites that give you the plans for free (and I’m certainly not willing to pay for them). Given the fact that any plans and designs actually produced by Tesla are now public domain, the inability to find free plans suggests that this so-called Tesla Generator isn’t actually one of Tesla’s inventions.

    I did find a video here: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5782814493845772323#

    At 22 minutes long it’s somewhat boring, yet still mildly amusing. The bit where they drop a powerful magnet down a copper pipe do demonstrate the “mysterious nature” of magnets was fascinating. Presumably the magnet is generating electric current in the pipe as it descends, which in turn produces a magnetic field opposing the motion of the magnet, resulting in the magnet falling in slow motion, although they don’t tell you that.

    But their claim they’ve successfully demonstrated the motor part of their design before live audiences and scientists who were invited to use their own meters at 45 shows falls a bit flat to my mind. If it really does put out 5 times the power it draws, then it’s a very simple matter to hook it up to a generator and use the generator as a source of power, allowing them to disconnect the battery while it still generates surplus power. But they haven’t done that. None of these “free energy” people ever do that. They always need a battery hooked up for it to work, and only provide short-duration demonstrations.

    Another site here: http://www.prlog.org/11072864-tesla-generator-plans-released-to-the-public.html

    This site gives an amusing answer to the question of why aren’t power companies saving a whole lot of money by using free energy machines instead of using conventional power generation. The answer? They are using free energy machines as well, while still charging you the full amount. But you can save money by building your own free energy machine if you just pay $47 for the plans. :rolleyes:

    Funniest of all is at the bottom of the page…

    “P.P.S.: Remember, the information described in this guide is TOP SECRET! I’m not sure when another opportunity to slash your energy bill by up to $36,000 in the next 10 years and get paid by your energy company will be released again. The CIA has made sure this information has been suppressed for over 30 years and could easily cover it up for the next 30 years. So, Act Now! “

    :)


    Quote Comment
  11. 11
    Brian-M Says:

    Some more checking, and it seems there is more than one kind of device going by some variant of the name “Tesla Generator”. One kind is a type of magnetic-powered perpetual motion machine. The other one (linked to by the banner ad) seems to be a simple antenna/rectifier combination which can actually produce electricity by picking up radio-waves, but not in usable amounts.


    Quote Comment
  12. 12
    KovaaK Says:

    Nitpick: Your definition of “error” for Computer Science is more along the lines of hardware-level computing or digital communication. A good example of this would be talking about an error in reference to something like Hamming Code. However, “Computer Science” covers more than that – programming comes to mind much quicker than these topics.

    I would describe an error in Computer Science more generally as “an unexpected occurence”. It might be a flipped bit, an input error (user types in a string instead of integer), a write error (file already opened by another program), a memory read error, timing error, etc.

    Nice list though. I’m glad to say I was aware of most of these with the exception of Pinch in physics and Condensor in Electronics and Optics. Nice to realize that now as opposed to later. Thanks!


    Quote Comment
  13. 13
    Randal L. Schwartz Says:

    Consider also “quantum”, which has a popular meaning of “huge”, but in physics actually means “minimal discrete”.


    Quote Comment
  14. 14
    Kevin Brennan Says:

    ^I actually think the popular meaning of “quantum” is “word that sounds cool” ;) . I decided to look it up, and it can actually refer to “an amount,” which is something I didn’t realize.

    Nice list, doc. One of the major hurdles to becoming an expert in a field is learning the jargon, where certain words have VERY specific meanings.


    Quote Comment
  15. 15
    Alan Barnard Says:

            soylent said:

    Don’t forget energy, which has been endlessly bastardized by the woo-mongers. Curiously they haven’t attacked entropy all that much.

    It’s a funny old World. ‘Entropy’ has been so misused by popular scientists, the general public, and pseudo-scientists that the fictional meaning has now almost replaced the original one.

    This one takes the biscuit: http://www.newsbiscuit.com/2010/07/05/nick-clegg-to-repeal-second-law-of-thermodynamics/

    On a more serious note, our old fiend Henry Morris writes: http://www.icr.org/article/entropy-open-systems/

    His argument depends of course on the same misunderstanding as in ‘NewsBiscuit’. Not only does Henry not understand entropy himself but he is relying on his audience having the same misconceptions. It is nicely summed up by a comment on a creationist blog, ‘I have learned most of my thermodynamics from reading your site’.

    Antidote: http://entropysite.oxy.edu/ and http://2ndlaw.oxy.edu/


    Quote Comment
  16. 16
    Brian-M Says:

            Alan Barnard said:

    On a more serious note, our old fiend Henry Morris writes: http://www.icr.org/article/entropy-open-systems/

    Ouch. The bad logic in that one make my brain hurt.


    Quote Comment
  17. 17
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Michael Karnerfors said:

    Oh dear… I just notiecd. Steve… you just got a banner ad for “Tesla Secret” “Revealed: Nikola Tesla’s “Free Power” Device”.

    this is why I don’t have many ads, have gone through periods of not having any at all and make next to nothing on them: I try to go to the greatest lengths possible to avoid appearing to endorse a product that is bunk, but apparently in one case it failed.

    These ads are based on a combination of key words, search terms used to find this page and perimeters that I put into the account.

    It seems that despite my best efforts, some “woo” ads get through anyway.


    Quote Comment
  18. 18
    drbuzz0 Says:

            KovaaK said:

    Nitpick: Your definition of “error” for Computer Science is more along the lines of hardware-level computing or digital communication. A good example of this would be talking about an error in reference to something like Hamming Code. However, “Computer Science” covers more than that – programming comes to mind much quicker than these topics.

    I would describe an error in Computer Science more generally as “an unexpected occurence”. It might be a flipped bit, an input error (user types in a string instead of integer), a write error (file already opened by another program), a memory read error, timing error, etc.

    Nice list though. I’m glad to say I was aware of most of these with the exception of Pinch in physics and Condensor in Electronics and Optics. Nice to realize that now as opposed to later. Thanks!

    You’re right. It can actually mean different things in computer science.

    I was thinking of “error” in the coding context of “error detection” and “error correction.”

    For those who do not know, error correction is encoding of data that is designed to detect and correct bit errors. There are various methods of doing this depending on the circumstance and how much fault tolerance is needed. It’s commonly used for things like video transport streams or other kinds of data that are being transmitted by error prone mediums.


    Quote Comment
  19. 19
    Q Says:

            TheOldBear said:

    How about

    Momentum
    In politics, Momentum propels a candidate or idea across the voter’s attention. When it is exhausted, the idea or candidate drops out of sight. This seems to map to the pre-newtonian idea of Impetus.

    hmmm…

    Or maybe it’s just an issue of the idea being slowed down by political friction or political drag until it can’t be propelled anymore.

    This is kind of fun, btw.

    How about “microwave.” One time I used the term with someone when talking about wifi and he said “What? What do wifi cards have to do with microwaves? The microwave is all the way in the kitchen”

    Yeah, not sure if that really counts as a term being different in science versys common speak, but it made me want to bang my head on the wall. Microwave does not mean microwave oven.


    Quote Comment
  20. 20
    Anon Says:

    Another one to add to plasma:
    Popular usage is a type of TV.

    Transistor used to be just be used to describe a transistor radio (though now that basically every non-audiophool radio is one that usage seems to have died).


    Quote Comment
  21. 21
    [Other] Matthew Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    data that are being transmitted by error prone mediums.

    I want to make a bad joke about error prone mediums but I just can’t bring myself to do it.

    Matthew


    Quote Comment
  22. 22
    Alan Barnard Says:

            Brian-M said:

    Ouch. The bad logic in that one make my brain hurt.

    I am glad that you like it, here is another: http://www.icr.org/articles/view/786/247/

    The deaths of Morris and Gish were a great loss to science, in the sense that the death of McGonagall was a great loss to poetry. So the baton now gets handed to Ham and AIG – not in the same league at all.

            Q said:

    How about “microwave.”

    One time I used the term with someone when talking about wifi and he said “What? What do wifi cards have to do with microwaves? The microwave is all the way in the kitchen”

    There is more than one problem here. NASA defines microwaves as above 3GHz which excludes the domestic microwave oven. But our (UK) National Radiological Protection Board includes UHF, which includes all of our terrestrial TV channels, in the term.


    Quote Comment
  23. 23
    Brian-M Says:

            Alan Barnard said:

    I am glad that you like it, here is another: http://www.icr.org/articles/view/786/247/

    The deaths of Morris and Gish were a great loss to science, in the sense that the death of McGonagall was a great loss to poetry. So the baton now gets handed to Ham and AIG – not in the same league at all.

    This seems more like a deliberate and well thought-out misinformation campaign to me, rather then the jumble of painfully bad logic and scattered thoughts from the other one. Although it does make some amusing statements…

    “(the ancient pagan evolutionists used to think of it in some such way also)”

    “Just how the cosmic egg could have no structure and yet have a high degree of order is not clear to me, but of course I am an ignorant and biased creationist.” (At least we can all agree on something.)

    :)

            Alan Barnard said:

    There is more than one problem here. NASA defines microwaves as above 3GHz which excludes the domestic microwave oven. But our (UK) National Radiological Protection Board includes UHF, which includes all of our terrestrial TV channels, in the term.

    I don’t see how NASA’s definition of microwave is relevant to anyone not involved with that organization. However, the SF (super-high frequency) range begins at 3GHz, so this may be why they’re using it. The more common definition of microwave, as used in RF engineering, is anything over 1Ghz.


    Quote Comment
  24. 24
    Alan Barnard Says:

            Brian-M said:

    I don’t see how NASA’s definition of microwave is relevant to anyone not involved with that organization. However, the SF (super-high frequency) range begins at 3GHz, so this may be why they’re using it. The more common definition of microwave, as used in RF engineering, is anything over 1Ghz.

    In the UK, all schoolchildren are expected to know the different uses of radio waves and microwaves. The textbooks avoid committing themselves to a definite boundary thus making the whole point moot. The magnetron is definitely a ‘microwave’ device by its construction but the frequency used in domestic ovens is determined solely by the availability of a convenient unlicensed band. Wi-Fi and my computer work at the same frequency but there is no plumbing in sight.

    1GHz is a nice compromise but it leaves one GSM band as RF and another as microwave frequency.

    Since this site is mainly about woo, the difference between nice gentle radio waves and deadly microwave radiation becomes important – rebranding mobile phones as radio sets would produce cries of, ‘cover-up’ and ‘whitewash’.


    Quote Comment
  25. 25
    Brian-M Says:

            Alan Barnard said:

    Since this site is mainly about woo, the difference between nice gentle radio waves and deadly microwave radiation becomes important – rebranding mobile phones as radio sets would produce cries of, ‘cover-up’ and ‘whitewash’.

    The problem is that a high frequency radio wave is the same thing as a low frequency microwave no matter what arbitrary definition between radio wave and microwave you use.

    Set the arbitrary division at 1000MHz, and you have a 999MHz radio wave that is essentially the same thing as a 1001MHz microwave, as far as the human body is concerned.

    Set the arbitrary division at 3000MHz, and you have a 2999MHz radio wave that is essentially the same thing as a 3001MHz microwave, as far as the human body is concerned.

    Maybe we should just drop the term “microwave” altogether? Just have LF, MF, HF, VHF, UHF, SHF and EHF. But I’m not sure people would take to the Idea of a UHF oven (even though it;s the same thing), especially as they’re more familiar with UHF as a TV frequency band.


    Quote Comment
  26. 26
    R.A.W. Says:

    I was frustrated all through High School with all the completely unrelated mathematical applications of the word “tangent”.


    Quote Comment
  27. 27
    Michael Karnerfors Says:

    Oh, almost forgot my favorite:

    [b]Normal[/b]
    Common context: conformance to an average, social norms, expected patterns of behavior.
    Math: one of the two shortest paths away from everything else.

    /Michael


    Quote Comment
  28. 28
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Michael Karnerfors said:

    Oh, almost forgot my favorite:

    [b]Normal[/b]
    Common context: conformance to an average, social norms, expected patterns of behavior.
    Math: one of the two shortest paths away from everything else.

    /Michael

    Then in physics you have the “normal” force.

    I have thought of some others I might add to the list. a calorie in physics is different than a calorie in nutrition, where a calorie is actually physical kilocalory.

            Brian-M said:

    Maybe we should just drop the term “microwave” altogether? Just have LF, MF, HF, VHF, UHF, SHF and EHF. But I’m not sure people would take to the Idea of a UHF oven (even though it;s the same thing), especially as they’re more familiar with UHF as a TV frequency band.

    Actually, we’ve got something of a missnomer there.

    Today most radio communications use at least the VHF spectrum or the UHF, so HF is lower than what’s often used, but it is actually “high frequency” because at the time the name was established, it was the high end of the usable spectrum.

    In modern context, HF is low frequency, MF is very low frequency and “medium frequency” might be something like the high VHF area.

    It seems that the way they delt with the opening of more spectrum was to tack more and more extreme adjatives to the term.

    First there was high frequency then “Very high frequency” then “Ultra high frequency” and then “Super high Frequency”

    Maybe we should keep the convention by replacing milimeter microwave with “Absurdly high frequency”

    But anyway, this can to strange statements like “We need a big antenna because we’re dealing with very low frequencies, all the way down in the high frequency band”

    And on a related note: Shortwave radio has really long waves, by modern standards


    Quote Comment
  29. 29
    Anon Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    Then in physics you have the “normal” force.

    But that’s in the direction of the mathematical normal.

            drbuzz0 said:

    a calorie in physics is different than a Calorie in nutrition, where a calorie is actually real kilocalorie.

    Fixes are in bold.


    Quote Comment
  30. 30
    Brian-M Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    Maybe we should keep the convention by replacing milimeter microwave with “Absurdly high frequency”

    I love the idea. Next we can have ludicrously high frequency.

    (And we can take it all the way up to plaid. Sorry, Spaceballs reference.)


    Quote Comment

Leave a Reply

Current month ye@r day *

Please copy the string jjfFSJ to the field below:

*

Protected by WP Anti Spam