Talk Like a Physicist

One of last year's highest-traffic posts was, weirdly, Talk Like a Physicist. I say "weirdly" because it wasn't much more than a link to Tom at Swans On Tea.

It's that time of year again, and Tom's back with an updated list of vocabulary for your physicist-talking needs. I don't have much to add, but one of Tom's items:

We physicists quantify relationships -- something that is complicated is "nonlinear," or even "highly nonlinear." Opposites are "inversely proportional"

reminded me of a great literary reference, from Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life":

"So they can read a word with equal ease no matter how it's rotated," Gary said. He turned to look at the heptapods, impressed. "I wonder if it's a consequence of their bodies' radial symmetry: their bodies have no 'forward' direction, so maybe their language doesn't either. Highly neat."

I couldn't believe it. I was working with somebody who modified the word "neat" with "highly."

Gary is, of course, a physicist.

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By Justasimplecou… (not verified) on 14 Mar 2009 #permalink

highly neat? One of the common 2-word phrases when I was at Caltech was "totally random." Also common 2-word phrase:

Ditch Day: This is a day that seniors prepare for many months in advance by making elaborate scavenger hunts, puzzles that underclassmen have to solve, and games that underclassmen can play. The games and puzzles serve as a distraction so the underclassmen will not prank the seniors' rooms while the seniors are off campus for the day. This is an Institute Holiday, meaning that classes are canceled, and even for people not participating in the events for the day it is fun to watch as groups of students walk around in silly costumes and big smiles.

See also:

Some similarities have been found between Pacific Tech and Caltech in Pasadena, California. Most of the references are due to Dave Marvit, an alumnus of Caltech and consultant to the director of "Real Genius." He also has a bit part in the movie.