Top 10 best (or worst) terms in astronomy and physics

I guess that list was interesting, but I am not agreeing that those were the worst choices that astronomers and physicists have made when naming things they discovered.

My candidates would include:

"barn" - the unit for measuring the area of an atomic nucleus as seen by an approaching subatomic particle;

"Hertz" - which used to be called what it really is (cycles per second) got renamed to something that nobody in the public recognizes for what it is and sounds like a unit for car rentals;

"charm", etc. naming the characteristics of sub-atomic particles with words that seem to have entirely different meanings to normal people. (At least "spin" has some relevance to the measurements used to measure it, although theory indicates that it cannot be actual physical spin.)

Anybody else have some candidates for the alternative list?
 
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Feb 6, 2020
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"Spin"
There isn't enough of a classical component (the idea of a bulk-rotation of a mass-with-radial-extension around its center of mass) to the essential attribute in question here to warrant the use 'spin' for sub-atomic particles.

To learn "spin", one must unlearn its intuitive coupling to "rotation". Dozens of youTube videos attempt this uncoupling; but the main success of each is found more in the effusive fanboi- or shilI- comment praise—you know... the monotonous drumbeat of "wow, I learned more about spin (or tensors, or radioactively doomed/undoomed cats, etc) in 20 minutes than 4 years of undergrad head-scratching!!.."—than in the exposition itself.
 
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Perhaps the most convoluted problem is the Sun designated as a yellow dwarf star. It won’t be yellow for several billion years. The Sun is one of the larger stars, so not a “dwarf“. The dwarf idea was simply to separate out the non-giant stars, which happened when it was discovered that both red and blue stars come in dramatically different sizes, contrary to then stellar evolution theory.

But if we correct the Sun’s color to white, then how can we call it a white dwarf? [ So a fix for “dwarf“ should come first.]. White dwarfs aren’t even stars, but extremely hot (for billions of years). They are so hot, most aren’t white but bluish white. * cough*

Messy ain’t it.

This will likely take a long time to fix. But it took about four decades to establish ”Uranus”. [It was the French that opposed ”Georgium Sidus”. Can’t blame them. Americans weren’t that found of King George either, obviously. But Leverrier‘s narcissistic idea was disliked, perhaps further supporting the view that he was a “jerk” (#2). ;). The real mystery was whether the Germans knew what troubles would come of their idea. It’s worth noting that Herschel did get income from king George, likely for his gesture. :)]

I think ”singularity” is an inherently problematic word. They possibly don’t exist, but they’re treated as factual.

I’m ok with restoring “George“ and dumping “Uranus”. It‘s not that Greek, but it’s established that it has a certain ring to it. ;)

George
 
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Dec 21, 2019
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A little off topic, but the WORST term? One the author used himself: "three times more" (refering to star formation in Messier 99, which occurs at triple the rate of typical galaxies.)

Articles on Space.com are rife with ridiculously imprecise language like this, using constructions like "three times more" when what is really meant is "three times AS MUCH." No, they're NOT the same thing: "three times more" means "300% more," or 400% of whatever is being compared to.

The only thing worse is when they use something like "six times LESS" (for example "the moon has six times less gravity than Earth", which if read correctly means gravitational acceleration there is negative five G.)

It's hopeless to try to explain the distinction to TV anchors and advertisers, but when it says "PhD in astrophysics" in your bio, we should be able to expect better.
 
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I submit the term, 'Planetary Nebula', which doesn't refer to planets at all. It's a region of gas and dust formed from the cast-off outer layers of a collapsed, dying Star.
 
Aug 7, 2023
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I guess that list was interesting, but I am not agreeing that those were the worst choices that astronomers and physicists have made when naming things they discovered.

My candidates would include:

"barn" - the unit for measuring the area of an atomic nucleus as seen by an approaching subatomic particle;

"Hertz" - which used to be called what it really is (cycles per second) got renamed to something that nobody in the public recognizes for what it is and sounds like a unit for car rentals;

"charm", etc. naming the characteristics of sub-atomic particles with words that seem to have entirely different meanings to normal people. (At least "spin" has some relevance to the measurements used to measure it, although theory indicates that it cannot be actual physical spin.)

Anybody else have some candidates for the alternative list?
I have always thought "black hole" was an unfortunate choice of names. A hole is usually considered empty or sparsely populated, yet the center of a black hole is the most dense object we know of. I nominate "light sucker" as the new name.
 
Aug 7, 2023
8
1
15
A little off topic, but the WORST term? One the author used himself: "three times more" (refering to star formation in Messier 99, which occurs at triple the rate of typical galaxies.)

Articles on Space.com are rife with ridiculously imprecise language like this, using constructions like "three times more" when what is really meant is "three times AS MUCH." No, they're NOT the same thing: "three times more" means "300% more," or 400% of whatever is being compared to.

The only thing worse is when they use something like "six times LESS" (for example "the moon has six times less gravity than Earth", which if read correctly means gravitational acceleration there is negative five G.)

It's hopeless to try to explain the distinction to TV anchors and advertisers, but when it says "PhD in astrophysics" in your bio, we should be able to expect better.
I agree with you, 400%, more or less.
 
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I like the terms physicists employ to rename things so as to catch the public's attention and garner funding.

My 2nd best favorite was renaming the unified field theory to the "theory of everything", but my all time favorite is referring to the Higg's Boson as the "god particle". Sheesh! Give me a break.
 
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