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  • Jen-Luc Piquant sez: "They like us! They really like us!"

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Don't forget to stock up on pirate gear at the pirate supply store at 826 Valencia in San Francisco!

As for physicists...I've been out of the field for nine years and I still use the term "orders of magnitude" and only afterward catch myself!

Maybe it's not a general physicist term, but I think of people in terms of whether they're properly calibrated or not, i.e., how well do their perceptions and thoughts relate to commonly accepted factual reality. Applies well to narcissists (don't tell Jen-Luc, though, she might not like to hear that).

The same sorts of codified language exist for many professions. In my case, it's all about the software/computer engineering. We are never confused, we get a pointer misplaced. I carry around a PDA for external storage. Everyone occaisionally needs a hard reboot. And right about now, I need to re-balance the binary tree if I'm going to be able to remember where I left my keys...

Jen, not sure where to go with this one
After all I'm all for having fun, though pantomime is not my thing. A lot of trekkies out there.

How about trekkies in the 'holo-deck' acting out there Jean Luc Picard style pirate fantasies. I'm up for that one. You know like the guy from chips in the Next Generation playing a 'rebel' with a federation commission in federation uniform, and his female counterpart. Almost mediaeval.
And is George Washington a (terrorist) rebel - you know fighting his majesty's redcoats and burning the royal ships.
You know even Drake was a bit of a pirate, jumping Spanish Galleons for their gold, with the implicit blessing of Elizabeth. But hey one woman's pirate or enemy, has always been another woman's hero.

So, do you fancy being whisked away by pirates in the night, to some caribbean island, where you are the most precious jewel - the Captain's booty. lol!

I have another one--"canonical". I hear it all the time with math/physics/cs people, but my family (to my amazement) hadn't the faintest clue what it meant.

Some other favorites:

Along with canonical, include ensemble. Guaranteed to befuddle any clothing designer.

When I'm tired or lazy, I'm in the ground state.

Try describing interpersonal relationships in terms of Fourier pairs of variables. For example, the length of my "leash" and the number of "gentlemens cabarets" within that distance. Watch the blood shoot out of Dr. Phil's eyes.

My favourite physics answer, when asked in class, is "it depends". Or sometimes, "yes... and no". Nothing like those indeterminate cases.

Is light a particle or a wave?
It depends. What are you testing for? And so on...

And "negligible". That's always good. Non-zero, but negligible.

Some excellent additions to the lexicon here; perhaps we can expand it to other technical fields besides physics, if only because I'm adding the need for a hard reboot to my own personal lexicon, thanks to Matt (a.k.a. CPP's official Father of the Year). I'm also adding the notion of being in the ground state. The separate concept of entropy has described my apartment for years. "Canonical" seems to universal to academics -- we used it in my English grad school classes to talk about those texts considered acceptable for "serious" study. I personally have started using terms like "constraint" and "boundary conditions" in my everyday parlance.

RE: Magista's "It depends" -- one of my favorite physics answers came when I asked a physicist friend to review my very first attempt to discuss special relativity for a general reader. He pondered a bit, tugged on his beard, then said, "Well, you're not WRONG -- but you're not right either..." (And no, it wasn't Peter Woit...) It was primarily a vocabulary problem, plus a couple of missed nuances, and I managed to hammer out something quite respectable thanks to him. And two months later, when a couple of physicists were cracking jokes based on the notion of Lorentz contraction -- I not only understood it, I thought it was hysterically funny.

Thus, a physics geek is born. :)

I am LOL. This is priceless. If I had an "alter-ego" like "Jen-Luc" he would be a physicist. Now I know how to generate his dialogue.

"Robust" -- meaning something that holds its state or its course against those perturbations -- seems to be making its way out of mathematical physics, via IT-speak and mil-speak (I heard a general in Iraq use it the other day) into general biz-speak.

Wow Pyracantha,
Couldn't comment on your at your place, so thought I'd mention how much I like your Geometric Art, here.
"Earth-X", acrylic on paper 7"x10", 2003
Copyright © 2003 Hannah M.G. Shapero.

and link to the Ascham school. Thanks!
(hope it's ok with you Jen, just pirating some of your blog space).

Hi. I was referred here by Quasar9. My son, who is an expert on pirates, has written a play entitled "The Pirate Election," which we have just finished blogging. From him I learned that pirates were some of the earliest practitioners of democracy, and that they almost never made anyone walk the plank (they preferred marooning). He says Bonney's husband and the male crew "cowered in the captain's cabin" during the fighting.
About physicists, what about obscure metaphors? For instance, "He's a regular topless quark," or "That is SO Heisenberg."

My favorite physicist phrase is "non-trivial."

I once had a friend tell me to go around the beltway "spin up."


Hey! You got Whedonesque'd this morning. Sweet!

Q, no need to apologize, were happy to promote Pyracantha's artwork on our humble little blog. :)

Hildaur: Love the whole concept of going around the Beltway "spin up" (or, one assumes, "spin down").

And Allyson's correct, Whedonesque linked this morning to an Orlando Sentinel blog post about "The Physics of the Buffyverse." I'm quite chuffed about it, because the women who posted is exactly the sort of reader I'm trying to reach: she admitted to being repulsed by anything remotely associated math, and couldn't believe she was enjoying reading a book about physics.

Makes the blood, sweat and tears of the past year worthwhile, it does... (And Allyson, by all means let me know when your own book comes out...)

I hadn't realized that "it depends" was such a physicist answer...that's what I put down on a jury questionnaire yesterday, though. Sheesh, I just can't get away from my past....

And Weirsdo's post reminded me of the Pantisocratic pirates in Lawrence Norfolk's wonderful tale of intrigue with the Dutch East India Company (and so much more--this is like a fairy tale for grownups) _Lempriere's Dictionary_. As I recall--it's been a dozen years since I read the book, but I think I'm due for a re-read--the Pantisocratic pirates had to debate everything philosophically and come to a consensus before they acted on anything. I remember finding a lot of humor in these rather intellectual pirates. And the book is really one heck of a good myster and adventure story, too.

I'm going to go put it on my request list at the San Francisco Public Library right now, even though I've got way too many books checked out already...

***Talk Like a Physicist Day. I think we need one. C'mon, let's pillage the concept and make it our own.***

You are a genius! Yes, we need this!

Of course, I do this every day, which is part of what made me the second nerdiest science blogger.

But, just for a day, if everybody else was doing it, maybe, sniff, maybe I would fit in....

Vote for Pedro.

On the other hand, I've been known to invent Physics terminology. I've had more than one class where students have come to understand that "dinky" is a synonym for "infinitesimal and neglectable."


As scientific shibboleths go, 'in some sense' has a lot to recommend it

I also use 'nontrivial' in my daily life (usually to gently tell the boss that some quick fix he wants is three months' programming effort). I also use 'canonical', 'order of magnitude' and 'in the noise' a lot.

Oh, and magista, my favourite answer to "how long is a piece of string?" is "it depends how fast it's going." Yay for Lorentz contraction!

'Vanishingly small' is another good one to toss out there sometimes. Likewise, 'to a first approximation', 'three sigmas'* and 'non-linear'.

* Marketroids who use the term 'six sigma' should probably be karate chopped in the throat and dumped somewhere they won't be found until they've gone runny.

Just to speak up late about another woman piriate, but I think Grace o'Malley (Granuaile) the pirate queen is more well known (in some circles at least!) than Anne Bonney. There is a statue of her on Clare Island Ireland, and she negotiated with Queen Elizabeth, and in a favorite story of mine, blew her nose on a handkerchief someone gave her and threw it on the fire. When the court was apalled she said no Irish would put a soiled cloth in their pocket and evidently the Irish were cleanlier than the British. My favorite pirate! and I'm not Irish, but have been to her grave site.

I second the recommendation on 'vanishingly small'

One of my college physics textbooks used one of two phrases to describe small values:

'vanishingly small' - i.e., it's there but you don't need to worry about it.


'small but nontrivial' - i.e., it may seem small but you need to take it into account.

I've used both phrases ever since.

"It too bright in here. Can someone switch onthe dark sucker?"

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    Physics Cocktails

    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
    • Hiroshima Bomber
      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
    • Mad Scientist
      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
    • Laser Beam
      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Triple sec
      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
    • Quantum Theory
      Guaranteed to collapse your wave function:
      3/4 oz Rum
      1/2 oz Strega
      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
      Fill with Sweet and sour
      Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.
    • The Black Hole
      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
      1 oz. vodka
      .5 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
      .5 oz. dark rum
      .5 oz. Amaretto
      Pour into an old-fashioned glass over (scant) ice. Stir gently. Watch time slow.