Two Almost Physicists With Almost Something To Say

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Naming Conventions

I work with a dude who has, on occasion, gone ham on a Diablo III character, and maximized its largess in, like, an hour and a half. I take inspiration from others accomplishing great things, and I have fond memories of playing D2 back when CDs weren’t yet regarded in the same way that one regards those bicycles with the giant front wheel. So I dove into III, and immediately discovered that it is much closer to work than play, compared to how I remembered its predecessor. I actually had to use two hands, in what is historically a one-handed game. The right hand saves humanity, and the other hand is used mostly for propping one’s head up after eight eye-rending hours of sprite-on-sprite homicide. The rule is similar to that of a car: if you have to use two hands, you suck at it.

They also turned the volume down on the procedurally-generated names of the monsters, or at least what I assumed was a procedurally-generated list. That was one of my favorite parts of D2. I can’t swear to remembering the names precisely, but they went something like:

  • Bludgeonskull the Bludgeoner
  • Zeke the Terror-Barber
  • Snot Rocket the Anti-Semite
  • Gary Kasparov the Chessmaster
  • Samwise the Brave
  • Ludacris
  • Rakanishu

The list in III is less inspirational, and most items seem to involve bones in some capacity, to which I say eh. As a shrug, not as a Canadian hiccup. It does give one pause when considering why any parent would name their child in this way; they virtually guarantee their life path by doing so. In the same way that naming a child Jeeves is essentially foregoing the expense of a college education.


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Eponymity in Physics

This is a re-post of a piece I wrote on my old blog, Topography of Ignorance, back in 2007. It’s a list I compiled of the types of things you could get named after you that come in the form [Name][Type of thing], as in the word “Law” from “Moore’s Law.” There are the obvious ones like “equation” but the unusual terms are more interesting because there might be only a single example. The title is itself an adaptation of an obscure word, eponym, which I loosely interpreted to mean “anything named after someone.” I don’t think it’s a real word, and using it probably confused readers (it also could have confused them that it’s basically just a massive list with very little prose). To preserve the classic 2007 “feel” of the original post, I’m keeping the poorly-chosen title and format.  Plus, lists are now back in a big way! (What with your Buzzfeeds et al.) So it seemed like an appropriate time to bring it back. Will animate with Jennifer Lawrence GIFs as soon as I’m able…


A physicist wanting to make an impact on the field most often imagines his or her name attached to an Equation, or a Theory. Or even, if they really want to move mountains, a Law. I have no idea what mathematicians think about, but I would assume that they are hoping to come up with Theorems and Conjectures. Of course, not everyone is an Einstein or a Kepler, able to remake a subject and declare a Law. But if you carve out a niche for yourself, or invent a novel way of dealing with a certain topic, you’re virtually assured of getting something. For an elegant discovery, you could have an Angle named after you, or a Number. Or in a more bizarre direction, a Sea or Paradox. de Sitter has an entire Universe! Me? If I could become the first person since Isaac Newton with an eponymous Bucket I would consider myself a success. There are so many strange things you could find named in your honor that I have compiled an extensive list of them with some examples namesakes on the right-hand side.

First, some of the most common:

[A Unit] Newton, Gauss, Joule
[A Constant] Planck, Boltzmann
Function Riemann-Zeta, Bessel
Effect Mössbauer, Stark, Bohr,
Gunn-Peterson, etc.

And then of course, there are rarer terms. These trend very roughly from less to more obscure.

Field Fermionic, Bosonic, Higgs
Matrix Kobayashi, Cabibbo
Relation Heisenberg, Tully-Fisher
Principle Copernican, Pauli Exclusion
Model Schwinger, Bohr
Method Schrödinger
Postulate Planck, Weyl
Approximation Born
Minkowski, Fock, Hilbert
Metric Friedmann-Robertson-Walker,
Distribution Wigner, Bose-Einstein, Fermi-Dirac
___-on Fermi, Bose
___-ian Laplace, Hamilton, Riemann
Notation Dirac
Potential Coulomb, Yukawa
Action Stueckelberg, Proca
Inequality Minkowski, Bell
Limit Chandrasekhar
Tensor Riemann
Scalar Ricci
Gauge Newtonian
Diagram Feynman
Radiation Cherenkov, Hawking
Cycle Carnot, Born
Interpretation Bohm, Copenhagen
Paradox Einstein-Podolski-Rosen,
Olber, Fermi
Problem Rabi, Fermi
Experiment Milikan Oil Drop
Spectrum Mössbauer
Conjecture Witten
Interaction Yakawa
Amplitude Feynman
Operator d’Alembert
Particle Higgs, Planck
Neutrino Majorana, Dirac
Motion Brownian
Length Jeans
Number Avogadro, Chandrasekhar, Euler
Surface Fermi
Condensate Bose-Einstein
Radius Schwartzschild, Bohr
Convention Einstein Summation
Transform Forier, Laplace
Series Balmer, Lyman
Line Lyman, Balmer
Rules Slater
Scattering Compton, Rayleigh, Thompson
Variable Cepheid, RR Lyrae
Diffusion Bohm
Junction Josephson
Expansion Taylor
Manifold Riemann
Topology Picard
Mechanism Higgs
Peak Wein
Test Tolman surface brightness
Repulsion Coulomb
Epoch Planck
Parameter Hubble
[An Element]
Einstein, Fermi, Curie, Mendeleev, Lawrence, Nobel
Wavelength de Broglie
Boson Higgs
Profile Hernquist
Criterion Landau
Rigidity Born
Cross-section Thompson
Zone Brillouin, (also see, List of Zones)
State Hartle-Hawking
Angle Weinberg
Universe de Sitter, Lemaître
Sea Dirac, Fermi
Splitting Zeeman
Forest Lyman-alpha
Blob Lyman-alpha
Swindle Jeans
Trough Gunn-Peterson
Window Gamow
Cage Faraday
Engine Carnot
Bucket Newton
Tuning Fork
Golden Rule Fermi
Pancake Zel’dovich
Brain Boltzmann
Demon Maxwell

If anyone else is able to repeat that last one, I will be highly impressed. I would also like to point out that the Higgs boson may be the only phenomenon or concept that has two namesakes, since the term boson originally comes from Satyendra Bose! If you can think of anything else let me know and I’ll add it.



Pairs       . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Cooper

Focus      . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Cassegrain, Nasmyth

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Today in History: October 15th

Thanks a lot, Turkey

1529: The Siege of Vienna: Austrians fend off a Turkish invasion of Vienna, halting the tide of Ottoman conquest across Europe. This proves to be a turning point, and counterattacks eventually drive the Ottomans from the continent. In retaliation, the Turks cease their importation of Fezzes to Europe, cursing hat-wearers to endure brimmed headwear. They also withdraw the closely-guarded Turkish technique for removing the naturally-occurring buttons of hard fabric-covered material that form at the uppermost part of hats. The haberdashiary-schism is the origin of the unwanted “squatchee” found atop today’s baseball caps. For this reason, the schoolyard trick of slapping it to produce a sharp pain is known as the “Turkish Tap.”

1582: As decribed in a previous “Today in History” the Gregorian calendar is implemented in Italy, Portugal, Poland, and Spain, causing October 15th to directly follow October 4th. On the morning of the 15th, citizens of those countries awake groggily, with the nagging feeling that they have forgotten something important. They halfheartedly do old-timey things while gazing disorientatedly from their windows or wall-holes, and rack their brains over the strange, unsteady feeling that they woke up with. Meals across the continent are punctuated by awkward conversational silences as 16th century people find themselves unable to think of things to talk about. For roughly 10 days (presumably due to the amount of time skipped on the calendar), much of Catholic Europe hangs under a cloud of vague unease.

It happens that Pope Gregory XIII pushed back implementation to October 4th over the initial choice of October 1st because he was concerned that the Cardinals would forget about his birthday which fell on the 3rd. He had a strong suspicion that they had pooled their gift money to buy him a reeeeeally special new pope hat, and he always felt that he never got what he really wanted for his birthday. But 1582 might be the best one ever if he got the hat he wanted the most in the whole world!

1864: The Battle of Glasgow is fought. This is probably exactly what it sounds like. Some kind of Scottish insurrection or something. Don’t worry about it. Who would ever name a second place after Glasgow, one of Britain’s most dismal industrial towns? And even if someone else did, it would probably be in like, Australia or Canada or something… but since nothing really happened in any non-American former British colonies prior to at least the 1960s it wouldn’t have happened there. It doesn’t matter, just move along.

They put their jackets on for this photo.

1954: FORTRAN, the first high-level programming language, is released to the coding community for the first time. In 1954 the “coding community” consisted almost exclusively of men wearing horn-rimmed glasses, white short-sleeved shirts, narrow ties, and working in bright windowless rooms full of whirring machines. Developed by IBM, it was the first programming system consisting of readable statements rather than hard-coded machine language (though it still involved the use of punch cards). The first program run in FORTRAN was a sequence that would accept any input and return the statement “SEGMENTATION FAULT: NULL POINTER”

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Saturday Morning Breakfast Ramble

Do you Tweet? I do not Tweet. I phone. I blog. I face. I chat. I tube. I snap. I lick. I golf. I do have a Twitaccount, originally obtained so that I could unlock extra Angry Birds levels. I’m not really sure what I’m expected to do with it other than that. I keep it so that I can follow two things, or people, or whatever Twittererers are: TNG_S8, and wekriskross. That is essentially my universe, triple distilled, served in a chilled tumbler. Not a tumblr. That’s another thing I don’t have or understand.

Speaking of folks who fail at jumping on social media bandwagons, I enjoyed watching CNN’s version of the presidential debate. The opinion indicator taught me that undecided Colorado women voters really enjoy higher education, while men sometimes like it and sometimes hate it, but both sexes generally enjoy spoken words, or maybe just buttons. As long as we’re adding future tech to our heads-up displays, I strongly advocate remote sensing of both candidate’s vital signs. Next to that, animated waveforms and needle indicators that flicker wildly, like we’re in some kind of Science Room. Below that, real-time stock indicators soaring through record highs and lows in response to candidates’ reactions to being asked questions about things. In the lower right, a mini-map showing terrain we’ve already explored, and all of our own units in green, and other units in red. In the center can be a pop-up box that tells me when the dryer is finished. CNN should either do this or redirect effort into fixing global warming or curing cancer, but no more half-measures.

And speaking of half-measures, last night was that night that one sees Taken 2 for some reason. The name alone sets off warning bells. This is not Scream; I feel that the appropriate action for a movie which tries to take itself seriously is to come up with a title other than “Sequel.” And Liam Neeson does take things very seriously, though nothing moreso than getting a driver’s license. Whatever the fuck that has to do with anything, we shant know. Here are some thoughts and spoilers in list form.

  • Liam Neeson either won or lost all of the fights; it’s hard to tell since the cameraman seemed to also be brawling with some unseen assailant, or perhaps simply his or her own personal demons
  • Liam Neeson learns things by reading books, and, if you want, you can borrow them
  • In Istanbul, it is acceptable to run over any number of people while plowing through a bazaar
  • In Istanbul, it is acceptable to throw grenades anywhere you please. If you destroy a reservoir holding clean water for a building full of people, +5 points
  • In Istanbul, it is not acceptable to abuse taxi services
  • It is customary to enter the US embassy by way of driving through the cardboard guard shack. People may shoot at you. If your car is made of metal, you will be okay
  • If you have just entered the embassy after leaving half of its host country a smoldering ruin, that is fine, those things happen. Recent history has taught us that people in the Middle East have great respect for our embassies
  • The door is actually open for Taken 3. If there is no Kraken, Ryan will flip the fuck out

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Today in History: September 14th

1501: Michelangelo’s second day of work on the statue of David. This is the day he started working on a certain part of the statue that you are probably very familiar with. You know the part I mean.

More Papal Bullshit

A Catholic plot to get us to not have a stupid calendar

1752: The Gregorian calendar is adopted by Britain, finally ceasing the slipping of the equinoxes due to the imprecision of the Julian calendar. The transition requires skipping 11 days, meaning that Sept. 14th followed Sept. 2nd. Under the rules of the old system, years were 365.25 days long, with a leap day every forth year, but because the year is actually shorter, 365.242 days, the extra leaps had pushed equinoxes earlier and earlier since Roman times. The solution was to jump forward by length of this accumulated error, and to abolish leap days on years ending in 00, unless they were evenly divisible by 400. Because the new calendar was decreed by Pope Gregory, it’s adoption was viewed as controversial throughout the non-Catholic parts of Europe and only gradually came into effect. Irish rebels, for instance, took on the calendar as an act of anti-English defiance, celebrating Easter on the new date, switching back after being conquered, then finally re-switching back once Britain itself adopted the calendar, thus coining the term ‘Irish Easter’ to mean a breakfast of scrambled eggs with a side of rabbit bacon.

Incredibly, instead of making the change all at once, Sweden made the bizarre decision to push the calendar forward gradually by simply not having leap years between 1700 and 1740, then immediately forgot this plan in 1704 and 1708, and had leap years anyway. This all means that Sweden would spend 40 years completely out of sync with either calendar, and then still end up 2 days off their intended target. Having acknowledged the plan’s failure after having forgotten to implement it, the Swedish King Charles XII decided to give up entirely, and go back to the Julian system in a royal decree titled “Fuck the Flow of History.” Since the Swedes were now 2 days off, this was accomplished by extending the month of February by 2 days instead of 1, and meant that for the first and only time, there was a February 30th, the most depressing date in history.

Although the pre-United States adopted the new calendar as the same time as the rest of the Britishish people, the territory of Alaska experienced it following its purchase from Russia in 1867. Additionally, the International Date Line, which had originally been on the Eastern side of Alaska had to shift over the proto-state. This was accomplished at great expense and difficulty by teams of oxen, steamer vessels, and loggers, who freed the line when it became stuck on tall trees. The expense incurred by the operation is known as “Seward’s Folly” and it’s costly example is the reason that China uses only one time zone.

Remember The McKinley

Fooled by the classic “gun under the handkerchief trick”

1901: US President William McKinley dies, having been shot one week earlier by Leon Czolgosz. Czolgosz is commonly referred to as an anarchist in accounts of the assassination, however he did have some specific demands. Among them, an increase in vowel shipments to Eastern Europe*. It is an historical curiosity that Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln, was present at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo where the shooting took place, at Ford’s Theater when his father was killed, and an eyewitness to the assassination of James Garfield, while serving as Secretary of War. His attendance at a third shooting gave him the rare ‘Presidential Assassination Hat-Trick’ allowing him to retire from the exhausting task of following presidents around hoping someone would kill them.

1987: The Toronto Blue Jays hit 10 home runs in a single game, setting a new record. This is partially due to the fact that Canadian baseballs have an oval shape to make them more aerodynamic, as well as the field having shorter right and left field walls to accommodate the rounder, five-base Canadian baseball diamond. Interestingly, due to the metric system, the Jays only managed to score 8.5 runs in the game, due to the fact that a homer only counts for half a run throughout the Dominion.

* The recent acquisitions of Hawaii and Guam in the Spanish-American War provided the US with a surplus of vowels which it was leveraging for diplomatic favors around the turn of the century.


This Week in Wreak

In counterpoint to Ryan’s affluent shoppery, there is the market of Real America, and the signature publications thereof. We live in the post-Gutenberg era, and quite separately have mastered the art and science of ballistics, so it is only natural to expect combinations of the two. What I am never quite prepared for is the gusto with which these combinations are made.

Allow me to BabelFish that for you: Damn there are a bunch of magazines about guns in this grocery store.

I list from the top left:

  • Rifle Firepower
  • Pocket Pistols (note double-checked, this is a firearms-related publication)
  • Crossbow Revolution
  • Personal & Home Defense
  • Guns
  • Gun Collector
  • Small Arms
  • Special Weapons
  • Black Guns
  • Gun
  • Bowhunter
  • Guns & Ammo
  • Concealed Carry Handguns
  • Military Surplus
  • Traditional Bowhunter


The greatest part was something I only just realized after a detailed analysis of the snapshot of the rack: To the very right of these selections I can spy titles including Disney Princess, The Amazing Spider-Man, Spongebob, and other colorful booklets. The children’s literature is directly adjacent to the murder section. I have not legitimately fathered a child (as you may recall), so I cannot opine on this with true conviction, but personally I would at least get a NASCAR buffer in between those two selections.

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Today in History: September 10th

1306: St Nicholas of Tolentino dies. Today is to become his feast day, an annual remembrance of the times he resurrected hundreds of dead children, (they were confused and hungry, and their parents barely cared because it was the 13th century), and the time he saved a burning palace by throwing some “blessed bread” on the flames. Firefighters in subsequent years attempt to understand and replicate the ingredients of ‘blessed bread’ with little success. Most inquiry focused around getting the essence of Catholicism into the yeast. The last notable attempt is made by a 15th century fire brigade, found to be responsible for grinding up the preserved hand of St Benedict to bake a loaf of this so-called ’emergency bread.’ Because the authorities successfully manage to burn them at the stake, St Nicolas’s feat goes unrepeated to this day.

Prior to 1974, all Canadians wore this hat all the time1823: Simón Bolívar becomes President of Peru. He sighs heavily— it wasn’t the one he really wanted.

1858: George Mary Searle, overcoming a childhood of taunts based on his middle name, discovers the asteroid 55 Pandora from an observatory in Albany, NY. Little does he realize that nearly 300 years later, Marines from the Space Expeditionary Command, Ultra-Capitalist Division, will land on the rock and prepare to begin mining blue-skinned metaphors for living in harmony with nature. They will be disappointed to find that the barren, airless environment supports no life whatsoever, and leave before discovering that the object contains an untold wealth of Unobtainium, one of the MacGuffin Series semi-metals from the Fictional Periodic Table.

1939: Nine days after the outbreak of hostilities against Poland, Canada declares war on Nazi Germany. Having prepared for this eventuality, Himmler reports back to the Führer that the Germany’s stocks of maple syrup, beaver fur, and Labatt Blue are in full supply and they decide to proceed with their planned genocide and world domination.

Monkeys are known to have monarchist sympathies1967: Gibraltar holds a plebiscite on whether to remain a British territory, or be ruled by Spain. Although voting to remain under UK control by a margin of 99%-0.36%, the possibility of voting irregularities were never conclusively disproved. If Gibraltar had required voter ID there is no telling how many Barbary macaque monkeys would have been prevented from subverting the true will of the people.

2001: Conspiracy theorists wonder to themselves about why they haven’t had a good conspiracy for a while. Sure, there was the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Queen getting those fake paparazzi to kill Princess Diana, but neither of those had the same panache as those really great ones from the 60’s. JFK, RFK, the Moon Landing. The sixties had it. Don’t get them wrong, there is nothing wrong with Elvis sightings, Big Pharma creating AIDS, and the Challenger explosion, but back then, the secret one-world government knew how to make an impression. Killing Paul McCartney and replacing him with a robot? Fluoridating everyone’s water? Classics. While brushing their teeth, they wish to themselves that something terrifying and significant would happen that could make them feel that way again— then sigh and go to bed.