Two Almost Physicists With Almost Something To Say

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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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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


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.


Overly Harsh and Pedantic Takedown of This Shower Curtain Map

Doesn't look good under harsh bathroom lighting either

The World, from the same people who brought you liquid body soap

Allow me to get this out of the way right off the bat: I am not a cartographer. Sure, I may have a particular affection for the “Geography” section of Sporcle. And yes, I can spell Kyrgyzstan and know that Toronto isn’t the capital of Canada (even though it obviously should be). And I may have even drawn a map of the world from memory (along with everyone else in my class) as an end-of-year project in 7th grade. But those days are long past, and I have something significantly more important to tell you about: the bathroom users of this country are getting puzzling and inaccurate geographic information from one of the most popular shower curtains on the novelty shower curtain scene.

Sentimental views of crushing poverty have never been this geographic!

I am referring to the curtain available here which is well known enough that I had already seen it once or twice before picking it up last year. It even featured in a few episodes of the US version of Shameless alongside Emmy Rossum’s boobs (no, that link isn’t to her boobs, pervert). If they ever reboot Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiago? as some kind of edgy, morally-ambiguous, heist drama on AMC it’ll be in their bathroom as well.¹

Unlike Amazon reviewer “E. Foster” whose primary complaint was “Really Smelly!” most of my criticisms are based on the bounty of geographical oddities contained upon its rubber surface. Sure, it’s just a shower curtain, but it is one of the most massively influential shower curtains on the market right now! Here are some of the things that are strange about it:

  1. The Mercator Projection. Widely considered the wrongest of all preposterously wrong map projections. It’s a wild distortion of the relative sizes of various parts of the world that says to your typical mid-17th century colonialist “Why OF COURSE it would make sense for Norway to rule over the southern half of Africa.” Continue reading