Re: Gravity waves

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Fri, 16 Jul 1999 15:35:39 -0700 (PDT)

> BTW, You mention this naming convention inconsistency - I've noticed a lot
> of this in science, it's bloody annoying. Consistency, if nothing else,
> should be provided by the scientific community as a prerequisite, don't you
> think? Makes sound inference possible.

But creating words for things is itself the exercise of reason, and "consistency" would be stagnant and uncreative. Coining new words is the very essence of research; but we cannot insist that new concepts always be clearly marked with wholly new coinages, because recognition of the association between new ideas and old also helps the process of understanding. /While/ they are being used, we should insist on precise definition and demarcation when necessary (for example, within a single paper, usage should be consistent). But throughout the field of study as a whole, it's not possible or desirable.

Fields of study evolve in parallel to the language used by them. I am not a physicist, so I will have to pull examples from my current field of study, poker. If a student takes the time to learn and understand what is meant by the terms "pot odds", "outs", "overcards", "counterfeiting", "scare cards", "semi-bluff", and all the others, ey would be well on eir way to a solid game. Further, ey would be able to follow the discussions in the field that build new concepts with new terms like "ostensible outs" or "counterfeit protection". That's the very nature of study. But it is inevitable that some of these terms will collide, change their scope, be reused in new contexts, merge, split, and do all manner of other confusing things. This is good; it means the field is alive and growing. A "live" card has a very specific meaning in 7-stud, and a related but different meaning in Texas hold'em--but that doesn't mean we should use a new word for it, because they serve similar functions and thinking of them as the same aids understanding.

Consistency is great in a single argument or piece of writing. In a whole field of study, I don't see much use for it; indeed, I think that curricula that strive for it are doing damage to the minds of students by making them think that the fields are settled and that there is general agreement on things.

Lee Daniel Crocker <> <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC