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Best Old-Time Science Phrases?

  1. Apr 22, 2012 #1
    My girlfriend's scheming up some kind of project, and she has requested a list of neat old-fashioned terms used in science. I don't know what she's up to, but it sounded fun. They don't necessarily have to be old, but they have to sound romantical. I was surprised out how few I could think of. I'm sure there are tons, but I seem to be blanking. My list so far only includes the luminiferous aether and "spiritus sylvestre", an old name for carbon dioxide. So I thought I'd ask the Physics forums. What are your favorite swoon-inducing phrases from the history of science?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 22, 2012 #2
    Are you talking about actual quotes from famous scientists or cool sounding names?
     
  4. Apr 22, 2012 #3

    jtbell

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    Phlogiston.

    Dephlogisticated air = oxygen.
     
  5. Apr 22, 2012 #4
    Science itself used to be called "Natural Philosophy".
     
  6. Apr 22, 2012 #5
    Ultraviolet catastrophe.
     
  7. Apr 22, 2012 #6

    Borek

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    Cold fusion.
     
  8. Apr 22, 2012 #7
    There's a list of archaic chemistry terms here:

    http://web.lemoyne.edu/~giunta/archema.html

    I came across "Firedamp" the other day reading a book about Michael Faraday. It's a name given to a flammable gas (probably but I think not specifically, methane) that accumulated in coal mines and sometimes exploded. Humphrey Davy (Chemist, and Faraday's mentor), and Faraday, designed a lamp that would consume this gas and emit light, which was fairly ingenious I thought!

    Apparently gases were called 'damps' back in the day.

    "Gases (other than air) in coal mines in England were collectively known as 'damps'. This comes from the German word Dampf (meaning 'vapour'), ..." from the Firedamp link above.
     
  9. Apr 22, 2012 #8
    Gas as "damp" is a mining term only, and refers to harmful gasses that seep into mines. All these terms were carried over to the US and any old Pensilvania coal miner is familiar with them. I did a research project in those miners in college. No one ever mentioned "stinkdamp", but firedamp, blackdamp, and whitedamp (which wiki calls "afterdamp") were a miner's constant fear.

    The famous phrase "canary in a coal mine" refers to the miners practice of taking a caged canary into the mine with them because the little bird would succumb to the gas before the miners would. It was a warning signal that poisonous or unbreathable gas was building up. A "canary in a coal mine", therefore, is often used as a metaphor for any person or thing that is more sensitive to impending trouble than others.
     
  10. Apr 22, 2012 #9

    Ivan Seeking

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    There is nothing like the caloric flow on a dog day, due to Sol.
     
  11. Apr 22, 2012 #10
    Ozone hole
     
  12. Apr 22, 2012 #11

    Evo

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    Old medical terms vapours and melancholia.
     
  13. Apr 22, 2012 #12

    jtbell

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    Dyspepsia!

    And what's that thing lots of women had, in the Victorian days?
     
  14. Apr 22, 2012 #13

    jim hardy

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    There's a whole writing style.

    See if this translatoin of Lavoisier's inrtoduction to chemistry inspires her. I paticularly like his quote of "Abbe d Condillac" near the end.

    http://web.lemoyne.edu/~giunta/lavpref.html
     
  15. Apr 22, 2012 #14
    motte's translation of newton's principia is full of archaic mathematical terms
     
  16. Apr 22, 2012 #15

    Evo

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  17. Apr 22, 2012 #16

    Danger

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    X-rays were commonly called Roentgen rays, even though Roentgen himself called them X-rays.
    There were all manner of elixers and tinctures and essences of [insert element here].
    Originally, there were only 4 elements: earth, air, fire and water.
    Biblical stuff can give all sorts of examples, simply because the languages involved were so limited. For instance, the word "firmament" is usually translated as "sky". The actual meaning is "bowl", so you can either look up at the firmament to admire the stars, or you can feed your cat out of it. Anything even vaguely hemispherical received that name.
    Medieval times were one of the richest sources if you get into the terms of alchemists. (I don't consider that to be science, but it passed as such at the time.)
     
  18. Apr 22, 2012 #17

    Borek

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    In Poland it is still the case. Even the film with the picture that you take to the doc is called "rentgen". "The rentgen shows you have a broken leg".
     
  19. Apr 22, 2012 #18

    Danger

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    Cool. I did not know that.
     
  20. Apr 22, 2012 #19
    In Japan also an x-ray is called a Roentgen.
     
  21. Apr 22, 2012 #20
    Thanks guys, these are all great. Also, I just thought of another one. Vitriol, for sulfuric acid. Seems like most of these are coming from the chemists. They apparently knew how to name things! Keep 'em coming!
     
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