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Naming systems physics vs biology

  1. Oct 16, 2011 #1
    (I think I could equally have posted this in the biology section!).

    I know nothing about formal structure of biology..and hope that I will be enlightened.

    My question is to do with naming systems in physics vs naming systems in biology..
    In physics nearly all units that you care to mention are eponymouse eg. newton, watt, joule, gauss,... etc..
    Is there an equivelant in biology?
    further, in physics (and maths and chemistry) pretty much all theories and inventions are eponymous, eg. feynman integral, einstein coefficients, Newton's laws, Greene's theorem.... I could name a hundred million more!
    again, Is there something similar to that in biology?

    Finally, there is a kind of playfulness or lack of formality in some names thought up physicists and astronomers. an obvious example for playfulness is the acronyms MACHOs and WIMPS. Regarding lack of formality, look at the names of subatomic particle "strange" "charm" "up" "down" etc... In astronomy (as Neill De Grasse Tyson often points out), there is very strong tendency to name things very informally (ie. they are named after what they look like). eg. the "red spot" on jupiter. any nebula you can think of - "cat's eye" "dumbbell" etc...

    Does this lack of formallity and sometimes humerous naming exist in biology? - as an outsider (and again this is pointed out by Tyson) much of biology naming systems seem to have very technical latin roots and so on...

    All comments appreciated!
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 16, 2011 #2


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    Well, diseases are often named after the discoverer. A very curious tradition in my opinion, it doesn't really give a family name a positive vibe. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_genetic_disorders

    There are certainly humorous names as well, the Drosophila genes would be the best example. I don't know the best website, but this a nice list to get you started: http://jpetrie.myweb.uga.edu/genes.html [Broken] or http://sciencereview.berkeley.edu/articles/issue2/flyname.pdf [Broken]

    As an example, the gene that causes Drosophila embryos to lack a heart is called tinman. Flies with swirling wing-hair patterns carry a mutation in Van Gogh. Grim and reaper both play a role in cell death.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  4. Oct 16, 2011 #3
    Like Monique said, many diseases are named after their discoverers (you might be familiar with Alzheimers, Parkinsons, Hunnington's disease etc). Well you have chemicals like draculin and traumatic acid. Another one I like is Janus family of Protein Kinases (both because of the name followed now and the name that was originally given to it).
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