Why do these biology textbooks write 'differential' as an adjective?

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Homework Statement:
I don't understand the differences between 'differential' and 'different' as adjectives in the quotations below.
Relevant Equations:
N/A.
Are these books using 'differential' correctly? Why not just write 'different'?

1. Handbook of the Biology of Aging edited by Edward J. Masoro, Steven N. Austad. p 480.
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2. The Cambridge Companion to the Philosophy of Biology edited by David L. Hull, Michael Ruse. p 46.
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3. p 78.
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4. Dictionary of Plant Genetics and Molecular Biology by Gurbachan Miglani. Anyone know the page #?
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
anuttarasammyak
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I assume for some quantity Q, the author would like to mention dQ or ##\triangle Q## which means theoretically infinite small change and would satisfy some differential equation.
 
  • #3
hutchphd
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I believe the usage of differential implies that the noted difference can be correlated to changes in an otherwise independent parameter. Hence the term difference is less specific.
 
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  • #4
BillTre
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It looks to me like a way to use less words.
The last case: "differential deaths were actually observed ... between the released and recaptured groups" seems to mean the same thing as "the difference in deaths were actually observed ... between the released and recaptured groups".

Saves a word or two, might also sound better to some people (philosophers?).
Could be like a style of writing.
 
  • #5
jim mcnamara
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@hutchphd gave a pretty darn good explanation.
For a chart and explanation:
See: https://www.difference.wiki/difference-vs-differential/

...and getting a good clear definition for the way scientists use ordinary words is a big help. Scientists are unaware they do NOT communicate to everyone else at all well many times, the word "believe" as used by @hutchphd above can be an example.

Helen Quinn in Science a while back, on whence the confusion:

https://ned.ipac.caltech.edu/level5/March07/Quinn/Quinn.html
 
  • #6
256bits
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Homework Statement:: I don't understand the differences between 'differential' and 'different' as adjectives in the quotations below.
Relevant Equations:: N/A.

Are these books using 'differential' correctly? Why not just write 'different'?
I can understand the first two usages of differential.

But not for the last, ie " differential deaths"

The third and fourth usage "differential extinction causes .... differential perpetuation ... " is confusing, but that author is using a quote from another source, so that may be problematic, unless one has access to the source to query the context.
 
  • #7
haruspex
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In all cases, "differential X" means the difference between two measures of X that come from different circumstances. One may read of "differential pay scales" for different groups of workers (often in reference to an unjustified difference).
Whether it is to be considered a genuine adjective or an adjectival noun here is moot. E.g. one can also write of a "pay differential", making differential the noun and pay an adjectival noun.
 
  • #8
vela
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The last case: "differential deaths were actually observed ... between the released and recaptured groups" seems to mean the same thing as "the difference in deaths were actually observed ... between the released and recaptured groups".
The use of differential here implies that the authors are referring to the number of deaths. The phrase difference in deaths could be interpreted as referring to the manner by which death occurred.
 
  • #9
DaveE
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I think differential relates to the comparison of the magnitude of a parameter associated with similar objects or processes. It has it's basis in subtraction of comparable things.

Different is simply an expression of lack of sameness; i.e. not comparable.

It doesn't make sense to speak of a differential of different things.

Hammers are different than apples. A group of apples can have differential rates of decay. OTOH, hammers and apples can have a differential rate of cooling, because the common thing is temperature. So, context also matters. "Differential" should include a qualifier to indicate what's being compared, that's usually not necessary with "different".
 

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