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Great Words from Science

Great Words from Science

When I was applying to colleges, one application asked, "What is your favorite word?"

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 19:45

Chris Gorski, Editor

When I was applying to colleges, one application asked, "What is your favorite word?" I didn't go for something easy, like integrity or tenacious. I told this college that my favorite word was lucubration. I may not have explained that part of the reason was because this word, when spoken, sounds awesome. It means studying by candlelight. I think my knowledge of it came from leafing through the dictionary in order to identify my favorite word for the application.

I got into the school, but turned it down to attend another. At the in-person interview for my eventual school choice, I made a rather strange admission. But let us not dwell on that now. The purpose of this post is to make a list of my most favorite words from science. Some are listed because the syllables are sonorous, and some because of the simple marvel that there's a word for that.

Undoubtedly, I've left many good ones unmentioned. Please list your favorites in the comments.

Allotrope: This is the chemical term for the different forms of an element. For example, diamonds and graphite are allotropes of carbon.

Coprolites: This is a special kind of fossil -- feces.

Eigenvector: I learned about this in a math course, and always remembered the name. However, this is not an easy term to define. Please give it a shot, if you dare.

Osteology: The study of bones.

Palynology: This science links geology, botany, and more. It focuses on organic material, such as preserved grains of pollen, and other items.

Subatomic particles should have their own post, but I'll simply list a few here: quarks (charm, strange and all others), bosons, and the charmed lambda baryon.

Tokamak: This is a magnetic containment device, one of the methods used in nuclear fusion research.

What are your favorites?

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Chris Gorski

Chris Gorski is an Editor for Inside Science and runs the Sports beat. Follow him on twitter at @c_gorski.