Is there anything, we must ask, more exciting than the science of the unimaginably large and the near-infinitesimally small?
For probing the extremes of our universe more likely than not holds the key to our understanding of… well, everything. It is also perhaps the most audaciously ambitious. The physicists that peer either into the heart of galaxies or atoms are at the very limit of what it is possible for humans to observe.
Yet, we on the?Science Lite?desk feel we have spotted an area of this endeavour which belies the sheer majesty of their efforts. And that area is instrument nomenclature. Now bear with us on this, we know that the term ‘instrument nomenclature’ may well strike a cold dagger of boredom into you, but it is something we have been wondering about for a while now and recent news has forced our hand.
The global headquarters for the World’s biggest telescope is to be officially opened here in the UK at Jodrell Bank in Manchester within a few months. Exciting news – yet the name of this cutting-edge telescope is anything but. There is no way to sex this up, so here it is – it’s called the Square Kilometre Array. “Functional” is really the kindest thing we can say about this epithet.
Surely an instrument as advanced and ambitious as this deserves a more inspirational name? Its mission after all is to answer some of the most fundamental questions about the Universe, yet the practice of brutally functional names seems well established in the telescope fraternity. There’s the Very Small Array, the Very Large Array, the Very Large Telescope, the European Extremely Large Telescope and our personal favourite in the name stakes – the Ukrainian T-shaped Radio telescope.
Don’t get the wrong idea – we appreciate the completeness and efficiency of the names – but surely something a little loftier would be more fitting for these insightful instruments. They carry with them, after all, our loftiest cosmological aspirations.
And then there is the very small. Within the very pages of our April issue we have news of a new synchrotron so powerful it’ll allow scientists to routinely see into the atomic structure of many materials. And the name… why, it’s the Extremely Brilliant Source. Sheeesh.
Look, think of it this way, what if other great technologies had been named with such naked utilitarianism? The Apollo Space Vehicles – named after the Greek god of light and music by NASA manager Abe Silverstein, who later said that “I was naming the spacecraft like I’d name my baby” – would be rebranded as the?Hermetic Gravity Defeater.
The Saturn V which so heroically lifted the Apollo space craft on their way would be forever known as the Multistage Acceleration Stick. CERN, home of some of the largest experiments the world has ever seen – famously peering in to the fizzing and dynamic sub-atomic world – would become the?Circular Particle Pusher.
Over to you…
So pleased were we with Multistage Acceleration Stick that we rapidly became complacent and are now bereft of further witticisms.
But why not have a go at alternative nomenclature yourself – lets us know what you come up with – chuck it on an e-mail and send it email@example.com. The best ones will be published and there may even be a prize in it for you.