Thursday, August 06, 2009

Whimsical Mathematical Theorems and Names in Physics

A friend of mine who is a filmmaker is looking for good examples of simple (& whimsically named) theorems in mathematics, as well as whimsical names in physics. Here's my list so far -- can anyone think of more?

Graph theory:

Whimsical names in physics:
  • Quark: taken by Murray Gell Man from a James Joyce novel and the line “three quarks for Mr. Marks”
  • Gluons: particles that “glue” quarks together
  • WIMPS: Weakly Interacting Massive Particles
  • Boojum: in the physics of superfluidity, a boojum is a geometric pattern on the surface of one of the phases of superfluid helium-3, whose motion can result in the decay of a supercurrent. The boojum was named by David Mermin of Cornell University in 1976. He was inspired by Lewis Carroll's poem The Hunting of the Snark.
  • neutrino: “little neutral one” in Italian
  • quark types: up, down, strange, charmed, top (was initially called “truth”), bottom (was initially called “beauty”); quarks also come in three “colors”: red, blue, and green
  • black hole
  • worm hole
  • inflation theory
  • GUTS: Grand Unified Theories
  • the Higgs boson is sometimes called the “God particle”
Here’s an interesting essay on the subject:
“The Physics of Silly Names”

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