Thirteen Fun Science Terms


Scientific research uncovers new facets of our world every day. Scientists have to name these discoveries and some of the ideas they come up with I find to be very amusing (especially physics). Below are thirteen of my favorite funny science terms. Any of these would make excellent geek band names.

tiny dancer1. Nanoputians or Nanoputian Molecules: These organic molecules form a structure that appears human. These molecules are named after the residents of Lilliput in the book Gulliver’s Travels. There’s even a whole Nanoputian family. See Ballet Dancer, left, which sort of reminds me of an XKCD strip.

2. Space Invader Tranposons: Transposons are “sequences of DNA that can move around to different positions within the genome of a single cell.” Space invader transposons are bits of DNA that infiltrate DNA via a horizontal transmission (passed from one unrelated individual to another) instead of other kinds of transposons that are transmitted vertically (from your parents) because they’ve infiltrated sex chromosomes or RNA. Kind of reminds me of the premises of X-Men or Heroes. Also, one such “jumping gene” is called Sleeping Beauty.

3. Sonic Hedgehog: No, it’s not the Sega Genesis game character, but this signaling molecule is named after that character due to a mutation connected to it that causes fly embryos to have spiky appendages. This molecule is fundamental not only to vertebrate development, but also triggers an undifferentiated brain cell to turn into a dopamine neuron.

4. Dark Strangelet: These “sub-stellar agglomerations of strange matter” are formed when neutronium—which is created inside super-dense neutron stars when “the protons and electrons in atomic nuclei fuse to become neutrons”—collapses into quarks. Think of it as huge amounts of pressure squashing elemental particles into even itty-bittier particles. This is called “quark matter” or “strange matter.” Dark strangelets are thought to possibly occur when isolated pockets of strange matter exist, maintain their deep gravity well properties, and overwhelm all matter around it.

5. Naked singularity: There might be a naked singularity at the center of Sagittarius A. A naked singularity is theorized to be just like other singularities except that it doesn’t have an event horizon, so light (and conceivably other objects, I imagine) can escape and events inside of it can be observed from the outside. A naked singularity is a black hole going commando.

6. Spaghettification: This refers to the distortion an object experiences as it nears the event horizon of a black hole. First an object splits in half, then those halves into four, then into eight pieces. This decomposition process continues until an object is split into atoms and becomes a string of elemental particles.

7. Sparticles: Theoretically, when elemental particles such as leptons, photons, and quarks were produced in the Big Bang, each was accompanied by a matching sparticle: sleptons, photinos and squarks. I still want to hear Gerry Butler yell “This is sparticle!”

8. Big Bang Theory: “Our whole universe was in a hot dense state; Then nearly fourteen billion years ago expansion started. Wait…The Earth began to cool; The autotrophs began to drool, Neanderthals developed tools; We built a wall (we built the pyramids); Math, science, history, unraveling the mysteries; That all started with the big bang!”

9. ACHOO: Autosomal dominant Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst syndrome happens when you walk outside into bright sunlight and start sneezing your head off. Gesundheit.

10. Nibble: Eight bits make a byte. Four bits make a nibble. So, that means two nibbles make a byte.

11. Gluon: These elementary particles keep quarks stuck together.

12. Flavor: In particle physics, flavor is “the property that distinguishes different members in the two groups of basic building blocks of matter, the quarks and the leptons.” Please tell me someone has already done an LOLCat about a lepton that “haz flavor.”

13. Harry Potter gene: This is a gene that triggers the hormonal cascade initiating puberty. Harvard researchers discovered the gene while studying a family in Saudi Arabia where several members never experienced puberty.

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