One of the very sad consequences of the ideological rivalry between the sciences and the humanities is that everything that has come out of physics over the last sixty years or so has been cursed with incredibly boring, incredibly stupid names.
To give an example, most modern physicists seem unaware that the English language contains modifiers other than the word “super.” This appears to have started with the discovery of superfluids back in the 1950s–one assumes that the scientists involved had grown-up reading Superman comics and decided that it sounded cool. Since then, we have had “supersymmetry,” “superstring theory*,” “superconduction,” “superconformal field theories,” “supergravity” and “superdense coding,” among others.**
Off in Switzerland, we have an enormous machine capable of ramming fundamental chunks of matter into one another at energies unseen since the creation of the universe*** and what do we call it? The “Large Hadron Collider.” This, admittedly, is an improvement over the presumably alternative “Big Machine for Crashing Hadrons into One Another,” but surely we can come-up with something which captures the imagination to a greater extent. It will no doubt come as little surprise to learn that the next generation of particle accelerator is to be called the “Very Large Hadron Collider.” Ah well, at least it’s not the Super Large Hadron Collider.****
I realize that we can’t all be John Archibald Wheeler (one of the few modern physicists who was consistently able to come up with evocative-sounding names for things like “black holes,” “spacetime,” “quantum foam” and “wormholes”): but surely to Ba’al, when talking about acoustic black hole analogues, we should be able to come up with a less ridiculous name than “Dumb Hole.”
I would like to propose that there should be a special class of people who get degrees in both physics and English. It will be the responsibility of these people to come-up with evocative, but nevertheless accurate***** appellations, so that amazing new discoveries are not saddled with stupid/boring names. I would also like to propose that this profession be called “Physical Nomenclaturist,” but I am open to suggestions.
*Which, in fairness, actually makes sense because it’s the supersymmetric version of string theory.
**I’ve left “supersonic” of the list, because this literally means “greater than [the speed] of sound.”
***This is a bit of a misnomer, since such energies are actually rather routinely in astroparticle physics, but this is only time where they have been seen in a convenient location since the creation of the universe.
****That presumably comes next.
*****Don’t even get me started again on the “God Particle.”