Tag Archives: nerdiness

How bizarre: Names without things

Image: A grin without a cat.  Cheshire Cat, from Alice in Wonderland, illustration by John Tenniel, public domain.

 “Well! I’ve often seen a cat without a grin,” thought Alice “but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!” (Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)

As you’ve probably read here on Scientist Sees Squirrel, I’m writing a new book.  It’s about the Latin names of plants and animals (and I promise, it’s a lot more interesting than it sounds).  And in thinking and writing about naming, I’ve come to realize that the way we do biological nomenclature leads to the production of some truly bizarre entities: names without things.  Let me explain.

Things without names are a perfectly normal category – even if individual instances of the category tend to be short-lived, because we humans really, really like to name things*Continue reading

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Magnolia, Magnol, and cascades of naming

Image: Magnolia blossoms CC0 via pixabay.com.

Warning: trivial and nerdy.

Just now I’ve learned that there used to be a football team – part of the Women’s Football Association, in the USA – called the Birmingham Steel Magnolias.  This delights me for nerdy reasons (as you’d probably expect): in particular, because it extends by one step a cascade of naming that I’d meant to write about.  So here goes. Continue reading

Adventures in coauthorship networks: my Erdős number

Photo: Paul Erdős. (c) Topsy Kretts, CC BY 3.0

Warning: very nerdy.

 Sometimes I get distracted and go down a rabbithole.  Sometimes the result is fun.

I’ve been lucky, over my career, to have a large number of coauthors (some of whom are good friends; but many of whom I’ve never even met).  Coauthorhip makes my work better, but it has other benefits too.  A somewhat abstract one is that it makes me feel that I’m part of something larger than my own research program, or even my own discipline.  I belong (as we all do) to a global and cross-disciplinary network of collaborating scientists.  And to prove it, I have an Erdős numberContinue reading