Quickies

Skepchick Quickies 10.15

Amanda

Amanda is a science grad student in Boston whose favorite pastimes are having friendly debates and running amok.

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58 Comments

  1. On the LHC thing…

    Assume there are a myriad of timelines, representing every possible course of events. Now, let’s say the creation of a Higgs particle in a given timeline retroactively destroys that timeline, for some esoteric reason.

    This means that any timeline that leads to the creation of a Higgs particle would not exist and in fact would never have existed. And the only timelines left (or ever to have existed) would be ones where the experiment was either unsuccessful or never attempted. This, in turn, means that the probability of successfully creating a Higgs particle is exactly zero, and we must therefore exist in a timeline where the Higgs particle will never be created.

    Or maybe the LHC is just really screwed up.

  2. I don’ think the cat story is odd at all. I’ve owned several cat and have lost hours of conscious memory trying to out-stare them. One time I even gave up smoking. Believe me we want cats licensed as hypnotherapists. Can you imagine the damage an unlicensed hypnotic cat could do?

  3. @Brian: Oh wow, that would be the best museum trip EVER.

    @CatFurniture: Oh sure, they’re “soothing.” They look all cute when they’re curled up on your lap, but that sense of relaxation you get from them? That’s because what they’re really doing is sucking the life energy out of you.

    That’s what cats run on, after all- solar energy, human life force, and cheezburgers.

  4. I only managed to slog through the first section of the Grandma’s letter, but I just wanted to say how impressed I was. Handwritten with proper grammar and spelling, and very few mistakes. I don’t know if that carries on over the entire 33 pages, but props to Grandma for that. I’m pretty sure it’s a lost art.

  5. @exarch:

    (And why is “grandma” capitalized in the OP?)

    It’s the actual blog title at the Friendly Atheist just like “The Collider, the Particle and a Theory About Fate” is the title directly from the nytimes article…

    Unless there is another Grandma that was capitalized that I’m not seeing.

    *Oh thank the FSM for the edit button, I totally used “their” instead.

  6. A few millenia ago, cats were revered as Gods. Terrific gig, but somehow they lost it. Now they are working to get it back again.

    The humans didn’t register them as hypnotherapists, the cats did it themselves using the humans as their vehicle. Some people have been hypnotized by cats for a long time, but some people are resistant. The hypnotherapy thing is a way to reach a wider audience.

    Cute and cuddly they may be, but they still sharpen their claws several times a day.

  7. @Steve:
    First stab at a hypno-kitty poster.

    Sadly, the visual trick doesn’t work as well (or at all, in my case) when there’s a large picture of a cat smack in the middle of it …

    @marilove:
    It’s the actual blog title at the Friendly Atheist just like “The Collider, the Particle and a Theory About Fate” is the title directly from the nytimes article…

    Which still has me wondering why people are capitalising words that aren’t at the beginning of the sentence and not proper names?
    Also, I’ve only seen this happen in English, not in other langueges. What is the purpose?

  8. @Steve: That’s just what hypnokitty wants you to believe.

    @exarch: You capitalize all the non-article words in titles. Granted, the internted has blurred the distinction between what is and isn’t a title, but the original rule is more or less in tact.

  9. @exarch:

    Which still has me wondering why people are capitalising words that aren’t at the beginning of the sentence and not proper names?

    Probably the same reason “people” use quotes around “words” that don’t “really” need them. They’re “Stupid”.

  10. @QuestionAuthority: Ha! I’m sure that Ken Ham’s brain trust at Answers in Genesis is working on it.

    If the Smithsonian was like the Creation Museum and had a section devoted to how belief in Christianity led to the rise of Hitler, then you can bet there would be some picketing.

  11. Well, there’s a convention my high school English teacher never told me about: capitalising the first letter of every word in a title.

    This is definitely an English phenomenon AFAIK. None of the other languages I know do this.

  12. @exarch: It’s … the title of something? Just like a book or a newspaper article or a song title or, in this case, a blog title…

    It’s not a sentence — it’s a title. There is a distinct difference. Notice there is no period.

  13. @exarch: Well, all languages are different. Chinese is way different than most written languages, for instance.

    Well, there’s a convention my high school English teacher never told me about: capitalizing the first letter of every word in a title.

    Okay, I don’t believe you. Either you weren’t listening or you had a horrible English teacher (you had more than one though, didn’t you?). It’s a big rule and one of the first things you should be learning when it comes to the written English language.

    Notice this title: “The Collider, the Particle, and a Theory about Fate”

    Notice the words not capitalized?

    This is why English is such a hard language to learn, huh? LOL

  14. @Steve: I don’t know what just happened, but after I read your LHC comment, I found myself on board a spaceship with QuestionAuthority’s avatar, Martin Freeman, Zooey Daschanel and Mos Def. Also Stephen Fry’s disembodied voice is wafting in the background. What have you done?!

  15. @Skept_artist:

    “Go get the newbie and bring him to the bridge, he says. Damned Infinite Improbability Drive. Always picking up strays and hitch hikers. Mind the size of a planet and I’m doing concierge duty on a freaking spaceship. I’m-m-m-m s-o-o-o depre-s-s-s-ed.”

  16. @Steve: Yeah, a lot of it is style preference, really. I think the only hard and fast rules are:

    “Always capitalize the first and last word.
    Capitalize all nouns and verbs.
    Never use periods or exclamation points.”

    After that it’s kind of up to you. But if you follow the above three rules and did nothing else, you’d be fine.

  17. @exarch: Question: Is English your native language? I will certainly allow that if you learned English as a second (or third, or nth) language, that this convention would not necessarily come up in class.

    If English is your first language, then I defer to those who have already addressed this topic.

  18. Per the Grandma letter:

    Dude, you are wasting your breath. If your grandmother writes you a 33 page letter berating you for your scientific belief, you just aren’t gonna change her.

    My late grandmother used to write me letters every week in college. Nothing huge – usually just a note card with a little note. I didn’t keep most of them, but it was nice to have the mail.
    Late in my senior year – after I had been accepted to graduate school for Vertebrate Paleontology with a heavy slant on Evolutionary Biology – her note covered how she was right then listening to the radio and someone was discussing how Darwin wasn’t to be believed. And she concurred.

    I framed it and hung it over my desk.

  19. @Steve:
    It’s even more complicated than that. It looks like there are no precise, agreed upon rules or, more to the point, there are several sets of mutually-contradicting rules.

    Okay, considering this article includes something like “Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications” as a reference, I’m going to assume that all of this is a relatively recent development. In other words, did they already do this consistently before WWII, or has everyone just been capitalising titles as they damn well please?

    Everything suggest to me that this is pretty much a guideline at the moment, not The Rule.

    This would explain why it fell by the wayside in English class. It’s simply not that important because you basically get to choose which convention you use, or as Grammar Girl says: “… there are many different ways of capitalizing the words in a title, and which one you use is simply a matter of style.

    So it’s not a rule, it’s a matter of style.

  20. @marilove:
    “Always capitalize the first and last word.
    Capitalize all nouns and verbs.
    Never use periods or exclamation points.
    ”

    I’m sorry, but the more I’m looking into this, the more I get the impression this isn’t a rule at all, but at best a convention (or several mutually exclusive conventions) generally agreed upon by most people, but not necessarily wrong if you don’t adhere to them.

    The relevant Wikipedia article about capitalization makes no mention of capitalizing titles as a rule, except for honorifics (The Duke of Such-and-such, where “Duke” is a title). It doesn’t mention article titles.

    The only one that does mention article title capitalization lists so many different styles that pretty much anything goes. If anything, it appears to be a typically American convention, and therefore not a general rule of the English language.

    I get the feeling much of this dates back to the days of typewriters, when the only way to emphasize a title was to either underline it, write it in all caps or capitalize all first letters, I’d say modern day word processing with ample choice of font size, style and colour has made this practice somewhat outdated.

    But hey, these things take time to disappear. Look at underline, which is itself a remnant of the days when everything was written by hand and bolding wasn’t an option, so the only way to emphasize anything was to underscore it.

  21. Re: Titles.
    I think that in a professional setting, it will depends on the style manual you are using. Common manuals are the APA, AP, MLA, etc. Many companies have in-house style manuals, too.

    We have to remember that English is a “living” language, in that it is constantly changing as time goes by. Those of you that have tried to read Beowulf in the original and compared it so Shakespeare will appreciate what I mean.

    As was pointed out above, countries also have conventions. The British, Indians, Australians, US, Canada, etc. all have idiomatic conventions, too.

    There are also what I call “technological” conventions. A perfect example of this is the habit many people have of entering two spaces after every sentence when typing. This used to be necessary in the typewriter days, but is now considered obsolete due to word processors and fonts that adjust for spacing.
    So, it depends on a lot of things.

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