There ain't no rules around here! We're trying to accomplish something!

“What we have [to avoid], is a failure to communicate”

In Physics on March 31, 2009 at 2:04 am

From SEED magazine:

Recently, a small group of American and Chinese scientists and engineers collaborated on a compendium of roughly a thousand terms and phrases related to nonproliferation, testing, and more. The latest edition of this “Nuclear Security Glossary” was made freely available online in November, though it remains a work in progress.

The need for such a nuclear glossary — a joint effort of the US Committee on International Security and Arms Control (CISAC) and the Chinese Scientists Group on Arms Control (CSGAC) — arose because accurate translations between English and Chinese can be tricky under the best of circumstances, and in the highly technical context of nuclear terminology, they are of fundamental importance. “Science rests as much on communication as discovery,” says Raymond Jeanloz, a physicist and CISAC member who helped craft the glossary.

While science is often an international collaboration, scientists remain the products of single nations and cultures.  They must therefore make a special effort to communicate with each other, particularly as science involves so many neologisms that complicate translations.  Many proteins, for example, have multiple names as they are first discovered in high-throughput assays (with little known about them) and then gradually characterized so they can be named based on function.

As a result, simply keeping up with and systematizing this torrent of new information is a task in itself – particularly, as the article notes, when there is a language barrier on top of it, and the science has political implications.

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