Phrases that drive my STEM-trained brain nuts

There are some phrases I hear on a routine basis that just drive me nuts.  Serious pet peeves.  I know these are seriously nit-picky, but after so many years of having things like physics and math beaten into my brain, they’re like fingernails on a chalkboard.

What are your scientifically-incorrect verbal pet peeves?  Or phrases that violate the laws of physics?   Here are my current ones.  I’m sure I’m missing a few and will stumble across more in the future, so will do another post later.  And yes, I fully acknowledge that I’m scraping the barrel for blog topics today.  It was this or a review of the Muppet Movie, and this is shorter and I want to go to bed, so laziness wins tonight!

First up, one I ran into today.  Every time I see a car with this label, I grit my teeth: “Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle.”  Part of zero is still zero.  How do you have partial zero emissions?  Just say “low emissions” already.

“Zero gravity.”  The gravity doesn’t magically go away – you’re just in free fall.  In fact, you’re falling in that nice orbit around the Earth because of gravity.  This one came up a lot when I was teaching foundation physics.


ISS: still affected by gravity. Photo from NASA’s image of the day gallery:×323/public/s31-76-026.jpg?itok=99HqfxaX

“Killed my energy” (laws of thermodynamics, people).

“Nucular.”  Nuclear.  Nuke-lee-urr.  It’s just… really not that hard to pronounce.  Really.

“It’s not rocket science” or “it doesn’t take a rocket scientist.”  This one only bothers me when it’s grossly misused.  Rocket propulsion and orbital mechanics were two of the hardest classes I’ve taken.  Rocket science is, in fact, very difficult.  But when you say, “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that these scrambled eggs are cold and rubbery” it just doesn’t make sense.  Most rocket scientists may be smarter than the average bear, but it doesn’t give them magical powers of observation or omniscience.

So, what are your pet peeve phrases?


Filed under Geeking out

4 responses to “Phrases that drive my STEM-trained brain nuts

  1. The nuc-u-lar one. And any time someone tries to sway an argument with a single data point e.g. “but this one time this happened, so it must be true!”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anonymous

    “It’s nucular!”


  3. Anonymous

    “Cum hoc ergo propter hoc” is at the top of my list. A close second is when people cite numbers without understanding them (e.g. using a rating system without knowing what raw data went into the rating, how those data were collected, etc.).

    This one also drives me nuts:


  4. Greg Allen Hope

    change is the only constant


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