How do you define "aerosol", or "manipulation"? What about "organic", "mutant" and "confidence"?
The truth is that scientists often say words that do not mean what the general public thinks they mean. And that's a problem. If you're not speaking the same language, miscommunication is inevitable. There's a new paper up in Physics Today, which argues that it's the responsibility of all scientists to think about the colloquial meanings of words and talk in a way the public can understand.
But here's the first step: Making it clear to scientists which words cause communication problems. You can see the list from the Physics Today paper above. Meanwhile, the Southern Fried Science blog has added to the collection, and Southern Fried Science blogger Andrew Thaler is looking for more suggestions. You can add words that you think scientists and public use differently to Thaler's Google Docs spreadsheet. If you've got a good alternative for a confusing word, add that, too.
Via Mountain Beltway
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.