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19 Words That Mean Something Totally Different When You’re A Scientist

Let’s experiment with some models.

1. “Theory”

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What it means to most people: A hunch or conjecture.
What it means if you’re a scientist: An entire system of well-substantiated and testable ideas that explain something about the natural world.

2. “Chemist”

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What it means to most people: Where you go to buy cough medicine when you’re feeling under the weather.
What it means if you’re a scientist: A person who wears lab coats and blows things up (sometimes on purpose).

3. “Hypothesis”

What it means to most people: A guess, possibly an educated one.
What it means if you’re a scientist: A proposed explanation for something that we can actually test.

4. “Model”

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What it means to most people: A person employed to display clothes by wearing them, or pose for a photographer or artist.
What it means if you’re a scientist: Something that represents a phenomenon or physical process; a simplified version of reality.

5. “Theoretical physicist”

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What it means to most people: A scientist who spends a lot of time thinking very hard and frantically writing on blackboards.
What it means if you’re a scientist: A machine for turning coffee into theorems.

6. “Coffee”

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What it means to most people: A caffeinated drink that wakes you up in the morning.
What it means if you’re a scientist: Essential if you’re going to get any work done.

7. “Significant”

What it means to most people: Important or noteworthy.
What it means if you’re a scientist: A result that’s distinguishable from chance.

8. “Sign”

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What it means to most people: Whether you’re an Aquarius or a Taurus and what that all ~means~.
What it means if you’re a scientist: Whether something has a plus or a minus in front of it.

9. “Error”

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What it means to most people: A mistake.
What it means if you’re a scientist: How far something deviates from the true number. As in, “nice error bars you have on that histogram”.

10. “Bias”

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What it means to most people: Prejudice in favour or against a person or thing.
What it means if you’re a scientist: A systematic offset from an observation.

11. “Uncertainty”

What it means to most people: Doubt, apprehension, hesitancy about something.
What it means if you’re a scientist: The margin of error of a measurement.

12. “Manipulation”

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What it means to most people: To influence a person or situation, usually cleverly or unfairly.
What it means if you’re a scientist: Processing data.

13. “Trick”

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What it means to most people: Something devious or underhand.
What it means if you’re a scientist: A statistical procedure or other method used to process data.

14. “Values”

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What it means to most people: A person’s principles or ethics.
What it means if you’re a scientist: Numbers or measurements.

15. “Aerosol”

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What it means to most people: A spray can.
What it means if you’re a scientist: A suspension of tiny particles in air or another gas.

16. “Organic”

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What it means to most people: Pesticide-free, additive-free, “natural”.
What it means if you’re a scientist: Literally anything that is or comes from living matter.

17. “Experiment”

What it means to most people: What you do at university with drink, drugs, and/or other people.
What it means if you’re a scientist: What you do at university with chemicals, Petri dishes, and/or very expensive pieces of equipment.

18. “Paper”

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What it means to most people: Thin sheets of material made from the pulp of wood from trees.
What it means if you’re a scientist: The unit of measurement for your worth as a scientist.

19. “Conference”

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What it means to most people: A formal meeting of people with a shared interest or profession.
What it means if you’re a scientist: PARTY.

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