Friday, 10 May 2013

Greek is actually a real language


In a meeting earlier today, we were discussing outreach activities for the Physics Department at the University.  Amongst all the debate, and the useful discussion about things that we could actually do, I pointed out that I get irritated by science outreach in which greek letters are used to stand in for similar-looking roman letters.  Like the logo here, for example, or our own University's physics society logo.

I don't think there's anything to be embarrassed about to read a greek letter and know how to pronounce it, and it smacks of a kind of reverse arts-science ignorance-pride to use them as if they were just shapes that your computer font happened to supply.  The fault is more often in the other direction, when the likes of Jeremy Paxman on University Challenge shows impressed wonder at the correct answer to a science question and outright scorn at the ignorance to an arts question.  We don't have to respond in kind by treating the greek alphabet as if they were only symbols for use in physics equations and shunning their pronunciation or their other meanings.