Sunday, February 12, 2012

Does science need a universal symbol?

Paul Root Wolpe is on the search for a universal symbol for science. He must be serious, because he has set up a Facebook page. Though one can't say the success of that page is overwhelming.

I'm not sure we really need a universal symbol for science, but I don't think it would harm either. Either way, once the question was in my head, it got me thinking what would make a good symbol for science. Here's what I came up with:


It has the merit that you can put some electron orbits around it, or a galaxy in the middle. Here is somebody else who has made a suggestion. It looks a little illuminati-ish to me though ;o) Something else that crossed my mind is to use an existing symbol, for example ∀ ("for all").

What do you think, would a symbol for science come in handy? Would you put it on your bumper?

31 comments:

Tudor Lewis said...

The idea is going in the right direction; I like the idea of the question mark and exclamation point symbolizing inquiry and discovery/insight. I would suggest enlisting someone knowledgeable in design and typography in particular to help come up with the correct font, design, etc. It needs to be something as easy to sketch out as a cross, crescent, star, etc.

My suggestion would be to go with sans serif lettering, lose the circle and try superimposing the ? and !. Here's my amateurish stab at it:
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1362189/symbol.jpg

Arun said...

With a universally recognized symbol for science, it would be easy to poster unfriendly-to-science organizations.

Bee said...

Hi Tudor,

Yes, I thought about putting the ? and the ! together. That symbol exists btw, it's called the Interrobang. Thing is, it's the typographical equivalent of WTF, and I'm not sure that's a message I'd like to convey. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Arun,

Yes, but it would also polarize people. Best,

B.

Arun said...

Well, Bee, the theory of evolution also polarizes people. :) (Those that choose to be polarized.)

Bee said...

And does that seem a promising path towards education?

John Pritchard said...

there exists (E) study (O) for all (A) ?

Arun said...

I guess there can be two approaches - one is that one has to be realist, not to paper over real conflicts; the second is that by avoiding confrontation, everyone can be taught science.

John Pritchard said...

confrontation is an independent issue

CarAnney said...

I like the "Circle" part as in the "Circle" of "Life",not closed and Open...very interesting...but not very (predictable)

PTMR said...

Does science need an universal symbol?

NO.

The fact that there is no such symbol is more then enough proof of that.

Science also doesn't need an universal flag, anthem, mascot, coat of arms, insignia, motto, patron, sacrament, rite, secret handshake, tradition or any other such superfluous nonsense.

Uncle Al said...

Uncle Al believes in fulgent science,

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fc/Clipper_fist.gif
Loose the cuff.

"Victory or death" is too conciliatory.

John Pritchard said...

the victory is education

Zephir said...

Only religious sectarian community needs a symbols. And religious chorals, theology, public preachers etc..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28X9czEROPs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=kFGkt9LZSWk#t=3498s

Plato said...

In a sense I think science really is looking for the simple way to convey that "simple truth" about the reality with which we engage?

In a sense the idea of some symbolic imagery is associated in my mind with some mathematical feat toward the understanding of that simple truth so many try to produce some foundational approach?

How could it apply symbolically across all facets of our engagement? It may be an ancient interpretation of a very common thing in relation to the source. In today's science?

One might of felt it them self once maybe, by walking a map inside?:)

If conceived as a series of ever-wider experiential contexts, nested one within the other like a set of Chinese boxes, consciousness can be thought of as wrapping back around on itself in such a way that the outermost 'context' is indistinguishable from the innermost 'content' - a structure for which we coined the term 'liminocentric'. A Conversation with Physicist Brian Greene

So in a sense you can see where such concept may find itself topologically expressed as a concept, while symbolically capturing the minds imagination about our connection inside and out, as a experiential connection with the very simple basic truth with regard to reality??

Best,

John Pritchard said...

i'm aware of layers of consciousness as related by subconsciousness and wakefullness-consciousness. i've never read any jung that i remember, but the mandala and liminocentricity metaphors are lost on me. to my ears it's metaphysics, where positivism or logic lends a hand to show that which might not be.

Navneeth said...

A symbol?! What do you think science is -- a religion?

;-)

That said, I'd incorporate arrow-heads in your symbol, Bee. Science is a continious process (or at least that's what is emperically known) of questions and answers (realisations, a-ha moments and what you have you).

Steven Colyer said...

I believe Scientists themselves not science need a symbol, something with a lab coat and a beaker, perhaps, shrug. But what scientists really need is to unionize (freedom from paperwork), say the Union of Physical Scientists, or UPS. They can borrow the worldwide delivery service United Parcel Service's symbol until such time as a universal symbol can be found.

Bee said...

Hi Navneeth,

Yes, I had thought about including arrows. But then it reminded me too much of a recycling symbol. I thought one could do it in a more subtle way, by making the lines fatter on one end than on the other, do you think that would work? Best,

B.

Navneeth said...

That would work nicely, I guess.

But then, who sayes scientists don't recycle ideas? :D

Giotis said...

What about ∃T (There exists truth)?

Bee said...

Hi Giotis,

That's a good suggestion. It would look very pleasant in sans serif I think. One could interpret it though as "there exists tea" ;o) Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

Science is definitely something difficult to capture with an image and most likely why we don’t have one already. The reason for this I think is it being primarily a process rather than a thing and moreover not just an ordinary one yet one which is cognitive. That is for instance I’m not aware of a symbol for art although there are some for specific ones. In thinking this it had my mind wander to a philosophical symbol with that being the one for Yin Yang and then went fishing around a bit and came across this this symbol , which the creator had arrived at for a very different purpose yet inspired the same. What struck me about it being it could be seen to contain the same elements as yours, only with having the period of the question and exclamation mark imbedded and inverted; which could be taken simply as a symmetry inversion. So I find this to capture your elements as well as having an “S” for science enfolded into it. I thought perhaps we could convince the creator to surrender his idea to serve a greater purpose then the one they intended as to donate this one for science. Then again there might be some who would find it a little too Bohmian for their taste ;-)

Best,

Phil

Bee said...

Hi Phil,

Yes, indeed, I was thinking it reminds a little of Yin and Yang, though it's not as symmetric. The image that you link to is interesting. It looks a little too mysterious, but maybe one can "straighten" it somewhat (eg take out the 3-d effect) and bring the ! in somehow. What I don't like about my suggestion is that it's not a closed form. Open forms have their merits, and one might say that the openness carries symbolic value too, but the eye tends to get lost. Best,

B.

Plato said...

How about an Information Triangle?

And does that seem a promising path towards education?

John Pritchard, I point this out for you....and it is not metaphysics. Mindmaps? There is a natural desire for one to expression a visual dynamic for a mathematical/artistic adventure? Dirac.

The Information Triangle

Penrose Triangle?

Tegmark's Triangle

Pictorial represenations can be very useful in presenting information or assisting reasoning. Venn diagram is an example. Venn diagrams are used to represent classes of objects, and they can also assist us in reasoning about the relations between these classes. They are named after the English mathematician John Venn (1834 - 1923), who was a fellow at Cambridge University.MODULE: Venn diagrams


Best,

Plato said...

A Symbol for the Universe-A Symbol of The Universe

After leaving yesterday I had found this....and in a way it seems it has always been a struggle to to get across the point about the mathematical desire to show the universe in a way that would make sense. In this exchange one would find Teqmark's expression here.

Discover Magazine-06.16.2008-Photography by Erika Larsen-Article-"Is the Universe Actually Made of Math? Unconventional cosmologist Max Tegmark says mathematical formulas create reality."

If it's not a soccer ball universe what is it?:)

John Pritchard said...

yes, giotis, definitely: ∃T.

although this thread brings me to the thought that a symbol for science is a bit redunant ;)

Plato said...

∃!:)

pendolski said...

In addition to '?' and '!' representing the process of scientific method it would be nice to have someething in the middle to represent the knowledge accumulated in the process. Something with a visual impression of a growth to represent growth of our knowledge/understanding. I have no idea what could it be though :(

I don't think it makes much sense to argue at this point if a symbol is needed or not. Spread it around (when it's ready) and see if people will like it.

BTW, could it be licenced under CC0 (http://creativecommons.org/about/cc0) to avoid any potential legal disputes?

pendolski said...

An ugly way to represent growth of knowledge/understanding would through something like an incomplete jigsaw puzzle with new pieces being added.

Arun said...

Hi Bee,

The more I look at your symbol, the more I like it. Perhaps a touch of color, though.

Your article set me to looking up the logos and mottos of scientific societies.

e.g. The Royal Society
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Society

They have a great motto! "Nullius in verba (Take nobody's word for it)".

Perhaps that can be inscribed under your symbol :)

Best,
-Arun