How Culture Influences Scientific Metaphors

If you believe the cosmos is made up of omelette, you build instruments specifically designed to find traces of intergalactic yolk. In that paradigm you reject phenomena like pulsars and black holes as paranormal garbage. In an omelette cosmos, the beginning of the universe becomes a chicken and egg problem, doesn’t it?

Now, this definition of terms (like omelette universe) happens all the time. The reason that we today refer to electricity in terms of current is because in the eighteenth century people like Ben Franklin thought it was a fluid and tied all their experiments to that so-called fact. At the same time, in the eighteenth century, they thought all disease was caused by bad smells. Malaria is mal aria-bad air. We laugh at that, but for them, as for everybody at any time, the contemporary view of things is always the horse’s mouth.


Electricity has a current because Franklin thought it flowed like water, mal-aria is named after "bad air" because people thought it was caused by that, and we define the Universe it terms of clockwork or information depending on the cultural innovations of the time.

Folksonomies: science metaphors metaphor terminology semantics

/food and drink/beverages/non alcoholic beverages/coffee and tea (0.613160)
/travel/tourist destinations/france (0.481120)
/health and fitness/disease (0.406739)

Scientific Metaphors Electricity (0.918107 (negative:-0.248875)), eighteenth century (0.833078 (neutral:0.000000)), eighteenth century people (0.762316 (neutral:0.000000)), omelette universe (0.648825 (neutral:0.000000)), intergalactic yolk (0.583781 (negative:-0.375626)), cultural innovations (0.514457 (neutral:0.000000)), bad air (0.508138 (negative:-0.545879)), bad smells (0.498747 (negative:-0.732213)), paranormal garbage (0.488229 (negative:-0.737463)), so-called fact (0.484011 (negative:-0.705965)), black holes (0.476937 (negative:-0.737463)), contemporary view (0.437809 (positive:0.413077)), aria-bad air (0.432445 (neutral:0.000000)), time (0.363500 (neutral:0.000000)), cosmos (0.319775 (positive:0.247787)), terms (0.294995 (positive:0.328494)), Franklin (0.268808 (negative:-0.248875)), clockwork (0.203671 (neutral:0.000000)), pulsars (0.202366 (negative:-0.737463))

Culture Influences Scientific Metaphors Electricity:PrintMedia (0.892139 (positive:0.039810)), Franklin:Person (0.571096 (negative:-0.248875)), black holes:FieldTerminology (0.394051 (negative:-0.737463)), Malaria:HealthCondition (0.374843 (negative:-0.290719)), Ben:Person (0.327983 (neutral:0.000000))

Universe (0.973508): dbpedia | freebase
General relativity (0.897983): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Time (0.735368): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Multiverse (0.657926): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Electric charge (0.641056): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Creation myth (0.562542): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Lightning (0.549970): dbpedia | freebase
Space (0.547769): dbpedia | freebase

 The Legacy of Science
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book Chapter:  Burke, James (1985), The Legacy of Science, Langley Research Center, Washington, DC, Retrieved on 2011-06-19
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: science society progress


    09 MAY 2012

     Our Non-Intuitive, Shadowy Understanding of Nature

    Memes mostly about the quantum world, where we use metaphors to describe things we can't really conceptualize in the macroworld.
    Folksonomies: metaphor understanding
    Folksonomies: metaphor understanding