By Chops

Claire made an excellent point a few days ago regarding the use of jargon, especially in highly technical fields. Although I don’t work in exactly the same field, I understand some of the issues. One issue I commonly face is in different language or properties between different fields. I have a few quick reference/cheat sheets to help me out in these situations. ‘Jargon’ isn’t just limited to the English language! Plus, sometimes what you want to know is slightly obtuse to the original study and you need to do a bit of converting things.

There’s one resource I’ve used a lot to help me out in these situations. It is from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST – the United States), which is the guide to the SI units and their relationships. They produced a pretty nice flow-chart showing how the SI base units flow into the named derived units. It is very handy for understanding where everything goes in complex equations: Another excellent publication by NIST is the guide on handling uncertainty, a pet peeve of mine as it is rarely handled correctly: Surprisingly, this is often all it takes to be able to map from one type of property to another.

The other resource I have to share today is something I was pointed to just the other day, and it is a set of cheat sheets prepared by Matt Hall of Agile Geoscience: These are targetted a little more towards the geophysicist (and, actually, towards the petroleum geophysicist) but they are of use to anyone who has to worry about physical properties. There are some good fundamental geology and statistical things in the basic cheat sheet, too.

So how does this help cut through the jargon? Well, as much as we have different words to mean the same things (as Claire pointed out on Thursday): we also have numbers that mean similar or related things. Without being able to translate these quantities you can find yourself lost. So what are some of the quick references or resources you guys use to help cut through different language or symbols in different disciplines?