Blogs That Should Exist

By Sean Carroll | January 4, 2009 12:48 pm

I’m hoping that, for many of our readers, New Year’s Resolutions include getting off their duffs and starting a blog of their own. It’s certainly not hard; at the minimal level of effort, hop over to Blogger and set up your own free blog in a couple of easy steps. Only after you’ve established yourself can you hope to sell out to the Man and thereby cause the Death of the Blogosphere, like us.

But there are obstacles, for example: what to call the blog? We’re here to help. I was leafing through some old emails, and stumbled across the conversations we were having in the days before Cosmic Variance even existed. The heady days of youth, when we were trying to come up with good names for our new venture. Of course there are many types of blogs, from individual rants about the state of one’s personal life and recent dining experiences to focused discussions of the prospects for health care reform at the national level. We (including Clifford) wanted something that reflected our identity as scientists, but would attract and intrigue non-scientists as well, as we have always hoped to cast our discoursive net more widely than our particular disciplines. So we were looking for titles that played off scientific concepts, but didn’t come off as complete gobbeldy-gook to non-experts. Shores of the Dirac Sea is an excellent recent example of the genre — very much a physics in-joke, but one that isn’t completely off-putting to outsiders. If you call your blog “Laplace-Beltrami Operator” or “Gravitino Propagator,” you might amuse yourself, but your audience will be limited. (Apologies if there are any blogs out there with those names.)

Of course we came up with more than one, before settling on our perfect choice. But what was imperfect for us might fit you just fine. So, offered up free of charge, here are some of the names we were bandying around, plus some extras I came up with since.

  • Tycho’s Nose
  • Higher Dimensional Operators
  • Extremize The Action
  • Critical Phenomena
  • The Residue Theorem
  • But No Simpler
  • De Revolutionibus
  • Smooth Tension
  • Ultra Deep Field
  • Outside the Light Cone
  • Primeval Atom
  • Left As An Exercise
  • The Error Bar

Personally I’m partial to Tycho’s Nose, but The Error Bar is an awesome name. That blog practically writes itself. So what are you waiting for?

Those who are too lazy and/or timid to start their own blogs are encouraged to suggest additional names in comments.

  • Rhett Allain

    Wow. Those names are all pretty much awesome. But now I feel bad. I wish I would have thought about the name of my blog a little more before choosing the name. I think “Left As An Exercise” is my favorite.


  • Joe

    We used to have a friday night pizza and drinks gettogether at UQ physics called “The Error Bar”

    I think the current student club is still running them…

  • Joe

    I have set up a “The Error Bar” blog… now I just need to wait for the content to “write itself”


  • Mike Peel

    The cafe in our physics department (university of manchester) is called “The Error Bar”, for some reason with a phi where the o should be. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) it doesn’t sell alcohol…

  • Yvette

    Reminds me of conversations I had with people when starting my blog, originally to keep people updated on my study abroad exploits in New Zealand. For awhile “Upside-Down Orion” was a front-runner and I had a friend who insisted it should be named “Backwards Toilet” despite my explanations to the contrary. I ended up going for the name of a NZ candy, “The Chocolate Fish.”

    Doing up a new blog now to prepare for a trip around the world I’m starting in less than two weeks assuming these dratted graduate school applications get finished. Right now it just has the title of “Where is Yvette?” so my friends can remember it, but hopefully I’ll think up something better. Now all I need to do is figure out how to integrate Google Maps, sigh…

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  • Elias

    I submit to you: “Life at the Newtonian Limit”.

    No Google hits yet, either (with quotes, of course).

  • Sunny Kalara

    Balding Blackholes
    Dark Grey Matter

    And one for Sean, if he wants to have another blog:

    Quiver for my time arrows!

  • Chad Orzel

    “Ultraviolet Catastrophe” has a nice ring to it, though it’s more of an album title than a blog name. “Critical Point” could be a book and/or movie review blog. “Virtual Particles” would be good for a blog consisting of short links to other things. “Berry’s Phase” is surname-dependent, but could work for somebody with the right parents.

  • Moshe

    I always thought old Jazz albums have some wonderful names that could easily double as blog names. Some examples that come to mind are “blues and the abstract truth”, “explorations”, “conversations with myself” and “in a silent way”, and the list goes on… I’ve actually used those last two on a provisional basis (in less public pages, for which the names are more appropriate).

    On the other hand, I am glad that David came up with a more clever idea for our blog.

  • Pieter Kok

    Title for the next Bourne Identity sequal: the Bourne Approximation.

  • Pieter Kok

    Blog title: “The Brillouin Zone”.

  • Luis

    I’m frankly disappointed that nobody has yet suggested “Philosophiae Naturalis”.

  • riemann

    My suggestion for maths blogs:

    The Gödel Sentence
    Much Less Than Epsilon
    That Ring To It (for algebraic contents)
    Compact and Connected
    Random Variables

  • Count Iblis

    The physics parodies by Siegel may give you some inspiration, e.g.:

    “Nonabelian Wind-Mills”

    “Strings with tomato sauce”

  • Jake Young

    Dude, the Error Bar is not just a good name for blog. It is a good name for a bar.

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  • Dorothy Gale

    I wish there was a blog as good as Cosmic Variance about neuroscience. Not sure what it would be called.
    Is there one I don’t know about?

  • Elliot

    How about “The Hilbert Hotel”


  • avendya

    Someday, if we ever manage to get our act together, there will be a group blog on physics, math, and studying physics as an undergraduate. It’s registered as Fourier Transformers.

  • Escuerd

    “Extremize the Action” would sound a bit less sexy as the more specific “Minimize the Action,” but the latter sounds more my style.

  • Ijon Tichy

    Here’s some blog names for cosmologists (individual or group):

    The Einstein Ring
    The Local Group
    A Wrinkle in Spacetime
    Baryonic Matters
    The Cosmic Edge
    The Naked Singularity
    My World Line

  • anders

    If and only if
    The Cornu spiral

  • federica

    blog title: “a matter of dark matter”

  • Radha

    Post-Physics Cognitive Dissonance
    The Music of The Tubes

    And, courtesy of Prof. Bob Brown, CWRU:
    Physics Is So Much Clearer After Three Martinis

  • existential mime

    Literary Precedents:

    “The Error Bar” is the name of a bar in the novel “The Crying of Lot 49” by Thomas Pynchon
    (a novel which I recommend for many reasons)

    “My World Line” is the title of the autobiography of George Gamow

  • greg

    Background Radiation
    The Energy Well
    Inside the Quantum Tunnel <- I happen to really like that one

  • Sili

    If I had anything to say to the world I’d have used “and his dog” (“og hvermand” in Danish), since everyone already has a blog.

  • Count Iblis

    “Retarded Potential”

  • Wc

    The Spinning Top

    The Count of Monte Carlo

    And more for particle physicists

    Warped Passages

    The Hidden Dimension

    Hidden Symmetry

    Grand Unified Thoughts

    Life as a virtual particle

    Twisted Models

    The Minimal Moose

    Anamoly Cancellation

    State of the Operator

  • jfromm

    Cosmic Darwinism

    Spacetime Spin

    Laws Evolving

    Quantum Evolution

  • erik

    I like the cut of your jib, Count Iblis. I was thinking,

    “Retarded Time”

  • Supernova

    I’m pretty sure Ultraviolet Catastrophe was the name of a phys/astro intramural softball team at my graduate institution. It’s a good one.

  • Tom Hendrix

    Denominator Zero And Beyond!

  • Nick Ernst

    I’ve often considered making a physics counterpart to my blog (GroupAction) called either “Spooky Action” (which could emphasize explaining physics concepts misused by pseudoscientists) or “Extremal Action” (which could talk about the physics of just about anything extreme, from rollercoasters to supernovae). Anyone else can feel free to take these!

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  • Low Math, Meekly Interacting

    Sum Over Mysteries
    Chandrasekhar Ltd.
    Art Decoherence

  • Aaron

    Thanks for the inspiration; I’ll see how far this takes me:

    ‘Retarded time’ is a good one, but I know my friends in special education would be … hesitant … to endorse it no matter how many time you could explain about Green’s functions


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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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