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Science Semantics


Science is perhaps the academic discipline most dependent on acronyms, from the common NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) to the less recognized laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation). In fact, Wiley Publishers’ dictionary of “Scientific and Technical Acronyms, Symbols, and Abbreviations” includes more than 200,000 entries!

On Thursday, Mind Hacks pointed out some of the cleverest acronyms used in cognitive science, and asked readers to send in any especially “awkward, contrived or borderline inappropriate acronyms for anything mind or brain related.”

Their favs include:

NEMESIS: Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study
CUtLASS: Cost Utility of the Latest Antipsychotic Drugs in Schizophrenia Study
AESOP: Aetiology and Ethnicity of Schizophrenia and Other Psychoses
FACETS: Fast Analog Computing with Emergent Transient States
NeuroproMiSe: Neuroprotective strategies for multiple sclerosis

And speaking of words, did you know that science claims what may be the longest “serious” word in the English language? It’s the chemical name for “Coat Protein, Tobacco Mosaic Virus, Dahlemense Strain,” and 1,185 letters long, so I’ll refrain from giving you the whole thing. But here’s the gist:


As its Wikipedia entry points out, the letter combination ‘yl’ appears in the word 166 times.

Image: iStockphoto


  1. #1 Lee Billings
    August 10, 2007

    Here’s an audio clip of someone reciting the Wikipedia entry… The entire clip is 6 minutes long. The first two minutes and thirty-seven seconds of it are devoted to reciting the name of the protein!…serine.ogg

  2. #2 CRM-114
    August 10, 2007

    The Jet Propulsion Laboratory has the Mercury mission named MESSENGER for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging.