World's Fair

We had such great fun with the “I rank number 1!” meme, that I thought it would be worth the effort to try another. This one might even guarantee you a spot in immortality – especially if your contribution manages to strike a chord with academia.

Anyway, this meme asks that you come up with your own scientific eponym. What’s that exactly? Well, first read this excellent primer by Samuel Arbesman, which basically provides a step by step description of how to do this effectively. Then have a go at your own blog. If all goes well, I’d like to create a page at the Science Creative Quarterly, that collects (and links to) the good ones.

Here, I’ll go first:


Where n = the number of cup holders a vehicle has.

Where f = the frequency per year where all cup holders are in use during vehicle use.


My Honda Civic: Has two cup holders (n=2), and I would predict that both are in use during traveling at least 20 times each year (f=20). This means the Ng’s Score for this particular ’97 Civic calculates to a score of 11.5

A Ford Expedition: Apparently has 10 cup holders (n=10). Which I’m going to guess the vast majority of Ford Expedition owners have never had the opportunity to use all at once during the course of even owning the vehicle (f=0). Therefore, an Ng’s Score here would calculate to 0.1

And now, of course, the academics can weigh in.

What exactly is this a measure of? The social value of the vehicle in question. The common sense level of the car designer? Should there be a government sanctioned minimum Ng’s Score that all vehicles are legislated to meet? Does the fuel efficiency play a role (an appendum to the formula), and are there certain vehicle descriptions that should not be scored (i.e. buses or planes or boats fit can not be assessed).

Anyway, regardless, it was fun to think of an eponym. Now let the meme officially begin


  1. #2 CGreen
    November 14, 2007


    More like fad.

    “A very short-lived trend, usually appealing to a narrow market.”

  2. #3 Steve
    November 14, 2007

    David… David Ng. Ng. David… Is this the same David Ng that attended the elite and possibly “so effective it’s too dangerous to keep it going” Leadership Institute at Purdue University one summer during mid-to-late high school epoch? If so, this is Steve. Hello!

  3. #4 CR McClain
    November 14, 2007
  4. #5 Terry
    November 14, 2007

    For the engineers out there: the Johnson number (Js) is the ratio of useful dimensionless numbers to vanity dimensionless numbers.

  5. #6 Blake Stacey
    November 14, 2007

    I didn’t name it, but I have seen it seriously invoked: Blake’s Law (Ken MacLeod calls it “Stacey’s Law”).

  6. #7 steve
    November 14, 2007


    The Polcz Shift (?)

    ? = ? × ? ? ?

    The Polcz Shift (?) occureth when apathy (?) is multiplied by infinity (?), from which one discovers a resultant fractured personal concept of time, in terms of continuity and perhaps even the order in which events seem to take place (?).

  7. #8 RPM
    November 14, 2007

    Since when are they “coffee” cup holders? They’re cup holders, not necessarily coffee.

  8. #9 Mark P
    November 14, 2007

    This number will be influenced by some factors like age of vehicle and country of design (not necessarily origin). Older vehicles had no cup holders. Even somewhat newer vehicles of German design had no cupholders, or few, or virtually useless, apparently because German engineers considered it a driver’s job to drive, not drink out of a cup (or listen to a decent radio either). American designed vehilces of recent manufacture will have a high n, especially since they are advertised to hold many people. Since they never do, the score will be low for them. The calculated number should also factor in miles per gallon to be useful. A simpler measure is just person-miles per gallon averaged over a year.

  9. #10 David Ng
    November 14, 2007

    Thanks RPM. You’re right – it is a cup holder (not coffee cup holder. The change has been made.

  10. #11 Alan Kellogg
    November 14, 2007

    Alan’s Law of Energy

    You can’t win.

    You can’t break even.

    You can’t quit the game.

    (Ha! Who needs some silly mathematical formula?)

  11. #12 Sam Arbesman
    November 14, 2007

    A word of caution though to the multitude of prestigious scientists who read The World’s Fair and are tempted by this meme: please be careful not to run afoul of the Arbesman Limit.

  12. #13 Rosie Redfield
    November 15, 2007

    The Redfield Factor (and the Inverse Redfield Factor) are at my blog.

  13. #14 steve
    November 15, 2007

    dave, i’m sorry! i totally was confused for a day. this is steve from belmont. nifty science blog. how’s teaching! good blog job!

  14. #15 sciencewoman
    November 15, 2007
  15. #18 Drugmonkey
    November 16, 2007

    The (ahem) DrugMonkey Scale.

  16. #19 Dave
    November 21, 2007

    How’s this:

    The SBC Score, or “The likelihood you’ll get laid with a hairy-as-hell body” Score or “On factors that control the evolution of modern hairless apes”

  17. #20 Trinifar
    November 25, 2007

    The first first link in this post (@ “I rank number 1!”) is incorrect.