Scientific language play

Every so often I post on word play in science writing; journalists are given to spicing up stories that have heavy technical content by playful headlines or lead paragraphs, using puns, alliteration, rhyme, and playful allusions to familiar quotations or other formulaic language. A recent example from New Scientist (on the website on December 3rd, in print in the December 6th issue). The on-line title, which conveys the technical content:

Spotted: First quadruple star image produced by gravity

In print this was jazzed up to the more eye-catching:

Once, twice, thre, four times a supernova…

(with a bow to Lionel Richie and the Commodores).

The beginning of the article:

Seeing quadruple? For the first time, astronomers have seen an image of a single supernova split into four by a gravitational lens. The splintered stellar explosion may help calibrate distances across the universe.

The allusion in the print head is to the line “Once, twice, three times a lady” from “Three Times a Lady”,

a 1978 single [written by Lionel Richie] by the funk/soul band the Commodores, from their 1978 album Natural High. It was produced by James Anthony Carmichael and the Commodores and it was the most popular track of the album. (Wikipedia link)

A 2007 live performance by Richie is here.

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