30 March 2012

Botanists ditch Latin

It happened at the first of the year: botanists no longer have to describe new plant species in Latin. Per Scientific American:
While some schoolchildren daydream about crushes during class, delicately inscribing their names in paper margins, others instead yearn to one day discover and name their own species for the cute boy at the corner desk. But they know little about the excess work involved in plant discovery. Even after discovering and confirming a new species of plant, which is trying enough itself, botanists have to submit a description in Latin — even if they had never studied the language before — and ensure that said description is published in a journal printed on real paper.
That is until New Years Day 2012, when new rules passed at the International Botanical Congress in Melbourne, Australia this July, take effect: the botanists voted on a measure to leave the lengthy and time-consuming descriptions behind. Additionally, the group released their concerns about the impermanence of electronic publication, and will now allow official descriptions to be set in online-only journals.
“Probably in 1935 [when the Latin requirement was instated], most people who got serious university degrees were required to take Latin,” says botanist Jim Miller from the New York Botanical Garden, who published an accompanying paper in the journal PhytoKeys in July. “But it has become less true that Latin is universally accessible. "
True dat. The Latin they were writing, moreover, was a disservice to a beautiful language. "Arbor ad 8 alta, raminculis sparse pilosis, trichomatis 2-2.5 mm longis."  That's just English transcribed into Latin for the obfuscation of the masses. Boooooooring. The issue of permanent publication, however, is still legit: how long does the average server last?

Read the rest here at SciAm.

1 comment: