Disambiguate!

Have you ever gone through the Wikipedia disambiguation pages for the greek and Roman characters? If not, you should.

Even if you narrow your scope to just a single discipline like Mechanical Engineering, the same symbol can mean multiple things (G can be both the gravitational constant and electrical conductance.) At the same time, the same thing can be represented by multiple symbols – depending on which professor you ask, the name of the angle on the latitudinal plane in spherical coordinates can be either φ or θ.

This isn’t a problem that has a solution – there are only 50 characters between the Greek and Roman letter systems.

Instead, there’s a deeper lesson: chances are, an assumption that what you think is an unambiguous implies something entirely different to someone else. If this can happen with equations (normally held up as the paragon of unambiguity) think about what happens in English.

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