Scanning the listings on the arxiv just now, I found what has to be the best paper title I’ve seen for a while:
It is a paper by H. Nikolic, in the history of physics classification, and I have not read it, but I love the title. It’s brilliant!
This reminds me of the process that happens to me sometimes when I’m working on a research project. I suddenly think of a really great title, and then get excited about finishing the project so that I can write the paper with that title! (You’ll have noticed that I do that with some of my blog posts too.) It’s often just a nice turn of phrase, like three of my favourites “The EnhanÃ§on and the consistency of excision”, and “Anatomy of a duality”, and “Is string theory a theory of strings?”…
…At other times it is a pun of some sort. Sometimes I chicken out and don’t use the title, for fear of future lack of searchability, or as a cheap compromise (often with my co-authors) a subtitle with more conventional words gets added, like in “Clearing the throat: Irrelevant operators and finite temperature in large N gauge theory”, or “D-brane – Anti-D-brane Forces in Plane Wave Backgrounds: A Fall From Grace” (the latter title got changed when it turned out that the effect giving rise to the fall from grace (D-branes losing their halo… never mind, you had to be there) was as result of a misinterpretation of our computation.
In fact, looking at my list of publications, it seems that I chicken out of the ones that go for the pun, in favour of more conservative titles more often than not. Sometimes I think of titles and just hope one day that I’ll work on something that allows me to use that title. I’ve still got some saved up.
There are several paper titles in my field that I remember liking a lot. A few from the “modern era” are:
- “The Heterotic Life of the D-Particle” (Danielsson and Ferretti), is one of my all time favourites. It just trips off the tongue nicely, and reminds me of the excellent “The Double Life of VÃ©ronique”, by Krzysztof Kieslowski, although I don’t know if that is what they had in mind.
- “Pure States Don’t Wear Black”, (R. Myers) is another. Was he riffing on Carl Reiner’s “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid”, I wonder? I must ask him.
- “Dielectric Branes” (R. Myers), is extremely good, given how much physics is communicated in the title too, although it was supposed to be “”D(ielectric) Branes”, which would have been even better given the puns that were going around at the time using brackets to give an alternative “explanation” for a letter in a name, like “M(atrix)-theory”: I’m not sure why Rob did not go with the brackets in the end. He and I had discussed this physics extensively – he even has credited me with suggesting early on that the Myers effect described in this paper was a sort of dielectric effect …I think he’s way too generous about that… In any case I don’t recall exactly, although I do recall getting excited about the title.
- “D(NA) Branes”, (Hellerman and McGreevy) is another excellent one along the same lines. (I’m still amused by their note in the acknowledgments “It has been brought to our attention that the title of our paper was discovered independently “. ref. is to yours truly.)
I’m sure I’ve forgotten several. Can you think of any? Already used, or ones that would be amusing if they were used? Any research field will do…