More or Less
Given what I do for a living, it should come as no surprise that I have my share of neuroses about the English language. For the most part I appease the grammar demons at work, so I don't sit around picking apart errors in the speech of others in casual conversation. But there's one thing that has really been bothering me lately, and because I'm not aware of a proper term for it I'm going to call it "null measurement." It's measuring things by the wrong term. For example, someone might say "twice as cold." There's no such thing as a measurement of cold, only warmth or the absence of warmth. So you are really talking about something that is only half as warm. It's the same with "ten times less." Does that mean one tenth? I have no idea. But I ran across that term today on the Popular Science website, and it seems like in a scientific context it's especially important to be precise.