July 13, 2010


The word "homotopic" has two very different meanings.

In mathematics, homotopic refers to two objects that are topologically equivalent. For example, there are two routes you can take between Washington and Baltimore: I-95 & the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. Because these two paths can be smoothly transformed into one another, they are topologically equivalent, or homotopic. Just like a donut and a coffee cup:
[Animation from here.]

On the other hand, in anatomy & medicine, "homotopic" refers to regions in "corresponding" parts of the body, like your left knee & your right knee. Or your left eye & your right eye.

While this is inconvenient, we suspect that the chances for confusion are small, because, just as the word "must" can refer both to (roughly) "shall" and (precisely) a randy elephant, it should be clear from context which sense is intended.

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