There’s been a lot of talk about airborne lidar recently, because it has once again been used to find archaeological ruins in a jungle, as opposed to the standard topographic mapping it gets used for day in and day out. It has even gotten into the pages of the comics, ever the spot for cutting-edge news and science, in the form of Mark Trail:
The professor here makes a common error, and we need to push back on it. Lidar is not an acronym, it is a portmanteau of “light” and “radar” (or RADAR, if you prefer, RADAR actually being an acronym for RAdio Detection And Ranging or RAdio Direction And Ranging). Of course, people writing papers in the academic and business world can’t bring themselves to talk about portmanteaux, so they engaged in some revisionist history to turn the word into an acronym so they could just stick that into parentheses after the first use and move on with their lives. Like radar, there was disagreement about exactly which words went into this putative acronym (“LIght Detection And Ranging” or “Laser Imaging Detection And Ranging”) but unlike radar they don’t both have that awkward way of using two letters from one word, so convention has it that the former acronym is expressed as “LiDAR” with a lower-case i to differentiate it.
So shame on you, Mark Trail, for perpetuating the myth that lidar is an acronym, and an extra “tsk” for, having made that error, not picking the version that would fit with your all-caps font.
We’ll save the thrilling discussion of why no one bothers using all caps for certain acronyms like radar and scuba for another day. Also, maybe we’ll get to why that kid Rusty looks like Ted Cruz now.