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Except for metaphor, tropes are arguably irrelevant to the analysis of science and technology. Among tropes, moreover, hyperbole and irony seem particularly ill-suited as the former exaggerates, while the latter undermines, two strategies at odds with a language intent on closely following the contours of the world of experience. While neither hyperbole nor irony has a place in the professional discourses of science and technology, both play a role in their popular representations. Hyperbole expresses our sense that these achievements exemplify the sublime, a form of experience applied at first to feelings of awe generated by great literature, then in succession to natural wonders like the Grand Canyon, triumphs of science like Newtonian physics, and such technological achievements as the computer and the Large Hadron Collider. While the Collider, the largest and most powerful experimental apparatus ever built, is an unalloyed technological triumph worthy of hyperbole, some of the alterations in social life that the computer has ushered in are open to skeptical debate. This is especially true to the extent that computer-facilitated communication has taken the place of the face-to face interaction that makes a robust social life possible. Irony is this skepticism’s vehicle.


hyperbole, irony, the sublime, technology, Large Hadron Collider, computer

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Copyright © 2018 Alan G. Gross

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