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In my grand ignorance I would state that graphene has a honeycomb lattice. Some tend to agree with me and some others do not. I'm curious to know what members of the SE community think is the right answer here?

My argument: The Bravais lattice of graphene is clearly not honeycomb, however a lattice does not have to be Bravais, so I see nothing wrong with saying "honeycomb lattice". I understand conventionally when one talks about lattices it is often assumed we are talking about a Bravais lattice, but this is convention and not definition.

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    $\begingroup$ In physics, as in most fields, you try to be as specific as possible with language because it is really hard to translate what is in your mind into someone else's mind. So if I'm talking with my group about lattices, I will assume they mean a Bravais lattice. Now if I'm doing a general presentation with high school students, I might say that graphene looks like a honeycomb. Different groups, different expected norms of language. In physics, be precise or you will be misunderstood. And if you aren't precise, folks may get upset with you. $\endgroup$ – Jon Custer Oct 22 '14 at 13:46
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed. This is the cause of much (what I'd say are petty) arguments within my group whenever someone delivers a talk on graphene and uses the phrase "honeycomb lattice" in passing. Everyone knows exactly what that person means but people get upset because they assume that by lattice the speaker means 'Bravais lattice'. I understand it may not follow convention, but is it still technically correct to say that graphene has a honeycomb lattice? $\endgroup$ – Tom Oct 22 '14 at 14:59
  • $\begingroup$ I think it's a question for Chemistry SE, rather than Physics. $\endgroup$ – Mithoron Jan 29 '15 at 14:35
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If we are talking in a technical context, then we use technical language. It would not be technically correct to say "honeycomb", but if that's not the context then there is nothing wrong with it. Personally I try to be as technical in my language as efficiently possible just to get me in the habit.

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  • $\begingroup$ Could I ask why it is not technically correct? Or maybe I should say, going by the mathematical definition of a lattice (not a Bravais lattice) why can't I say honeycomb lattice? $\endgroup$ – Tom Oct 22 '14 at 21:25
  • $\begingroup$ There are people who's job is to decide what things are called in the scientific community. You don't call a gram a gerbil. In reality it doesn't matter what you call something as long as people know what you are talking about. In technical writing (which has entire books about how to do it) you have to call things by their correct name. $\endgroup$ – Joseph Hankel Oct 22 '14 at 22:47
  • $\begingroup$ It's something I think everyone has problems with. The other day I asked my professor about phonons in air, and he told me that phonons only occur in solids. Even though they are just vibrations through a medium they have different names depending on the state of the substance. It's purely convention. $\endgroup$ – Joseph Hankel Oct 22 '14 at 22:54
  • $\begingroup$ Funny isn't it. I just feel i am going to be unsatisfied with a response "you cant call that a lattice" until somebody explains "because it doesnt satisfy property X or Y according to the definition of a lattice". $\endgroup$ – Tom Oct 22 '14 at 23:22
  • $\begingroup$ Here's Webster's (physics) definition of lattice."A regular geometrical arrangement of points or objects over an area or in space; specifically: the arrangement of atoms in a crystal." $\endgroup$ – Joseph Hankel Oct 23 '14 at 2:16

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