superposition vs superimposition


Hi everyone,

I saw that the french word "superposition" can be translated into english by either "superposition" or "superimposition".
Is there any difference between those two words ?

In my specific case, I want to describe a scientific figure on which two protein structures are superimposed to show their similarities.
For my figure's title, should I write "Superposition of two protein structures" or "Superimposition of two protein structures"?

  • By figure, do you mean an image, an illustration? If so, it would normally be appropriate to say that one image is superimposed over another – which implies that this is done in such a way that even the one underneath is still visible.

    But maybe you mean something more technical? If I google both words with "of two protein structures", superposition comes up with some 11,000 hits and superimposition with only about 4,000. I suggest you do the same and see whether the examples that appear answer your question.
    I don't know if I've ever seen the words 'superpose' or 'superimposition'. In normal language we superimpose things (a verb) and get a superposition (a noun). There may be technical uses of the other two.
    I want to describe a scientific figure on which two protein structures are superimposed
    English tends to use superimpose (verb, transitive) as far as images and objects are concerned, and it usually implies a sentient agent.

    I superimposed (verb) the image of the protein molecule on the original and found several differences. The superimposed (adjective) molecule had an extra carbon bond. I can recommend superimposition (noun) as a technique.

    Compare the usual lack of a sentient agent in superpose:

    The sandstone is in superposition (noun) to the limestone. We assume that it was superposed (verb) during the Devonian period. We ask ourselves if there could have been a superposed (adjective) layer of alluvial mud on the sandstone.
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