The Science of Existence – Glossary


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0th law of thermodynamics: the hypothesis of comparative thermodynamics among systems: that if 2 thermodynamic systems each are in thermal equilibrium with a 3rd system, then they are in thermal equilibrium with each other.

1st law of thermodynamics: the hypothesis that the total energy in an isolated system is immutable: that energy can be neither created nor destroyed in a closed system.

2nd law of thermodynamics: the hypothesis of there being a tendency over time toward entropy in an isolated physical system. The 2nd law outlaws perpetual motion machines.

3-center 2-electron bond: a covalent bond between 3 atoms sharing 2 electrons.

3rd law of thermodynamics: the hypothesis that the entropy of a system approaches a constant value as its temperature approaches absolute zero.

4d (aka spacetime): the 4 dimensions of everyday experience: 3 of space (3d) + 1 of time. See hd and ed.


abiogenesis: the study of how life arose.

ΛCDM (Lambda cold dark matter) model: the current standard cosmological model, positing a 13.82 BYA Big Bang based upon the 1st observable light for cosmic origination; physics-defying cosmic inflation; a cosmological constant, denoted by lambda (the Greek letter Λ); the cosmological hypothesis of a homogeneous and isotropic universe; with cosmic expansion presently accelerating. ΛCDM has been disproven on multiple fronts.

acid (chemistry): a molecule capable of donating a hydron. Acids react with bases. Contrast base.

acidophile: an organism that lives in a highly acidic habitat.

actin: a family of globular multifunctional proteins that form microfilaments. Actin is found in all eukaryotic cells except roundworm sperm. Actin has equivalents (homologs) in prokaryotes.

activator (chemistry): an enzyme that increases reaction rate. Contrast inhibitor.

active site (organic chemistry): the position on a protein where substrates bind and undergo a chemical reaction.

active transport: ingestion of molecules across a cell membrane.

actuality: the world experienced sensorially. Contrast reality.

adaptation (evolutionary biology): the teleological process of adjusting to ecological circumstance.

adaptive immune system (aka acquired immune system): the portion of the immune system that learns to recognize specific pathogens. Contrast innate immune system.

adenine (A) (C5H5N5): a nucleobase of DNA and RNA, complementary to thymine in DNA or uracil in RNA.

adenosine: a nucleoside of adenine.

ADP (adenosine diphosphate (C10H15N5O10P2)): the product of ATP dephosphorylation, which provides energy for a cell. See ATP.

adsorption: the process of a gas, liquid, or solution gathering on a surface in a condensed layer.

aerobic: living with oxygen. Contrast anaerobic.

aerobic respiration: cellular respiration which employs oxygen. Contrast anaerobic respiration.

aerosol: a suspension of fine liquid or solid particles in gas. Aerosol particles are less than 1 micrometer in diameter.

aether (aka ether, quintessence): a long-presumed ethereal substance that pervades empty space. The assumption was eventually abandoned by physicists in the early 20th century after a futile search.

aka: “also known as.”

alchemy: the study of matter transmutation, which evolved into chemistry.

aldehyde: a common organic compound comprising a carbonyl center with a hydrogen sidekick, connected to a side chain (R): R-C=O-H. An aldehyde group without the side chain is termed an aldehyde group or formyl group. Formaldehyde (CH2O) is the simplest aldehyde. Aldehydes are aromatic. Many fragrances are aldehydes. Compare ketone.

alga (plural: algae): a eukaryotic protist, usually unicellular or colonial, that photosynthesize via chloroplasts.

algorithm: a step-by-step procedure, often employed for mathematical problems. Compare heuristic.

aliphatic compound: the group of hydrocarbons that do not link together to form a ring.

alkali metal: a group of shiny, soft, highly reactive metals, owing to having an affable outermost electron (i.e., an outermost electron in an s-orbital that renders it readily sharable). The 6 alkali metals are: lithium (Li), sodium (Na), potassium (K), rubidium (Rb), cesium (Cs), and francium (Fr).

alkaliphile: an organism that lives in a highly alkaline habitat.

alkane: a hydrocarbon bonded exclusively by single bonds.

alkene: a hydrocarbon with double bonds between carbon atoms.

alkyl: a univalent, aliphatic radical CnH2n + 1 (e.g., methyl, ethyl) derived from an alkane by removal of 1 hydrogen atom.

alkyl group: a chemical functional group, usually designated as R, comprising alkanes. A methyl group is an alkyl derived from methane (CH4). An ethyl group is an alkyl derived from ethane (C2H6).

alkyne: a hydrocarbon with triple bonds between carbon atoms.

allele (aka allelomorph): one of multiple forms of a gene; a variation of a gene at the same locus. Selfsame alleles at a locus are homozygous; if different, heterozygous.

allometry: growth of a body part relative to the entire organism; also, the study thereof.

allopatric speciation: evolution into distinct species owing to populations being isolated from each other.

allosteric activator: an enzyme that enhances activity at an allosteric site. Contrast allosteric inhibitor.

allosteric inhibitor: an enzyme that lessens activity at an allosteric site. Contrast allosteric activator.

allosteric site: a site on a protein other than its active site.

allostery: regulation of an enzyme or other protein by binding an effector molecule at the protein’s allosteric site.

allotrope: a molecular structure of the same atomic species that may take various forms; that is, where element atoms may be bonded together in different ways.

allotropy: the property of an element existing as an allotrope (structural variations).

alpha particle: 2 protons and 2 neutrons bound together into a particle identical to a helium nucleus. Comprising the equivalent of doubly charged helium atoms (stripped of 2 electrons), alpha particles are a relatively slow-moving particulate radiation (alpha decay).

alternation of generations (AoG): alternate asexual and sexual reproductive modes during a multicellular organism’s life cycle. For algae, plants, fungi, and slime molds, AoG also involves different genetic forms at different stages of life: haploid and diploid.

altruism: unselfish behavior.

aluminum (Al): the element with the atomic number 13; a soft, ductile, silvery-white, nonmagnetic metal; the 3rd-most abundant element in Earth’s crust (after oxygen and silicon (silica)), and the most abundant metal. For a metal, aluminum has remarkably low density.

Alzheimer’s disease: an incurable degenerative disease leading to dementia. Symptoms advance to confusion, irritability, mood swings, trouble with language, and memory loss.

amine: a derivative of ammonia.

amino acid: an organic molecule comprising a carboxylic acid group, an amine group, and a side chain specific to the specific amino acid. The key elements in amino acids are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, with other elements found in the side chain.

ammonia (NH3): a colorless gas that figures in biology because of its nitrogen content. In certain microbes, atmospheric nitrogen is converted into ammonia by enzymes termed nitrogenases, in a process called nitrogen fixation.

amphiphilic: a chemical compound with both hydrophilic and lipophilic properties.

amplify (genetics): copy.

amplitude: the height of a wave.

anabolism: the metabolic pathways for constructing biopolymers. See biosynthesis. Contrast catabolism.

anaerobe: an organism that does not require oxygen.

anaerobic: living without oxygen. Contrast aerobic.

anaerobic respiration: cellular respiration without oxygen. Anaerobic respiration is less efficient than aerobic respiration.

analyze: to ascertain and separate an entity (material or abstract) into constituent parts or elements; to determine essential features. Contrast synthesize.

anaphase: the stage of cell division where replicated chromosomes split and 2 daughter chromatids migrate to opposite poles of a cell. See interphase, telophase.

anapole: a toroidal dipole: a solenoid field bent into a torus.

anastasis: the process of a cell recovering from dying.

Andromeda (aka Messier 31, NGC 224): a spiral galaxy 780 kiloparsecs (2.5 million light-years) from Earth; the closest major galaxy to the Milky Way.

angiosperm: a flowering plant, descended from gymnosperms. Angiosperms arose 245 MYA, incorporating several innovations, including leaves, pollen, flowers, and fruit. Angiosperm proliferation began 144 MYA. Over 254,000 species are extant.

angular frequency: the rate of change in the phase of a sinusoidal waveform.

animal: a kingdom of eukaryotic heterotrophs. Most animals are motile. The other kingdoms of eukaryotes are fungi, plants, and protists.

anion: a negatively charged ion (indicating a surplus of electrons). Contrast cation.

annual (botany): an angiosperm that lives 1 year. Compare biennial, perennial. See herbaceous.

anoxic: oxygen depleted.

antiferromagnetism: the material state where the magnetic moments of atoms or molecules align in a regular pattern of neighboring electron spins pointing in opposite directions. Compare ferromagnetism.

antimatter: antiparticle matter. Matter encountering antimatter results in their mutual annihilation.

antioxidant: a molecule that inhibits oxidation of other molecules.

antiparticle: the electromagnetically opposite partner to a subatomic matter particle. For instance, the positron is the antimatter equivalent of the electron.

ape: a tailless primate; not a monkey.

apeiron: an eternal coherence that creates phenomena; a concept proposed by Anaximander. See coherence.

aphid (aka plant lice): an extraordinarily successful insect herbivore comprising 4,400 species in 10 families. Aphids exist worldwide but are most populous in temperate zones. Aphids can migrate great distances by riding the winds. Their success has labeled them as one of the most destructive crop pests in temperate climes. Many aphid species are monophagous: feeding on only 1 plant species. Others forage on hundreds of plant species across many families.

Apollo (technology) (1966–1972): the NASA human spaceflight project that culminated with landing humans on the Moon (20 July 1969) and returning to Earth.

apoptosis: programmed cell death in multicellular organisms.

aquaporin: a cell membrane protein that forms a selective pore in the membrane of a cell.

arborescent (botany): a plant with wood; a treelike plant. See herbaceous.

archaea (singular: archaeon): the group of prokaryotes from which eukaryotes arose; taxonomically a domain of life, alongside bacteria and viruses. Archaea are an extremely robust and versatile life form. Archaea are plentiful in the oceans. The archaea in plankton make them among the most abundant organisms on the planet. Archaea play roles in the carbon cycle and nitrogen cycle. Social to a fault, archaea are commonly mutualists or commensals. No archaeal pathogens or parasites are known.

Archean (3.9–2.5 BYA): the eon when life first appeared on Earth.

arsenic (As): the element with atomic number 33; a metalloid; notoriously poisonous to multicellular life, albeit an essential dietary element to some animals in minute amounts; in humans, a carcinogen that severely damages the intelligence system, causing dementia.

asexual reproduction: biological reproduction from a single parent. Contrast sexual reproduction.

asteroid: a small rocky body orbiting the Sun. Most asteroids emerge from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

atom: the smallest particle of a chemical element, comprising at the simplest a proton and an electron (hydrogen).

atomic clock: an electronic clock kept by microwave emissions from atoms cooled to near 0 K.

atomic decay: particulate radiation by subatomic particles from atomic nuclei. Compare beta decay.

atomic number: the number of protons an atom has.

atomic species: atoms of the same type (same number of protons).

atomic spectral line: a spectral measurement of an electron changing energy level.

atmosphere: the layer of gases that surround a body with enough mass to keep the gas layer. The atmosphere is held in place by the gravity of the body.

atomism: the philosophy that Nature consists of 2 fundamental aspects: atom and void. Atomism developed in both ancient Indian and Greek traditions.

ATP (adenosine triphosphate (C10H16N5O13P3)): the universal cellular energy storage and source molecule. ATP acts like a battery for cellular power. See ADP.

attojoule: a unit of energy equal to 10–18 joules.

attosecond: 10–18 seconds.

audition: sound perception.

aurora: a luminous plasma region of charged particles that appears in a planet’s atmosphere. Auroras sporadically occur in Earth’s upper atmosphere, primarily at the high latitudes of both hemispheres: the aurora borealis (northern lights) and aurora australis (southern lights).

autism: a developmental mental disorder characterized by impaired communication and social interaction, and restricted and repetitive behavior.

autophagy: the catabolic process of recycling and waste disposal in cells. Compare mitophagy. See lysosome, vacuole.

autopoiesis: a dynamic of self-sustaining activity; a system capable of maintaining and reproducing itself. A biological cell maintaining itself is an example of autopoiesis. Compare homeostasis.


B-mode: a curly light polarization pattern.

background extinction: extinction limited to relatively few species. Contrast mass extinction.

bacteria (singular: bacterium): a taxonomic domain of single-celled prokaryotes, abundant in most ecosystems. Bacteria play vital roles in various facets of the biosphere.

bacteriophage: a virus that preys on bacteria.

bad metal: a metal in which electrical conductivity does not lessen with heat.

Barr body: an inactivated X chromosome.

baryon: a composite particle of ordinary matter: protons and neutrons, which each consists of 3 quarks.

base (chemistry): a molecule capable of accepting a hydron. Bases react with acids. Contrast acid.

base pair (genetics): 2 complementary nucleobases on opposite DNA (or certain RNA) strands, linked by hydrogen bonds.

base sequence (genetics): an order of nucleotide bases (1 of a base pair) in a DNA molecule.

basement (rock): a rock below a sedimentary platform. Basement rock is igneous or metamorphic in origin.

bat: a mammal with forelimbs forming webbed wings. Bats are the only mammal capable of sustained flight. 1,240 bat species are known; 70% are insectivores.

bee: a flying insect of 20,000 species. Bees, like ants, are a specialized form of wasp. Bees are best known for their product from pollinating flowering plants: honey.

Bell’s theorem: a 1964 theorem by John Stewart Bell that quantum mechanics must necessarily violate either the principle of locality or counterfactual definiteness. Bell held that locality is violated and counterfactual definiteness applies.

benthic zone: the ecological region at the bottom of the ocean or other water body, including the sediment surface and subsurface layers.

benzene (C6H6): an aromatic hydrocarbon; a natural constituent of crude oil; a human carcinogen.

berkelium (Bk): the element with atomic number 97; a soft, silvery-white radioactive metal with a half-life of 330 days.

beryllium (Be): the element with atomic number 4; a rare, toxic, insoluble metal which only occurs naturally in combination with other mineral elements. Beryllium was first isolated in 1828.

beta decay (β-decay): radioactive decay of atomic nuclei or particle transmutation, emitting beta particles (electrons or positrons), mediated by the weak force. Compare atomic decay.

beta particle: an electron or positron on a mission as part of beta decay.

Big Bang: the hypothesis that the universe began with an initial energetic cosmic explosion from a dense, hot state of singularity. That this universe started with a Big Bang ~14 BYA is a myth. The universe is much older. See cosmic inflation.

binary fission: a form of asexual reproduction where a single parent becomes 2 daughters.

biochemistry: the chemistry of organisms.

bioelement: a planetary ecological element. The bioelements include the atmosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere, and biota.

biennial (botany): an angiosperm that takes 2 years to complete its life cycle. Contrast annual, perennial. See herbaceous.

biofilm: a colony of prokaryotes encased in a stabilizing polymer matrix, commonly known as slime.

biogenesis: biological origin (genesis).

biological pump: the ocean’s biologically driven sequestration of carbon and other essential nutrients into the deep ocean.

biology: the science of life.

biome: an area where organisms live with similar conditions, both geographically and climatically.

biopolymer: a polymer produced by a cell.

bioproduct: a biologically synthesized chemical compound.

biosphere: the global summation of Earth’s ecosystems.

biosynthesis: a cellular construction process; conversion of substrates into more complex products. See anabolism.

biota: the organisms in an environment.

biotrophic: dependent upon another organism as a nutrient source.

bioturbation: displacement and mixing of sediment by fauna or flora.

black body: an idealized opaque/non-reflective object which absorbs all incident electromagnetic radiation. The term was coined by Gustav Kirchhoff in 1862.

black-body radiation: an electromagnetic radiation about a black body. Black-body radiation has a specific spectrum and intensity that depends only on the temperature of the body.

black hole: an infinitely dense celestial void that draws in matter and light, rendering the singularity black. Albert Einstein knew of the idea of black holes as a side effect of general relativity but did not think they could exist, writing in 1939 that the idea was “not convincing.” Tom Bolton discovered the first evidence of a black hole in 1971.

black hole evaporation: an alternate term for Hawking radiation.

bladderwort: a freshwater, carnivorous, flowering plant in the genus Utricularia, with 233 species; found in wet soil or in the water; extant worldwide except Antarctica.

bleb: reproduction by breaking off a daughter cell in bacteria that lack cell walls (L-form state).

blood: an animal body fluid employed to transport nutrients to and waste products from cells.

blood-brain barrier: an animal defense mechanism to protect the brain from infection by separating circulating blood from brain extracellular fluid.

bolide: a brighter-than-usual meteor; officially defined from a perspective on Earth as a fireball brighter than any of the planets.

bond (chemistry): a shared electron pair between 2 atoms.

bond energy: a measure of the strength of a chemical bond.

bond order: the number of chemical bonds (bonding electron pairs) between a pair of atoms.

bonobo (Pan paniscus): a peaceable ape, closely related to the chimpanzee and human species. Bonobos have a matriarchal society. Bonobos are notably fond of sexual behaviors.

bookmarking (genetics): an epigenetic mechanism of cellular memory by marking genes during mitosis in a way that persists. Bookmarking is vital for maintaining a lineage of cell specialization, so that one cell type does not become another.

boron (B): the element with atomic number 5; a water-soluble metalloid concentrated on Earth in borate mineral compounds. Because boron is produced entirely by cosmic ray spallation (cosmic rays bombarding objects) and not by stellar nucleosynthesis (stellar fusion debris), there is little of it in the solar system, including Earth’s crust.

Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC): a coherent state of matter for a dilute gas of weakly-interacting bosons cooled near 0 Kelvin. BEC exhibits extraordinary quantum mechanical properties at a macroscopic scale. Named after Satyendra Bose and Albert Einstein, who predicted this matter state in 1924.

boson: a quantum that carries a fundamental force, according to quantum physics’ Standard Model. Named after Satyendra Bose. Contrast fermion.

bow-tie (paradigm): a processing structure capable of handling a diversity of inputs (fan-in) and producing divergent outputs (fan out).

Bragg peak: the apex of ionizing radiation; named after its 1903 discoverer, William Henry Bragg.

brane: a string theory construct of an HD membrane.

braneworld: a physical model using branes. Braneworld models are extensions from earlier M-theory and D-brane models.

bridgmanite ((Mg,Fe)SiO3) (formerly perovskite): a ferromagnesian silicate mineral; the predominant mineral (38%) in Earth’s lower mantle.

brown dwarf: a substellar body too low in mass to sustain fusion reactions in its core, unlike stars, which do.

Brownian motion: the seemingly random movement of particles suspended in a fluid (gas or liquid). Named after Robert Brown.

Brucella: a genus of bacteria named after David Bruce. Brucella cause brucellosis: a zoonosis transmitted by direct contact with an infected animal or ingesting contaminated food.

budding: a mother creating a smaller daughter. Baker’s yeast reproduces by budding.

butterfly effect: a sensitive dependence on initial conditions, where an incremental change at one place in a nonlinear system creates a cascade which results in large changes.

BYA: billions of years ago. BY as an acronym for “billion years” is deprecated in modern geophysics in favor of Ga, shorthand for gigaannum. The author prefers a sensible acronym to one which is a head-scratcher.


cadherin: a calcium-dependent cell adhesion (CAM) protein.

calcium (Ca): the element with atomic number 20. Calcium is a soft, gray, alkaline, earth metal. See calcium channel.

calculus: the mathematical study of change.

Callisto: the 2nd-largest moon of Jupiter, after Ganymede, and the 3rd-largest moon in the solar system (Titan is larger).

(large) calorie: the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water 1 °C.

Cambrian (542–485 MYA): the 1st period of the Palaeozoic era, when the fossil record evidences a vast proliferation of complex life. The name derives from Latin for the area in Wales where the best Cambrian rocks in Britain are exposed.

cancer: a disease characterized by uncontrolled cell growth.

capacitance: the ratio of change in electric charge to change in electric potential.

capillary: a tiny tube in a multicellular organism, typically to facilitate fluid flow to cells.

capillary action: the ability of a liquid to readily flow when narrowly confined in a solid tube, essentially ignoring gravity.

carbene: a molecule comprising a neutral carbon atom with a valence of 2, and 2 unshared valence electrons; also used to refer to methylene.

carbohydrate: a macromolecule containing carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Carbohydrates are sugars of varying complexities.

carbon (C): the element with atomic number 6; an extremely friendly element, with 4 electrons available to form covalent bonds. Life is based upon molecules made with a carbon backbone.

carbon cycle: the gaseous cycling of carbon exchange among the geosphere, pedosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere.

carbon dioxide (CO2): a colorless gas that has fluctuated in concentration in Earth’s atmosphere through geologic time. Plants breathe CO2; animals exhale it. CO2 is a greenhouse gas.

carbon–nitrogen–oxygen (CNO) cycle: a catalytic fusion reaction cycle by which stars combust. See proton–proton chain reaction.

carbonyl: a chemical functional group of a carbon atom double-bonded to an oxygen atom (C=O).

carboxylic acid: a polar molecule (–CO2H) connected to a hydrocarbon. A carboxylic acid completes itself with a side chain.

Carnot cycle: a 19th-century theory by French engineer Nicolas Carnot about efficiently converting heat into work.

carotenoid: a tetraterpenoid organic pigment occurring in photosynthetic organelles of plants (e.g., chloroplasts).

Cas (CRISPR-associated system): a gene associated with a CRISPR.

cascade event: an event which results in related follow-on events (cascade effect).

Casimir effect: a facet of quantum field theory about physical forces arising from a quantized field. Named after Hendrik Casimir.

caspase (an acronym for cysteine-aspartic proteases): a family of protease enzymes that play a critical role in inflammation and programmed cell death (including apoptosis, pyroptosis, and necroptosis).

catabolism: the controlled cellular process (metabolic pathway) of breaking down organic matter to harvest energy via cellular respiration. Compare anabolism.

catalysis: an increase in the rate of chemical reaction due to a catalyst.

catalyst: a molecule that causes a change in rate of a chemical reaction by lowering the energy necessary to effect a reaction.

catenane: a molecular compound containing multiple interlocked rings without being chemically bonded.

cation: a positively charged ion (indicating a deficit of electrons). Contrast anion.

causality (aka (noun) cause and effect, (adjective) cause-and-effect): the idea that one phenomenon provokes a succeeding phenomenon. Contrast correlation.

cause (verb) (physics): to effect; to bring about.

cell (biology): the basic physical unit of living organisms.

cell cycle (aka cell-division cycle): the cellular life cycle, descriptively emphasizing cell division/replication. A cell lives ~90% of its life in interphase. Cell division begins with prophase, as cells tighten their genetic package in preparation for segregation and division. Plant cells have a preliminary step to prophase, termed preprophase, in which the nucleus migrates to the center of the cell. Following prophase, eukaryotic somatic cells enter prometaphase, in which the nuclear membrane breaks apart, and the chromosomes inside form protein structures called kinetochores. Prometaphase is sometimes considered part of the end of prophase, and early metaphase. During metaphase, chromosomes are pulled toward opposite ends of the cell. In anaphase, 2 identical daughter chromosomes form. In the 1st step of telophase, 2 daughter nuclei form. The cell is bifurcated in the process called cytokinesis, whereupon telophase ends with 2 daughter cells.

cell division: eukaryotic cell replication. See cell cycle.

cell wall: the flexible membrane holding the contents of a cell and providing an interface to the external environment.

cellular respiration: a set of metabolic reactions within a cell to convert biochemical energy from nutrients into ATP and then release waste products.

Celsius (aka centigrade): a commonly used temperature scale; named after Anders Celsius, who devised the inverse of an otherwise similar scale in 1742. In 1954, following the 1743 suggestion of Jean-Pierre Christin, the scale was revised to its current form, a more scientific standard related to the Kelvin scale, with the triple point of purified water as a key reference point. Celsius and Kelvin have the same magnitude of degrees. The difference is that the two are at an offset: 0°C = 273.15 K; −273.15°C = 0 K. See Kelvin.

Centaurus: a bright constellation in the southern sky; known to Ptolemy in the 2nd century. Named after the centaur, which is an ancient Greek mythological creature that is a human upper torso on a horse’s body.

centripetal force: a force that makes a body follow a curved path. The mathematical description of centripetal force was derived by Christiaan Huygens in 1659.

centromere: the part of a chromosome that links sister chromatids, which are the identical copies (chromatids) formed by replication of a single chromosome.

centrosome: an organelle in cells that serves as the main organizing center of microtubules.

cephalopod: a class of marine animals in the mollusk phylum. Squid, octopuses, cuttlefish, and nautilus are among the over 800 extant species of cephalopods.

cesium (Cs) (aka cæsium): the element with the atomic number 55; a soft, silvery-gold alkali metal; with a melting point of 28.5 ºC, cesium is 1 of only 5 elements that is liquid at ambient temperature.

chaos theory: the study of dynamic systems highly sensitive to initial conditions, yielding widely divergent outcomes depending upon incremental differences early on. See butterfly effect.

chaperonin: a protein that provides a scaffold for initial protein folding.

Charaka Samhita (aka Compendium of Charaka) (3rd century ce): a compendium of 8 books on traditional Indian medicine (Ayurveda).

charge (electric): the force of electromagnetism per unit of time, measured in coulombs. Electrochemical charge is measured in faraday.

charge conjugation: a transform of a quantum particle into its antiparticle.

charge order: the orderliness in arrangement of electrons and holes with the same spin and momenta.

charge separation: the process of an atomic electron being excited to a higher energy level by absorbing a photon, and thereby by leaving home to join a nearby electron acceptor.

cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus): a large feline indigenous to Africa and part of the Middle East. The cheetah is the absolute fastest land animal: able to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 3 seconds and sustain 115 km/h for short distances (500 m). The cheetah’s agility and ability to anticipate the escape maneuvers of its specific quarry gives it the hunting edge it needs.

chemical species: atoms or molecules that are energetically equivalent.

chemistry: the study of matter, especially chemical reactions.

chemosynthesis: employing chemical reactions to generate usable energy.

chemotaxis: cell or organism orientation or movement toward or away from a chemical stimulus.

Cherenkov radiation: an electromagnetic radiation caused by charged particles polarizing molecules in a medium, resulting in radiation during the medium’s return to its ground state. The characteristic blue glow of nuclear reactors owes to Cherenkov radiation. Named after Pavel Cherenkov, Cherenkov radiation had been predicted by Oliver Heaviside in 1888.

Chicxulub: site of a 66 million-year-old impact crater underneath the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico.

chimeric: an organism of diverse genomic constitution.

chimeric gene: a gene formed from a combination of different coding sequences to produce a new gene.

chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes): a medium-sized ape, closely related to bonobos and humans.

chirality: handedness that demonstrates asymmetry. In organic chemistry, chirality is most often caused by an asymmetric carbon atom within the molecule.

chlorine (Cl): chemical element with atomic number 17. Chlorine is in the halogen group of elements. Chlorine is typically a yellow-green gas of diatomic molecules. Chlorine readily combines with other elements. Chlorine has the highest electron affinity, and the 3rd-highest electronegativity of all elements. Chlorine is a strong oxidizing agent.

chlorofluorocarbon (CFC): an organic compound comprising carbon, chlorine, fluorine, and hydrogen, produced as a volatile derivative of ethane and methane.

chlorophyll: the green biomolecule in plants that absorbs light for photosynthesis.

chloroplast: the photosynthetic organelle (plastid) found in algae and plant cells.

chloroplast capture: obtaining the genome of another plant by uptake of an organelle.

choanoflagellate: a unicellular, flagellate, planktonic eukaryote.

chondrite: a stony (nonmetallic) meteorite; formed from dust and small grains in the early solar system by accretion into primitive asteroids.

chromatid: a copy of a newly copied chromosome which is still joined to the original copy by a single centromere.

chromatin: the combined package of proteins and DNA that comprise physical genetic information storage in the nucleus of a eukaryotic cell.

chromophore: the moiety that causes a conformational change of a photosensitive molecule when hit by light.

chromosomal mosaicism: the condition of individual cells in a multicellular organism each having their own genome (pergenome).

chromosome: an elaborately coiled molecular package of genetic material in a eukaryotic cell, comprising DNA, regulatory elements such as histones, and other nucleotide sequences. Chromosome is sometimes used to refer to genophore as well, thus fuzzing its definition. For clarity, the distinction between the two is maintained in Spokes. Compare genophore.

chromosphere: the 2nd of 3 main layers in the Sun’s atmosphere. The Sun’s corona lies outside the chromosphere.

chron: the duration of consistency in Earth’s magnetic field before reversing. A chron may last 0.1–1 million years, with an average of 450,000 years.

ciliate: a group of protozoans characterized by cilia.

cilium (plural: cilia): a hair-like protuberance from a cell, employed for sensory perception and/or locomotion (motile cilia). Flagella and motile cilia comprise a group of organelles termed undulipodia. Compare flagellum.

circadian rhythm: a biological process entrained to an endogenous oscillation of ~24 hours.

cis-regulatory element: a region of noncoding DNA that regulates transcription of nearby genes.

cisterna (plural: cisternae): a flattened membrane that is part of the Golgi body.

cistron: a segment of DNA with all the template information required for producing a genetic product; a synonym for gene.

citrate: a derivative of citric acid (C6H8O7), which is a weak organic acid.

classical information theory: a branch of applied mathematics and electrical engineering concerned with quantifying information. Computers are working examples of classical information theory.

classical physics (mechanics): the Newtonian model of physics, notably gravity as a force of attraction; epitomized by Newton’s 3 laws of motion and the laws of thermodynamics. Compare modern physics.

clutch: a group of laid eggs.

CMB (cosmic microwave background): thermal radiation permeating the observable universe.

CNO cycle: see carbon–nitrogen–oxygen cycle.

coding DNA (or strand or region): a DNA sequence, composed of exons, that codes for a protein.

codon: a nucleotide triplet which runs along the length of a DNA ladder. Codons were once though descriptive of the way that genetic information is stored but were found to be only a partial picture. See cistron.

cofactor: a molecule that binds to a protein to have the protein perform a task. Enzymes are typically activated by cofactors, which act as helper molecules. A cofactor molecule may either be an inorganic ion or organic (coenzyme).

coherence: the intelligent interaction behind Nature.

Cold War (1947–1991): the political and military tension after World War 2 between the United States (and its allies) and the Soviet Union (and its minion nations).

collective excitation: a subatomic particle not recognized in the Standard Model which behaves like a boson. Phonons and plasmons are collective excitations. Contrast quasiparticle.

coleoid: a soft-bodied cephalopod. Squid, octopuses, and cuttlefish are coleoids.

color charge: an abstracted indication of a particle’s strong interaction according to quantum chromodynamics theory. Color charge is a property of a subatomic particle’s field interaction with the strong nuclear force.

comet: a ball of ice and dust originating in the Oort cloud, in the outer reaches of the solar system.

common ancestor: the hypothesis that all life somehow arose from a single life form.

compactification (astrophysics): a hypothesis that any extra spatial dimensions that may exist do so at less than Planck length.

complex conjugate: a complex-number pair where the real components are identical but the imaginary parts, though of equal magnitude, have opposite signs. 1 + 2i and 1–2i are exemplary complex conjugates.

complex number: a number in the form of a + bi, where a and b are real numbers, and i is an imaginary number (√–1). Complex numbers extend a conceptual 1-dimensional number line (of real numbers) to a 2-dimensional complex plane (of real and imaginary numbers).

complex system: a nested hierarchical network.

compound (chemistry): a combination of elements bonded into a molecule.

concentration gradient (biology): an unequal distribution of ions across a cell membrane, causing a solute flow. Such movement is termed diffusion.

concept (aka idea): an abstract construct involving discriminatory categorization.

conceptualize, conceptualization: mentally resolving perceptions into a concept.

condensate: a condensed medium, typically a gas or liquid.

condensation reaction: a chemical reaction combining 2 moieties or molecules that results in a larger molecule, albeit at the loss of a small molecule.

conduction: (atomic) thermal transfer. See convection.

conductor (chemistry): a material amenable to transmitting electric charges and/or heat. Contrast insulator, resistor.

conformation (chemistry): a spatial configuration of elements.

conjugation (microbes, particularly bacteria): a term used for horizontal gene transfer (HGT) by researchers in 1946, who analogized HGT process to sex.

connective (tissue): 1 of the 4 primary animal tissue types. Connective tissue supports, separates, or connects other tissues. Immersed in body fluids, connective tissue is composed of cells, fibers, and extracellular matrix. See also epithelium, muscle, and intelligence (tissue).

consciousness: the platform for awareness in an individual life constituent, such as a protein, cell, or organism. Compare Ĉonsciousness.

Ĉonsciousness: the unified field of consciousness. Ĉonsciousness naturally localizes into individualized consciousnesses. Compare consciousness.

conservation (evolutionary genetics): preservation of a trait through generations (of cells or offspring).

conservation of energy: the unproven hypothesis that the energy of an isolated system is constant; that energy can be neither created nor destroyed in a closed system. Related to the 1st law of thermodynamics.

conservation of momentum: the theory, implied by Newton’s laws of motion, that the total momentum of a closed system is a constant.

constructal law: the tenet that the design and evolution of all forms aim to facilitate flow; postulated by Adrian Bejan in 1996.

continent: a gigantic landmass, 7 of which are currently extant on Earth: Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia Europe, North America, and South America.

continental drift: the movement of tectonic plates that causes continental masses to move about.

continuum mechanics: the study of matter as a process (rather than their particulate appearance).

convection: the concerted, collective movement of fluids (liquids, gases) and rheids (a solid deformed by viscous flow).

convection zone: the outermost layer of a star’s interior, where turbulent energetic convection occurs.

convergent evolution (aka parallel evolution): the independent evolution of similar traits in organisms of separate species which are usually not closely related.

Cooper pair: 2 fermions, typically electrons, entangled via a phonon. Named after Leon Cooper, who first described the phenomenon in 1956.

Copenhagen interpretation: a conclusion formed in the late 1920s that wave/particle duality is merely computational, not actual.

Copernican principle: the hypothesis that the Earth is not the center of the universe. Named after Nicolaus Copernicus.

coral: a colonial marine invertebrate comprising numerous identical polyps.

core-accretion theory: a simplistic cosmological model of planetary development in star systems.

corona: an extremely hot plasma layer toward the outer edge of a star’s atmosphere.

coronal mass ejection: a prominent release of plasma and magnetic field energy from the solar corona. Compare solar flare.

correlation: the fact that multiple phenomena coincide. Contrast causality.

cortisol: a glucocorticoid released when blood sugar is low or in response to stress.

corticosteroid: a class of steroid hormones involved in many vertebrate physiological responses, including stress, immunity, and regulation of carbohydrate and protein metabolism, inflammation, blood electrolyte level, and behavior.

cosmic inflation: a myth about the early cosmos, claiming that the universe had a near-instantaneous massive inflation 3×10–36 seconds after the onset of the Big Bang, which abruptly stopped. Cosmic inflation outrageously violates physics as understood.

cosmic microwave background (CMB): thermal radiation permeating the observable universe.

cosmic ray: radiation from outer space.

cosmogony: a conjecture about the origin of the universe.

cosmological constant: as an adjunct to general relativity, a construct first coined by Einstein to create a stationary universe.

cosmological principle: the false axiom that the distribution of matter in the universe is homogeneous and isotropic when viewed on a large-enough scale.

cosmology: the study of the universe.

cosmotrophic: an organism that can survive in space.

Coulomb force (aka Coulomb’s law): the physics of static electricity, proposed by Charles-Augustin de Coulomb in 1784. More properly, an inverse-square law characterizing the electrostatic interaction between electrically charged particles. Coulomb’s law was crucial in the development of the theory of electromagnetism, most prominently advanced by James Clerk Maxwell.

counterfactual: contrary to facts.

counterfactual (physics): values which could have been measured but were not. This is distinct from normal usage of the term.

counterfactual definiteness (CFD): a theory that phenomena are probabilistically consistent in repeatability. CFD is related to quantum mechanics and the uncertainty principle, regarding locality and superluminal interaction (entanglement). The validity of CFD was under consideration in Bell’s theorem.

covalent bond: a stable chemical bond by sharing 1 or more pairs of electrons between atoms of a molecule.

CP (physics): an acronym for 2 hypothetical particle symmetries: charge conjugation (C) and parity (P).

CP violation: violation of charge conjugation (C) and/or parity (P) in a CP symmetrical system.

CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats): a cluster of short, repeated DNA sequences found in prokaryotes from encounters with foreign DNA.

critical point: the point (in temperature, pressure, or composition) at which no phase boundaries exist for a substance.

critical temperature: the temperature below which a material becomes super-conducting.

crust (baking): the hard exterior of a bread loaf; the pastry portion of a pie.

crust (geology): the outermost solid slab of a rocky planet.

crystal: a solid characterized by an orderly, repeating pattern. A lattice is a typical crystalline pattern.

cryptochrome: a photosensitive protein, particularly blue light.

current (electrical): a flow of electric charge through a medium; alternately, a measure of charge passing through a point every time unit; measured in amps.

cyanobacteria: photosynthetic eubacteria; often called blue-green algae, though they are not in the same group as algae.

cyclic cosmology: a model that posits universes eternally coming and going. The cyclic model supposes a multiverse.

cycloalkane: a hydrocarbon with 1 or more rings of carbon atoms.

cytogenetics: the branch of genetics studying the structure and functions of eukaryotic cells, especially chromosomes.

cytokine: a group of small proteins critical to cell signaling.

cytokinesis: the process by which the cytoplasm of a eukaryotic cell divides.

cytology: the study of living cells.

cytolysis (aka osmotic lysis): an osmotic (water) imbalance from excess water inside a cell, causing the cell to burst.

cytoplasm: the watery gel that holds a cell’s organelles within a plasma membrane.

cytosine (C) (C4H5N3O): a nucleobase of DNA and RNA. Cytosine is complementary to guanine. Cytosine is inherently unstable and can spontaneously change into uracil (spontaneous deamination). If not repaired, spontaneous deamination results in a point mutation.

cytoskeleton: filaments of protein within a cell, providing cellular scaffolding.


D-brane: a higher dimensional (hd) object; related to M-theory.

Dada (aka Dadaism): an early 20th-century art movement in Europe and North America which rejected reason and the aestheticism of modern capitalism for nonsense and an anti-bourgeois sentiment.

dark energy: an aberration in ΛCDM of a hypothetical energy that permeates 3d space, exerting negative pressure, thus tending to accelerate the expansion of the universe.

dark matter: a discredited hypothetical matter that supposedly exists extra-dimensionally (ed), lending only gravitational distortion to experiential 3d space. Despite extensive search, no evidence of dark matter has been found. Contrast baryon, light matter.

data: factual information.

daughter cell: a cell formed from a parent cell.

de novo: anew.

decay event: an event initiating radiation.

decision theory: (statistics): quantitative methods for reaching optimal decisions for defined problems. Decision theory is related to game theory.

decoherence: loss of quantum coherence (superposition) via environmental interactions.0

deduction (logic): the method of inferring a conclusion about particulars from general principles. Contrast induction.

degree of freedom: 1 of a limited number of ways in which a dynamic system may change.

delocalize: to free from locality.

density wave: an oscillation in the galactic gravitational field that influences star motion.

dephosphorylation: removing at least 1 phosphate group from an organic compound via hydrolysis. Energy is gained from ATP by dephosphorylation; ATP is turned into ADP. Contrast phosphorylation.

determinism: belief in cause and effect, from which emanates the doctrine that all facts and events exemplify natural laws.

deuterium (aka heavy hydrogen): a stable isotope of hydrogen, comprising a nucleus of a proton and a neutron. Contrast protium.

dialectic: logical argumentation based upon the interaction of juxtaposed ideas.

diamidophosphate (PO2(NH2)2−): a simple ion of phosphorous, nitrogen, and hydrogen.

diatom: an alga; one of the most common phytoplankton.

diatomaceous earth: a soft, siliceous sedimentary rock, easily crumbled into a fine whitish powder. Diatomaceous earth comprises fossilized diatoms.

diatomic: 2 nuclides of the same atomic species.

diffraction: the bending of energy waves around obstacles.

diffusion (chemistry): the passage of molecules between chemical species.

dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR): an enzyme critical to producing DNA precursors.

dinosaur: a diverse clade of largely extinct reptiles, excepting birds; an arbitrary exclusion, as birds descended from dinosaurs.

diploid: a cell having 2 sets of chromosomes. Most eukaryotes, and almost all mammals, are diploid: 2 sets, 1 from each parent, typically through sexual reproduction. Compare haploid.

dipole (physical chemistry): a polar molecule.

dipole (physics): a pair of equal and opposing electric or magnetic poles, separated by an infinitesimal distance.

Dirac equation: a relativistic quantum mechanical wave equation that characterizes the spin of fermions; created by Paul Dirac in 1928.

Dirac fermion: a fermion with mass and charge; named after Paul Dirac. Ordinary matter is made of Dirac fermions. Compare Weyl fermion, Majorana fermion.

diradical: a molecular species with 2 electrons occupying 2 degenerate (equal energy) orbits. O2 and CH2 (methylene and carbene) are exemplary diradicals.

dirt: see soil.

disordered hyperuniformity: coherent patterning within an apparently disordered system.

dispersion relation: the effect of dispersion on waves in a medium. Dispersion occurs when pure plane waves of distinct wavelengths have their own propagation velocities, so that a wave packet of mixed wavelengths tends to spread out in space.

dissolved organic matter (DOM): the slowly sinking remains of oceanic life.

distributed causality: multiple agents in a nonlinear dynamic system that render initial causality uncertain.

divergent (mathematics): in context, an integral that sums to infinity.

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid (C5H10O4)): a long, double-stranded molecular chain employed as a physical template for biochemical production. DNA is physically heritable. There is no reasonable explanation based upon known facts that the information essential for trait inheritance is portered by DNA; quite the contrary: DNA itself cannot possibly be the energetic agent of heredity. See RNA.

domain (biological classification) (aka empire): the 2nd highest taxon (below life), with 3 classes: archaea, bacteria, and viruses.

dominant (trait): a genetic trait that masks a recessive trait.

DON: dissolved organic nitrogen.

Doppler shift (aka Doppler effect): a change in observed frequency relative to the source of a generated wave; proposed by Christian Doppler in 1842.

double bond: a chemical (covalent) bond of sharing 2 pairs of electrons. Compare single bond and triple bond.

doublet (chemistry): a diradical with a spin of 1/2. Contrast singlet and triplet.

Down’s syndrome (aka Down syndrome, trisomy 21): a human genetic developmental disorder that causes physical growth delays and intellectual disability.

dwarf galaxy: a relatively small galaxy, with up to a few billion stars. The term dwarf is relative to the Milky Way galaxy, which has 200–400 billion stars.

dynamic kinetic stability: the ability of a dynamic system to maintain homeostasis.


E = mc2: an equivalence of energy and mass, embodying the concept that the mass of an object is a measure of its energy content; formulated by Albert Einstein in 1905.

  1. (Escherichia) coli: a rod-shaped enterobacteria commonly found in the lower intestine of endothermic organisms. E. coli normally colonize an infant’s gut within 40 hours of birth, delivered by food, water, or mere handling. E. coli has long been a model organism in microbiology studies; one of the first organisms to have its entire genome sequenced, in 1977.

Earth: the 3rd planet from the Sun; the densest and 5th largest.

ecology: an interactive interface; patterns of relations among entities; as a subdiscipline of biology, patterns of interrelations between life forms (e.g., cells, organisms) and their environment (including other organisms); more broadly, the relations between bioelements.

ecosystem: the community of biota in a biome, and the abiotic (non-living) elements within the area.

ectotherm: an animal species without internal means to maintain thermal homeostasis. Ectothermic species, such as reptiles, practice behaviors to regulate body temperature, like lying in the Sun to warm oneself. Commonly misnamed cold-blooded, ectotherms’ blood is just as warm as endotherms. Compare endotherm.

ed: extra dimensions (or extra dimensionality); the dimensions of existence beyond those that are perceptible and measurable. See 4d and hd.

effector molecule: a regulatory molecule that binds to a protein and alters the protein’s activity.

egene: (the idea of) an energetic hereditary unit which conveys all the information needed to create a trait or biological effect. Nucleic acids alone cannot explain heredity. Compare gene.

egg: an organic vessel in which an embryo first begins development. See sperm.

eigenstate: a measured state of an object with quantifiable characteristics, such as position and momentum. The state must be measurable and have a definite value (eigenvalue).

electric dipole moment (EDM): a measure of electrical polarity by measuring the separation between negative and positive charges.

electric potential (aka electric field potential, electrostatic potential): the amount of work needed to move a positive charge inside a field without creating acceleration.

electrical resistance: a measure of opposition to flow of an electric current. See conductor and resistor.

electrodynamics: the branch of classical physics studying the interactions between electric charges and currents.

electrolyte: a substance that releases ions when dissolved in water. Salts, acids, and bases are electrolytes.

electromagnetic radiation (EMR): energy emitted and absorbed by charged particles. EMR exhibits wavelike behavior as it traverses space.

electromagnetic spectrum: a continuum of increasing energy intensity, from longer wavelengths to shorter.

electromagnetism: one of the fundamental physics forces, affecting particles that are electrically charged. Except for gravity, electromagnetism is the ambient physical interaction responsible for practically all phenomena encountered in everyday life.

electron: a negatively charged fermion. An electron hypothetically has 1/1836 the mass of a proton when at rest, but an electron is never at rest.

electron acceptor: an atom or molecule that accepts electrons.

electron cloud: the cumulative electron shells of an atom.

electron diffraction: reference to the wave nature of electrons.

electron orbital: the orbit of an electron about an atomic nucleus. See shell.

electron transfer: the donation of an electron from one atom to another.

electron transport chain: an electron transfer by coupling an electron donor and electron acceptor, with a transfer of hydrons across a membrane. For an electron transport chain to function, allowing electrons to pass through, an exogenous electron acceptor must be present at the end of the chain. Cell respiration requires an electron transport chain.

electron volt (eV): an energy measurement unit. 1 eV is the energy that an electron gains in passing through an electric field with a potential difference of 1 volt.

electronegativity: the measure of a chemical species to take electrons; electroaffinity would be a more accurate term. Contrast electropositivity.

electropositivity: the measure of a chemical species to donate electrons; electrocharity would be better. Contrast electronegativity.

electrostatics: the branch of physics studying electric charges at rest.

electroweak force: a quantum field theory uniting the electromagnetic and weak forces.

elegance (mathematics): an attribution to a physical model that is relatively simple and mathematically cogent.

element (chemistry): a species of atoms with the same number of protons in their nuclei.

elementary particle: a subatomic particle that has supposedly no constituents, even though they do: virtual particles. Elementary particles are the supposed bottom-up building blocks of the cosmos, and, by their continuous 4d/ed interaction, comprise an interface between observable (4d) manifestation and actual (hd) existence. See hd.

embryogenesis: the process by which an embryo develops.

emergence: the way that complexity arises from a multiplicity of simple interactions. The idea of emergence has been around at least since Aristotle, who expressed that the totality of reality is greater than the sum of its parts; a non-reductionist sentiment. In physics, emergence refers to existence coming into being on an infinitesimal moment-by-moment basis.

empirical: based upon fact.

empiricism (epistemology): the presumption that knowledge derives solely from sensory experience.

empiricism (philosophy of science): the belief that Nature may be entirely explained by physical forces.

Enceladus: the 6th largest of Saturn’s 62 moons.

endocytosis: the cellular process of absorbing macromolecules, such as proteins, by engulfing them. All cells employ endocytosis. Contrast exocytosis.

endogenous (biology): originating within an organism. Contrast exogenous.

endogenous retrovirus: a transposable element that resembles a retrovirus.

endoplasmic reticulum (ER): an organelle connected to the nuclear membrane; a membranous network of sac-like structures (cisternae) held together by the cytoskeleton. ER serves various functions, including carbohydrate metabolism, lipid synthesis, glycoprotein production, and cell membrane manufacture. ER also plays a critical role in assisting mitochondrial division and replication.

endosperm: the nutritious tissue inside flowering plant seeds.

endosymbiont: an organism living within the body or cells of another organism, forming a symbiotic relationship.

endosymbiosis: the evolutionary incorporation of an organism by another.

endotherm: an animal species with internal means to maintain thermal homeostasis. Birds and mammals are endotherms. Endothermy raises an animal’s metabolic needs compared to ectothermic animals. Compare ectotherm.

endothermic reaction: a chemical reaction that absorbs thermal energy. Contrast exothermic reaction.

energy (physics): the idea of an immaterial force acting upon or producing matter. Energy is characterized relatively and by type (how it affects matter). Energy manifests only through its effect on matter. Though the foundational construct of existence, energy itself does not exist. As matter is made of energy, this fact tidily proves energyism.

energy landscape: a set of possible conformations, with each potential spatial position (conformation) having an associated energy level.

energyism (aka (philosophical) immaterialism): the monistic doctrine that Nature is a figment of the mind. Energyism differentiates between actuality and reality. Whereas actuality is phenomenal, reality has a noumenal substrate, emergently spawning a shared actuality (showtivity) via a unified Ĉonsciousness. Contrast matterism.

entanglement (physics): distinct phenomena behaving synchronously. Entanglement defies locality.

entropy (physics, particularly thermodynamics): the tendency of energy to dissipate and equilibrate; a measure of thermal energy unavailable for work; introduced by Rudolf Clausius in 1865. An entropic interaction is one where energy is locally lost. Gravity is entropic.

environment: a designated spatial region or conceptual realm.

envirotype: the ecological influences on an organism and typical organism interactions with the environment.

enzymatic: (an) enzyme catalyzed or inhibited (reaction).

enzyme: a protein that facilitates the activities of other proteins or substrates. Enzymes typically act as catalysts.

epiallele: the idea of an allele loaded with epigenetic information, affording divergence from straightforward gene expression.

epigenetics: (the study of) gene regulation and physical heredity mechanisms without changing the structure of the DNA involved – that is, without genetic mutation.

epigenome: the conceptual sum of instructions in a cell affecting access and expression of genes.

epipubic bone: a pair of bones projecting forward from the pelvic bones of modern marsupials and most non-placental fossil mammals.

epithelium (plural: epithelia): 1 of the 4 primary animal tissue types. Epithelial tissues line the surfaces and cavities of bodily structures and form many glands. Epithelial cells secrete, selectively absorb, protect, and transport. See also muscle, connective tissue, and intelligence (tissue).

equivalence principle: following Galileo’s conception, Albert Einstein’s proposition regarding apparent acceleration: that there is no way to distinguish the effects of acceleration (inertial mass) from the effects of gravity (gravitational mass).

erythrocyte: red blood cell.

Escherichia coli: see E. coli.

essential amino acid: an amino acid necessary for health that cannot be synthesized by the human body and so must be obtained via diet.

ester: an organic compound comprising a carbonyl adjacent to an ether.

ether: a class of organic compounds characterized by an oxygen atom bonded to 2 carbon atoms (C–O–C).

Euclidian geometry: a mathematical system limited to 3d, attributed to Euclid. Euclidian geometry has a small set of axioms from which theorems can be deduced. The 5th axiom (the parallel postulate) was found independent of the first 4 in the 19th century. Its breakage led to non-Euclidian geometry.

eugenics: beliefs and practices aimed at improving the genetic quality of humans.

eukaryote: an organism with cell structures (organelles) separated by membranes. Multicellular life is eukaryotic. Compare prokaryote.

Euler Beta function: an equation used to characterize scattering amplitude; employed in string theory.

eusocial: an animal species that has: 1) overlapping generations; 2) cooperative care of the young; and 3) reproductive division of labor. Contrast presocial.

Eutheria: the placental mammal clade that diverged ~160 MYA. Eutherians lack epipubic bones, allowing for an expanding abdomen during pregnancy.

eutrophication: the process by which a body of water becomes enriched with dissolved nutrients that stimulate the growth of microbial aquatic life, which typically results in depleting the oxygen dissolved in the water.

event: a perceived process with an outcome.

event horizon: a boundary in spacetime beyond which events cannot affect an outside observer. An event horizon is typically portrayed as the “point of no return” into a black hole.

evolution (evolutionary biology): the process of adaptation, most apparently seen as a distinctive change across successive generations of a population.

existence: corporeality, including both matter and energy. See actuality, manifestation, Nature, and phenomenon.

exocytosis: the cellular process of secreting proteins outside the cell. Contrast endocytosis.

exogenous (biology): originating outside an organism. Contrast endogenous.

exon: a polynucleotide sequence in a nucleic acid that codes for protein synthesis. An exon is copied and spliced together with other such sequences to form messenger RNA. Compare intron.

exothermic reaction: a chemical reaction that releases thermal energy. Contrast endothermic reaction.

extensive property: a physical property of a system that depends upon system size or materiality. Examples include mass and volume. Contrast intensive property.

extinction: the demise of a species.

extinction event: a period of mass extinction.

extracellular matrix (ECM): a biological matrix composed of different glycosylated proteins that create attachment bases for cells, holding tissue together without direct contact between neighboring cells. Glycocalyx is a common ECM.

extra dimensions: see ed.

extremophile: an organism that thrives in an environment adverse to most life.


fact: recall of an experienced event.

Facts are of not much use, considered as facts. They bewilder by their number and their apparent incoherency. Let them be digested into theory, however, and brought into mutual harmony, and it is another matter. ~ Oliver Heaviside

Fahrenheit: an obsolete temperature scale, named after Daniel Fahrenheit, who suggested it in 1724. Fahrenheit is used only in Belize, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Palau, and the United States. The Fahrenheit scale was set upon 3 references: 1) a frozen mixture of water, ice, and salt (0°); 2) where water nominally freezes (32°); and 3) typical human body temperature in the mouth or under the armpit (96°). Water boils at 212° F. Conversion to Fahrenheit: [°F] = [K] × 95 − 459.67. Room temperature of 296 K is 73° F (23° C). See Celsius, Kelvin.

falsifiability (aka refutability): a statement (hypothesis or theory) which may be tested for validity through observation. The concept was introduced by Karl Popper in 1994 as a cornerstone of scientific epistemology. Statements which are not supported by falsifiability are pseudoscience.

fat (chemistry): a broad group of compounds comprising carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen; a subgroup of lipids. See saturated fat and unsaturated fat.

fatty acid: a carboxylic acid with a long aliphatic tail (chain).

fauna (plural: faunas or faunae): animals (metazoa). Compare flora.

femtometer (fm) (aka fmeometre): 10–15 of a meter.

Fermat’s last theorem (aka Fermat’s conjecture): a 1637 number theory by Pierre de Fermat that no 3 positive integers (a, b, c) satisfy the equation an + bn = cn for any integer value of n greater than 2. The first successful proof was by Andrew Wiles in 1994.

Fermat’s principle (aka principle of least time): a 1658 optics principle by Pierre de Fermat that light always travels most efficiently: from one point to another in the least time.

fermion: a quantum of matter under quantum physics’ Standard Model; named after Enrico Fermi. Contrast boson.

fern (aka Pteridophyta): the first vascular plant.

ferromagnetism: the ability of a material to become a permanent magnet.

field: an energy associated with a spacetime point or region.

first law of thermodynamics: see 1st law of thermodynamics.

fission (cytology): cell division into 2 (binary fission) or more (multiple fission) cells.

flagellum (plural: flagella): a whip-like appendage protruding from a cell, employed for locomotion and sensory perception. Compare cilium.

flatworm: a relatively simple unsegmented, bilateral (head and tail), soft-bodied invertebrate.

flavor (quantum mechanics): generic term for the qualities that distinguish the various quarks and leptons.

flora (plural: florae or floras): plants. Compare fauna.

fluid: a substance that deforms (flows) under an applied shear stress. Gases, plasmas, and liquids are fluids. Contrast solid.

fluorine (F): the element with atomic number 9; molecularly diatomic (F2). At standard pressure, fluorine is a pale, yellow gas. With a –1 oxidation state, fluorine is the most electronegative element, and so a strong oxidant. Fluorine is the 13th most common element in Earth’s crust, naturally occurring as a fluoride ion. Fluorine is not essential biologically. The few organisms that employ fluorine in their biochemistry do so to make poisons.

food web: the energy production and consumption interrelations between biota in an ecosystem.

force (physics) (aka interaction): an influence that causes a change in Nature. There are 5 known forces: coherence, strong (nuclear), weak (nuclear), electromagnetism, and gravity.

formaldehyde ((CH2O(H-CHO)) aka methanal): a naturally occurring organic compound that is a precursor to many other chemical compounds.

formose reaction: the formation of a sugar from formaldehyde; a portmanteau of formaldehyde and aldose.

fossil fuel: a fuel formed from dead organisms. Coal, natural gas, and petroleum are fossil fuels.

fougèrite (aka green rust (Fe2+4 Fe3+2(OH)12[CO3]·3H2O)): a naturally-occurring mineral.

fractal: a set of scale-invariant self-similar iterative patterns.

fractional particle: a subatomic particle (e.g., electron) exhibiting dichotomous or incongruent properties.

fragmentation (biology): a form of asexual reproduction, where a new organism grows from a fragment of the parent.

free electron: an electron not bound to an atom.

freezing: the physical process of a liquid turning into a solid.

frequency: the number of repetitious occurrences per time unit.

fumarolic (vent): a hole in a volcanic region from which hot gases and vapors issue.

functional group (chemistry): the specific group of atoms within a molecule responsible for the molecule’s characteristic chemical reactions.

fungus (plural: fungi): a kingdom of eukaryotes that includes microorganisms such as yeast and molds, as well as macroscopic mushrooms.

fusion (physics): the energetic process of multiple atomic nuclei fusing.


G-quadruplex: a guanine-rich 4-stranded DNA structure, squarish in shape.

galactic web: the interconnection of galaxies via gravitational and energetic filaments.

galaxy: via a massive black hole, a gravitationally bound cluster of star systems and stellar remnants, swirling in an interstellar mixture of gas and dust.

Galilean relativity (aka Galilean invariance): a 1632 hypothesis by Galileo Galilei that the laws of motion are the same in all inertial frames.

gall wasp (aka gallfly): a small wasp of 1,300 species. The larvae of most gall wasps develop in plant galls which they induce. Oak is the wood of choice for many gall wasps.

game theory: theorization of outcomes and dynamics in situations involving parties with conflicting interests.

gamete: a cell or cell nucleus that undergoes sexual fusion to form a zygote. In animals, gametes are eggs and sperm cells. Plant germ cells produce ovules and pollen.

gametophyte: the haploid, gamete-producing phase of plants and algae that undergo alternation of generations; the prothallus in ferns, and the embryo sac in angiosperms. Compare sporophyte.

gamma ray: electromagnetic radiation above 10 exahertz (>1019 Hz); extremely high energy/frequency radiation.

Ganymede: Jupiter’s largest moon, and the largest in the solar system. Ganymede is the 9th-largest body in the solar system, and the largest without an atmosphere to speak of.

gas: a fluid that may be airborne.

gauge boson: a quantum force carrier.

gene: the idea that a set of nucleic acids provide instructions for producing an organic molecule, typically a protein. Genes do not exist; they are merely a construal. The actuality of genetics is more intricate than supposed by matterist geneticists, as heritable bioproduct information is stored energetically, with organic molecules as illusory material substrates.

gene expression: employment of a gene; the conceptual process by which genetic information is used to synthesize a bioproduct.

gene mapping: the process of determining the locus for a specific biological trait.

gene product: the biochemical material resulting from gene expression. A protein is the typical gene product, though RNA is also a gene product.

gene regulation: control of gene expression, including stifling gene expression.

general relativity: a geometric physical theory that treats gravity as a property of spacetime, based upon the mass of objects; proposed by Albert Einstein in 1915. Gravity distorts 4d spacetime extra-dimensionally under general relativity. See relativity, special relativity.

generation (physics): a division for fermions, based on mass. Only 1st-generation fermions make up everyday matter. 2nd- and 3rd-generation fermions rapidly decay.

genetic code: the conceptual rulebook by which information is encoded in genetic material.

genetic drift (aka allelic drift): a difference in genome between species in a hereditary lineage.

genetic mutation: a change in a DNA sequence.

genetics: the study of heredity and variation in life forms at the molecular level. The 4 major subdisciplines of genetics are transmission genetics (heredity), molecular genetics (chemistry), population genetics (traits in populations), and epigenetics (influences of living on inheritance).

genome: the (idea of the) entire set of genes within an organism. Like genes, a genome is merely a concept, not phenomenal.

genophore: a package of DNA in a prokaryote’s nucleoid. Compare chromosome.

genotype: the energetic constitution of an organism, as artifactually represented by genome. The gen in genotype refers to genesis (not genetics).

genus (plural: genera): a category of organisms, more generic than species.

geodetic effect: the curvature of spacetime caused by an orbiting body, such as a planet around a star.

geodynamic: relating to dynamic processes or forces within Earth.

geology: the science of the solid matter that comprises Earth, especially in the crust.

geosphere: within Earth, including the crust and mantle. Compare pedosphere.

germline cell: the line (sequence) of cells that may be passed to offspring. Contrast soma.

GeV (giga-electron volt): a unit of energy equal to a thousand million (109) electron volts (eV).

ghost field: a field that affects the mass of a boson via interrelations with other bosons and fermions. Ghost fields are necessary to maintain mathematical consistency in quantum physics’ Standard Model. Ghost fields are conventionally presumed to be solely a mathematical device, and not exist, despite their being the origin of virtual particles, which supposedly manifest.

glacial period (aka glaciation): a period of glaciers, typically thousands of years, within an ice age, marked by colder temperatures and glacial advances. By contrast, interglacials are periods of warmer climate within an ice age. The last glacial period ended 15,000 years ago. The present epoch, the Holocene, is the current interglacial.

glia: the predominant cell type in animal brains. Neurons (nerve cells) support glial cells via their interfaces outside the brain.

glass: an amorphous (non-crystalline) solid.

glass transition: a temperature associated with phase transition from glass to liquid. The glass transition temperature is always lower than the melting temperature.

glucocorticoid: a corticosteroid that regulates glucose metabolism. The most important human glucocorticoid is cortisol.

glucose (C6H12O6): a simple sugar used in glycolysis to form ATP.

gluon: the boson that porters the strong force.

glycan (aka glycosyl group): ostensibly a synonym for polysaccharide, but commonly used to refer to the carbohydrate bonded to a protein or other glycoconjugate.

glycerol: a simple alcohol compound, comprising 3 hydroxyl groups (3 molecules of hydrogen and oxygen).

glycocalyx: extracellular polymeric material comprised of glycoproteins. See extracellular matrix.

glycoconjugate: a carbohydrate covalently bonded to another chemical species, including peptides, proteins, and lipids.

glycolipid: a lipid with an attached carbohydrate. Glycolipids provide energy and act as markers for cellular recognition.

glycolysis: a metabolic pathway of 10 reactions that results in free energy; often used to form ATP.

glycoprotein: a protein containing a carbohydrate (glycan) attached to a polypeptide side chain.

gold (Au): the element with the atomic number 79; a dense, malleable, and ductile metal that is a bright reddish-yellow (golden) in hue. Gold is one of the least reactive elements.

Goldilocks (aka The Story of the Three Bears): a fairy tale in which an intrusive little girl pilfers porridge from homebody bears.

Golgi body (aka Golgi complex, Golgi): an organelle comprising a stack of membranes that works in concert with the endoplasmic reticulum to package proteins inside a cell before shipping the proteins off to their intended destination. Discovered by Camillo Golgi in 1898 while investigating the human nervous system.

GPa (gigapascal): pascal (Pa) is a standard unit of pressure. Geophysicists use gigapascal (GPa) for tectonic stresses with the Earth. Herein, GPa is used for intense pressures related to superconductivity.

GPS (global positioning system): a satellite-based navigation system.

granite: a coarse-grained igneous rock, at least 20% quartz by volume.

graphite: a crystalline, semimetal form (allotrope) of carbon. Graphite is a native element mineral, and a form of coal.

graviton: the hypothetical boson of gravity.

gravity: an entropic spacetime distortion caused by mass. Generally considered one of the 4 fundamental forces, though that is something of a misconception, as the other 3 interactions – strong, weak, and electromagnetism – are significant to subatomic particles, whereas gravity is not.

greenhouse gas: a gas in the atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the infrared range. The primary greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. Water vapor acts as a greenhouse gas.

greigite (Fe3S4): an iron sulfide mineral, found in clays and hydrothermal veins. One commonly found impurity in greigite is nitrogen. (FeNi)S clusters are somewhat common in enzymes, while the cubic Fe4S4 unit of greigite is employed by proteins for metabolism.

Grotthuss mechanism: the process of a proton moving through the hydrogen bond network of water molecules or other hydrogen-bonded liquids via the formation and concomitant cleavage of covalent bonds of neighboring molecules. Proposed by Theodor Grotthuss in 1806; an astonishing theory at the time, as the water molecule was thought to be HO, not H2O, and ions were not understood.

ground state: the lowest energy state of a quantum mechanical system.

guanine (G) (C5H5N5O): a nucleobase of DNA and RNA. Guanine is complementary to cytosine.

gymnosperm: a group of seed-producing plants, including conifers, cycads, ginkgo, and gnetophytes.


Haber process: a process for synthesizing ammonia, involving the nitrogen fixation reaction via hydrogen gas and nitrogen gas, catalyzed by enriched iron or ruthenium; named after Fritz Haber, its inventor.

habitat: the environment in which a species population lives.

Hadean (4.55–3.9 BYA): the 1st geologic eon, originally thought to be before life originated on Earth (but life started 4.1 BYA).

hadron: a composite subatomic particle made of a variety of quarks. Matter is comprised of baryons: hadrons composed of 3 quarks.

half-life: the duration required for a material to decay to half of its initial value. The probabilistic term is commonly used in nuclear physics to state the radioactive decay rate of atoms. Medical sciences use half-life to refer to the biological breakdown of chemical substances in the body.

halogen: a group of chemically related elements, so named because they all produce sodium salts with similar properties (hal being Greek for salt, and gen for generate). The 4 natural halogen elements are fluorine (F), chlorine (Cl), bromine (Br) and iodine (I). Astatine (At) is a halogen that exists as a short-lived radioactive isotope, as is the artificially conceived element 117 (ununseptium (Uus)).

halophile: an organism that lives in a salty habitat.

Hamilton’s principle: the principle that the dynamics of a physical system are determined via variation in the Lagrangian function, which contains all information about the system and the forces acting upon the system. Originally formulated for classical mechanics by William Rowan Hamilton in 1833. Hamilton’s principle also applies to classical fields (e.g., electromagnetism, gravity), and is relevant to quantum mechanics, quantum field theory, and criticality theories.

Hamiltonian mechanics: a reformulation of classical mechanics used in characterizing quantum mechanical systems. The Hamiltonian refers to the total energy of a system. A Hamiltonian system is a dynamic system governed by Hamilton’s equations, which were derived by William Rowan Hamilton in 1833.

haplodiploid: a sex-determination system where the sex of offspring is determined by the number of sets of chromosomes received. Female eusocial insects, such as bees, wasps, and ants, are diploid, but males are haploid because they develop from unfertilized (haploid) egg cells.

haploid: a cell having 1 set of chromosomes. Compare diploid.

Hawking radiation: black-body radiation emitted by black holes, predicted by Stephen Hawking in 1974.

hd (holistic dimensionality): the totality of cosmic dimensions. hd refers to the universe having more than 4 dimensions (4d = 3 spatial dimensions and 1 time vector). hd = 4d + ed, where ed = extra (spatial) dimensions.

heat capacity (aka thermal capacity): the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of a substance. See specific heat capacity.

heavy water (deuterium oxide (D2O)): water with a higher hydrogen content (deuterium) than typical (light) water.

Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle: see uncertainty principle.

helicase: a class of enzymes that unpackage nucleic strands (DNA, RNA). Helicases are vital to all organisms.

heliocentrism: the theory that the Sun is the center of the solar system around which planets orbit, including Earth.

heliosphere: a plasma bubble of charged particles in space blown by the solar wind.

helium (He): the element with atomic number 2; a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, monatomic gas. Helium is the 2nd lightest and 2nd most abundant element, behind hydrogen.

hemoglobin: the iron-based oxygen transport protein in the red blood cells of vertebrates.

herbaceous: an angiosperm that has leaves and stems which die down to the ground at the end of the growing season. Herbaceous plants have no persistent woody stem above ground. Herbaceous plants may be annuals, biennials, or perennials. Contrast arborescent.

heredity (genetics): inheritance of traits from one generation of life form to the next.

heterogamy (reproductive biology): sexual reproduction, as contrasted to parthenogenetic generation; in the context of alternation of generations. Contrast parthenogenesis.

heterotroph: an organism that cannot make its own food. All animals are heterotrophs. Compare autotroph.

heterozygous: different alleles at the same locus. Contrast homozygous.

heuristic (psychology): a simple, efficient rule employed to form judgments, solve problems, or make decisions. Compare algorithm.

hierarchy problem: the inability to explain why a theorized physical parameter value vastly differs from its effective (measured) value.

Higgs boson: a massive but elusive subatomic particle. Finding the Higgs put a finishing touch on the Standard Model of particle physics, by providing a means for fermions to have mass, while bosons supposedly don’t, though at least 2 actually do (W & Z).

Higgs field: according quantum physics’ Standard Model, the universal field that imparts mass. Quanta hypothetically swim in the Higgs field, interacting at different strengths, and so maintain distinct masses, or are massless if the Higgs field fails to impress. The quantum representing the Higgs field is the Higgs boson. See Higgs mechanism.

Higgs mechanism: the continuous process whereby gauge (W & Z) bosons acquire mass via spontaneous symmetry breaking (SSB). The Higgs mechanism exemplifies the basic mechanism by which Nature is composed: universal fields localizing, with local fields quantizing into particulate form. The exposition of Ĉonsciousness works similarly: from universal to localized field (individual consciousnesses).

Hilbert space: a geometry capable of characterizing any number of dimensions. Named after David Hilbert by John von Neumann.

Hinduism: an indigenous religion of the Indian subcontinent, dating to the 7th century bce.

histone: a highly alkaline protein in a eukaryotic cell nucleus that packages DNA into a nucleosome. Histones also act intracellularly as an antibacterial agent.

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus): an enveloped RNA retrovirus, termed for the immune system deterioration it causes, leading to AIDS (acquired immunity deficiency syndrome).

hole (physics): a conceptual absence of an electron in an environment where electrons are abundant. An electron excited into a higher state leaves a hole in former, less energetic state. Contrast positron.

holism: the idea that systems and their properties should be viewed holistically (from the perspective of being a whole), not just as a collection of components. Contrast reductionism. See synergy.

holograph (aka hologram): a recording made via storage of interference patterns.

holographic principle: a conjecture, derived from string theories, that the universe is an information structure painted on a cosmological canvas, with energy and matter as incidentals.

homochirality: the geometry of something made of chiral units.

homeopathy: a pseudo-medicinal treatment of drinking water that has a specific substance diluted beyond measurement. Homeopathy can be effective via the placebo effect.

homeostasis (biology): a regulatory process by which an organism strives for holistic health. Compare autopoiesis.

homeostasis (physics): a tendency toward stability within a system.

homogeneous: the same at all locations. Compare isotropic.

homolog (biology): a shared evolutionary ancestor.

homologous (chromosomes): duplicate chromosomes (having the same allelic genes). See homozygous.

homozygous: selfsame alleles at the same locus on homologous chromosomes. Contrast heterozygous.

horizon problem (aka homogeneity problem): the conundrum that the cosmic microwave background exhibits a uniformity which cannot be explained by known physics.

horizontal gene transfer (HGT): sharing of genetic material between organisms. Contrast vertical gene transfer.

hormone: an organic compound intended for long-distance intercellular communication; from the Greek word for impetus.

host (biology): a cell, virus, or organism in/on/to which another organism has an interest or relationship.

host cell: a cell hosting an endosymbiont. Eukaryotes arose from an archaeon hosting one or more bacterial endosymbionts.

host range: the cell type(s) that a virus infects by recognizing cell surface receptors.

housekeeping gene: a coding sequence for a basic cellular function, expressed in all cells of an organism.

Hubble’s law: a cosmological observation that deep space objects are observed via a Doppler shift relative to Earth, owing to their receding (moving away) from Earth.

Hubble sequence: a classification of galaxies by their appearance (visual morphology), devised by American astronomer Edwin Hubble in 1926.

Hubble Space Telescope: a 2.4-meter aperture telescope carried into Earth orbit by a US space shuttle in 1990.

human: a bipedal, largely furless mammal in the Homo genus.

Huntington’s disease: a degenerative disease affecting muscle coordination, leading to cognitive decline and mental problems.

Huygens–Fresnel principle: a verified mathematical characterization of wave propagation by Christiaan Huygens (1678) and Augustin Fresnel (1818). See principle of least action.

hydrocarbon: a molecule comprising only hydrogen and carbon.

hydrogen (H): the element with atomic number 1, constituting in its simplest form a single proton and solitary electron (protium, 1H); the lightest element, and the most abundant chemical in the universe, comprising 75% of cosmic baryonic mass. Hydrogen plays an important role in acid-base chemistry. Hydrogen is a proton donor in many reactions between soluble molecules.

hydrogen bond: a chemical bond between a hydrogen atom and either an oxygen, nitrogen, or fluorine atom in a molecule. Water is exemplary of hydrogen bonding.

hydrogenation: the process of turning an unsaturated fat into a saturated one via high-temperature heating.

hydrological cycle (aka water cycle): the cycling of water in the biosphere.

hydrolysis: (in context) a reaction that breaks a biopolymer down in the presence of water and an enzyme. Broadly, a chemical reaction in which water molecules (H2O) are split into hydrons (H+) and hydroxyls (OH).

hydron: a hydrogen cation (H+).

hydronium (H3O+): an ion that is essentially water (H2O) with a hydrogen hanger-on.

hydrophilic: having a high affinity for water. Contrast hydrophobic.

hydrophobic: having a low affinity for water. Contrast hydrophilic.

hydrosphere: the bioelement of water, including the participants in the water cycle.

hydrostatic pressure: the pressure exerted by a fluid at equilibrium because of gravity.

hydrothermal vent: a fissure, usually on the seabed at a volcanically active location, from which geothermally heated water issues.

hydroxide: a chemical compound with a hydroxyl group.

hydroxyl (OH): a functional group comprising an oxygen atom covalently bonded to a single hydrogen atom. Compare water (H2O).

hypernova: an exceptionally large supernova: at least 140–200 solar masses, which entirely explodes, leaving no core material.

hyperon: a 3-quark particle comprising up, down, and strange quarks; formed within a neutron star turning into a quark star.

hyperthermophile: an organism that can survive at 80°C or greater.

hypothalamus: a brain region found in all vertebrates. The hypothalamus controls body temperature and regulates episodic biological imperatives (circadian rhythms), such as thirst, hunger, fatigue, sleep, and mating and parenting behaviors.

hypothesis: a guess gussied up in scientific garb. Under the scientific method, hypotheses are ripe for falsifiability testing. Compare theory. See falsifiability.


ice: frozen water.

igneous (rock): rock formed by cooling and solidification of magma or lava. Compare sedimentary and metamorphic. See basement.

iguana: a genus of herbivorous tropical lizards.

illusion of knowledge: someone thinking that they know more than they do.

imaginary number: the square root of a negative number.

immediate early gene: genes which are instantly activated in response to cellular stimuli.

immune system: a biological system that wards against disease, especially infection. For macrobes, an immune system acts as a microbiome management system. See innate immune system, adaptive immune system.

imprinting (genetics): an epigenetic inheritance mechanism, where the gene expression of specific alleles is silenced based upon the sex of the parent gene set. Imprinting involves methylation and histone modifications.

in toto: entirely; as a whole.

induction (logic): the method of inferring a generalized conclusion from particulars. Contrast deduction.

inductivism: the traditional scientific method of evolutionary theory formation via fact accumulation; stated by Francis Bacon in 1620, who proposed incrementally (in terms of scale) proposing natural laws to generalize observed patterns. Disconfirmed laws are discarded.

In 1740, David Hume noted limitations in using experience to infer causality. 1st is the illogic of enumerative induction: unrestricted generalization from specific instances to all such events. 2nd is the presumptiveness of conclusively stating a universal law, since observation is only of a sequence of perceived events, not cause-and-effect. Nonetheless, Hume accepted the empirical sciences as inevitably inductive.

Alarmed by Hume, Immanuel Kant posited rationalism as favored by Descartes and by Spinoza. Kant noted that the mind serves to bridge the human experience with the actual world, with the mind creating space, time, and substance. With this, Kant trashed the naïve realism of science as only tracing appearances (phenomena), not unveiling reality (noumena). Compare falsifiability.

inertia: indisposition to a change in motion.

inertial reference frame (aka inertial frame, Galilean reference frame, inertial space) (under classical physics and special relativity): a frame of reference in which bodies are at rest or at constant velocity in a straight line; more generally, a frame of reference that describes time and space uniformly (homogeneously and isotopically), and in a time-independent manner. Conceptually, the physics of a system in an inertial frame that is self-contained, with no external causes.

infinity (∞): something without limit. Mathematics often treats ∞ as a special number, but that is a conceptual error. Infinity is beyond numerics.

inflaton (astrophysics): a hypothetical quantum particle (scalar field) of inflationary energy. No scalar fields have been observed in Nature. There is no evidence for the existence of inflatons.

inflationary energy: a hypothetical energy force of dense, intense negative pressure that allowed cosmic inflation.

influence (noun): the act of producing an effect indirectly.

influence (verb): to affect or alter, typically by indirect or intangible means.

information: an esteemed apprehension of an order among concepts.

information theory: a theory related to mathematical content quality in communication.

infrared (IR): electromagnetic radiation between 1–400 THz (terahertz). Most thermal radiation at room temperature is infrared. Infrared is emitted or absorbed by molecules when they change their rotational or vibrational mode.

inhibitor (chemistry): an enzyme that decreases reaction rate. Contrast activator.

innate immune system: the non-learning portion of the immune system. Contrast adaptive immune system.

insulator (chemistry): a medium that resists the flow of electrical current. Contrast conductor, resistor.

intelligence: an attribution for behaving appropriately; the process of gathering and analyzing information.

intelligence (tissue): 1 of the 4 primary animal tissue types. Glia and neurons are the primary cell types of intelligence tissue. See also epithelium, muscle, and connective tissue.

intensive property (aka bulk property): a physical property of a system that does not depend upon system size or materiality. Examples include temperature, density, hardness, and refractive index. Richard Tolman introduced the terms intensive property and extensive property in 1917. Contrast extensive property.

interaction (physics): see force.

interconnection: mutual connection.

interdependence: a system where one feature dynamic may affect another.

interface: the boundary between phases or systems.

interferometry: a measurement technique for fields via superimposing one wave upon another to extract information about the target wave.

intergenic: a DNA sequence located between genes.

interglacial: a period of warmer climate within an ice age. Compare glacial period.

interphase: the period of the cell cycle during which a cell lives its everyday existence. Interphase is 90% of a cell’s life cycle. See anaphase, telophase.

interplanetary magnetic field: the solar magnetic field, carried with the solar wind out into the solar system.

intron: a polynucleotide sequence in a nucleic acid that does not code for protein synthesis. Introns are removed before translation of messenger RNA. Compare exon.

inverse-square law: Isaac Newton’s formulation of gravity as a force: that the gravitational attraction between 2 objects is directly proportional to the product of their masses, and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.

invertebrate: an animal that is not a vertebrate.

ion: an electrically charged subatomic particle, atom, or molecule. See anion and cation.

ion channel: a chemical communication pathway comprised of pore-forming proteins that establish and control voltage gradients across the plasma membranes of cells by allowing the flow of ions down electrochemical gradients.

ionic bond: an electrostatic attraction resulting in 2 oppositely charged ions coupling. An anion and a cation join in an ionic bond.

ionic lattice: a lattice-like structure conducive to electrical conductivity.

ionization: the energetic process of converting an atom or molecule into an ion.

ionization energy (potential): the energy required to remove an electron from a gaseous atom or ion.

ionosphere: the ionized portion of Earth’s upper atmosphere, at 85–600 km altitude.

iron (Fe): the element with atomic number 26; a metal. Iron is the most common element (by mass) in Earth, forming much of its core.

iron-sulfur world (theory): a theory developed by Günter Wächtershäuser that life originated in seabed hydrothermal vents, nestled in pyrite.

isoform: functionally similar proteins with a similar (but not identical) amino acid sequence which had been encoded by different genetic instruction sets.

isomer: a compound in one of various molecular structures (shapes). Isomers with the same chemical formula may have quite different properties.

isotope: a variant of a chemical species. Isotopes vary by number of neutrons in the nucleus.

isotropic: the same in all directions. Compare homogeneous.


joule: the energy equivalent of passing a 1-amp current through 1-ohm resistance for 1 second. Named after James Prescott Joule, who studied energetic relationships.

junk DNA: a DNA sequence that does not directly code for producing a protein.


karyogamy: the final step in the process of fusing together 2 haploid eukaryotic cells. Karyogamy specifically refers to the fusion of the 2 nuclei.

Kelvin (K): an absolute temperature scale. Kelvin is the primary measurement unit in the physical sciences. From a perspective of classical thermodynamics, 0 K is the temperature at which all thermal motion ceases. Kelvin has the same magnitude as Celsius, albeit at a different offset. Absolute zero (0 K) is –273.15 °C. The Kelvin scale is named after Lord Kelvin, who expressed the need for an “absolute thermometric scale.”

ketone: an organic compound comprising a carbonyl center connected to 2 side chains (R): R-C=O-R’. Many sugars are ketones. Compare aldehyde.

kinase: an enzyme that promotes reversible phosphorylation. More generally, kinases act on and modify the activities of specific proteins.

kinematics: often referred to as the geometry of motion, kinematics is a branch of classical mechanics that describes the motions of bodies and systems without considering the forces that cause movement.

kinetic energy: energy associated with motion.

kinetics: the branch of mechanics concerning forces which act upon matter.

kingdom (biological classification): the taxon above phylum and below domain. There are 4 eukaryotic kingdoms: protists, plants, fungi, and animals.

knot theory: the study of mathematical knots. Mathematical knots differ from physical ones in that the ends are joined so that the knot cannot be undone.

knowledge: cognition of facts or principles about Nature. Compare omniscience.

Kuiper belt: the region of the solar system extending past the orbit of Neptune to 50 AU (astronomical units) from the Sun, populated by cosmic debris.


L-form (state): a mode of existence for a bacterium of not having a cell wall (which most bacteria have).

Lacerta (astronomy) (aka Lizard): one of the 88 modern constellations; Latin for lizard; conceived in 1687 by Johannes Hevelius.

Lagrangian: the mathematical function of Lagrangian mechanics.

Lagrangian mechanics: a 1788 reformulation of classical mechanics by Joseph-Louis Lagrange.

Lamb shift: an energy difference between 2 energy levels of the hydrogen atom, according to quantum electrodynamics. Named after Willis Lamb.

Lambda cold dark matter model: see ΛCDM (under A because Λ looks like an ersatz A).

lambda point: the triple-point temperature below which fluid helium turns into superfluid helium: 2.172 K at 1 atmosphere (101,325 Pa).

Landau–Fermi liquid theory: a theoretical model of fermion interactions for most metals at low temperatures. The theory explains why some properties of an interacting fermion system are selfsame to those of the Fermi gas (i.e., non-interacting fermions), and why other properties differ.

Lanikea: the galactic supercluster in which the Milky Way galaxy resides.

lanthanum (La): the element with the atomic number 57; a soft, ductile, silvery-white metal which rapidly tarnishes when exposed to air and is so soft as to be easily cut with a knife.

Laplace’s demon: the idea that existence would be utterly predictable (deterministic) to an intellect (the demon) that was omniscient; posited by Pierre-Simon Laplace in 1814.

Large Hadron Collider (LHC): the most powerful particle collider and the largest machine in the world; built 1998–2008. The LHC lies in a tunnel 27 km in circumference and as deep as 175 meters beneath the France-Switzerland border near Geneva.

latent heat: how much thermal energy (heat) can be absorbed or released by a body without changing the body’s temperature.

lattice (chemistry): a repetitive arrangement of atoms.

lattice (mathematic): symmetrical order within a set.

lattice (physics): a repetitively arranged (lattice-like) physical model.

lattice constant (aka lattice parameter): the physical dimensions of unit cells in a crystal lattice.

law: a conclusion about a universal tendency in Nature.

law of independent assortment: a hypothesis by Gregor Mendel that the expression of any 1 genetic trait is not influenced by another. This so-called law is bogus.

laws of motion (Newton’s): 1) a body has constant velocity unless acted upon by an external force; 2) acceleration is proportional to force and inversely proportional to mass; and 3) the mutual forces of action and reaction between 2 bodies are equal, opposite, and collinear.

law of segregation: an observation by Gregor Mendel that an allele in a diploid organism may express as dominant, masking a recessive allele that would express a different trait.

laws of thermodynamics: classical physics laws related to heat energy and entropy. The laws of thermodynamics all assume a universe that is an energetically closed system 4d. This presumption renders the laws fictional, because the cosmos has extra spatial dimensions (ed), with a constant energy exchange 4d and ed. Nonetheless, physicists still take these laws seriously, as they are taught as being cardinal. The laws of thermodynamics do provide proximate results at the ambient scale where they are typically applied.

lecithin: a yellow-brownish amphiphilic fat found in plant and animal tissues.

length contraction: a moving ruler that appears at rest to an observer will measure shorter than otherwise. Unnoticeable except at a frame of reference approaching the speed of light.

lepton: a subatomic particle not subject to the strong force. Electrons, muons, and neutrinos are leptons.

life: anything capable of perceiving its environment.

light: electromagnetic radiation visible to the human eye, at a wavelength of 380–740 nanometers.

light matter: ordinary matter. Contrast dark matter.

light-year: how far light travels in a year at light speed (as fast as light can travel); the standard unit used to express astronomical distances. A light-year is ~9.461 trillion kilometers.

lignin: an amorphous polymer related to cellulose. Lignin is an integral part of the cell walls of plants and some algae.

linear (chemistry): a molecular shape created by a central atom surrounded by 2 electron groups having bonding angles of 180°.

lipid: a broad group of relatively complex nonpolar carbon-based compounds, used for energy storage and a wide variety of biological functions.

lipid droplet: a ubiquitous cellular fat storage organelle for energy production and as a biosynthetic precursor.

lipophilic: having a high affinity for lipids.

liquid: a fluid that flows freely. Water is a liquid at room temperature.

liquid crystal: matter in a state with properties of both liquids and crystals.

lithosphere: the outermost shell of a rocky planet. Earth’s lithosphere comprises its crust and upper mantle: the portions that behave elastically over vast expanses of time.

localization (biochemistry): control of allosteric regulation at a specific position on a protein via specific molecular binding configuration (sequence).

locality (physics): the idea that an object can only be influenced by its immediate surroundings. See entanglement. Contrast nonlocality.

locus (genetics): a gene’s position in a genophore or chromosome.

London dispersion forces: a weak intermolecular force, arising from emergent quantum polarization multipoles in molecules; named after Fritz London.

lone pair: an electron pair not shared with other atoms.

loop quantum gravity: a quantum theory that quantizes all geometry, including space and gravity. Loop quantum gravity attempts to reconcile quantum mechanics with relativity.

Lorentz symmetry: the idea that all physical laws are the same for all observers; named after Hendrik Lorentz.

lunar cycle: the periodicity of the Moon’s orbit about Earth.

lunar mare: a large dark basaltic plain on the Moon, formed by ancient volcanic eruptions.

lyonization (aka X inactivation): the process in which 1 of 2 copies of the X chromosome in female mammals is inactivated.

lysine acetylation: an epigenetic mechanism that affects histones by introducing an acetyl functional group.

lysis: viral reproductive release by cell wall rupture: killing the host cell in a violent outburst that releases a multitude of offspring. Contrast lysogeny.

lymphocyte: a type of white blood cell in the vertebrate adaptive immune system. The innate immune system operates through genetically programmed responses. In contrast, the adaptive immune system remembers past foes, to better dispatch nefarious invaders upon arrival.

lysogeny: a virus integrating itself into its host cell and replicating with the cell, secreting progeny viruses. Contrast lysis.

lysosome: the membrane-bound organelle in animal cells responsible for autophagy.


M-theory (physics): a physical theory that extends string theory into hd branes, postulating 11-dimensional spacetime.

macrobe: non-microbial life; any life form not requiring a microscope to be seen. Contrast microbe.

macromolecule: a large compound molecule, commonly created by polymerization of smaller subunits into polymer chains or 3d shapes. Nucleic acids, proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids are macromolecules.

macrophage (derived from the Greek for “large eater”): a type of phagocyte employed in vertebrate immune system defense.

Magellanic Clouds: irregular dwarf galaxies orbiting the Milky Way.

magic number (nuclear physics): the number of nucleons (either protons or neutrons, separately) forming a complete nuclear shell for an element. The most common magic numbers are 2 (helium), 8 (oxygen), 20 (calcium), 28 (nickel), 50 (tin), 82 (lead), and 126 (for neutrons). The term came from Eugene Wigner in the mid-1940s.

magma: molten rock made underground. Igneous rocks come from cooled magma.

magnesium (Mg): the element with atomic number 12; an alkaline metal. Magnesium is the 4th most common element in the Earth, behind iron, oxygen, and silicon. Most magnesium is in the mantle.

magnet: a metal, such as iron, that sports an external magnetic field.

magnetic dipole moment: the potential exertion force of magnetism upon a particle.

magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): a medical imaging technique used in radiology to form pictures of anatomy and bodily physiological processes.

magnetic reconnection: in conductive plasmas, rearrangement of magnetic topography and conversion of magnetic energy to heat, kinetic energy, and particle acceleration.

magnetism: a class of physical phenomena where atoms or molecules react from the influence of a magnetic field, which causes attraction or repulsion to nearby matter that is magnetically charged. Magnetism is a facet of electromagnetism. See ferromagnetism, antiferromagnetism, and quantum spin liquids.

magnetoreception: sensory reception of the Earth’s magnetic fields by biochemical means.

magnetosphere: the area of astrological space where charged particles are controlled by a heavenly body’s magnetic field. The Earth’s magnetosphere is an outer layer of the ionosphere.

magnon: a collective excitation of spin waves with magnetic effect.

Majorana equation: a physics wave function using only real numbers. Most subatomic particles are defined by the Dirac equation, which necessitates complex numbers, with wave functions that result in complex conjugates. The Majorana equation characterizes Majorana fermions.

Majorana fermion: a fermion that is massless and chargeless; named after Ettore Majorana. The as-yet undiscovered Majorana is not included in the Standard Model. The Majorana is unique in being its own antiparticle. Compare Dirac fermion, Weyl fermion.

maltose (C12H12O11; aka maltobiose or malt sugar): a disaccharide formed from 2 bonded units of glucose, formed via a condensation reaction.

mammal: a class of air-breathing, vertebrate animals, characterized by endothermy, hair, and females with functional mammary glands.

manifest (adjective): a) capable or readily and instantly perceived by the senses; b) capable of being easily understood or recognized at once by the mind.

manifestation: an outward, perceptible expression of Nature. Compare phenomenon.

mantle: the layer of Earth above the core and below the crust.

mantle plume: the rising of hot rock from the core-mantle boundary through the mantle to become a diapir (intrusion) in the Earth’s crust.

many-body problem: a set of equations that characterize a system comprising many interacting components. Attempting to solve a many-body problem is computationally intensive. Approximations are often relied upon.

It would indeed be remarkable if Nature fortified herself against further advances in knowledge behind the analytical difficulties of the many-body problem. ~ Max Born in 1960

many-body theory: a physics theory which models a system characterized by many interacting particles.

many-worlds interpretation (aka parallel universes): a fanciful extension of wave/particle duality (Schrödinger’s equation) which posits that quantum waveforms represent an infinity of actual parallel universes. First suggested by Erwin Schrödinger in 1952, then formally proposed by Hugh Everett III in 1956. The many-worlds interpretation discards Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which posits that figurative quantum waveforms collapse into actual quanta via observation; substituting an observer-free interpretation, in insisting that all the potentialities of quantum waveforms are actualized; whence many worlds.

Mars: the 4th planet from the Sun, with 2 small irregularly shaped moons.

marsupial: a clade of mammals, characterized by giving birth to relatively undeveloped live young. An infant marsupial (joey) develops within its mother’s pouch.

mascon (mass concentration): a sizable gravity anomaly in a terrestrial body, often caused by compression from meteorite impacts.

mass (classical physics): a measure of inertia. Contrast weight.

mass (quantum mechanics): the energy level at which an elemental quantum may make an observable appearance.

mass extinction: the indiscriminate extinction of many species during an extinction event. Contrast background extinction.

mathematics: the systematic treatment of relations between symbolic entities.

Matryoshka doll: a set of hollow wooden dolls of decreasing size which can be placed one inside another.

matter (physics): something with mass, constructed of fermions. See energy.

matterism (aka (philosophical) materialism): the monistic belief that reality is made of matter. Matterism ignores that matter of made of energy and supposes that the mind is a figment of something substantial. Contrast energyism.

meditation: a practice intended to achieve a transcendental state of consciousness.

meiosis: the special cell division for sexual reproduction, producing germline gametes (sperm or eggs). Meiosis also refers to the cell division process for making spores. Compare mitosis.

Meissner effect: the complete expulsion of magnetic field lines from inside a superconductor as it transitions to a superconducting state. Named after its discoverer: Walther Meissner.

melanin: a group of pigments found in most organisms.

melatonin: a hormone found in microbes, plants, and animals. In animals, melatonin levels cyclically vary every day, affording entrainment of circadian rhythms.

mellitene (C12H18, in the structural formula C6(CH3)6; aka hexamethylbenzene): an aromatic hydrocarbon derivative of benzene, composed of 6 methyl groups where carbon atoms have 6 bonds (not the usual 4).

membrane (cytology): a lipid bilayer surrounding a cell, providing a barrier between the cell and the outside world.

meniscus: the characteristic curve in the upper surface of a liquid at the top of the surface of a narrow container. A meniscus is caused by surface tension of the confined liquid. Water has a convex meniscus, while mercury has a concave meniscus.

mentotype: the psychological constitution of an organism, including cognitive orientations and capacities, awareness loci, and innate worldview. Compare phenotype.

Mercury: the planet closest to the Sun, and the smallest. A Mercury year is equivalent to 88 Earth days.

mercury (Hg): the element with atomic number 80. Mercury is the only metal that is liquid at room temperature and pressure. Mercury has a melting point of –38.83 ºC and a boiling point of 356.73 ºC, making it a metal with one of the narrowest ranges for its liquid state.

meristem: plant tissue where growth occurs.

meson: a hadronic subatomic particle comprising 1 quark and 1 antiquark.

messenger RNA (mRNA): an RNA molecule with the physical blueprint for a protein product.

metabolic pathway: a series of chemical reactions within a cell, typically with an intended biological end product.

metabolic rate: the speed at which a metabolic pathway transpires.

metabolism: cellular chemical reactions which provide energy for vital processes. See anabolism, catabolism.

metabolite: a product of metabolism.

metal: an element that readily conducts heat and electricity. 91 of the 118 elements are metals. Some elements have both metallic and nonmetallic phases. Compare metalloid, nonmetal.

metallicity (astronomy): the proportion of matter in a heavenly body other than hydrogen and helium.

metalloid (aka semimetal): a chemical element with properties of metals and nonmetals. There is no standard definition of a metalloid, but the term is common in chemistry.

metamorphic (rock): a rock arising from transformation via heat and pressure. The original rock (protolith) may be igneous, sedimentary, or a previous incarnate metamorphic. Compare igneous and sedimentary. See basement.

metamorphism (geology): the recrystallization of a rock owing to heat, pressure, or chemically active fluids.

metamonada: a group of anaerobic flagellate protozoa, most of which live as gut flora symbionts.

metaphase: the stage of cell division where chromosomes migrate to opposite poles of a cell.

metastasis: change of position, state, or form; commonly used to indicate spread of a disease within a body.

metazoan (plural: metazoa, metazoans): a multicellular animal.

meteorite: a sizable rock from space that managed to smack a terrestrial body’s surface. A meteorite might be a comet or an asteroid.

methane (CH4): a flammable, explosive gas, which is colorless, odorless, and tasteless to humans. Methane forms in marshes and swamps, from decaying organic matter.

methanogen: anoxic archaea that produce methane as a metabolic byproduct.

methanol (CH3OH): a simple alcohol; a polar liquid; a byproduct of anaerobic metabolism; a key substrate in the synthesis of organic molecules leading to life.

methoxy: a methyl group bound to oxygen.

methyl group: an alkyl derived from methane (CH4).

methylation: an epigenetic mechanism that stifles or inactivates a gene by attaching methyl groups to nucleobases.

methylene (H2C; aka carbene, λ2-methane): a colorless gas that is the simplest carbene.

Michelson-Morley experiment: the 1887 experiment by Albert Michelson and Edward Morley to demonstrate the existence of the cosmic aether. The experiment failed and is widely considered the most famous failed experiment in physics history.

microbe: a microorganism, typically single-celled. Microbes include archaea, bacteria, fungi, and protists. Contrast macrobe.

microbial loop: recovery of otherwise lost organic energy by bacteria.

micrometer (aka micron) (μm): 1 millionth of a meter (1×10–6).

microRNA (miRNA): a class of post-transcriptional regulators which bind to microRNA response elements (MREs), thereby decreasing the stability of protein-coding messenger RNAs (mRNA) or limiting their protein translation. The result is typically stifling or silencing gene expression. See RNAi.

microtubule: a rope-like macromolecule of protein; part of the cytoskeleton. Macrotubules are employed in cell structural maintenance, intracellular transport, forming the spindle during mitosis, and other cellular functions. Microtubules are comprised of tubulins.

microwave: a radio wave with a wavelength ranging between 1 meter and 1 millimeter; equivalently, between 300 MHz (0.3 GHz) and 300 GHz frequency.

Milankovitch cycle: a 1920 hypothesis by Milutin Milanković relating changes in sunlight, and thereby climate, to variations in Earth’s orbit about the Sun. Earth has an elliptical orbit, with eccentricities in that orbit, as well in its axial tilt and precession (rotational orientation). Milankovitch cycles are now used extensively to explain the timing of glacial-interglacial cycles in Earth’s evolution.

Milky Way: the spiral galaxy containing the solar system, formed 13.2 BYA; 120,000 light-years in diameter, containing up 200–400 billion stars, and at least 640 billion planets.

mind: an intangible organ for symbolic processing.

mineral: a solid homogeneous crystal.

mineralogy: the study of minerals.

miscibility: the capability of being mixed.

Mister Dog: a children’s book by Margaret Wise Brown. Belying a neatness fetish, Mister Dog smoked a pipe and wore a straw hat.

mitochondrion (plural: mitochondria): an organelle that acts as a cell’s power plant, generating a supply of ATP. Mitochondria play other important roles in the cell life cycle, including growth and aging. Mitochondria maintain their own genome, independent of the cell nucleus. Some eukaryotic cells have multiple mitochondria, others none. Whereas human red blood cells have no mitochondria, liver cells may have over 2,000.

mitophagy: cell organelle recycling. Compare autophagy.

mitosis: the eukaryotic cell division process. Compare meiosis.

mitotic recombination: a relatively rare genetic recombination that occurs in somatic cells during mitosis.

model (mathematics): a mathematical construct. See physical model.

modern physics: post-Newtonian conceptions of physics, including Einstein’s relativity theories and models related to matter at the subatomic scale. Compare classical physics.

moiety: a small molecule of a chemical functional group.

mole (chemistry): a standard molecular weight unit, with the unit symbol mol (because keeping that last letter in would make it too damn obvious). 1 mole equals 12 grams of carbon–12 (12C), the standard isotope of carbon.

molecule: a combination of atoms.

molecular geometry: the study of molecular shapes: the spatial arrangement of atoms in molecules.

molybdenum (Mo): the element with atomic number 42. The metal molybdenum naturally occurs in various oxidation states in minerals; never as a free metal itself.

momentum (physics): mass times velocity. Momentum is a vector quantity, with both direction and magnitude.

monatomic: a molecule comprising a single atomic species. Helium is monatomic.

monkey: a primate, excluding apes.

monomer: a molecule that may bind with other molecules to form a polymer.

monopole: a magnetic pole considered (theorized) in isolation.

monosaccharide (aka simple sugar): a simple carbohydrate with the formula (CH2O)n, where n = 3 (triose), 5 (pentose), or 6 (hexose). Glucose, fructose, and ribose are exemplary monosaccharides. See disaccharide.

Moon: Earth’s solitary satellite; the 5th largest satellite in the solar system.

morphogen: a signaling molecule that directs cell movement and guides tissue development (morphogenesis).

morphogenesis: biological development of form.

morphology: form and structure (ostensibly of organisms, such as plants and animals).

multipole: a form of monopole with no pole strength or net charge.

multiverse: the idea that a multitude of universes come into and go out of existence on a vast hd canvas of endless time. The multiverse hypothesis is posited upon an ed spatial envelope, with individual universes appearing as membrane manifestations. See cyclic cosmology. There are various distinct multiverse concepts, some far-fetched. These arise from the assumption that simplistic physical models mirror Nature. See many-worlds interpretation.

muon: an unstable lepton, similar to an electron.

murein (aka peptidoglycan): a polymer comprising sugars and amino acids that forms a mesh-like layer outside the plasma membrane of most bacteria.

muscle (tissue): 1 of the 4 primary animal tissue types. Muscle cells are capable of contraction, and so provide for movement. See also epithelium, connective (tissue), and intelligence (tissue).

muscular dystrophy: a group of muscle diseases that eventuates in weakening and breakdown of muscles.

mutation: a change in a DNA sequence.

mutualism: a regular interaction between 2 organisms that provides mutual benefits.

MYA: millions of years ago. my as an acronym for “million years” is deprecated in modern geophysics, in favor of Ma, shorthand for megaannum.

mycelium (plural: mycelia): a thread-like filament of mesh-like mass of fungal filaments (hyphae).

myxamoeba (plural: myxamoebae): a swarm cell that finds others of its kind and creates a slime mold colony.


naïve empiricism: the belief that knowledge can only be gained through empirical examination of Nature. See naïve realism.

naïve realism (aka direct realism, commonsense realism, scientific realism): the belief that actuality as perceived is reality.

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration): the US government civilian space agency.

nautilus: a genus of hard-shelled cephalopods that emerged during the late Cambrian period.

natural genetic engineering: the process of altering cell functioning based upon genetic information.

natural genetic engineering toolkit: the set of biochemical capabilities a cell has to restructure its genome by cleaving, splicing, and synthesizing DNA chains.

natural philosophy: the study of Nature from a holistic perspective; the common methodology of comprehending Nature until the 17th century, before modern science barged in with its strictly empirical scientific method. See natural science. Contrast science.

natural science: natural philosophy coupled to the scientific method.

Nature: the exhibition of existence. See coherence.

nebular hypothesis: a hypothesis by Emanuel Swedenborg, that the solar system formed by swirling accretions of matter.

necroptosis: programmed inflammatory cell death (necrosis).

negative pressure: an expansive (inflationary) pressure.

neon (Ne): the element with atomic number 10; a colorless, inert gas. Neon is the least reactive element, and the 2nd-lightest gas, behind helium. Although the 5th most common in the universe (by mass), neon is rare on Earth. Commercial neon, which glows reddish-orange as a plasma in a vacuum discharge tube, is extracted from air, which contains trace amounts.

Neptune: the 8th and farthest planet from the Sun in the solar system. Neptune’s orbit is ~165 Earth years.

nerve (cell): see neuron.

neuron (aka nerve cell): an electrically excitable intercellular signaling cell as part of the nervous system, employed for sensory or motor communication. Functionally, neurons are managed by glia.

neutralization: the reaction of an acid with a base by proton transfer, forming a salt.

neutrino: an electrically neutral, weakly-interacting subatomic particle.

neutron: a subatomic particle at home in the nucleus of an atom. Lacking an electromagnetic charge, neutrons act as a glue to hold feisty protons together in an atomic nucleus, which naturally repel each other.

neutron star: a stellar remnant from the gravitational collapse of a massive star (supernova). Neutron stars are made mostly of neutrons condensed to the utmost extent.

newton (N): the standard unit of force that produces an acceleration of 1 meter per second per second on a 1-kilogram mass. Used as a measurement of weight. Named after Isaac Newton.

nitrogen (N): the element with atomic number 7; a colorless, tasteless, odorless element that, as a diatomic gas (N2), is relatively inert.

nitrogen cycle: the cycling of nitrogen in the biosphere.

nitrogen fixation: fixing atmospheric nitrogen gas into a biologically employable form. Only certain microbes have mastered the craft of fixing nitrogen.

nitrogen oxides (NOx): the generic term for nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

nitrogenase: an enzyme employed by microbes to fix atmospheric nitrogen into biologically usable form.

noble (chemistry): an element that is chemically inert (inactive), thus not given to molecular combinations.

nociception (aka nocioception, nociperception): detection of stimuli which are hazardous. In animals, nociception usually causes pain.

nodulation: the process of forming a nodule where rhizobia can perform nitrogen fixation for legumes.

non-Euclidian geometry: a geometrical system that postulates curved, higher-dimensional (hd) space. Non-Euclidian geometry diverges from Euclidian geometry in relaxing the parallel postulate.

noncoding (DNA/RNA): a polynucleotide strand that does not encode for protein production. At 200 nucleotides, an arbitrary distinction is made between noncoding sequences deemed small and those called long (the RNA form abbreviated as lncRNA). Examples of noncoding RNA include ribosomal RNA, transfer RNA, piwi-interacting RNA, and microRNA.

nonlocality (physics): entanglement of objects at some distance from each other. Contrast locality.

nonmetal: a chemical element lacking metallic attributes. Nonmetals tend to be highly volatile (easily vaporized), good insulators of heat and electricity, have low elasticity, and tend to have high ionization energy (gaining or sharing electrons when reacting). 17 (of 118) elements are nonmetals; 11 are gases, 5 solids, 1 liquid (bromine).

nonpolar: an electrically neutral molecule, owing to its constituents sharing electrons equally.

nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD): the quality control process in cellular protein production, via recognizing defective mRNA and efficiently degrading them.

noumenon: outside of existence. A noumenon is beyond perception, as contrasted to phenomena.

NP hard: nondeterministic polynomial-time hard. In computational complexity theory, NP hard comprises a class of problems that can make computers break down and cry.

nuclear cluster: a cluster of nucleons with relative stability based upon the bosonic character of the nucleons in an atomic nucleus.

nuclear genome: the genetic contents of a cell nucleus.

nuclear pore complex (NPC): a protein complex that porters molecules across a cell nuclear envelope.

nucleation: the 1st step in a transition to a new thermodynamic phase or structure via self-organization. The term is commonly used to describe ice crystal formation (ice nucleation).

nucleic acid: an acidic biomolecule comprising a nucleotide, discovered by Friedrich Miescher in 1869. DNA and RNA are nucleic acids.

nucleobase: a nucleic acid base; a nitrogen-based, ring-shaped molecule that comprises the basic building block of nucleotides.

nucleoid: an irregularly shaped region within a prokaryotic cell containing a single genophore.

nucleolus: site of ribosomal RNA synthesis within a eukaryotic cell nucleus.

nucleon: a subatomic particle in an atomic nucleus. Each atomic nucleus has 1 or more nucleons. Protons and neutrons are the 2 known nucleons.

neucleoporin: a protein which is part of a nuclear pore complex.

nucleoside: a nucleobase bound to a sugar (ribose or deoxyribose).

nucleosome: the basic nuclear DNA package in eukaryotes: a DNA segment wound around a core of 8 histones, like a thread wrapped around a spool.

nucleosynthesis: the process of creating atomic nuclei from preexisting nucleons (protons and neutrons).

nucleotide: an individual structural (monomer) unit of nucleic acid (DNA, RNA); a nucleobase packaged with sugar and phosphate groups, held together by ester bonds.

nucleus (cytology): an organelle in eukaryotic cells that acts as a cellular control center. The nucleus contains most of a cell’s genome (the nuclear genome).

nucleus (physics) (plural: nuclei): the central core of an atom, comprising protons and neutrons (nucleons).

Nuna (aka Columbia): a supercontinent created 1.9 BYA. Nuna began breaking up 1.5 BYA.


objectivity: the idea that Nature and reality are independent of consciousness. Contrast showtivity.

obligate: obligatory.

obliquity (astronomy) (aka axial tilt): the angle between an object’s rotational axis and its orbital axis; equivalently, the angle between an equatorial plane and an orbital plane.

Occam’s razor: a principle of parsimony in logic, courtesy of William of Ockham. In explaining a system, Occam’s razor states that the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions and simplest reasoning is most logically appealing. Science employ’s Occam’s razor as a heuristic in developing theories and models – whence the failing of science through untoward simplification, as Nature never adheres to Occam’s razor.

ocean: a large, deep body of saltwater.

octopus (plural: octopuses, octopi, or octopodes): a highly intelligent cephalopod.

ohm: a unit of electrical resistance, named after Georg Ohm.

Onion, The (1988–): American satirical news organization.

ontology (biology): an organism’s course of development.

oogenesis (aka ovogenesis): the differentiation of an ovum (egg cell) into a cell which may become a zygote.

Oort cloud: a hypothesized cloud of comets nearly a light-year from the Sun. The outer edge of the Oort cloud defines the cosmographical boundary of the solar system, where Sun’s gravity holds sway. See Kuiper belt.

orbit (physics): the gravitationally curved trajectory of an object.

organelle: a subunit within a eukaryotic cell that has a specialized function. Organelles are membrane-bound. Cell organelles evolved through endosymbiotic union with an archaeon host cell and a bacterial endosymbiont.

organic: related to living organisms; from a chemistry viewpoint, a complex molecular structure based upon a carbon backbone.

organism: a life form; an animated organic structure.

organitype: the paradigms which constitute an organism: the combination of phenotype, mentotype, and genotype.

origami: the traditional Japanese art of paper folding, originating in the 17th century.

Orion–Cygnus Arm: a minor spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy, 3,000 light-years across and 10,000 light-years long. The solar system swirls in the Orion–Cygnus Arm.

ortho-water: an isomer of water with symmetric wavefunctions and atomic nuclear spins summing to 1. Contrast para-water.

orthogenesis (aka orthogenetic evolution, autogenesis): a hypothesis that organisms have a goal-directed (teleological) vector of evolution; introduced by Wilhelm Haacke in 1893; now considered moribund.

osmophile: an organism capable of growing in a sugary habitat.

osmosis: movement through a semipermeable membrane.

osmotic pressure: the pressure required to prevent inward flow of water across a semipermeable membrane, such as a cell membrane.

osteoarthritis: a joint disease from breakdown of joint cartilage and underlying bone.

owl: a bird among 200 species of mostly solitary and nocturnal birds of prey; typified by an upright stance, a large, broad head, sharp vision and hearing, and feathers that provide silent flight. Owls are found in all biomes except the coldest (Antarctica, most of Greenland).

oxidant: a compound capable of oxidizing other compounds that it encounters. Oxidation often damages cells.

oxidation: an increase in oxidation state by loss of electrons. Contrast reduction.

oxidation state (aka oxidation number): a characterization of the charge potential of an atom within a chemical species. An electrically neutral compound necessarily has net oxidation state of zero. The more electronegative or electropositive atoms in a compound are considered 1st in calculating the oxidation state of molecular atoms.

oxidative phosphorylation: a metabolic pathway that uses energy released by the oxidation of nutrients to produce ATP. Almost all aerobic organisms carry out oxidative phosphorylation to synthesize ATP. See respiration.

oxygen (O): the element with atomic number 8; a highly reactive nonmetallic element that readily forms compounds (notably oxides) with almost all other elements. Oxygen is the 3rd most common element in the universe.

oxytocin (C43H66N12O12S2): a neurohypophysial hormone that acts in the brain as a sensation modulator. Oxytocin has various effects in different animal species. In primates, oxytocin is instrumental in facilitating social bonding.

ozone (O3, aka trioxygen): a triatomic molecule comprising 3 oxygen atoms. O3 is less stable than O2 (dioxygen). Ozone is formed by ultraviolet radiation of dioxygen.


pais (prokaryotic acquired immune system): an adaptive immune system used by prokaryotes, commonly known as a CRISPR/Cas system.

paleoatmosphere: the atmosphere before life arose.

pangenesis: an ancient hypothesis of holistic heredity via an atomic biological mechanism.

panspermia: life delivered to Earth from space.

para-water: an isomer of water with asymmetric wavefunctions and atomic nuclear spins summing to 0. Contrast ortho-water.

paradigm: a construed pattern, often used as a framework for perception.

parallel postulate: Euclid’s geometric 5th postulate, which states (for 2d geometry): if a line segment intersects 2 straight lines forming 2 interior angles on the same side that sum to less than 2 right angles, then the 2 lines, if extended indefinitely, meet on that side on which the angles sum to less than 2 right angles. Unlike Euclid’s other 4 postulates, the 5th postulate was not self-evident, as attested by efforts through the centuries to prove it.

parallel universes: see many-worlds interpretation.

paradox: a statement which appears self-contradictory or absurd, but which may express an insight.

paramecium (plural: paramecia): a unicellular ciliate, widespread in all watery habitats, including brackish water. Paramecia were among the first ciliates seen by early microscopists in the late 17th century. Their easy cultivation led to being widely studied.

paramutation: an allele causing a heritable change in expression of a homologous allele. Paramutation results in an epigenetic state that is inherited meiotically as well as mitotically. Paramutation is common in plants but rare in animals.

parasite: an organism living in/on/with another organism, obtaining benefits that usually reduces the fitness of its host.

parent cell: a cell dividing into 2 daughter cells as the result of cellular division (replication).

parity: a representation of a physical system capable of spatial transformation, transforming the system into its mirror image (parity inversion); a property of a symmetrical physical model.

parity transformation: an inversion of a spatial coordinate system. Also termed parity inversion.

Parkinson’s disease: a degenerative disease affecting the intelligence system. The most obvious early symptoms affect movement: shaking, rigidity, slowness, and difficulty walking. Later symptoms include cognitive and behavioral problems.

parsec: an astronomical length unit; about 3.26 light-years, just under 31 trillion (3.1 x 1013) kilometers.

parthenogenesis: asexual reproduction without fertilization. From the Greek for “virgin birth.” Contrast heterogamy.

particle (physics): a point in spacetime, typically used to ascribe a quantum-sized field. Contrast wave.

particulate radiation: radiation comprising high-speed particles.

pascal (Pa): the SI unit of pressure, stress, and tensile strength; a measure of force per unit area; named after Blaise Pascal.

Pauli exclusion principle: a theoretical requirement that 2 fermions cannot occupy the same space simultaneously; formulated by Wolfgang Pauli in 1925.

pedoscope: a shoe-fitting X-ray fluoroscope.

pedosphere: the outermost terrestrial layer of Earth, comprising soil. Compare geosphere.

pemphigus: a rare autoimmune disease that affects the skin and mucus membranes, creating horrendous ulcers.

peptide: a short chain of amino acids: 2 to 50 or so. A longer chain is properly termed a protein.

peptidoglycan (aka murein): a polymer comprising sugars and amino acids, forming a mesh-like layer outside a cell’s plasma membrane.

perceive, perception: mentally integrating sensory input (sensation) using memory. Perception is a 3-stage process: 1) turn a sensation into a symbolic representation, 2) identify sensed symbols using memory and categorization, then 3) derive the meaning of the identified symbols, especially regarding affinity or avoidance. See conceptualization.

perennial (botany): a plant that is present aboveground throughout the year, and which lives for more than 2 years. Woody plants, such as shrubs and trees, are perennials. Compare annual, biennial. See herbaceous.

pergenome: the personal genome of a cell in a multicellular eukaryote, as contrasted to the genome of the organism.

perihelion: the closest point to a star of an orbiting body.

periodic table of elements: a tabular display of atomic species (chemical elements), presented in increasing order of their atomic number (number of protons), with columns (groups) and rows (periods) based upon electron configuration.

permeable: a membrane that has pores through which molecules may pass.

permittivity (electromagnetism) (aka absolute permittivity): the measure of charge (capacitance) when forming an electric field in a certain medium.

perovskite: see bridgmanite.

perturbation theory: mathematical methods to squeeze an approximate answer from equations that refuse to resolve to an exact solution.

pH: a measure of acidity which ultimately relates to the number of protons in a solution. 7 = neutral; < = acidic; ▫ = base (alkaline).

phagocyte: an animal cell which protects it host body by ingesting harmful foreign particles, select microbes, and dying or dead cells.

phagocytosis: the process of engulfing and ingesting cellular material; a form of endocytosis.

phase (physics, chemistry): a physically distinctive form of matter. Common phases, corresponding to temperature/energy levels, are gas, liquid, plasma, and solid.

phase transition: change from one operational state, or state of matter, to another.

phenomenal: known through perception.

phenomenon (plural: phenomena): a perceptible event. See actuality. Contrast noumenon.

phenotype: the composite visible traits of an organism: physical, physiological, and behavioral. Compare mentotype.

phenylalanine (Phe; C6H5CH2CH(NH2)COOH): an electrically-neutral amino acid used to form proteins.

philosopher’s stone: legendary alchemical substance capable of turning base metals into precious metals (gold or silver).

philosophy: a set of consistent definitions pertaining to a system which yields a hierarchical construal.

phlogiston theory: the notion of fire as an element.

phonon: a collective excitation of interacting quanta characterized by a vibrational mode.

phospholipid: a class of lipids that are a major component of cell membranes, as they can form bilayers which afford regulated communication flow. The first phospholipid identified was lecithin, found in the egg yolk of chickens by Theodore Gobley in 1847.

phosphorus (P): the element with atomic number 15; as a mineral, always maximally oxidized. A component of RNA, DNA, ATP, and other biocompounds, phosphorus is essential to life.

phosphoryl group (P+O32–): a radical of phosphorous of oxygen.

phosphorylation: attaching a phosphoryl group to a molecule. Phosphorylation and dephosphorylation are extensively employed in cellular processes. In eukaryotes, protein phosphorylation is an extremely common genetic post-translational modification. The addition of a phosphate group to a protein that can alter gene expression by altering the proteins involved in building other proteins. Contrast dephosphorylation.

photochemistry: the branch of chemistry about the chemical effects of light.

photolysis (aka photodissociation, photodecomposition): chemical decomposition via radiant energy.

photon: a hypothetical bosonic particle of light; more properly, a packet of light energy, as light exhibits both particulate and wave appearances. Though photons supposedly do not interact with each other, they somehow porter the force of electromagnetism.

photophosphorylation: the phosphorylation of ADP to form ATP during photosynthesis.

photosphere: the visible surface of the Sun; the layer of the Sun’s atmosphere that emanates light; the lowest (1st) of 3 main layers of the Sun’s atmosphere. The chromosphere is above the photosphere.

photosynthesis: (an organism) converting sunlight into energy.

phylum (plural: phyla) (biological classification): the taxon above class and below kingdom. Phylum typically refers to a uniquely identifiable body plan.

physical chemistry (aka physiochemistry): the study of particulate phenomena in chemical systems; in other words, the study of physics in chemistry.

physical model: a typically geometric or algebraic mathematical model yielding a mathematical characterization of the embodied phenomena.

physical property: any measurable property of a physical system.

physical quantity: a measure of a physical property.

physical system: a portion of a physical universe chosen for examination. Everything outside the system is its environment.

physical theory: an explanation of relationships between various measurable phenomena. A physical theory may include a model of physical events (i.e., a physical model).

physics: the natural science of matter and its patterns of motion, with the intent of understanding how the universe behaves.

physiochemistry: see physical chemistry.

pi bond: a covalent bond formed by overlapping atomic orbital lobes. Compare sigma bond.

picosecond: 1-trillionth (10–12) of a second.

piezophile: an organism that lives at a high hydrostatic pressure, such as in an ocean trench.

pilot wave theory: the deterministic theory that there is an inherent wave/particle duality for every elementary particle; proposed by Louis de Broglie in 1927. Contrast uncertainty principle.

piwi-interacting RNA (piRNA): a special group of noncoding RNA molecules that combine with certain proteins to protect the integrity of a genome.

placebo: a simulated medical treatment intended to inspire the recipient, thereby provoking the placebo effect of working to relieve or even cure the targeted affliction. The placebo effect illustrates the powerful sway that the mind has over health.

placebo effect: a rejuvenation owing solely to mental invigoration via belief in a placebo (totemic treatment).

placenta: an organ that connects a developing fetus to the uterine wall of its mother. Placentas are found in certain mammals, including humans, and some snakes and lizards.

Planck constant (aka Planck’s constant, Plank’s action quantum): a physical constant reflecting the size of energy quanta in quantum field theory. Planck’s constant states the proportionality between the momentum and quantum wavelength of every subatomic particle. The relation between the energy and frequency of quanta is the Planck relation.

Planck length: the minimal theoretical limit to spatial distance; a measure derived from Newton’s gravitational constant, the speed of light in a vacuum (c), and Planck’s constant. Planck length is 1.616199 x 10–35 meters.

Planck mass: the theoretical amount of mass in a sphere with a radius Planck length, with a density of 1093 g/cm3.

Planck satellite: a space probe launched in 2009 by a European consortium to measure cosmic radiative energy.

Planck time: the theoretical limit of temporal measurement; the time required for light in a vacuum to travel a single Planck length. At 5.391 x 10–44 seconds, Planck time is the shortest sprint imaginable.

Planck unit: a system of natural units used in physics, particularly Planck length and Planck time.

planetary nebula: a cloud of ionized gas emitted by a star toward the end of its life.

plankton: a minute organism living in a water column (freshwater or salt) that is incapable of swimming against a current. The term plankton is both singular and plural (they’re just too damn tiny to count).

plant: a kingdom of eukaryotic autotrophs, including mosses, ferns, conifers, and flowering plants (angiosperms).

plasma: an ionized gas; one of the 4 fundamental states of matter; the others being gas, liquid, and solid.

plasma membrane: the membrane holding a cell’s cytoplasm and other contents within.

plasmid: a DNA globule, useful to microbes for horizontal gene transfer (swapping genetic material).

Plasmodium: a genus of parasitic protozoa. Infection of plasmodia is malaria.

plasmon: a quantum of plasma oscillation.

plastid: a catchall term for the organelles in plants and algae, including those responsible for photosynthesis.

pleiotropy: a single gene influencing multiple seemingly unrelated traits.

ploidy: the set count of chromosomes in a biological cell. Many prokaryotes are haploid (1 set). Most eukaryotes, including most animals, are diploid (2 sets), though 30–80% of living plants are polyploid (▫ 2). Polyploidy can occur in animal tissues, such as the human liver.

pluripotency: a stem cell able to differentiate into any cell type.

Pluto: a large ice-encrusted lump on the outskirts of the solar system; once considered a full-fledged planet, but demoted in 2006 to a dwarf planet, owing to its relatively low mass. For consolation, Pluto has 4 moons.

pneumatic chemistry: the quaint term for research into the nature of gases; used from the 17th to early 19th century.

Poincaré group: a group of isometries in a particular (Minkowski) spacetime which corresponds with special relativity. Named after Henri Poincaré.

polarity (chemistry): a molecule that has positive and negative poles; in other words, a molecule with an electric dipole moment. Polar molecules have polar bonds owing to a difference in electronegativity between the bonded atoms. Water is a polar molecule.

polarization (optics): a state of light in which the radiation exhibits distinct properties in different directions.

polaron: a quasiparticle of electron mobility.

polyatomic ion (aka molecular ion): an ion with 2 or more atoms covalently bonded which act as a single unit. Historically, a polyatomic icon was referred to as a radical.

polycrystal: a substance, typically a solid, comprising many fused crystallites (microscopic crystals).

polymath: a person of encyclopedic learning.

polymer: a macromolecule (large molecule) comprising repeating monomers (molecular units).

polymerization: a process of reacting monomer molecules together to form polymer chains or 3d networked structures.

polymorph: a substance that has multiple potential structures. Polymorphs are typically solids, though helium-4 is a polymorph for its liquid phase.

polynucleotide: a biopolymer of 13 or more nucleotide monomers covalently bonded in a chain. DNA and RNA are polynucleotides.

polyol: an alcohol containing multiple hydroxyl groups.

polypeptide: a short chain of amino acid monomers, linked by peptide bonds.

polyploidy: cells with more than 2 paired (homologous) sets of chromosomes. Polyploidy is common in ferns and angiosperms (flowering plants). Some animals, such as goldfish, salmon, and salamanders, possess polyploidy. In other animals, polyploidy may result from abnormal cell division.

polysaccharide (aka glycan): a complex sugar-based macromolecule; a derivative of glucose. Compare monosaccharide.

positivism: the philosophical stance that the only authentic knowledge is that which affords empirical verification. Positivism rejects introspection and intuition as knowledge.

positron: the antimatter equivalent of the electron.

post-translational processing: modification of a protein after its translation, including attaching other biosynthetic functional groups or making structural changes.

potassium (K): the element with atomic number 19; an alkali metal with a single valence electron that readily reacts. Potassium is essential to all cells.

potential (electric): see electric potential.

potential energy: stored energy that may be released; the energy inherent in an object owing to its position relative to other objects, internal stresses, electric charge, and other factors.

power (physics): the amount of energy transferred via current per unit of time, measured in watts (power = watts / time). Power is a measure of how quickly work is done.

power law: a consistent mathematical relationship between 2 quantities, such as the magnitude of an event as a function of its frequency (e.g. earthquakes or solar flares).

pre-adaptation: a trait which is subsequently adaptively employed in another, distinctive way. Pre-adaptations are a fundamental mechanism of evolvability.

precession: a slow gyration in rotation axis of orbital body.

precipitation: rain, sleet, ice, snow, and fog; also defined as the quality of being precipitate, or hasty.

precipitation (chemistry): formation of a solid within a solution. The solid formed is termed a precipitate. The chemical agent that provokes solidity is the precipitant.

predeterminism (aka fatalism): the idea that events are determined in advance.

presocial: an animal species that lacks 1 of the 3 following characteristics: 1) reproductive division of labor; 2) cooperative care of the young; and 3) overlapping generations. Contrast eusocial.

primate: a mammal order, containing prosimians (neither monkey nor ape) and simians (monkeys and apes).

principle: a conceptual construct explaining some countenance of Nature.

principle of least action (aka principle of stationary action): a variational principle which can be used to get the equations of motion for a physical system. The principle of least action can derive Newtonian, Lagrangian, Hamiltonian, and general relativity (Einstein–Hilbert) motion equations.

principle of least time: see Fermat’s principle.

Principia (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy) (1687): Isaac Newton’s 3-volume work laying the foundation of classical physics; considered one of the most important works in the history of science.

prion: an infectious agent in the form of a misfolded protein.

programmed cell death: cell death mediated by an intracellular program.

prokaryote: an organism that lacks a cell nucleus or other membrane-bound organelles. Archaea and bacteria are prokaryotes. While prokaryotes are single-celled, most can form stable, aggregate communities, such as a biofilm. Compare eukaryote.

promote (chemistry): encourage chemical reaction.

promoter (genetics): a region of DNA that facilitates the transcription of a certain gene.

prophase: the 1st stage of mitosis, in which chromatin condenses. See metaphase, anaphase, telophase, interphase.

proprioception: the sense of relative position of body parts and effort involved in their movement.

protease (aka peptidase, proteinase): an enzyme that abets proteolysis.

proteasome: a protein complex within all eukaryotes and archaea, and in some bacteria. In eukaryotes, proteasomes are in the nucleus and the cytoplasm. The primary work of a proteasome is breaking down unneeded or damaged proteins via proteolysis. Enzymes that carry out proteolysis are proteases. Proteasomes are part of a major mechanism by which cells regulate the concentration of proteins and recycle portions of misfolded proteins.

protein: a single, long, linear polymer chain of amino acids that typically takes a folded structure; a complex organic macromolecule by which living bodies are intelligently built. See enzyme.

protein synthesis: the multiple-stage process of protein production based upon a genetic template.

proteolysis: protein catabolism by hydrolysis of peptide bonds.

proteome: (the idea of) the entire set of proteins expressed by a cell’s or organism’s genome.

prothallus: the gametophyte stage in the life of a fern or other pteridophyte (a vascular plant that does not produce seeds).

protist: a catchall kingdom of eukaryotic organisms, including algae and amoeba. Most protists are unicellular, though many practice pluricellularity.

protium (chemistry): the most abundant form of hydrogen, comprising a nucleus of a single proton (no neutron). Contrast deuterium.

protocell: a cellularly-contained set of chemical reactions with evolutionary potential.

proton: a positively charged hadron that is a constituent in every atomic nucleus. The simplest hydrogen atom comprises a proton nucleus with a single electron orbiting about it.

proton–proton chain reaction: a fusion reaction by which stars convert hydrogen to helium. The proton–proton chain reaction dominates fusion in stars the size of the Sun or smaller. See carbon–nitrogen–oxygen (CNO) cycle.

proton flux: the passage of protons through a cell membrane.

proton transfer: movement of a proton from one atom to another.

protozoan (plural: protozoa): a single-celled, typically microscopic heterotroph. Protozoa live in aqueous environments and soil. They occupy a range of trophic levels. Protozoa are called animal-like protists because they subsist on other organisms.

Proxima Centauri (aka Alpha Centauri C): a small, low-mass, red dwarf star 4.244 light-years from the Sun, in the constellation Centaurus.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa: a common rod-shaped bacterium resident in soil and water. P. aeruginosa can cause disease in plants and animals, including humans. P. aeruginosa is antibiotic resistant.

pteridophyte: a vascular plant that reproduces and disperses via spores, producing neither flowers nor seeds.

pulsar (portmanteau of pulsating star): a magnetized, rotating neutron star that emits electromagnetic radiation.

pulvinus: a joint-like thickening of plant cells at the base of a leaf that facilitates growth-independent movement.

pumice: a solidified, frothy, lava rock.

purine: a chemical class of organic compounds, notably including nucleobases adenine (A) and guanine (G).

Pusey-Barrett-Rudolph theorem: that wave/particle duality is actuality, not merely a mathematical construct.

pyrimidine: a chemical class of organic compounds, notably including nucleobases cytosine (C), thymine (T) and uracil (U).

pyrite (FeS2): iron sulfide; nicknamed “fool’s gold.”

pyridoxal (C8H9NO3): 1 of 3 natural forms of vitamin B6.

pyroelectricity: a property of certain crystals to be naturally electrically polarized and thereby have large electric fields.

pyroptosis: an inflammatory form of programmed cell death.


quadratic: an equation involving terms of the 2nd degree at most.

quantum (physics) (plural: quanta): an infinitesimal chunk of ripple in a localized energy field that appears particulate (via quantization).

quantum chromodynamics (QCD): a theory of the nuclear strong force applying to fermions, characterizing the interactions between quarks and gluons which comprise hadrons.

quantum degeneracy pressure: extreme pressure at quantum scale, pushing fermions to the closest possible quarters. According to the Pauli exclusion principle, 2 fermions cannot occupy the same space simultaneously. In a quantum system an energy level is degenerate if it corresponds to multiple measurable states.

quantum effect: a physical 4d effect reflecting hd dynamics. Entanglement is a quantum effect.

quantum electrodynamics (QED): a relativistic quantum field theory of electrodynamics.

quantum field theory (QFT) (aka quantum theory, quantum mechanics): a theoretical framework explaining subatomic interactions from a particle perspective.

quantum fluctuation: an energy change at a spacetime point arising from the uncertainty principle.

quantum foam: the characterization of an energetic ground state as a froth of virtual particles continually perturbed by ghost fields.

quantum mechanics: see quantum field theory.

quantum gravity: a quest to explain gravity at the quantum level.

quantum information theory: the idea that a quantum system is a repository of information.

quantum spin liquid: a liquid state of magnetism achieved by quantum entanglement. Compare ferromagnetism, antiferromagnetism.

quantum tunneling: a particle overcoming its 4d classical confines to move itself through an hd wormhole. The practical size limit of transistors is set by quantum tunneling, as electrons could bypass the carved path in a too-small transistor.

quark: a subatomic particle that serves as the combinational seed for protons, neutrons, and hadrons.

quark star: a star comprising strange quark matter, evolved from an aged neutron star.

quartz: a crystal in a framework of silicon-oxygen (SiO4) tetrahedra, where each tetrahedron shares an oxygen atom, effectively rendering SiO2. Quartz is abundant in Earth’s continental crust.

quasar: a cosmic energy source caused by the spin-off of a black hole.

quasiparticle: an emergent approximation of fermionic behavior. Localized subatomic energies which mimic bosons are termed collective excitations.

quintessence (physics): a hypothetical form of dark energy that is dynamic, unlike the alternately proposed cosmological constant.


radar: an object-detection system employing radio waves.

radiant energy: the energy of electromagnetic and gravitational radiation.

radiation (physics): a process of traveling electromagnetic waves; also used for a similar sojourn of subatomic particles via atomic decay or beta decay.

radiative zone: the middle of 3 layers in a star’s interior, where core-produced energy is primarily transported by radiative diffusion and thermal conduction, rather than by convection.

radical (chemistry): a reactive atom, molecule, or ion owing to an unpaired valence electron. See polyatomic.

radio wave: a long wavelength electromagnetic radiation, ranging between 1 millimeter to 100 kilometers.

radioactivity: a subatomic process of losing energy. See beta decay.

radiology: imaging of organic substances using electromagnetic radiation.

radium (Ra): the element with atomic number 88; a highly radioactive luminescent metal that glows a faint blue.

radon (Rn): the element with atomic number 86; a radioactive, colorless, tasteless, odorless noble gas.

rancidity (aka rancidification): chemical decomposition of lipids. Rancidification has 3 pathways: hydrolytic, oxidative, and microbial. Hydrolytic rancidity happens when water peels fatty acid chains off the glycerol backbone in triglycerides. Oxidative rancidity transpires by free radicals on the loose (unbounded oxygen running rampant)–double-bonded unsaturated fats are cleaved, releasing volatile aldehydes and ketones. Microbial rancidity comes with the little ones employing their enzymes to fractionalize fat.

Randall–Sundrum model: a braneworld model that construes a universe of 5 dimensions using warped geometry, with the force of gravity (via gravitons) emanating from the 5th dimension, which is not compact (and so, invisible for being beyond Planck-unit measure); instead, merely phase-shifted from 3D space. There are 2 Randall–Sundrum models: RS1 and RS2. RS1 has 2 branes, while RS2 has 1 brane.

random (adjective): the idea that a system lacks order.

reactive oxygen species (ROS): chemically reactive molecules containing oxygen.

reality: that which necessarily is, phenomenal or noumenonal. Contrast actuality.

receptor (cytology): a cell signal receiver.

recessive (trait): a genetic trait masked by a dominant trait. Recessive traits are part of the phenotype only with homozygous alleles that are recessive.

recoding (genetics): interpretive reading of genetic code by an organism.

recombination (genetics): mixing traits during meiosis that introduces diversity in offspring.

red blood cell (aka erythrocyte): the most common type of vertebrate blood cell, employed to deliver oxygen to the tissues via blood flow through the circulatory system.

red giant: a luminous giant star of relatively low mass.

redox: a change during a reaction specific to loss or gain of electrons, with reduction a gain and oxidation a loss.

redshift: reflected light from a distant object, where the light has a longer wavelength. The longest human-visible wavelength of light is seen as reddish, hence the term redshift.

reductant: a chemical species that donates an electron to another species.

reduction (chemistry): a gain of electrons or a decrease in oxidation state to an atom or molecule; typically, reaction with hydrogen. Contrast oxidation.

reduction potential: the tendency of a chemical species to acquire electrons, and thereby be reduced.

reductionism: the absurd idea that a complex dynamic phenomenon can be understood by analyzing and ascertaining its constituent elements. Reductionism requires that the something can never be more than the sum of its parts. Reductionists explain biological processes in the same way that chemists and physicists interpret inanimate matter. In adhering to empirical cause-and-effect, reductionism is a tool of matterism. See synergy. Contrast holism.

reference frame (aka frame of reference): an abstract coordinate system that encompasses location, orientation, and measurement.

reflection (physics): a change in direction for an energy wavefront between 2 different media so that the wavefront returns into the medium from which it originated. Contrast refraction.

refraction: energy wave deflection due to passing from one medium into another, each medium having a distinct velocity. Contrast reflection.

refractive index (aka index of refraction): a dimensionless number indicating the speed of light through a specific material. For instance, the refractive index of water is 1.333: light slows 1/3rd while traversing water (rather than vacuum). The refractive index determines by how much a light path is bent (refracted) when entering a certain material.

reionization: an epoch where the universe’s atomic matter reverted into ionized plasma.

relative permittivity (historically, dielectric constant): the relative resistance of a material to an electric field.

relativity (physics): the idea that there is an inertial reference frame. See general relativity, special relativity.

relativity of simultaneity: the idea that simultaneity is not absolute, instead depending upon an observer’s frame of reference. Different observers in relative motion to one another may legitimately disagree as to whether 2 events occurred simultaneously or one before the other.

religion: a belief system encompassing the nature of the universe and life, commonly belied by facts. Religions are frequently faith-based and typically dogmatic. Religions usually involve supernatural agents (gods). Compare natural philosophy. Contrast science.

renormalization: a mathematical technique to eradicate infinities from physics equations. As infinity is infinitely unwelcome, the erasure of renormalization is liberally applied as needed. Renormalization was initially viewed with suspicion, considered a provisional procedure, but eventually embraced as an acceptable adjunct. The use of renormalization illustrates the travesty of the physical models used in modern physics, which often provide elegant approximations at the expense of ignoring issues that infinities imply.

reprogramming (epigenetics): erasure and remodeling of epigenetic marks. Reprogramming is common during animal early development. Methylation is one reprogramming technique.

resistance (physics, chemistry): a measure of a material’s opposition to the flow of electric current; alternately, a measure of the force required to make a current flow through a material; measured in ohms.

resistor (chemistry): a material that resists to a measurable degree passage of electric charges. Contrast conductor.

resonance (physics): a periodic synchrony.

respiration (cellular): the metabolic processes and reactions that convert nutrients into ATP, with waste products released.

retrotransposon: (aka transposon via RNA intermediates): a genetic element that can amplify itself in a genome. Retrotransposons are considered a subclass of transposons.

retrovirus: a family of single-stranded RNA-enveloped viruses that replicate in a host cell via reverse transcription.

reverse transcriptase: a DNA enzyme that transcribes single-stranded RNA into single-stranded DNA.

reverse transcription: the process of creating a single-stranded DNA from an RNA template using reverse transcriptase.

reversion evolution (aka reverse evolution, re-evolution, de-evolution, devolution, backward evolution): evolutionary descent with an unmanifest ancestral trait reactivated (atavism).

rheid: a nominal solid at a temperature below melting point, deformed by viscous flow.

rheology: the geological science of matter flow.

rhizosphere: soil managed by plant roots via secretions. By contrast, bulk soil is outside the rhizosphere.

ribonucleoprotein (RNP): an RNA-binding protein and associated RNA. RNPs work as regulators in RNA metabolism, DNA replication, and gene expression.

ribose (C5H10O5): a simple sugar (monosaccharide), finding equilibrium in 5 forms.

ribosome: the cellular factory for synthesizing proteins from peptide pieces.

ribozyme: an RNA-based enzyme.

RNA (ribonucleic acid (C5H10O5; H–(C=O)–(CHOH)4–H)): a macromolecule comprising a long chain of nucleotides. RNA and DNA differ by their sugar (ribose versus deoxyribose (a ribose lacking an oxygen atom)). RNA and DNA also differ by 1 nucleobase: whereas RNA uses uracil (U), DNA employs thymine (T). See DNA.

RNA interference (RNAi): an epigenetic regulator of gene expression. RNAi limits gene expression. See miRNA.

RNA polymerase: an enzyme that unwinds a specific strand of DNA.

RNA splicing: editing precursor messenger RNA (mRNA) after transcription but before translation.

RNA world (abiogenesis): the hypothesis that life began with RNA-based replication.


saccharide: sugar (in any form); a sweet-tasting, water-soluble carbohydrate based on 1 ring of 4–5 carbon atoms and 1 oxygen atom.

Sagittarius (aka Carina–Sagittarius Arm): a minor spiral arm of the Milky Way. Sagittarius is also the constellation in which the core of the Milky Way lies (on its westernmost part).

salamander: an amphibian, typically characterized by a lizard-like appearance, with a short nose, slender body, and long tail. Salamanders have been around for 164 million years.

Salmonella: a genus of rod-shaped bacteria with 2 species, one of which is found in endothermic animals (and the environment), the other in ectothermic animals.

saturated fat: a fat molecule with only single bonds between carbon atoms. Contrast unsaturated fat.

Saturn: the 6th planet from the Sun; the 2nd largest in the solar system, behind Jupiter. Saturn is the least dense planet. Saturn is known for its lovely ring system, comprising 9 continuous main rings and 3 discontiguous arcs. The rings consist mostly of ice particles, with bits of rocky debris and dust. Saturn captured 62 satellites.

scalar: a quantity representable as a point on a scale.

scalar field (astrophysics): a hypothetical field independent of the spacetime reference frame. The Higgs field, a spin-zero quantum field, is a hypothesized scalar field. A scalar field is a mathematical construct for which no evidence exists of being actualized in Nature (including the Higgs field).

scale (mathematics, statistics, physics, economics): a relative size or dimensionality.

scale invariance: a feature in physical or mathematical systems of consistency regardless of the scale of the objects or energies in the system.

scar: an area of fibrous tissue replacing normal tissue, typically skin, after injury. A scar occurs as a natural part of wound repair.

Schrödinger’s equation: an equation describing how the quantum state of a physical system changes through time.

science: the study of Nature from a strictly empirical standpoint. William Whewell coined the term scientist in 1840. See scientific method. Contrast natural philosophy.

scientific method: a set of techniques for investigating phenomena and acquiring knowledge, ostensibly involving careful observation before guessing what is going on, which is known as forming a theory. Guessing prior to intensive observation is making a hypothesis.

sea: a large body of saltwater partly or wholly surrounded by land, not as deep as any ocean.

seagrass: a marine angiosperm that resembles grass, of ~60 species. Seagrasses descended from terrestrial grasses 75–100 million years ago.

second law of thermodynamics: see 2nd law of thermodynamics.

sedimentary (rock): a rock formed by cumulative material deposit. Compare igneous and metamorphic. See basement.

seismic wave: an energy wave traveling through the Earth.

self-energy: the contribution of energy or effective mass a subatomic particle makes in hd interactions. Both fermions and bosons possess self-energy.

self-organized criticality: a property of dynamic systems where a critical threshold (tipping point) exists that, when passed, sets off a substantial reaction.

semiconductor: a material with an electrical conductivity between that of a conductor and an insulator. Compare resistor.

senescence: biological aging; the process of accumulative dysfunction in cells, disrupting metabolism, resulting in deterioration and death. Senescence applies to an organism, organs, and individual cells.

serpentinization: oxidation and hydrolysis of low-silica rocks via heat and water.

sex chromosome: the chromosomes–termed X and Y–employed in sexual reproduction.

sexual reproduction: biological reproduction from 2 haploid cells. Contrast asexual reproduction.

shadow partner: see sparticle.

Shapley Supercluster (aka Shapley Concentration): the largest nearby concentration of galaxies, 650 million light-years away, in the constellation Centaurus. Named after its discoverer, Harlow Shapley. The Shapley Supercluster acts as a gravitationally attractive force to the Milky Way.

shared subjectivity: the principle that shared subjective perceptions creates an illusion of objectivity via showtivity.

shell (physics, chemistry): an electron orbital layer.

shell layering (physics, chemistry): layering of electron shells.

showtivity: the seeming objectivity of Nature via a shared experiential platform provided by Ĉonsciousness and coherence as an ordering principle for the perception of Nature.

SI: the International System of Units; the world standard for measurement since 1960, supplanting the metric system. SI is an abbreviation derived from the French (Le Système International d’unités).

side chain (often designated as R): a defining component of an amino acid, specific to the amino acid to which it belongs.

sigma bond: a covalent bond of electron valence shell sharing.

silica: silicon dioxide (SiO2). Silicate minerals make up 90% of Earth’s crust.

silicon (Si): the element with atomic number 14; a hard, brittle, crystalline solid with a blue-gray metallic luster.

single bond: a chemical (covalent) bond of sharing 1 pair of electrons. Compare double bond, triple bond.

singlet: a diradical with zero spin. Almost all everyday molecules are singlet. Molecular oxygen (O2) is an exception, existing in a triplet state. Contrast doublet and triplet.

sine wave (aka sinusoidal wave): a mathematical waveform with a smooth periodic oscillation measured by the distance between adjacent peaks or troughs (wavelength).

situs solitus: the anatomical position of organs.

slime mold: a protist that reproduces via zoospores.

Snell’s law (aka Snell-Descartes law, law of refraction): a formula describing the relation between angles of incidence and refraction for waves passing through a boundary of distinct isotropic media.

snow line (planetary): the astronomical line of a star system beyond which ice is deposited on planets.

social Darwinism: a term given to various societal theories that emerged in England and the US in the 1870s, which applied the Darwinian notion of “survival of the fittest” sociologically and politically. The term itself was coined in 1944 as a pejorative by those with a more peaceable mindset.

soil: the surface layer of Earth’s crust. Soil is the product of weathering rock, decomposed organic matter, and the cumulative activities of the biotic community. Soil layers are termed horizons. A cross-section of soil horizons is a soil profile. Soils differ among ecosystems.

Soils are classified as young, mature, or old. A young soil accumulates organic matter, hence continues to develop a profile. Mature soil holds its own, and so has a static profile. Old soil loses material; nutrients are leached away. Old soil’s horizon diminishes.

solar (astronomy): relating to the Sun.

solar flare: a sudden flash of light from the Sun. Compare coronal mass ejection.

solar maximum: the period of greatest solar activity in the Sun’s solar cycle.

solar system: the matter that swirls around the Sun, the formation of which began with the collapse of a giant molecular cloud 4.6 BYA. The largest bodies orbiting the Sun are planets.

solar wind: the constant, fluxing flow of particulate released from the Sun’s atmosphere.

solid: a substance with structural rigidity. Crystals and glasses are solids. Contrast fluid.

solid-state physics: the study of solids, particularly how solids at the macro scale result from their atomic-scale properties.

soliton (aka solitary wave): a self-reinforcing solitary wave that maintains its shape as it travels through a medium at a constant speed.

soluble: capable of being dissolved or liquified.

Solvay Conference: a series of conferences for physicists, held in Brussels. The first was held in 1911. The most famous was the 5th conference, in October 1927, where the newly formulated quantum theory was discussed.

solvent: a substance that dissolves another substance, resulting in a solution.

soma (somatic cell): a cell forming the body of a multicellular eukaryote. Contrast germline.

sound (physics): an audible, mechanical vibration that propagates as a wave of pressure through a medium.

space: a boundless, non-Euclidean extent as filler for celestial bodies, which are invariably in motion.

spacetime: a treatment of space and time via unified dimensionality.

sparticle (aka shadow partner or superpartner): a shadow partner particle under unbroken supersymmetry. Sparticles are hypothetical.

special relativity: a physical theory of measurement proposed by Albert Einstein in 1905 and since validated empirically: that the speed of light provides an inertial frame of reference. Special relativity has numerous consequences beyond uniform motion being relative, including relativity of simultaneity, time dilation, and length contraction. See relativity, general relativity.

speciation: the process of species formation.

species (biology): a physically or genetically distinct population of organisms.

species (chemistry): chemically identical molecular entities with distinct interaction characteristics, typified by different ionization or lack thereof.

specific heat capacity: heat capacity per unit mass.

spectral line: a discontiguity in an otherwise uniform and continuous electromagnetic spectrum, caused by emission or absorption of light in a narrow frequency range.

spectrum (plural: spectra, spectrums): an array of distinguished components of a wave or emission. Discriminative characteristics of a spectrum include wavelength, energy, or mass.

speed: the distance something travels every unit of time. Compare velocity.

sperm: a male reproductive cell. Compare egg.

spicule (solar physics): a dynamic energy jet in the chromosphere of the Sun.

spin (quantum physics): the mathematically hypothesized internal rotation of a subatomic particle; a form of intrinsic angular momentum. Each particle type has specific spin. In quantum physics’ Standard Model, only the Higgs boson is presumed without spin.

spirit plane: the dimensions where extra-dimensional (ed) life resides.

spirochete: a phylum of double-membraned bacteria.

spontaneous emission: the process where an atom or molecule transitions from an excited state to one with a lower energy, emitting a photon as an indication.

spontaneous symmetry breaking (SSB): a mathematical concept where the manifestation of a symmetrical system shows a tangible result, which breaks symmetry merely by actualizing. The system may remain symmetrical (hidden symmetry), but its outputs never are, as symmetry has to be broken for any manifestation.

“spooky action at a distance”: Albert Einstein’s dismissive term for entanglement.

spore: a desiccated microbe in hibernation, able to remain dormant and survive adverse conditions, such as cold, heat and radiation. Spores are produced via sporulation.

sporophyte: the diploid, spore-producing phase of plants and algae that undergo alternation of generations. Compare gametophyte.

spreading ridge: a mid-ocean ridge with a growing rift along its spine, formed by 2 tectonic plates; an underwater divergent plate boundary.

standard cosmological model: See ΛCDM.

Standard Model (quantum physics): a quantum field theory focused on theorized fundamental subatomic quanta and their interactions. The Standard Model is known to be incomplete.

star: a massive, luminous sphere of plasma held together by gravity.

Stark shift (aka Stark effect): the effect from an external static electrical field shifting and splitting the spectral lines of atoms and molecules. Named after Johannes Stark, who discovered the effect in 1913. The Stark effect is the electrical analogue of the magnetic Zeeman effect.

starquake: an irregularity in the energetic pulse of a pulsar.

stationary critical state: a state that is stable in a system characterized by self-organized criticality, but on the edge of a critical point to instability.

statistical mechanics: the study of the average behaviors in a mechanical system where the system is uncertain; a branch of theoretical physics using probability theory. Modeling irreversible processes driven by imbalances is non-equilibrium statistical mechanics. Such processes include chemical reactions, thermodynamics, and particle flows.

stem cell: an undifferentiated cell which can differentiate into a specialized cell. Stem cells can divide via mitosis to produce more stem cells. Stem cells are the basis for multicellular organism growth, with differentiation into somatic cells that form tissues with specialized functions. In mature organisms, stem cells serve to maintain and repair tissue in their vicinity. See germline cell.

sterile neutrino: a neutrino not interacting with the weak force.

steroid: an organic compound characterized by 4 joined cycloalkane rings with 17 carbon atoms. Eukaryotic cells manufacture steroids for various functions.

sterol (aka steroid alcohol): a subgroup of steroids, naturally occurring in the cell membranes of fungi, plants, and animals.

stochastic: probabilistic; appearing random (though nothing is).

stopping power (physics): the retarding force acting upon charged particles from interaction with matter, resulting in loss of energy.

stratum corneum: the outermost layer of the skin (epidermis), comprising (in humans) 15–20 layers of flattened dead cells (corneocytes).

Streptococcus: a genus of spherical bacteria. Streptococcus pyogenes, a usually pathogenic bacterium found on human skin, was the basis for the Cas9 enzyme used in gene editing.

stress (biology): a negative influence on well-being. Stress may be received psychologically or physically, but its effect is holistic.

string (physics): a 1-dimensional subatomic particle under string theory.

string theory: a theoretical attempt to reconcile quantum field theory with general relativity, characterizing quanta by their vibrational quality.

strong force: as described by quantum chromodynamics, the force binding quarks and antiquarks to make hadrons, as well the nuclear force gripping protons and neutrons together in atomic nuclei. Compare weak force.

subduction: the process of a tectonic plate moving under another; a convergent tectonic boundary.

subduction plate: a tectonic plate undergoing subduction.

subjectivity: the idea that manifestation is necessarily an experience of individual consciousness. Contrast objectivity.

sublimation (chemistry): the transition of a substance directly from solid to gas without entering an intermediate liquid phase. Sublimation is an endothermic phase transition occurring at pressures and temperatures below a substance’s triple point. The inverse process of sublimation is deposition.

substrate (chemistry): a molecule used as a foundation for building a more complex molecule.

sulfur (S): the element with atomic number 16; an abundant, multivalent non-metal. Sulfur can react as either a reductant or oxidant. As an organic compound (organosulfur), sulfur is widely employed in biological processes, playing a key role in many enzymes. Sulfur is a component in all proteins.

Sun: the star at the center of the solar system, with a diameter of 1,392,000 km.

sunspot: a temporary phenomenon on the photosphere of the Sun that visibly appears as a dark spot.

supercluster (cosmology): a group of smaller galaxy clusters; the largest known cosmic structure.

superconductivity: zero electrical resistance, resulting from electrons overcoming their mutual repulsion and pairing up, creating a coherent, frictionless flow.

supercontinent: a landmass comprising multiple continental cores. Supercontinents in Earth’s history include: Vaalbara (3.1–2.8 BYA), Kenorland (2.7–2.5 BYA), Nuna (1.9–1.5 BYA), Rodina (1.1 BYA–750 MYA), and Pangaea (300–200 MYA).

supercritical: a substance at a temperature and pressure above its critical point: the point at which no phase boundaries exist.

superfluid: a matter phase of flowing without friction, via zero viscosity and zero entropy. Helium-4 becomes a superfluid at cooler than 2.17 Kelvin.

supergene: the idea that a group of genes are inherited as an integral unit because of close genetic linkage. While specific to neighboring genes on a chromosome, the concept of supergene also encapsulates the idea of genetic heredity for related traits.

superinsulator: a medium that absolutely resists electrical conductivity. Contrast superconductivity.

superluminal: faster than light speed.

supernova (plural: supernovae or supernovas): a large star in its final death throe, which manifests as a massive explosion of energy and matter.

superposition (quantum physics): a fundamental principle of quantum mechanics that a physical system has all its potentialities (all theoretically possible states) until perceived (measured). Superposition is the assumption that existence itself is emergent.

supersolid: a spatially ordered material with superfluid properties.

superstring theory: a theory integrating fermions into string theory, with supersymmetry tagging along.

supersymmetry (SUSY): a unifying field hypothesis for fermions and bosons, bringing together all quantum particles as components of a single master superfield. SUSY lacks essential evidentiary foundation, as requisite partner particles have not been found.

surface tension: a property of the surface of a substance that allows it to resist an external force. Surface tension in a crystal arises from stretching interatomic bonds, whereas liquid surface tension is more about the extra atoms introduced when spreading out in increased surface area.

symbiont: an organism that lives symbiotically with a host.

symbiosis: 2 dissimilar organisms living together, typically in a mutually beneficial association (mutualism).

symmetry: a theoretical situation for a mathematical object, where performing an operation on the object does not alter it. A circle has rotational symmetry, in that a circle is unchanged by rotation. Physicists often see symmetry in their physical models.

sympatric speciation: speciation of a subpopulation when not separated from the population, as contrasted to allopatric speciation.

symplectic (mathematics): woven together. Symplectic variables are interdependent.

synergy: an interaction of elements which, in combination, produces a total effect greater than the sum of individual contributions. Contrast reductionism.

synthesize: to form (a material or abstraction) by combining parts or elements. Contrast analyze.

system: an assemblage of interdependent or interacting constituent concepts that form a whole.

systems biology: modeling of complex biologist systems, focused on interactions.


T-cell: an adaptive immune system cell in mammals.

tachyon: a hypothetical particle with imaginary mass that always travels faster than light.

tantalum (Ta): the element with atomic number 73; a hard, blue-gray, lustrous transition metal that is extremely corrosion-resistant.

tectonics: processes related to the movement and deformation of Earth’s crust, notably the roving of tectonic plates.

tectonic plate: a sizable chunk of Earth’s crust, capable of movement.

teleology (evolutionary biology): the theory that adaptation is goal oriented.

teleology (philosophy): the doctrine that final causes (ends or purposes) exist.

telomerase (aka terminal transferase): a ribonucleoprotein responsible for telomere maintenance. An enzymatic subunit–telomerase reverse transcriptase–endeavors to refurbish a telomere after cell division.

telomere: a protective region of repetitive nucleotide sequences at each end of a chromosome copy.

telophase: the stage during cell division where 2 daughter nuclei form. The outcome of telophase, after cytokinesis, is 2 daughter cells. See interphase, prophase, metaphase, anaphase.

tensor: a geometric object describing linear relations between other geometric entities (vectors, scalars, tensors). A tensor is a geometric entity entangled with other tensors. See tensor network.

tensor network: a network of tensors.

tetrahedron: a polyhedron with 4 faces.

tetraquark: a hadron with 4 quarks, particularly 2 quarks and 2 antiquarks. Tetraquarks are not accounted for in quantum physics’ standard quark model. Hadrons, such as baryons, are made of 3 quarks.

tetraterpenoid: a molecule with a skeleton of 40 carbon atoms.

theory: fact-based explanation about the relations between concepts. See physical theory.

The truth of a theory can never be proven, for one never knows if future experience will contradict its conclusions. ~ Albert Einstein

Theory of Everything: the holy-grail physics theory that explains all (known) phenomena.

thermalization (physics): the process of a system reaching thermal equilibrium via an equipartition of energy that maximizes the system’s entropy.

thermoacidophile: an organism that prefers a habitat with temperatures of 70–80 °C and a pH of 2–3; a combination of acidophile and thermophile.

thermodynamic system: a spatial region considered a self-contained system, characterized by certain characteristics, including temperature, pressure, entropy, and internal energy.

thermodynamics: the branch of physics concerned with the dynamics of heat and temperature and their relation to energy and work.

thermophile: an organism that can survive a 60 °C or even hotter habitat.

thymine (T) (C5H6N2O2): a DNA nucleobase. Thymine is complementary to adenine. In RNA, thymine is replaced by uracil.

tidal friction: an effect of tidal forces between an orbiting natural satellite (e.g., the Moon), and the primary planet that it orbits (e.g., Earth).

tidal heating (aka tidal working): orbital and rotational energy dissipated as heat in planetary bodies through the tidal friction process.

tidal locking (aka gravitational locking, captured rotation): a gravitational process whereby one astronomical body always faces another, such as the Moon always facing Earth. Tidal lock is the eventual outcome of tidal friction.

time: the idea that there is a temporal vector comprising past, present, and future.

time dilation: that concept that time itself is relative to the relative motion of an observer.

titanium (Ti): the element with the autonomic number 22; a silvery, lustrous metal.

tonne: a metric ton (1.102 US (short) tons).

topology: the mathematical study of space. Topology is not constrained to 3d except that the human mind is ill-equipped to envision 4d (or higher) spatial dimensions.

torsional angle: the angle between 2 planes.

trachea: channels in an animal respiratory system.

tracheophyte: a vascular plant.

trait (biology): an organitypic feature of form and/or function; from an evolutionary perspective, a distinct variant of phenotype, mentotype, or envirotype.

transcendence: the state of consciousness where the body is in repose but receptive to stimuli, while the mind is quiet.

transcription (genetics): the process of producing an RNA copy from a DNA sequence. Transcription is an early, major stage of DNA expression.

transcription factor: a protein that controls the flow of genetic information during transcription.

transcription unit: an RNA copy of a DNA sequence which encodes at least 1 gene. If a transcribed gene encodes a protein, the transcription unit is messenger RNA. Otherwise, the transcription unit may encode various other products: a noncoding RNA gene (such as microRNA), ribosomal RNA, a component used in protein assembly, or a ribozyme.

transfer RNA (tRNA): an adapter for bridging the 4-letter genetic code in messenger RNA with the 20-letter code of amino acids; used for protein synthesis.

transistor: a semiconductor device used to switch or amplify electronic signals and electrical power.

translation (genetics): a later stage of gene expression as part of protein biosynthesis, after transcription. Translation transpires in a ribosome.

translocation (genetics): untoward relocation of DNA sequences.

transmember protein: a protein which can travel through a cell membrane.

transmutation (chemistry): change of one element into another.

transporter: a protein within a cell membrane that shuttles material in and/or out of a cell.

transposable element: a transposon or retrotransposon.

transposon: a DNA sequence which can change its position within a genome (typically by placing a copy elsewhere).

transvection (epigenetics): gene activation or repression resulting from allele interactions on homologous chromosomes.

Treponema pallidum: a spirochaete bacterium with subspecies that cause treponemal diseases, including syphilis, bejel, pinta, and yaws.

triglyceride: a fat common in organisms; technically, an ester derived from glycerol and 3 fatty acids.

triple-α process: the process of forming carbon-12 from 3 helium-4 atoms, owing to nuclear clustering.

triple bond: a chemical (covalent) bond of sharing 3 pairs of electrons. Compare single bond and double bond.

triple point: the temperature and pressure at which a specific molecular structure coexists in the 3 phases: gas, liquid, and solid.

triplet (chemistry): a diradical with a spin = 1. O2 at room temperature exists in a triplet state. Contrast singlet and doublet.

Triton: Neptune’s largest moon; the 7th largest moon in the solar system.

trivalent: an element with a chemical valence of 3.

troposphere: the atmospheric layer of life: the lowest portion of Earth’s atmosphere. The troposphere extends from the Earth’s surface 7–20 km up, depending upon location and season.

TRPA (an acronym for: transient receptor potential ankyrin): a protein which acts as a cell stress sensor and pain initiator in animals.

tubulin: one of several members of a family of globular proteins, comprising 5 subfamilies. The most common tubulins–α-tubulin and β-tubulin–make up microtubules. Tubulins are instrumental in deriving cell organization and organ placement in organisms.


ubit (universal quantum bit): an essential adjunct to the real-vector-space quantum model proposed by William Wootters.

ultrarelativistic: very close to the speed of light.

ultraviolet: the 10–400 nm band of the electromagnetic spectrum, shorter than visible light but longer than X-rays.

ultraviolet radiation (UVR): electromagnetic radiation at a wavelength between 10–400 nanometers.

unbroken supersymmetry: a variant of supersymmetry wherein each fermion flavor has a boson shadow and vice versa.

uncertainty principle: the principle that subatomic quanta are inherently probabilistic in their activity: a measurement may yield only an approximation of either a quantum’s position or its momentum, but not both simultaneously; an intrinsic property of Nature, not a measurement incapacity; proposed by Werner Heisenberg in 1926 and controversial ever since.

undulipodium (plural: undulipodia): a filamentous, motile, extracellular projection from a eukaryotic cell. See cilium, flagellum.

univalent (aka monovalent) (chemistry): have a valence of 1.

universal common ancestor: the idea that life arose from a single life form.

universal law (physics): a proven axiom about a relationship between matter and energy.

universe (aka cosmos): a presumed self-contained repository of energy – a characterization for which there is no evidence, and which quantum theory disclaims. This universe has ~4 trillion galaxies – half are light (with visible stars), half dark.

unsaturated fat: a molecule of fat with 1 or more double bonds between carbon atoms. A fat molecule with only 1 double bond is monounsaturated. Molecules of fat with more than 1 double bond are polyunsaturated. Contrast saturated fat.

uracil (U) (C4H4N2O2): a nucleobase of RNA. Uracil is complementary to adenine. In DNA, uracil is replaced by thymine.

Uranus: the 7th planet from the Sun, and the lightest.

urea (CO(NH2)2 aka carbamide): a colorless, odorless, highly soluble, organic solid, crucial for animals to metabolize nitrogen-containing substances.


Vaalbara (3.1–2.8 BYA): the 1st known supercontinent.

vacuole: the organelle in cells responsible for autophagy.

vacuum: the idea of empty space. Vacuum has been shown not to exist at the quantum level. See vacuum energy.

vacuum energy: the underlying energy of 4d empty space. That vacuum has expressed energy shows that vacuum is a misnomer. Vacuum energy is the ground state from which 4d virtual particles arise. Vacuum energy is an hd phenomenon.

vacuum polarization (quantum electrodynamics): the process in which a background electromagnetic field produces virtual electron–positron pairs that alter the distribution of charges and currents that generated the original electromagnetic field.

valence (chemistry): the number of electrons involved in forming covalent bonds with an element. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry defines valence as: “the maximum number of univalent atoms that may combine with the atom.” Nitrogen has 5 electrons in its outer shell, and so has a valence of 3 (to complete a stable outer shell of 8): hence nitrogen is nominally trivalent.

valence shell: the outermost shell of an atom.

Van Allen belts: radiation belts emanating from Earth’s magnetic field, in the inner region of Earth’s magnetosphere.

van der Waals interaction: the net sum of attractive or repulsive forces between atoms other than those owing to covalent bonds, electrostatic interaction between ions, or with neutral atoms. The van der Waals interaction is between 2 dipoles; either instantaneously induced (London dispersion force), permanent dipoles (Keesom force), or a permanent dipole and an induced one (Debye force). Relative to covalent and ionic bonding, the attractive power of the van der Waals interaction is subtle; caused by correlations in the fluctuating polarizations of nearby particles. The van der Waals force is an hd interaction: a consequence of quantum dynamics in rapidly fluctuating polarizations among proximate particles. Named after Johannes van der Waals for his work characterizing the behavior of gases, and their condensation to a liquid phase. van der Waals interaction was discovered by Fritz London in 1930.

variational principle: a scientific principle using small changes (variations) to mathematically model. The calculus of variations is used to find minima and maxima of functionals: mapping sets of functions to real numbers.

vascular: a life form with vessels to carry fluids; commonly used to identify land plants which are vascular (aka tracheophytes).

vector: a quantity of both magnitude and direction.

vegetative reproduction (aka vegetative propagation, vegetative cloning, vegetative multiplication): any one of several ways that plants asexually propagate without spores or seeds. Herbaceous and woody perennial plants often practice vegetative propagation.

velocity: speed in a certain direction.

Venus: the 2nd planet from the Sun. Venus has the densest atmosphere of all terrestrial planets in the solar system, comprising mostly carbon dioxide, with an atmospheric pressure 92 times that of Earth.

vernalization: the need for an angiosperm to have a prolonged cold period (winter) before being able to flower.

vertebrate: an animal with a backbone and spinal column. Contrast invertebrate.

vertical gene transfer: hereditary genetic transmission from one cell generation to the next. Contrast horizontal gene transfer.

vesicle: a membrane-encased bubble within a cell.

vibration: a periodic oscillation about an equilibrium.

vibronic: related to changes in energy levels associated with the vibrational motion of molecules.

virial: the kinetic energy inherent in a system with gravitational bodies.

virion: a virus particle.

virtual particle: a hypothesized hd quantum that significantly affects the properties of 4d quanta. Virtual particles supposedly pop in and out of 4d as a manifestation of vacuum energy: a phase shift in appearance between 4d and ed. See ghost field.

virus: an obligate parasite that infects cells of all types of organisms; a domain of life, alongside archaea and bacteria.

vis viva (from the Latin for living force): the concept of kinetic energy as proposed by Gottfried Leibniz 1676–1689.

viscous dissipation: heat spreading through a viscous substance.

viscoelasticity: the property of materials which exhibit both viscosity and elasticity. When stressed, viscous materials resist strain and shear flow. Elastic materials bounce back to their original state when unstressed.

viscosity: the resistance of a fluid to flowing.

visual morphology: identification by appearance; used to classify galaxies.

vitamin: an organic compound needed by an organism as a vital nutrient, albeit in minute amounts.

vitamin E: a group of 8 fat-soluble compounds, found in plant oils and the leaves of green vegetables. Vitamin E is an antioxidant: stopping ROS production when fat undergoes oxidation.

volcano: a rupture in Earth’s surface that affords the flow of hot magma, gases, and ash to escape from below into the atmosphere. Volcanoes are commonly caused by divergent tectonic plates pulling apart.

voltage: a measure of the force that is pushing a current through a material, measured in volts.


W boson: an electrically charged massive subatomic particle; carrier of a form of the weak force; sibling of the Z boson.

wasp: a flying insect of well over 100,000 species, found on every continent except polar regions. Most wasps are parasites or parasitoids as larvae, feeding on nectar only as adults. Many wasps are predatory, feeding their larvae other insects (often paralyzed). Wasp sociality varies by species, from solitary to social.

water (H2O): the elixir of life; an odd polar molecule like no other.

water cycle (aka hydrological cycle): the cycling of water in the biosphere.

water flea (aka Cladocera): a small crustacean of 620 known species, though many more exist. Water fleas are ubiquitous in inland aquatic habitats, but rare in oceans.

wave (physics): a mathematical characterization of a field. Contrast particle.

wave/particle duality: the notion that an object simultaneously possesses the properties of a wave and a particle.

wavefront (physics): the locus of a propagating energy wave.

wavelength: the spatial period of a sine wave; commonly used as a statistical measure of the energy of a waveform, which is mathematically the product of a wave’s frequency and amplitude.

weak force: the bosonic nuclear force that transforms matter from one variety of into another and causes matter to decay; hypothetically transmitted by the W or Z boson. Contrast strong force.

weight: the force, measured in newtons, that gravitation exerts upon an object, equal to the mass (m) of the object times the local acceleration of gravity (g): W = m x g. In a region of constant gravitational acceleration, weight is commonly taken as a measure of mass; hence the easy confusion between the two.

wet (chemistry): competitive interphase bonding.

wettability (chemistry): how wet something can be; the ability of a liquid to maintain contact with a solid surface, as an outcome of the intensity of intermolecular interactions.

Weyl fermion: a massless, but charged, fermion; named after Hermann Weyl. Compare Dirac fermion, Majorana fermion.

white dwarf: a high-density star, burned to the nub: a ball of mostly carbon and oxygen.

work (physics): energy in transit; the result of an energetic force applied to matter.

wormhole: a shortcut in spacetime, allowing entanglement.


X inactivation (aka lyonization): the process in which 1 of 2 copies of the X chromosome in female mammals is inactivated.

X chromosome: one of the sex-determining chromosomes in mammals and some other organisms. The other sex-determining chromosome is termed Y.

X-ray: electromagnetic radiation at a wavelength of 0.01–10 nm.

xerophile: an organism that lives in an extremely dry habitat.


YA: years ago.

yarn (genetics): a related group of genes and the regulatory elements necessary for gene activity in a chromosome.

yeast: a eukaryotic microorganism classified in the fungus kingdom. There are ~1,500 known species of yeast. Yeast are famous for brewing beer and making bread rise.

yin-yang: the dynamic balance of order (coherence) in Nature; an essential concept in Chinese philosophy, dating to the 14th century bce or even earlier.

yttrium (Y): the element with the atomic number 39; a slivery metal.


Z boson: an electrically neutral massive subatomic particle; carrier of a form of the weak force; sibling of the W boson.

Zeeman effect: the effect from an external static magnetic field splitting the spectral lines of atoms and molecules. Named after Pieter Zeeman, who discovered the effect in 1896.

Zeno effect (aka Turing paradox): a static quantum state created by continuous observation.

zero-point energy: the lowest energy a particle can have when confined to a finite region of space.

zeroth law of thermodynamics: see 0th law of thermodynamics.

zoonosis: an infectious animal disease that can be transmitted to humans. Most human diseases originated in other animals but only diseases that routinely involve transmission between other animals to humans are considered zoonosis. When humans infect other animals, the term used is reverse zoonosis or anthroponosis.

zygote: a cell formed by the union of 2 gametes (male & female).

Zyklon B: the trade name of a cyanide-based pesticide invented by Fritz Haber in the early 1920s, comprising hydrogen cyanide (HCN) (prussic acid), and an adsorbent, such as diatomaceous earth.