The Fruits of Civilization (90) Glossary


~ : approximately.


2,4–D (2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid: C8H6Cl2O3): an herbicide.

3-age system: an archeological sequential periodization of human prehistory and early history, comprising the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age.

3PAR (1999–2010): American computer data storage and cloud computing company.

7 Years’ War (1756–1763): the largest-scale European war since the 30 Years’ War in the 17th century, involving every great power of the time except the Ottoman Empire. There were 2 coalitions: one led by Great Britain, the other France. France lost, and thereby Britain gained the bulk of French colonies in the New World, as well as colonies in Africa, and superior trading outposts on the Indian subcontinent.

30 Years’ War (1618–1648): a series of wars principally waged in Central Europe; one of the longest and most destructive wars in modern history.

80 Years’ War (1568–1648): the Dutch war of independence from Spain.

100 Years’ War (1337–1453): an intermittent series of conflicts between England and France for control of France. The struggle involved several generations of English and French claimants to the crown of France.


abacus (plural: abaci or abacuses) (aka counting frame): a mechanical calculating tool, invented ~2700 bce by the Sumerians. An abacus user is an abacist.

abiogenesis: the study of how life arose.

Adelphia (1952–2002): American cable TV company which went under from management fraud.

Adobe Systems (1982–): an American software company that historically focused on multimedia and creativity software products.

adverse selection: an economic transaction with inherent risk, due to asymmetric information between buyer and seller.

aeolipile (aka Hero engine): a simple bladeless radial steam turbine which spins when its water container is steamed up; invented by Hero of Alexandria.

aerobic: living with oxygen. Contrast anaerobic.

Age of Discovery: see Age of Imperialism.

Age of Enlightenment (aka Age of Reason): a cultural movement of intellectuals in the 17th–18th centuries, which began in Europe and later spread to the American colonies. Its purpose was to advance knowledge through the scientific method, reform society via reason, forsaking notions grounded in faith and tradition. To Enlightenment thinkers, the old ways were definitely not the best. Originating in the last half of the 17th century, Enlightenment was sparked by Baruch Spinoza, John Locke, Pierre Bayle, Isaac Newton, and Voltaire. The term Enlightenment was not used in English until the mid-18th century; inspired by Immanuel Kant’s 1784 essay “Answering the Question: What is Enlightenment?” Scholars often cite the 1789 French Revolution as chopping the head off Enlightenment. But Enlightenment’s ideas carried on, by tradition and faith in its virtue. The Scientific Revolution was engendered concomitant with Enlightenment. The reaction to the Age of Reason was Romanticism.

Age of Imperialism (aka Age of Discovery): a loose term for the period–from the onset of the 15th century to the end of the 18th–that Europeans came to comprehend the vastness of Earth through naval exploration, and to conquer and colonize foreign lands.

agency cost: that an agent, ostensibly acting on behalf of a principal, does not pursue the principal’s best interest.

agriculture: the cultivation of one life form by another.

AI: see artificial intelligence.

Airbus (1970–): multinational European aerospace company.

albedo: the ratio of light reflected by an object to that received.

alga (plural: algae): a eukaryotic protist that photosynthesizes via chloroplasts. Algae are usually unicellular or colonial.

ALGOL (an acronym for ALGOrithmic Language): the first structured programming language. Edsger Dijksta originated ALGOL 60 in 1960. Its predecessor–ALGOL 58–lacked several key structured programming concepts.

alkane: a hydrocarbon bonded exclusively by single bonds.

Allāh: the Islamic God.

alligator: a freshwater crocodilian.

aloe vera: a tropical succulent plant valued for its soothing medicinal effects. Scientific evidence of the medicinal benefits of aloe vera is spotty, yet aloe vera is a popular ingredient in skin creams and is touted for its healing properties when ingested as well, despite concerns about toxicity.

Altair (MITS Altair 8800): a 1975 microcomputer based upon the Intel 8080 CPU. The Altair is considered the spark that ignited the microcomputer revolution.

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. (1994–): an American online bookseller that became the world’s largest online vendor.

America Online (AOL): an American Internet access portal company in the 1990s that deflated after the dot-com bubble burst.

American Revolutionary War (aka American War of Independence) (1775–1783): The war by the confederation of states (now the United States) that successfully rebelled against its colonial master, Great Britain, thanks to intervention by France, which was smarting for revenge after its defeat in the 7 Years’ War.

Amsterdam: the capital of the Netherlands, founded in the mid-13th century; long one of Europe’s principal trading centers.

anaerobic: living without oxygen. Contrast aerobic.

Anatolia (aka Asia Minor): the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising most of modern-day Turkey. Anatolia is bounded by the Black Sea to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the south and the Aegean Sea to the west. The eastern border of Anatolia was a line between the Gulf of Alexandretta and the Black Sea, east of the Armenian highlands.

Android (software): a mobile device OS by Google, built from the Linux kernel 2003–2007.

angiosperm: a flowering plant. Over 254,000 species are extant.

Anglicanism: a Christian denomination practiced by the Church of England, which became independent of the Catholic Church in 1558, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

anoxic: oxygen depleted.

Antarctica: Earth’s southernmost continent, 14 million km2, the 5th largest continent. Antarctica is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent, as well as averaging the highest elevation.

anthracnose: a group of fungal diseases that afflict plants in warm, humid areas. Anthracnose causes plant tissues to wilt, wither, and die. Severity depends on both the specific fungus and the infected species and can range from mere unsightliness to death. Shade trees are especially susceptible, though the disease is found in many flowering plants, including grasses.

anthropoid: a monkey or ape. Compare hominid.

anthropology: the study of human cultures and societies.

antitrust: opposition to business market-power concentration (against oligopolization and monopolization).

Apache Corporation (1954–): American petroleum extracter.

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

Apollo 11: the US spaceflight that first landed humans on the Moon on 20 July 1969, which was broadcast live on TV worldwide. Stepping onto the lunar surface, astronaut Neil Armstrong declared: “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Appalachian Mountains: a mountain range system in eastern North America. The mountains formed ~480 million years ago. The Appalachians once reached the elevations of the Alps and Rocky Mountains before erosion took its toll.

Apple Computer (1976–): an American computer company founded by Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, and Ronald Wayne, to develop and sell Wozniak’s Apple I personal computer. Borrowing heavily from innovations out of Xerox PARC (Xerox’s research design center), Apple changed the computing world with its Macintosh, which sported the first graphical user interface (GUI) in an affordable computer. Apple has never been able to overcome Microsoft’s dominance in desktop computers but did best its rival in portable computing devices (music players and mobile phones).

application (software): a software program that performs data processing for a user. Compare operating system.

Arab: a panethnic group whose native language is Arabic.

archaea: a domain (and kingdom) of prokaryotes, from which eukaryotes arose. Eminently social, archaea may account for 20% of Earth’s biomass.

Arctic: the northern polar region, comprising a vast frozen ocean which is rapidly thawing.

Arithmometer (aka Arithmomètre): the first digital mechanical calculator dependable enough for office use; patented by Charles Xavier Thomas de Colmar in 1820.

argon (Ar): the element with atomic number 18; a noble gas that is the 3rd-most-common gas in Earth’s atmosphere.

armillary: comprising hoops or rings.

ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency) (1952–): the US government agency responsible for the development of emerging technologies. The name of the organization has oscillated over the years between ARPA and DARPA (D for Defense) and has been DARPA since 1996. Many computer and software technologies were developed under ARPA largesse; an indicator of failure by the private sector, as capitalism sphincters perspective to short-termism, and has no interest in technologies which have communal application without the obvious prospect of profit.

arpanet (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) (1969–1990): a network created by the US Defense Department that birthed the Internet.

arsenic (As): the element with atomic number 33; a notoriously toxic metalloid.

arsine (AsH3): a flammable, highly toxic gas used in semiconductor manufacture.

artificial intelligence (AI): a likeness of intelligence exhibited by a computer.

assembly (computer language): a low-level processor-specific language that translates directly to machine code via an assembler.

asset (finance): an economic resource, though financial accounting does not count human resources as assets. Contrast liability.

AT&T (American Telephone and Telegraph): a legal entity founded in 1874 to protect the patent rights of Alexander Graham Bell, who invented the telephone system. AT&T became the Bell Telephone Company in 1875. Throughout most of the 20th century, AT&T held a monopoly on phone service in the US and Canada. The company was nicknamed Ma Bell. In 1974, the US Justice Department filed suit against AT&T for violating antitrust laws. In 1982, AT&T settled the case by agreeing to split itself into 7 regional companies, commonly known as Baby Bells. Phone service quality declined from that time. Telephone service is an excellent example of a natural monopoly, which is best managed as a regulated utility. The US government’s antitrust suit was counterproductive to the country’s economic interest.

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.

Audi (1932–): German automobile maker.

autocracy: an absolutist government ruled by a single person.

automation: the process of labor saving by mechanical means.


B: a typeless programming language by Ken Thompson in 1969, based on BCPL.

Babcock & Wilcox (1867–): American industrial equipment maker.

Bacillus thuringiensis (aka Bt): a soil-dwelling bacterium that produces crystal proteins, some of which have insecticidal action.

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

Bakelite (1910–): American plastics company, founded by Leo Baekeland.

Bangladesh: a country in south Asia bordered by India to the west and Myanmar to the east. Mostly located on the flood plain of the Ganges river, Bangladesh is the most densely populated nation in the world – 168 million (2019) in 147,570 km2.

baobab (Adansonia): a large, long-lived deciduous tree endemic to arid biomes in Africa, Madagascar, and Australia.

Barbados: a 432 km2 island nation in the Lesser Antilles (Caribbean) island chain.

barilla: salt-tolerant (halophyte) plants that, until the 19th century, were a primary source of soda ash.

base load: an electricity-generating power station intended for constant operation to meet minimum demand (base-load requirement). Owing to fuel cost and plant operating characteristics, coal and nuclear plants meet base-load demand. Intermediate-load plants meet requirements above minimum. Peak load are facilities for times of greatest electricity consumption (peak demand), typically late afternoon weekdays.

Basic (computer language) (1964–): a simplified offshoot of Fortran, designed for ease of use, but with the same code-maintenance problems as Fortran.

bce (acronym for Before the Common Era): a semi-secular alternative designation for the calendar scheme introduced by Dionysius Exiguus, who respectively used bc (before Christ) and ad (anno Domini) to indicate times before and after the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Year zero is unused in both systems. Dates before 1 ce (common era) are indicated as bce. ce dates are typically not denoted.

BCPL (an acronym for Basic Combined Programming Language): a programming language originally intended for writing compilers, designed by Martin Richards in 1966.

bear market: an American colloquialism for a market trend of general decline in stock prices. The term dates from a 17th-century proverb that it was unwise “to sell the bear’s skin before one has caught the bear.” By the 18th century, the term “bear skin” was shortened to “bear market.” Contrast bull market.

Bear Sterns (1923–2008): an American investment bank that failed when the mortgage securities bubble burst in 2008, whereupon Bear Sterns was scooped up on the cheap by JP Morgan Chase.

behavior (software) (aka procedure call, routine, function, method, message): software which performs a certain action by using data.

behavioral economics: the study of the effects of mentation on economic decisions.

belief: a habit of the mind to axiomatically treat ideas as true; confidence in abstractions as real.

Bell Labs: the research facilities of Bell Telephone, founded by Alexander Graham Bell in 1889. See AT&T.

benzene (C6H6): a carcinogenic hydrocarbon that is an elementary petrochemical. Benzene is a colorless, highly flammable liquid with a sweet smell. Industrially, benzene is used primarily as a precursor to the manufacture of chemicals with a more complex structure. Because benzene is high octane, it is an important component of gasoline.

Bernoulli number: one in a sequence of rational numbers discovered by, and named after, Jakob Bernoulli; contemporaneously discovered by Seki Takakazu.

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.

binary: a base-2 numerical system using only 0 and 1. Modern computers use binary based upon the presence or absence of electrons (1, 0 respectively).

biocide: a chemical compound used by humans to destroy life.

biodiversity: the diversity of life at every level. Compare species diversity.

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

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

biota: the organisms in an environment.

bit (software): an atomic datum in computing; an acronym for binary digit.

bitcoin (2008–): a pioneer cryptocurrency.

Black Death: a devastating plague in Europe in the mid-14th century caused by the airborne bacterium Yersinia pestis.

Black Monday (finance): the worldwide crash of stock markets on 19 October 1987.

blast furnace: a type of furnace for smelting metal.

bloomery: a type of furnace once used for smelting iron.

Blue Öyster Cult (1967–): American hard rock band.

BMW (1916–): German manufacturer of automobiles and motorcycles.

Boeing (1916–): American corporation specializing in flying machines: airplanes, rockets, missiles, rotorcraft, and satellites.

bolide: a meteorite.

bond (finance): a debt instrument, under which the issuer owes debt holders periodic interest and repayment of principal at a certain date (maturity date). (1999–2000): a short-lived British e-commerce clothing company that burned through $188 million while doing most everything wrong, beginning with hosting a horrendous web site.

boreal (aka taiga forest): a biome characterized by coniferous forest. Boreal is the Earth’s largest land biome, comprising 29% of the world’s forest cover.

bounded rationality: an economic encapsulation with 3 assumptions: 1) that the rationality of decisions is limited by cognitive abilities, and influenced by emotion, 2) that information is limited, and that 3) decisions are typically made quickly. The term was coined by Herbert Simon.

Bourbon–Habsburg rivalry (1516–1756): the rivalry between the House of Habsburg, rulers of the Holy Roman Empire and Spain, and the House of Bourbon, which ruled the kingdom of France. Encircled by the Habsburg on 3 fronts, France lashed out with several wars, of which the 30 Years’ War was the most destructive.

boyar: a high-ranking member of the feudal Bulgarian, Moldavian, Romanian, or Russian aristocracy, 2nd in rank only to ruling princes.

BPA (bisphenol A; (CH3)2C(C6H4OH)2): a colorless solid that is the starting material for synthesizing plastic. BPA is soluble in organic solvents, but poorly soluble in water. Commercial use of BPA began in 1957. In 2015, 4 million tonnes of BPA were made worldwide, making it one of the highest volume chemical compounds produced.

BPA is a xenoestrogen: an estrogen mimic. Despite this hazard, American, Canadian, and European food safety regulators allow BPA in food packaging, except baby bottles.

Bretton Woods system (1944–1971): the international monetary system that resulted from the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference, which relied upon the gold standard and a pegged foreign-exchange mechanism. The Bretton Woods Conference also birthed the International Monetary Fund, whose purpose was to promote financial stability worldwide.

Britain: see United Kingdom.

British Petroleum (1909–): British petroleum and natural gas extractor and supplier.

broker (finance): an intermediary who facilitates trade.

bronze: an alloy of copper (90%) and tin (10%).

Bronze Age (~3300–1300 bce): the middle period of the 3-age system, noted for the metallurgical production of bronze; the Stone Age preceded, the Iron Age followed.

brownfield: a former industrial site laden with pollution.

browser (software): an application used to locate and display Web pages.

Bt: see Bacillus thuringiensis.

bubble (finance): a bull market that culminates in a crash.

bull market: an American colloquialism for a market trend of rising stock prices. Technically, a bull market represents a rise of at least 20%.

The earliest record of the term bull was in 1714. It gained favor owing to its affinity with the converse term bear. The terms bear and bull also have roots in English hunting culture, expressing the characteristic reserve (bear) and audacity (bull) of the 2 animals. Contrast bear market.

burgher: a town or borough, or a middle-class citizen of such a town.

bus (computer): a computer communication system.

business cycle: the relative level of consumption and business activity. Compare financial cycle.

BusinessWeek (1929–): a US business magazine that started in September 1929, just weeks before the 1929 stock market crash that begat the Great Depression.

bya: billions of years ago. by as an acronym for “billion years” is deprecated in modern geophysics in favor of Ga, shorthand for gigaannum; go figure.

byte: 8 bits.

Byzantine Empire (aka the Eastern Roman Empire) (330–1453): the predominantly Greek-speaking continuation of the eastern Roman Empire until annexed by the Ottomans in 1453. See Constantinople.


C (software): a low-level programming language by Dennis Ritchie in 1972.

C++: an ersatz object-oriented extension to the C language designed by Bjarne Stroustrup.

cadmium (Cd): the element with atomic number 48; a soft, bluish-white metal that is extremely toxic. Cigarettes are a ready source of cadmium, as the lungs absorb cadmium more efficiently than the digestive tract.

Canada: the 2nd-largest country (10.0 million km2), relatively sparsely populated (37 million in 2019); one of the most ethnically diverse nations.

canopy (botany): the uppermost cover of a forest, formed by the leafy upper branches of trees.

capital: wealth that can be employed to produce more wealth.

capital gain: money made with money.

capitalism: an economic system based upon private ownership of resources and their exploitation for exclusive profit.

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 (deep Earth), pedosphere (soil), hydrosphere (water bodies), atmosphere, and biosphere (living ecological systems).

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.

Carboniferous (359–299 mya): a period during the Palaeozoic era, following the Devonian period and preceding the Permian. Vast forests covered the land. Their demise produced the coal beds which characterized the geology of the period, and after which the period is named.

carbonyl (CO): an organic functional group in aldehydes, ketones, carboxylic acids, esters, and their derivatives, comprising a carbon atom double-bonded to an oxygen atom (C=O).

Caribbean Sea: a tropical sea in the Atlantic Ocean south of Cuba, east of Central America, and north of Columbia and Venezuela.

carrying capacity: the (idea of a) maximum population size of a species given the constraints imposed by the environment.

cassava (aka manioc, yuca, macaxeira, mandioca, Brazilian arrowroot, aipim, Manihot esculenta): a woody shrub, native to the South America; a staple root vegetable crop grown in tropical and subtropical biomes for tapioca.

Çatalhöyük (aka Çatal Höyük): a Neolithic settlement in southern Anatolia 7500–5700 bce.

Caterpillar (1925–): American machinery manufacturer; the world’s largest construction equipment maker.

cattle: bovine animals, especially domesticated members of the Bos genus.

ce (acronym for Common Era): denoted years after the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. See bce.

cement: a calcined mixture of clay and limestone used as a building material.

central bank: a governmental monetary authority that manages a state’s monetary parameters, such as money supply and interest rates.

central processing unit (CPU): the electronic circuitry within a computer that carries out program instructions. The term has been used since the early 1960s. Most modern CPUs are in microprocessors.

CEO (chief operating officer): the leader of a corporation. Compare COO.

Cetacea: a diverse clade of highly intelligent marine mammals, commonly called whales, dolphins, and porpoises.

CFC: see chlorofluorocarbon.

charcoal: a lightweight, black residue consisting of carbon and ash, derived from animal and vegetative sources by heating to remove the water.

Chartism (1838–1857): a reform movement by the working class to make the British political system more democratic and less corrupt. The Chartist movement failed.

chemistry: the study of matter, especially chemical reactions.

chestnut: a tree of 8–9 species in the Castenea genus, native to the temperate forests of the northern hemisphere. Chestnut also refers to the edible nut produced by these trees.

China: the 4th-largest country (9.6 million km2), with the world’s greatest population: over 1.42 billion people in 2019. China has one of the oldest extant civilizations. Over 90% of China’s people live in the eastern half of the country, which has most of the major cities and nearly all arable land (which is no longer very arable).

chlorofluorocarbon (CFC): an organic compound comprising carbon, chlorine, fluorine, and hydrogen, produced as a volatile derivative of ethane and methane. CFCs have been widely used as refrigerants, propellants, and solvents.

chlorpyrifos (C9H11CL13NO3PS): a crystalline organophosphate insecticide that disrupts the nervous system.

Christianity: a religion based upon hero worship of Jesus of Nazareth as the supposed son of God.

chromium (Cr): the element with atomic number 24; a lustrous, steely-grey, hard, and brittle metal. Chromium was first used in Chinese metal weapons over 2,000 years ago.

Chrysler (1925–): American automaker.

chymosin: a protease (enzyme) found in rennet. Chymosin is produced by newborn ruminant animals in the lining of the 4th stomach to curdle the milk they ingest, allowing a longer residence in the bowels and thereby better absorption.

Cisco (1984–): American networking equipment company that grew to behemoth size via serial acquisitions.

civilization: a culture which characterizes a society.

class (object-oriented programming): a categorization of software objects.

clepsydra: water clock.

climate: a characterization of tropospheric activity in an area over ~30 years, accounting for seasonal variations. The standard of 30 years is often adjusted to suit reportage.

clinker: a kilned then quenched cement product based upon limestone, used to make Portland cement, the most common cement in general worldwide use.

CLOS (an acronym for Common Lisp Object System): an object-oriented extension to the Lisp programming language.

cloud computing: using networked computers for data storage and computing power.

coal: a blackish combustible sedimentary rock from compressed and heated vegetation millennia old. Compare petroleum.

COBOL: an English-like computer programming language designed for business use by Grace Hopper in 1959.

code (computer): programmed instructions that are executed on a processor.

Code of Ur-Nammu (~2050 bce): the earliest known codes of law, from the 3rd Sumerian dynasty. The prologue decreed “equity in the land.”

Coinage Act of 1873 (aka Mint Act of 1873): a US federal law abolishing the right of silver holders to have their metal struck into legal coins. See Gold Standard Act of 1900.

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

Collective: people who follow their biological urges as natural imperative. The Collective believe emotions are valuable, and that actuality is real, though most harbor supernatural beliefs.

colonialism: the practice of population subjugation. Compare imperialism.

command economy: a planned economy, typically under centralized control. Contrast market economy.

commenda: a partnership bifurcating mercantile activity from the capital required to trade. Commenda appeared in the 10th century and was usually used for financing maritime trade.

Committee for Economic Development (CED) (1942–): an American business-led public policy organization, with membership comprising mainly senior corporate executives. The CED’s primary objective is promoting unfettered capitalism.

commons: a natural or cultural resource accessible to all members of a society. Air, water, and a habitable environment are all commons.

compiler: a software program that translates source code into object code. Compare interpreter.

Comptroller of the Currency: see Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

computer: a device capable of solving mathematical problems.

concrete: a cement-based building material.

confirmation bias: the tendency to search for, interpret, and prioritize information in a way that confirms a held hypothesis or belief.

constant differences (method of): a method of calculating consistent numerical progressions via repeated addition.

Constantinople: the capital city of the Byzantine Empire. Originally named Byzantium upon its founding in the 7th century bce, it became Constantinople in 330. During the 12th century, Constantinople was the largest and wealthiest European city. See Byzantine Empire.

Although besieged on numerous occasions, Constantinople fared well owing to its massive defenses, most notably its double wall facing land, and being built on 7 hills. The city was only taken in 1204 by the army that was the 4th Crusade, whose original mandate was to conquer Muslim-controlled Jerusalem. The Crusades were a series of organized pillages sponsored by the Roman Catholic Church.

Constantinople fell to Ottoman sultan Mehmed II in 1453. Its name ostensibly changed to Istanbul; thus began the Ottoman Empire.

consume (economics): to use or enjoy something. While consumption may use something up (such as eating food), it may simply be spending time with something, such as reading a book, or having a service performed.

consumerism: a socioeconomic order engendering material acquisition; the idea that an ever-expanding consumption of goods is good for the economy.

In modern civilized communities, the members of each stratum accept as their ideal of decency the scheme of life in vogue in the next higher stratum. ~ Thorstein Veblen

convertible husbandry: alternating field crops with temporary pastures.

COO (chief operating officer): corporate executive responsibility for daily operation of a company. Compare CEO.

copper (Cu): the chemical element with atomic number 29; a soft, malleable, and ductile metal, with very high thermal and electrical conductivity.

coral: a colonial marine invertebrate comprising numerous identical polyps.

coral reef: a colony of coral.

cornering the market: obtaining sufficient control of a traded asset to influence its price.

corporation: a group legally authorized to act as an individual.

corporatism: sociopolitical organization of a society by major corporate interest groups.

corruption: impairment of virtue, integrity, or moral principle; depravity.

CPU: see central processing unit.

Crete: the 5th-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and the largest Greek island. Home of the ancient Minoan civilization.

CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats): a technique for artificial genetic modification using snippets of bacterial DNA as the carrier of modified genes.

crocodile: an order of large semiaquatic reptiles. Birds are their closest living relative.

cross-platform (computer): software or code that works on or for multiple operating systems.

crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci): a large starfish with many (up to 21) arms that preys upon coral polyps.

cryptocurrency: a fiat digital money secured by encryption.

Cuban Missile Crisis (16–28 October 1962): a diplomatic confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union over nuclear ballistic missiles deployed in Cuba by the Soviets and in Italy and Turkey by the US.

cultivar: a cultivated plant variety.

Cummins Engine (1919–): American maker of engines, filtration devices, and power generators.

cupellation: a metallurgical refining process for precious metals (gold and silver), where ores or alloys are treated at high temperatures to separate the noble metals.

currency: a species of money in circulation.


Daimler (formerly Daimler Benz and Daimler Chrysler) (1926–): German car maker.

Dark Ages: the 5th–10th centuries in Europe; the early Middle Ages following the fall of Rome. 14th-century Italian scholar Francesco Petrarch coined the metaphor in the 1330s, when writing of the previous historical period:

Amid the errors there shone forth men of genius; no less keen were their eyes, although they were surrounded by darkness and dense gloom.

The term Dark Ages is generally disparaged by contemporary historians, owing to its critical overtone. Yet the aptness of its cultural attribution cannot be denied.

Darwinism (economics): the sociopathic concept of “survival of the fittest,” which is how Charles Darwin explained the process of biological evolution.

data type: a type regime for software data structures. See type.

datum (plural: data): a piece of information. Data is used to denote a mass of information.

DDT (C14H9Cl5, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane): a crystalline, colorless, tasteless, and almost odorless organochloride known for its insecticidal properties; first synthesized in 1874 by Othmar Zeilder under the supervision of German chemist Adolf von Baeyer. DDT’s insecticidal capability was discovered in 1939 by the Swiss chemist Paul Hermann Müller. Müller was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1948 for his DDT discovery. DDT was used in during World War 2 to control malaria and typhus in tropical regions. After the war it became a widespread agricultural pesticide. Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring described the devastating environmental and human health effects that DDT was having, leading to its ban for agricultural use in the US in 1972, and in 2004 a worldwide proscription (Stockholm Convention). DDT is still applied in Africa.

deflation (economics): a decrease in the general price level. From a monetary view, an augmenting of a currency’s purchasing power. Contrast inflation.

Dell (1984–): American personal computer maker.

demagogue: a politician who seeks to gain power by exploiting popular prejudices and making false or extravagant claims and promises.

demand curve: a graphical representation of the relationship between price and quantity demanded. See supply schedule.

dementia (aka senility): a severe decline in mental ability. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia. Vascular dementia, which occurs after a stroke, is the 2nd-most-common senility.

demesne: legal possession of land, especially land attached to a mansion or country house.

democracy: a state having government by its people.

Democratic Party: the dominant moderate-conservative party in the US. Contrast Republican Party.

depression (economics): a severe, prolonged recession, characterized by long-term downturn in economic activity, and deep, prolonged unemployment. See Great Depression. Compare recession.

derivative: a measurement of sensitivity to change; the fundamental tool of differential calculus.

derivative (finance): a security that is dependent upon (derived from) one or more underlying assets.

determinism: the belief that everything that happens is preordained.

Devonian (416–359 mya): a period during the Palaeozoic era, following the Silurian and preceding the Carboniferous. The Devonian experienced the first radiation of terrestrial life. The name derives from Devon, England, where rocks of the period were first studied.

diazinon (C12H21N2O3PS): an organophosphate insecticide that disrupts the nervous system.

dicamba (C8H6Cl2O3): a broad-spectrum herbicide marketed by Monsanto under the trade name Xtend®.

differential equation: a mathematical equation representing changes between relations using derivatives.

Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) (1957–1998): American minicomputer company.

dimethyl sulfide (C2H6S) (DMS, aka methylthiomethane): an odorous, flammable, liquid, organosulfur compound. DMS is naturally emitted by phytoplankton and bacteria in modest amounts but is now prodigiously produced in industrial processes.

disc drive (aka disk drive): a data storage device typically employing electromagnetically sensitive platters as the storage medium. Storage devices which use optical discs (read by lasers) are also called disc drives. See solid-state drive.

Disney (aka Walt Disney Company) (1923–): American entertainment empire.

distaff: a tool used for spinning; designed to hold unspun fibers and keep them untangled, thus facilitating the spinning process.

dot-com bubble (aka Internet bubble) (1997–2000): a US-based speculative stock market bubble focused on Internet-related companies.

Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA, aka Dow Jones, or simply Dow): a US stock market index created by Charles Dow.

Dust Bowl (aka Dirty Thirties): a period of severe dust storms during the 1930s that damaged the ecology and agriculture of US and Canadian prairies. The drought came in 3 waves: 1934, 1936, and 1939–1940; but some areas of the high plains experienced drought for 8 years.

Dyson (1991–): English household appliance maker, known for its vacuum cleaners.


e: the mathematical constant that is the base of the natural logarithm.
(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 merely handling the youngling.

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

earthworm: a tubular segmented worm in the Annelida phylum, with worldwide distribution, commonly found in soil. An earthworm breathes through its skin. An earthworm’s digestive system runs the length of its body.

eBay (1995–): American e-commerce company, best known for its online auction service.

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.

econometrics: problem-solving via statistical and mathematical techniques.

economic system: an overarching characterization of how an economy works. See economy.

economics: the activities of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services, and of the material well-being of humans; also, the study thereof.

economies of scale: cost advantages that accrue to due to size, level of output, or scale of operation, with cost per unit of output generally declining with greater production.

Economist, The (1843–): London-based economics magazine favoring capitalist economic liberalism.

economy (economics): a societal economic organization. There are 3 main economic systems: traditional, command, and market. A traditional economy is tribal, with scant surplus. A command economy is a planned economy, typically under centralized control. A market economy is, ostensibly, a disorganized free-for-all.

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

Eden Foods: the oldest natural and organic food company in North America and the largest independent manufacturer of dry grocery organic foods.

EDVAC (an acronym for Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer): a binary, stored-program computer; proposed in August 1944, development started in April 1946, and completed in August 1949.

efficient market hypothesis: the argument that asset prices fully reflect all available information. A direct implication is that it is impossible to consistently “beat the market” (profit more than other traders).

Egypt: a nation in the northeast corner of Africa. One of the world’s most ancient states, arising in the 10th millennium bce.

Eighty Years’ War: see 80 Years’ War.

El Niño: a quasi-periodic climate pattern that forms in the tropical Pacific Ocean, roughly every 5 years. The most notable facets are the warm ocean surface current in the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean, coupled with high surface air pressure in the western Pacific. El Niño is Spanish for “the little boy,” an oblique reference to Christ as a child, specifically referring to the ocean warming in the Pacific near South America, usually noticed around Christmas.

La Niña (“little girl”) is the opposite oscillation extreme: cold water and low air pressure. Contrary to El Niño, La Niña lacks religious connotation. La Niña commonly causes drought in the western Pacific and southeastern United States, flooding in northern South America, and mild wet summers in northern North America.

electromagnetic induction: producing a potential difference – voltage – across a conductor exposed to a varying magnetic field.

Electron Mining (1991–1994): the small American software company that developed OOPC.

electrum: a natural, pale yellow alloy of gold and silver.

Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata): a fast-growing coral that resembles elk antlers; one of the most important reef-building corals in the Caribbean Sea.

elm: a northern hemisphere tree in the Ulmus genus.

encapsulation (software): making modular data or program structures. See object.

engine (heat): a machine that transforms a portion of the thermal energy entering it into mechanical power.

engineering: the practical application of science. See technology.

England: a country in the British Isles until 1707, now part of the United Kingdom.

ENIAC (an acronym for Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer): the first electronic general-purpose computer. Construction began in 1943 and was completed in 1946.

Enron (1985–2001): American energy, commodities, and services conglomerate which went under via massive management fraud.

environmental economics: the study of externalities of production.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): a US federal government agency responsible for protecting human health and the environment from the externalities of corporate excess. The EPA was created by President Richard Nixon in 1970 by executive order.

EPA: see Environmental Protection Agency.

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

equity (finance): the difference between value of assets and cost of liabilities.

escapement: a mechanism for regulating mechanical motion.

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

ethane (C2H6): a colorless, odorless gas, isolated on an industrial scale from natural gas, and as a by-product of petroleum refining. Ethane’s chief employment is as a feedstock for ethylene production. Ethylene is widely used in the chemical industry.

ethanol (C2H5OH; aka ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol): a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid with a slight chemical odor. Ethanol is used as an antiseptic, a solvent, and a fuel. Ethanol is produced both from petroleum, though the hydration of ethylene (C2H4), and by biomass via fermentation.

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

ethics (aka moral philosophy): the branch of philosophy systemizing the distinction between right and wrong behavior; a system of moral principles.

evaporation: conversion of water into vapor.

evapotranspiration: soil moisture loss from evaporation and plant transpiration.

exponentiation: the raising of a number to a given power.

externality (economics): an unintended by-product of making something. Waste and pollution otherwise are exemplary externalities.

extinction: see background extinction, mass extinction.

Exxon Valdez: an oil tanker, owned by Exxon Shipping Company, which struck a reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, on 24 March 1989, and spilled 40 million liters of oil. In the aftermath, Alaska tried to legally shield itself from future spills, but otherwise, nothing was done by governments to prevent further such mishaps. The lamed ship was towed to San Diego, California, refurbished and renamed, setting off again in June 1990 and worked until August 2012, when it was beached in Alang, India and dismantled.


FAA (Federal Aviation Administration): American federal regulator of civil aviation.

fallacy: an error in reasoning:

FDA (Food and Drug Administration) (1906–): the US federal agency responsible for the health and safety of ingestible products sold in the country. The FDA was established with the 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act. Its mandate expanded as processed foods with additives became more the norm, and as the food system became more consolidated and globalized. In its performance, the FDA is exemplary of (perhaps) well-intentioned government incompetence.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC): the US federal corporation that provides deposit insurance to depositors in US banks. Created by the 1933 Banking Act to restore trust in the American banking system. More than 1/3rd of US banks failed in the Depression years before the FDIC’s creation, as bank runs were common.

federal funds rate (US): the interest rate at which depository institutions, such as banks and credit unions, lend reserve balances to each other overnight on an uncollateralized basis.

Federal Reserve (1913–): the central bank of the United States.

Fertile Crescent: the geographic area from the upper Nile River in Egypt through the Middle East to the Persian Gulf, including the regions of Mesopotamia and the Levant.

feudalism: a societal system prevalent in medieval Europe, with socioeconomic hierarchy based upon land holding. Feudalism usually emerged from decentralization or disintegration of an empire.

Fiat (1899 –): Italian automaker.

fiat money: a currency declared by a political authority to be legal tender.

finance: a monetary gyre; the pecuniary affairs of an entity (person, business, or state).

Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (US) (2009–2011): a commission legislatively created to “examine the causes of the current financial and economic crisis in the United States.”

financial cycle: the relative level of lending and investment in fixed capital. Compare business cycle.

fire piston: a handheld piston used to spark an ember within and so start a fire.

firmware: software that interfaces to hardware.

First World War: see World War 1.

Flanders: the Dutch-speaking northern part of Belgium.

flavonoid (aka (archaic) vitamin P): a class of secondary metabolite in plants, with various functions. There are over 6,000 flavonoids. Digested by humans, flavonoids act as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, anti-microbial, and anti-cancer agent.

floating point (number): computer representation of a real number without a fixed location for the decimal point.

florin (1252–1533): a gold coin struck by the Republic of Florence of standard design and metal content (3.5368 grams of pure gold) during its entire time of coinage. In the 14th century 150 European states and city-states made their own copies of the florin. Whereas the gold content was constant, the monetary value of the florin in 1500 was 7 times that of its worth in 1252 when it was first struck (to equal the value of 1 lira in local currency).

fluid: a liquid or gas capable of flowing.

foliot: the earliest form of mechanical-clock escapement, comprising a crossbar with adjustable weights, for regulating the rate of oscillation of a verge or vertical spindle.

folkway: a traditional behavior that is a norm. Compare more.

Food and Drug Administration: see FDA.

food security: the absence of hunger.

Ford Motor Company (1903–): American automobile manufacturer, founded by Henry Ford.

Fortran (derived from Formula Translating System): a programming language developed by IBM 1954–1957 for scientific and engineering applications.

fossil fuel: a fuel formed from organic matter protractedly pressed and heated into various forms. Coal comprises ancient dead plants pressed into rock resemblance. Petroleum originates from archaic algae and zooplankton, turned into a viscous brew. Fossil fuels take tens of millions of years to form, and so, in their extraction, are nonrenewable resources.

fracking (hydraulic fracturing): the extraction of oil and gas via injection of high-pressure fluid into shale formations.

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

fractional distillation: the separation of a chemical mixture into components (fractions), typically by heating.

framing (psychology): perceiving a situation within a certain context or from a specific perspective.

framing effect: bias from the context in which a situation is considered, typically involving personal gain or loss.

France: a nation in Western Europe that emerged as a political power in the Late Middle Ages. France has had an outsized influence on Western culture.

French Revolution (1789–1799): a decade of social and political upheaval in France. Widely regarded as one of the most important political events in human history, the French Revolution triggered the decline of theocracies and absolute monarchies around the world until their reemergence in the late 20th century.

French Revolutionary Wars (1792–1802): a series of military conflicts between the French First Republic and several European monarchies.

fulling (aka tucking or walking): a step in wool cloth-making to clean the cloth and make it thicker.


Gaia: a theory by English environmentalist James Lovelock that Earth acts as “a single physiological system.”

gasoline (aka petrol (British English)): a colorless liquid derived from petroleum.

Gatorade: a “sports” drink concocted by a team of chemists in 1965 at the University of Florida (which has the alligator as its mascot). Gatorade was designed to replace body fluids lost during hot, sweaty physical exertion. Any perceived aid from Gatorade owes to the placebo effect. Further, no gators have been aided by the drink, and so continue their decline in swamps throughout the American south, despite being the ostensibly esteemed state reptile in Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The American alligator is commercially “harvested” for its meat and skin.

GDP (gross domestic product): a distorted monetary measure of the value of all final goods and services produced in an economy for some period (usually yearly or quarterly). GDP measures are wildly off, as they fail to measure much economic activity.

gene: the idea that 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.

General Electric (GE) (1892–): American multinational conglomerate corporation descended from Thomas Edison’s electricity-related companies, with an abysmal record of polluting wherever it sets down.

General Motors (GM) (1908–): America car maker that began as a holding company for American industrialist William Durant. Durant had been a leading manufacturer of horse-drawn vehicles before his foray into cars.

genetically modified organism (GMO): an organism with its genome modified by humans. Genetic modification (GM, aka genetic engineering (GE)) is exemplary of human tendency to use technology on a broad scale before understanding its actual benefits and risks. In the case of GM crops, there have been no benefits to food quantity or quality, but numerous risks to human health while more intensely degrading the environment.

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 complete set of genes within an organism. Like genes, a genome is merely a concept, not phenomenal.

German Hansa (aka Hanseatic League): a defensive confederation of merchant guilds and market towns that dominated sea trade in the northern Europe from the 13th–17th centuries.

German idealism (aka post-Kantian idealism): a philosophical movement that emerged in Germany in the 1780s and lasted until the 1840s. The most famous in the movement were Kant, Fichte, and Hegel. The root of this idealism is the recognition that properties in Nature are solely the product of perception, not inherent in the objects themselves.

Germany: a nation in northern central western Europe that has shaped European politics since the fall of the western Roman Empire. Germany has 82.2 million people (2018).

Giffen good: a good that violates the law of demand, in that either that people consume more as the price rises, or vice versa; named after Robert Giffen.

gigabyte (GB): 230 (1,073,741,824) bytes (= 1,0243). Storage drive manufacturers cheat, and call a GB a billion bytes (1,000,000,000).

GlaxoSmithKline: large British drug maker, formed through multiple mergers of companies to dominate the industry.

Glorious Revolution (1688): the overthrow of King James II of England by Dutch stadtholder William of Orange, who was invited by English Parliamentarians to dispose of the king. England’s ruling class was Anglican. Parliament had the dire concern that continued rule of James, a Catholic, could lead to a Roman Catholic dynasty aligned with France. This would, it was feared, eviscerate Parliament’s power. William’s invasion of England led to his ascending of the English throne as William III of England, jointly with his wife, Mary II of England, in accordance with the 1689 Bill of Rights, which was an act of Parliament that set the limits of monarchial rule.

glyphosate (C3H8NO5P): an herbicide marketed by Monsanto under the trade name Roundup®.

go (Chinese: 围棋; Japanese: 囲碁): a strategy board game invented in China 2,500–4,000 years ago.

God: the myth of an immortal supreme being who is omniscient and typically omnipotent, albeit often inexplicably reserved in exercising such power in moral ways comprehensible to mere mortals.

Golan Heights: an 1,800 km2 geographic region between Israel and Syria.

gold (Au): the element with atomic number 79; one of the heaviest elements naturally made (only lead (82) is heavier). Gold is a bright, reddish-yellow (golden) malleable metal. Gold is one of the least-reactive chemical elements. Compare silver.

Gold Standard Act of 1900: a US federal law establishing the gold standard: gold as the sole metal for redeeming paper money.

Goldman Sachs (1869–): American multinational investment bank.

gonopod: a specialized appendage that various arthropods use in reproduction or egg-laying. In males, gonopods facilitate sperm transfer.

good (economics): an item of commerce. The term insinuates the goodness of materialism.

Google: an American technology corporation that feeds on Internet traffic with its advertising service.

grain of salt: an English idiom meaning skeptical reception, or to not take literally.

graphical user interface (GUI): a computer software user interface relying upon images that may be selected with a pointing device to activate various functionality.

Great Depression (1929–1939): the longest and most severe economic downturn experienced in the industrialized world prior to the 21st century. The financial shock that sparked the depression originated in the United States. Its contagion quickly spread to Europe.

Great Famine (1315–1317): a famine in Europe – extending east to Russia and south to Italy – that killed millions and ended the economic growth period of the 11th–13th centuries. The Great Famine was of only of magnitude and duration. Famines were frequent in medieval Europe. Cool temperatures and incessant rain in the spring of 1315 resulted in widespread crop failures, leading to famine. Historically high population levels and the ineffectiveness of medieval governments contributed to the crisis. Continuing cold, wet weather prolonged the famine. Starvation abated in the summer of 1317 as the weather returned to its pre-famine pattern.

Great Lakes: large freshwater lakes in northeastern North America, covering 244,106 km2.

Great Oxidation Event (aka Great Oxygenation Event, GOE) (beginning 2.45 bya): biologically induced augmentation of dioxygen (O2) into Earth’s atmosphere. Cyanobacteria begat the ‘event’ via photosynthesis on a massive scale. The first oxygen-generating organisms arose long before, 3.4 bya. The onset of Earth’s oxidation was neither an “event” nor “great.” The initial oxidation was only a few parts per million of O2. Atmospheric oxygen did not begin a serious upswing until 850 mya.

Great Pacific garbage patch (aka Pacific trash vortex): a massive gyral concentration of plastic marine debris in the north central Pacific Ocean, located roughly from 135°W to 155°W and 35°N to 42°N.

Great Recession (2009): a sharp, severe worldwide economic downturn caused by financial speculation, especially in real estate. While official statistics define the recession as global for only a single year, the recession in many countries begin in 2008 and lasted into 2011 or later.

greenhouse: an enclosed area, usually with much glass to let abundant sunlight in, in which a desired temperature range is maintained. Greenhouses are used to cultivate tender plants or grow them out of season.

greenhouse effect: the process by which radiation from the atmosphere warms a planet’s surface.

greenhouse gas: an atmospheric gas that has a warming effect on a planet’s surface from shedding heat energy absorbed via infrared radiation. The primary greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. Water vapor acts as a greenhouse gas.

gross domestic product: see GDP.

Gunter’s quadrant: an instrument for solving many common problems associated with spheres, such as taking the altitude of an object in degrees and figuring the hour of the day.

Gunter’s rule: a large engraved plane scale that helped answer navigational and trigonometry questions, aided by a pair of compasses.

gypsum (sulfate dihydrate (CaSO4·2H2)): a soft sulfate mineral used as fertilizer, and the main constituent in plaster, blackboard chalk, and wallboard. Alabaster, a fine-grained light variety of gypsum, was used for sculpture by many ancient cultures, and in medieval England.

gyre: a conceptual framework treating a physical system as a dynamic vortex. A gyre is characterized by its structure, qualities, and interactions.


Haarlem: a city in north Holland, near Amsterdam.

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 German chemist Fritz Haber.

Hansa (aka Hanseatic League, Hanse): a defensive and commercial confederation of merchant guilds and market towns along the coast of northern Europe from the 13th–17th centuries.

hardware (computer): the physical devices associated with a computer. Contrast software.

Harley-Davidson (1901–): American motorcycle manufacturer.

heat engine: a machine that transforms a portion of the thermal energy entering it into mechanical power.

hectare: the standard metric unit of area; 1 hectare = 10 km2, 2.47 acres.

hedge fund: an exclusive investment fund. Hedge funds are unregulated.

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

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

hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)): the element chromium in the +6 oxidation state. Hexavalent chromium is toxic and carcinogenic.

Hewlett-Packard (HP) (1938–): American electronics and computer company founded by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard in 1939. In the 21st century, HP has suffered from mismanagement: stupidly acquiring companies at ridiculous prices rather than developing its own technology; a common death-rattle syndrome in technology companies after the bean counters take over.

Himalayas: a young mountain range formed by the Indian subcontinent moving north and slamming into Eurasia. 9 of the 10 highest peaks on Earth are in the Himalayas.

Holocene (11,700 years ago–1940): the interglacial epoch during icehouse before Earth headed into hothouse from manmade pollution. The current hothouse epoch – the Omegacene – has yet to be recognized. The Pleistocene preceded the Holocene.

Holy Roman Empire (962–1806): an empire ostensibly reviving the Roman Empire, in central Europe, between France and Poland, from northern Italy to the North Sea.

Otto the Great, having inherited the kingship of Germanic lands in 936, through further conquest consolidated the territories that would comprise the Empire. Otto was crowned Emperor by Pope John XII in 962. He would later have disputes with the papacy.

The Empire never achieved the level of political unification attained in France, which was its rival. The Holy Roman Empire was dissolved by the last Emperor, Francis II, who abdicated in 1806, after being defeated during the Napoleonic Wars.

hominid: an ape descendant, some of which became hominin. Compare anthropoid.

hominin: the hypothesized clade that supposedly descended into humans.

Honda (1937–): Japanese motorcycle, automobile, aircraft, and power equipment maker.

horology: the study of timekeeping.

HP: see Hewlett-Packard.

html (HyperText Mark-up Language): a tag-based markup language for displaying document pages; the standard language for web page display on the World Wide Web.

human capital: the idea of people as productive labor units.

humus (soil): amorphous soil; the organic portion of soil, formed from partial decomposition of plant and animal matter. Humus contributes to the retention of nutrients and moisture.

Hundred Years’ War: see 100 Years’ War.

Huronian glaciation (aka Makganyene glaciation) (2.4–2.1 bya): a global glaciation following the Great Oxygenation Event.

hydraulic lime: lime used to make mortar.

hydrocarbon: an organic compound entirely comprising hydrogen and carbon. Methane (CH4) is an exemplary hydrocarbon.

hydrogen chloride (HCl): a colorless, corrosive gas.

hyperinflation: a rapid debasement of a currency which destroys its purchasing power. Compare inflation.

hypoxia: deprivation of oxygen.


Iberian peninsula (aka Iberia): a peninsula in the southwest corner of Europe, including Spain, Portugal, and a bit of France.

IBM: an American calculator and computer company founded in 1911 that lost its technological edge in its supposed core competencies in the 1970s and became a consulting corporation, which hurt profitability not a bit thanks to sharp management.

IC: integrated circuit.

impecunious: impoverished.

imperialism: a state acquiring the territory of another nation. Compare colonialism.

India: the 7th-largest country (3.3 million km2), with 1.3 billion people (2018); on its own subcontinent in central southern Asia. India is an ancient civilization that once was a font of spiritual wisdom that has since gone dry, at least where governance is concerned. India has a rapidly growing population matched by a rapidly deteriorating natural environment. The former won’t last long but the latter will linger for centuries.

Indus Valley Civilization (aka Harappan civilization) (~7,000–~1500 bce): a peaceful, prosperous civilization that flourished in the basins of the monsoon-fed Indus River, extending from northeast Afghanistan to northwest India. At its peak, the civilization may have had a population of over 5 million.

Industrial Revolution: the era of industrialization that began in England in the mid-18th century. English economic historian Arnold Toynbee popularized the term in describing England’s economic development from 1760 to 1840. Industrialization engendered 3 complementary social dynamics: 1) rapid urbanization, 2) a population boom, and 3) the destruction of the existing social hierarchy headed by landed aristocracy, which was gradually replaced by a dominant social class of wealth inherited or made from manufacture, finance, and/or trade.

inflation (economics): an increase in the general price level. From a monetary view, a lessening of a currency’s purchasing power. Contrast deflation. Compare hyperinflation.

inheritance (object-oriented programming): the incorporation by a class of behaviors of an explicitly related class, typically a superclass.

instrumentalism: the premise that a theory need not reflect reality, but merely serve as a tool for predicting the future. Contrast scientific realism.

integrated circuit (IC): a set of electronic circuits in a small semiconductor package (chip).

Intel Corporation (1968–): an American manufacturer of computer components, notably microprocessors.

interest (finance): a periodic amount paid for holding a debt instrument, such as a loan. See principal.

internal combustion engine: an engine with working cylinders in which combustion occurs within the cylinders, providing mechanical power.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) (1944–): an international organization tasked with goals oriented toward stable capitalist economic growth. The IMF was ironically born from the understanding that capitalism is inherently instable.

Internet (1983–): a global computer network that evolved from arpanet which now hosts the World Wide Web.

interpreter (software): a software program that sequentially (statement by statement) translates source code in executable code and executes (runs) it. Compare compiler.

iPhone (2007–): a portable touchscreen phone/computer made by Apple Computer.

Iran: a Muslim nation in western Asia, 1.6 million km2, with 81.8 million people (2018); home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations. Iran’s main neighbor to the west is Iraq.

Iran–Iraq War (1980–1988): a war started by Iraq against Iran, following a long history of border disputes. The war was essentially a Muslim religious dispute. Sunni-led Iraq was worried that Shia-majority Iran would inspire insurgency among Iraq’s long-repressed Shia majority. So Iraq attacked Iran, hoping to take advantage of the supposed chaos in the wake of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Iraq’s offensive was quickly repelled, and the country spent the rest of the war on the defensive. The war ended with both sides exhausted.

Iraq: a Muslim nation in western Asia, 437 thousand km2, with 39 million people (2018). The alluvial plain region is historically known as Mesopotamia. Iraq’s neighbor to the east is Iran.

Iron Age (roughly 1300–500 bce): the 3rd and last principal period of the 3-age system; noted for widespread use of iron, and the development of steel. See Stone Age, Bronze Age.

Islam (religion) (aka Muhammadanism): the religious system founded by Muhammad and informed by the Koran, with the basic principle of absolute submission to the god Allāh.

Islam (sociology): the societies predominantly practicing Islamic religion.

isochronism: equal or uniform in time.

Israel: the Jewish-led nation in the Levant, founded in 1948 by Jewish takeover of land specified by the United Nations in 1947 for both an Arab and a Jewish state. Israel is a thin slice of a country, 21 thousand km2, with 8.4 million people (2018).


Jansenism: a mostly French Catholic theological movement that emphasized original sin, human depravity, predestination, and the necessity of divine grace; originated by Dutch theologian Cornelius Jansen, who was at odds with the powerful Jesuits, a sanctioned Roman Catholic order.

Jericho: a city near the Jordan River; one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world: at least since 9000 bce.

Jesuits (aka Society of Jesus) (1539–): a male Catholic order belonging to the congregation founded by Spanish priest Ignatius of Loyola. Ignatius emerged as a religious leader during the Counter-Reformation, where his absolute obedience to the Pope held him in good stead with the Church.

jet stream: an atmospheric river. Earth’s polar jet is at roughly 50º–60º latitude, and the subtropical jet is at around 30º.

jihad: the Islamic term for struggle.

joint-stock company: a business in which ownership is divided into shares which may be bought and sold. In modern law, a joint-stock company is typically synonymous with incorporation and limited liability.

JP Morgan Chase: American multinational bank. Its current structure evolved via combination of several large US banks since 1996. JP Morgan Chase has roots dating to a bank American politician Aaron Burr founded in 1799. In 2018, JP Morgan Chase was the largest of the big 4 banks in the US, which also include Bank of America, Citicorp, and Wells Fargo.

Juglar cycles: periodic economic cycles in capitalism lasting 7–11 years, identified by Clément Juglar in the 1850s. Compare Kitchin cycles, Kondratiev waves.

junk bond: a high-yielding bond that rated below investment grade.

junk email (aka (email) spam): unwanted email.


Kermadec Trench: a 10,047 km deep-ocean trench north of New Zealand, formed by subduction of the Pacific tectonic plate under the Indo-Australian plate.

kernel (software): the essential core of a program; typically used to refer to the core of an operating system.

kerosene (aka paraffin, lamp oil): a low viscosity, clear liquid combustible hydrocarbon derivative from petroleum, widely used as a fuel, especially for jet and rocket engines, as well as commonly employed for cooking and lighting.

kilobyte (properly kB; typically, kb, or simply k): 210 (1,024) bytes; nowadays used loosely for 1,000 (previously, G was the common token for 1,000, particularly in reference to money denominations).

king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus): a large species of penguin, second only to the emperor penguin in size. King penguins breed on subAntarctic islands.

Kitchin cycles: short periodic economic cycles in capitalism lasting ~40 months, identified by Joseph Kitchin in 1923. Compare Juglar cycles, Kondratiev waves.

Klondike Gold Rush (1896–1899): a migration of ~100,000 prospectors to the Klondike region in Canada’s western Yukon territory, after gold was discovered near the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon rivers on 17 August 1896. Many of the prospectors died from malnutrition, hypothermia, or avalanches along the route. The Klondike gold rush was cut short when gold was discovered in the summer of 1899 around Nome, Alaska, an accessible locale.

Knickerbocker Trust Company (1884–1912): a trust company that became one of the largest US banks, before its ruination by backing the Heinze brothers, who tried cornering the US copper market in 1907.

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

knowlet: cognition of some subject matter. Compare knowledge.

Kondratiev waves: long-term economic cycles in capitalism of 50–60 years, identified by Nikolai Kondratiev in 1922. Compare Kitchin cycles, Juglar cycles.

Korean War (1950–1953): a war that started when North Korea, backed by the Soviet Union and China, invaded South Korea. Within 2 months South Korea was on the verge of defeat. The US provided 88% of the military personnel and almost all of the armaments in the UN-sponsored fight against North Korea. The war ended in a territorial stalemate, with an armistice signed, but to this day no peace treaty.

krill: a tiny crustacean found in all the world’s oceans.

Kroger (1883–): American grocery store and general retailer, founded by Bernard Kroger.

Kuznets curve: a hypothetical relationship between income per capita and societal economic inequality, proposed by Simon Kuznets in 1955. The unfounded optimism of the economic Kuznets curve spawned an environmental Kuznets curve with regard to pollution and economic growth.


La Niña: the opposite Pacific Ocean dynamic to El Niño.

laissez-faire: a doctrine opposing governmental interference in economic affairs.

Last Glacial Maximum (33–26.5 tya): the last severe glaciation period on Earth.

Laurium, Greece: a coastal town in Southeast Greece, founded before the 11th century bce, famed for its silver mining.

law of demand: the idea that demand falls when the price of a good goes up; an inverse relationship between price and quantity demanded, rendering a downward-sloping demand curve.

lead (Pb): the element with atomic number 82; a bright, silvery, soft, malleable metal that is extremely toxic. Lead is the heaviest non-radioactive element.

Lehman Brothers (1850–2008): American investment bank that was the 4th-largest such bank months before it declared bankruptcy for its participation in the mortgage securities bubble that burst in 2008.

Levant: the geographical region encompassing modern-day Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, and Syria. The term Levant first appeared in English in 1497, originally meaning “the East.” The Levant has been characterized as the “crossroads of western Asia, the eastern Mediterranean, and northeast Africa.”

leverage (aka gearing (UK, Australia)) (finance): any technique aimed at acting as a financial multiplier. Most often leverage involves buying more of an asset via borrowed funds.

leveraged loan: a loan to an individual or company with a poor credit history and/or already carrying considerable debt.

liability (finance): a debt or obligation. Contrast asset.

liana: a long-stemmed woody vine.

liberalism: historically, a political philosophy advocating the freedom of individuals, albeit with some concern for social equality. Classical liberalism stressed liberty (libertarianism), whereas later social liberalism sought a balance between liberty and social justice. The term neoliberalism refers to a strain of laissez-faire economic liberalism that arose in the 1970s. In Spokes, liberal or liberalism is used in the classical sense (in historical context), but when discussing modern ideologies, social liberalism is intended, with its principle concern of societal equity.

libertarianism (historically classical liberalism): a political philosophy that places individual liberty as its principle objective.

Libor (London Interbank Offered Rate, aka LIBOR) (1984–): a set of interbank lending rates set by banks; originated in England.

lime: a calcium-based inorganic material. Lime is nominally calcium oxide (CaO). A close relation is slaked lime (calcium hydroxide (Ca(OH)2)).

limestone: a sedimentary rock, largely comprising calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate (CaCO3).

limited liability: a legal circumscription of financial liability.

Linux (1991–): a Unix-like OS, with a kernel developed by Linus Torvalds.

liquidity (finance): the ease with which an asset can be converted into cash; more loosely used to express the financial environment in terms of money availability.

Lisp (acronym for List Processor): a high-level computer programming language, first specified in 1958; long a favored language for artificial intelligence programming.

Little Ice Age (1300–1850): an extended period of planetary cooling. Though the Little Ice Age began ~1300, there were 3 particularly cold intervals: the 1st beginning in ~1650, the 2nd ~1770, and the last in 1850. Slight warming separated these lengthy cold snaps.

loam: soil which is roughly 40% sand, 40% silt, and 20% clay. Loam soils generally contain more plant nutrients, moisture, and humus than sandy soils, and offer better drainage and water and air infiltration than silt or clay soils, as well as being easier to till than clay soils.

loan: money lent at interest.

lobster: a large marine crustacean with 5 pairs of legs, a long body and muscular tail. Lobsters are found in all oceans, residing in burrows or crevices on the sea floor. Lobsters may live 40–60 years, possibly more.

Lockheed (1926–): American aerospace company which merged with Martin Marietta to form Lockheed Martin in 1995.

loess: an unstratified loamy deposit, usually yellowish brown, carried by the wind. Loess is found in Asia, Europe, and North America.

logarithm: the inverse operation to exponentiation.

loom: a device to weave cloth.

Low Countries: the coastal region of northwestern Europe, where much of the land is below sea level. The Low Countries comprised Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

Lucasfilm (1971–2012): American film and TV show production company founded by George Lucas and sold to Disney in 2012.

Luddites: a 19th-century group of English textile artisans who took to destroying weaving machinery to protest capitalist exploitation, not technological progress per se, as is commonly portrayed.

Lydia: an Iron Age kingdom in western Anatolia that reached its apex in the 7th century bce.


Mack Trucks (1907–): American truck maker.

MacDonald’s (1940–): American fast-food restaurant franchise company, founded by brothers Richard & Maurice MacDonald, and expanded as a franchise operation by Ray Kroc.

Macedonia: an ancient kingdom on the northern periphery of Classical Greece which became the dominant state of Hellenistic Greece in the 4th century bce.

macrobe: an organism larger than a microbe.

macroeconomics: the study of regional or national economic dynamics. Compare microeconomics. See political economy.

Macromedia (1992–2005): an American graphics, multimedia, and web development software company; bought by Adobe Systems in 2005.

malathion (C10H19O6PS2) (aka carbophos (Russia), maldison (Australia and New Zealnd), mercaptothion (south Africa)): an organophosphate insecticide that disrupts the nervous system.

malware: software intended to damage other computer software or take control of its operations.

manorialism: an agrarian estate feudal structure.

marginalism: a school of economic thought emphasizing the incremental nature of economic activity.

Mariana Trench (aka Marianas Trench): a deep-ocean trench in the western Pacific Ocean, to the east of the Mariana Islands. With a maximum depth of ~11 km, the trench is 2,550 km long, averaging 69 km wide. The Mariana Trench forms where the Pacific tectonic plate subducts from the east beneath the Mariana plate to the west. Pressure at the bottom of the trench is over 1,000 times sea-level atmospheric pressure. Temperature is 1–4 ºC. Fish, crustaceans, and other animals live deep within the trench, which also hosts abundant microbial life.

Mark I (aka Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (ASCC)): an electromechanical computer proposed by Howard Aiken. Work began in 1937. IBM funded the effort from 1939. The calculator was completed in February 1944, and officially retired in 1959.

market: an aggregation of buyers and sellers for a certain range of products and/or services.

market economy: an anarchic economy, reliant upon market transactions. Contrast command economy.

Marshall Plan (officially the European Recovery Program) (1947–1950): an American aid program to western European nations after World War 2; named after Secretary of State George Marshall, as he had bipartisan political admiration for his soldiering during the War.

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

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (1861–): a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

materialism (psychology, economics): a worldview valuing material consumption and possessions.

materials science: the discovery and design of new configurations of matter, especially solids.

McDonnell Douglas (1967–): American aerospace manufacturer and war machine provider. The parent companies were Douglas Aircraft (founded 1921) and McDonnell Aircraft (founded 1939).

Medieval period: the Middle Ages.

megabyte (MB): 220 (1,048,576) bytes (= 1,0242).

Meiji period (1868–1912): the era in Japan when Emperor Meiji reigned, notable for the country’s rapid modernization.

Mekong River: a river flowing south from west-central China, through southeast Asia (Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam), before discharging into the South China Seas.

mercantilism: the economic theory and praxis dominant in Europe in the 16th–18th centuries, promoting governmental regulation of the economy so as to augment state power. Today’s vestige of mercantilism is called economic nationalism.

Mesopotamia: an area of the Tigris-Euphrates river system, widely considered the Western cradle of civilization during the Bronze Age. Indigenous Sumerians, Assyrians, and Babylonians were there at the onset of written history 3100 bce.

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.

metallurgy: the extraction of metals from their ores.

methane (CH4): a flammable, explosive gas, which is colorless, odorless, and tasteless to humans.

methanogen: anoxic archaea that produce methane as a metabolic by-product.

microeconomics: the study of the economic dynamics of households and businesses. Compare macroeconomics.

microprocessor: an integrated-circuit semiconductor chip that incorporates a computer’s central processing unit (CPU).

Microsoft (1975–): American software company founded by Paul Allen and Bill Gates. Being contracted by IBM to develop the OS for the IBM PC in 1980 put Microsoft in the catbird seat in the software industry; a monopolistic position that it ruthlessly strived to maintain. Microsoft makes the world’s most popular operating system (Windows) and general productivity software (Office).

methane (CH4): a flammable, explosive gas. Methane is formed in mashes and swamps from decaying organic matter.

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

Middle Ages (aka Medieval period) (~467–1400): the period of European history between the 5th and 15th centuries, beginning with the collapse of the Roman Empire.

mind-set: a fixed mental orientation.

Minoan (civilization) (~2800–1420 bce): an Aegean Bronze Age civilization flourishing on the island of Crete until overrun by the Mycenaeans from mainland Greece.

MIT: see Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

mitochondrion (plural: mitochondria): an organelle that acts as a cell’s power plant, generating a supply of ATP.

Moluccas: see Spice Islands.

monetarism (economics): the school of thought that emphasizes a government role in controlling the amount of money in circulation.

money: a medium of exchange, often, though not necessarily, symbolic; a fungible applicable to purchasing goods and services. Compare currency.

monochronic (culture): a culture that views time as linear and divisible, and particularly monetary (time as money). Contrast polychronic.

monoculture: growing only 1 crop on a farm.

monopoly (economics): a market condition where there is only 1 seller, with the power to set price and supply. Compare oligopoly.

moral absolutism: the principle that acts are intrinsically right or wrong.

morality: the differentiation between social right and wrong based upon fairness. The philosophy of morality is ethics. A moral code is a creed of morality.

more (sociology): a folkway of central importance; a strongly held norm.

Morgan Stanley (1935–): American investment bank and brokerage firm, formed by J.P. Morgan partners Henry Morgan and Harold Stanley in response to the 1935 Glass–Steagall Act, which required that banks could not pursue both commercial and investment banking, as it created an inherent conflict of interest within such a combined firm.

Morse code: a method of transmitting text through a series of short and long signals respectively denoted dots and dashes.

mosaic virus: a nontaxonomic name for viruses which cause plant leaves to speckle and stunt plant growth.

motherboard (aka mainboard, system board): the main printed circuit board (PCB) in computers.

Multics (an acronym for Multiplexed Information and Computing Service): a cooperative project between MIT, GE, and Bell Labs that began in 1964 to develop a scalable time-sharing operating system. Bell pulled out in 1969, convinced of the project’s economic infeasibility.

multimedia: the combined use of different media in software applications, such as sound and animation or video.

multiple inheritance (object-oriented programming): the ability of a class to inherit from multiple superclasses.

Muslim: an adherent of Islam.

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


naphtha: a flammable liquid hydrocarbon; either a natural gas condensate, or the lightest distillate of peat, petroleum, or coal tar.

Napier’s bones: a set of 4-sided rods that afforded multiplication and division by physical manipulation.

naringin (C27H32O14): a naturally occurring, bitter flavonoid in citrus fruits, especially grapefruit.

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

nation: a political territory. Compare state.

nativism (politics): the policy of protecting native inhabitants against immigrants.

Natufian (14,500–9,500 bce): a sedentary population in the Levant before adopting agriculture. The Natufians may have been one of the first Neolithic settlements in the region.

natural gas: a methane-rich gas formed either by methanogens or thermogenically from buried organic matter compressed and heated over millions of years. Compare coal, petroleum.

natural logarithm: a logarithm with e as its base.

natural monopoly: an industry which is most efficient if the market is provided for by a single company (rather than being subject to competition).

Nature: the exhibition of existence.

neoclassical economics: an ill-definable school of economics posited on 3 unrealistic assumptions: 1) people have rational preferences; 2) individuals maximize their utility and firms maximize profits; and 3) people act independently based upon all relevant information.

Neolithic (aka New Stone Age) (10,200 bce to between 4500 and 2000 bce): a technological era in human prehistory marked by the development of metal tools and by the domestication of crops and animals; coined by Charles Lyell in 1965.

neonicotinoid (aka neonic): a group of insecticides chemically similar to nicotine.

neopositivism: a movement in Western philosophy that values only knowledge backed by empirical evidence (verificationism). Neopositivism originated with philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians in Berlin and Vienna in the late 1920s and flourished in European intellectual circles in the 1930s before becoming the modus operandi of economics in the 1940s.

Netscape (1994–1999): a web browser company bought by AOL in 1999. The Netscape browser lost its corporate support in 2008, but then, as a brand name, was shilled as a discount Internet service provider. The legacy of the Netscape browser lives on. Netscape created the open-source software project Mozilla in 1998, then publicly released its browser source code, which evolved into the Firefox browser (2002–).

network effect: a gyre of activity related to a nexus good, service, or event. A positive network effect occurs when the value of a network improves with more people involved. A negative network effect happens when the activity associated with a network degrades with more participants.

neurotoxin: a poison to nerve cells.

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

New Deal (1933–1939): the domestic policy of US President Franklin Roosevelt to pull the nation out of the Great Depression through government economic activities. The New Deal embraced the concept of a government-regulated economy.

New World: the Western Hemisphere, specifically the Americas and nearby islands; sometimes Oceania is included. The term originated in the early 16th century by European explorers expanding their worldly horizons. Contrast Old World.

Nissan (1914–): Japanese automaker.

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

nitrogen oxide (NO): a harmful colorless gas that oxidizes into other forms.

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

nitrous oxide (N2O) (aka laughing gas): a colorless, nonflammable gas with a slightly sweet odor and taste; used in surgery and dentistry for its anesthetic and analgesic effects.

noble gas: an odorless, colorless, monatomic gas with low chemical reactivity. The 6 noble gases that naturally occur are helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, and radioactive radon.

Norman conquest (1066–1072): the 11th-century invasion and occupation of England by the Normans (French), led by William the Conqueror.

numismatics: the study of artifacts which were treated as money.


object (software): a modular source code construct for data or program instructions.

object code: compiled or interpreted source code that a CPU can execute.

object-oriented programming (OOP): a programming paradigm based upon the concept of modular objects that interact with each other. Compare structured programming.

obsidian: volcanic glassy rock.

Odyssey: an epic poem attributed to Homer; the sequel to the Iliad. The Odyssey is about the journey home by Greek hero Odysseus after the fall of Troy. The Iliad depicts the decade-long siege of Tory.

Office of the Comptroller of the Currency: official US bank examining bureau.

Old World: Africa, Europe, and Asia; the part of the world known to Europeans prior to their sojourns to the Americas. Contrast New World.

oligopoly (economics): a market condition where there are few sellers, giving them the power to set price and other market factors. Compare monopoly.

oligopolization: the process of economic concentration.

omniscience: the quality of having infinite awareness and understanding. Compare knowledge.

oomycete: an algae-like fungus in the Oomycota phylum. Many are plant pathogens, such as one that causes potato blight.

OOPC: a cross-platform software development product comprising an objected-oriented extension to the C language and an application development library written in the OOPC language, developed by Electron Mining.

OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) (1960–): an intergovernmental organization of 13 petroleum-exporting nations: Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia (the de facto leader), United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. The founding members were Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela.

operating system (OS): software that manages all basic computer operations, including peripheral-device firmware and file storage, and provides common services for application programs.

Opium Wars (1839–1842, 1856–1860): 2 wars waged by Britain against China to allow it to continue to import and sell opium in China so as to reduce its balance of trade deficit. France joined in the 2nd war, and the United States engaged into some incidents. China lost both wars and was thereby forced to accede to foreign demands to open trade. In the Treaty of Nanking (1942) that concluded the 1st Opium War, China ceded Hong Kong to the UK in perpetuity.

organochloride: an organic compound with at least 1 covalently bonded chlorine atom that provides a dominant functionality.

organophosphate: an ester of phosphoric acid (H3O4P). Many of the most important biochemicals are organophosphates, including DNA, RNA, and many cofactors essential for life.

ornithology: the study of birds.

OS: see operating system.

ostrich effect (behavioral finance): the attempt by an investor to avoid negative financial information.

Ottoman Empire (1299–1922): a contiguous Euro-Asian transcontinental empire, first established as a state in northwest Anatolia (Turkey) by Turkish tribes led by Osman I. The state ascended to empire with the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. The Ottoman Empire attained its apex in the mid-16th century under the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent: controlling much of western Asia, north Africa, and southeast Europe. The Empire lasted through threats, stagnation, and decline until its dissolution as an aftermath of the 1st World War. Ottoman Empire Turks had an exaggerated reputation for violent rapacity in Europe. They were instead rather benign toward their subjects, as long tax revenues rolled in, and the populace was subdued. No wholesale attempts on Christians were made to convert to Islam. Jews were tolerated, to the extent that when Jews were forced to convert to Christianity or face banishment from Spain in 1492, many skilled artisans and educated professionals happily accepted service under the sultan.

overclass: the highest social stratum in a society, having the most prestige, influence, and wealth. Compare underclass.

Oxfam International (1942–): a UK-founded international organization interested in human rights and equity.

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.

ozone layer: a region of Earth’s stratosphere which absorbs most of the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation by dint of high concentrations of ozone; discovered by Charles Fabry and Henri Buisson in 1913.


Pacific Ring of Fire: a seismic belt of geological hot spots that runs from north of New Zealand up through Indonesia, Japan, and the Aleutian Islands, then down the west coast of the Americas, ending in Southern Chile.

Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (petm, 55.8 mya): a period of rapid global warming.

panethnic: a people of multiple ethnic origins.

panic (finance): a consequential conniption by investors.

paracosm: a detailed imaginary world.

PARC (1970–): Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (1970–2002) which was spun off into an independent company in 2002.

Pascal (software): a structured programming language developed by Niklaus Wirth 1968–1969.

Pascal’s principle (aka Pascal’s law, principle of transmission of fluid-pressure): a principle that pressure change to a fluid in a closed container transmits equally throughout the fluid and to the wall of the container; enunciated by Blaise Pascal in 1647–1648.

passenger pigeon (aka wild pigeon, Ectopistes migratorius): a migratory pigeon, once found in deciduous forests across most of North America east of the Rocky Mountains; hunted to extinction by humans in the last half of the 19th century.

Pax Britannica (Latin for British Peace) (1815–1914): the century of relative peace in Europe during which the British Empire became the global hegemonic power and adopted the pose of global police force.

PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl (C12H10-xClx)): a synthetic, organic chlorine compound derived from biphenyl ((C6H5)2), which is a molecule composed of 2 benzene rings. PCBs have been a known carcinogen since the mid-1930s. PCBs are also a neurotoxin and endocrine disrupter. PCB was used in dielectric and coolant fluids until banned in the US in 1979 and internationally in 2001.

Peace of Westphalia (1648): a series of peace treaties between May and October 1648, involving Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III of the House of Habsburg, the Princes of the Holy Roman Empire, sovereigns of the free imperial cities, the Kingdom of France, the Swedish Empire, the Kingdom of Spain, and the Dutch Republic. The Peace of Westphalia introduced the concept of a sovereign state governed by a ruler and established a prejudice against interfering in another nation’s domestic commerce.

peasant: a lower-class free person that farms or is a hired laborer. Compare serf.

peat: an accumulation of partly decayed vegetation and other organic matter that becomes part of the soil. Areas rich in peat are called peatlands, bogs, mires, moors, or muskegs.

pedology: the study of soils.

pension fund (aka superannuation fund): a fund which provides retirement income. Pension funds are major investors, and are especially important to stock markets, where large institutional investors dominate. Pension funds worldwide collectively held $39.6 trillion US in assets in 2015.

permafrost: perennially frozen soil. Most permafrost is in the high latitudes (polar regions), but also occurs in high mountain ranges (alpine permafrost).

pest: an organism deemed a nuisance.

pesticide: a biocide intended to destroy pests.

petroleum: a natural yellow-to-black liquid comprising algae, zooplankton, and other organisms crushed, heated, and liquefied. Compare coal, natural gas.

pH: a measure of acidity which ultimately relates to the number of protons in a solution. 7 = neutral; < = acidic; ▫ = base (alkaline).

phosphine (PH3): a colorless, flammable, toxic gas.

phosphoric acid (H3PO4): a corrosive acid.

phosphorous oxychloride (POCl3): a colorless liquid that hydrolyzes in moist air, releasing phosphoric acid and choking fumes of hydrogen chloride.

physiocracy: construing political and/or economic systems as a natural order.

phytoplankton (aka microalgae): photosynthesizing aquatic organisms, both marine and freshwater; from the Greek words for plant and drifter. Oceanic phytoplankton is the primary food source, directly or indirectly, of nearly all other marine life.

piezoelectric: the property of some nonconducting crystals to become electrically polarized when mechanically strained and, conversely, becoming mechanically strained when an electric field is applied.

Pixar (1979–2006): American computer animation film studio which began as part of Lucasfilm, purchased by Disney in 2006.

placebo effect: a rejuvenation owing solely to mental invigoration via belief in a placebo (totemic treatment).

plankton: small organisms living in a water column that are incapable of swimming against a current.

Plaza Accord (aka Plaza Agreement): an agreement signed at the Plaza Hotel in New York City on 22 September 1985 among the governments of the United States, Britain, France, West Germany, and Japan, to intervene in currency markets to depreciate the US dollar. The Plaza Accord was Reagan’s response to the prospect of protectionist measures by Congress on behalf of US manufacturers.

Pleistocene (2.588 mya–11,700 ya): the epoch that followed the Pliocene and preceded the Holocene; defined by Charles Lyell for the emergence of modern marine mollusks. The Pleistocene ends with passing of the Younger Dryas cold spell.

plow (noun): an implement for cutting, lifting, and turning over soil, especially for preparing a seedbed.

plutocracy: political rule by the wealthy.

polar vortex: the gyre of low pressure and cold air at both of Earth’s polar regions.

political economy: the macroeconomic study of the economies of polities. Political economy evolved from moral philosophy, developing in the 18th century into the study of the economic dynamics of nation-states. In the late 19th century, the term simplified to economics, owing the influential textbook Principles of Economics (1890) by Alfred Marshall. Political economy is still used to specifically indicate the effects of governments on economies.

polity: a political organization.

polychronic (culture): a socially oriented culture that considers schedule adherence secondary to civility. Contrast monochronic.

polychlorinated biphenyl: see PCB.

polyethylene ((C2H4)n) (aka polythene): the most common plastic, with 110 million tonnes produced in 2018.

polymorphism (object-oriented programming): the ability of different classes to overload (use the same) behavior names.

Popular Mechanics (1902–): a US-based technology magazine, originally oriented toward mechanical engineering.

Porsche (1931–): German high-performance automaker.

portability (software): the ease with which source code or a computer program may be transferred to a different computer operating system.

price mechanism: the manner in which prices affect the demand and supply of goods and services.

principal (finance): the nominal amount of a debt. See interest.

printed circuit board (PCB): a nonconductive planar sheet (typically glass epoxy) with conductive (commonly copper) electronic circuitry pathways embedded on its surface. PCBs also have holes into which ICs and other computer components are soldered on.

private good: a good that is excludable and rivalrous. Anything that diminished by consumption is a private good (rivalrous). Anything that is private property is a private good (excludable). Contrast public good.

processor (computer): a hardware unit, typically a single IC chip, that processes software.

program (software): a computer-executable set of instructions. Compare application.

propane (C3H8): a 3-carbon alkane gas at ambient temperature and pressure, but compressible to a transportable liquid. Commonly used as a fuel, propane is a by-product of natural gas processing and petroleum refining.

prospect theory (economics): a descriptive behavioral economic theory which posits that people make decisions based on the potential of immediate loss or gain rather than a probabilistic final outcome.

public good: a good that is non-excludable and non-rivalrous. Consumption of a public good by one individual does not diminish its consumption by others. Contrast private good.

publican: a tavern (public house) keeper. In antiquity, notably the Roman Empire, publicans were public contractors.

pyrethrum: an insecticide derived from chrysanthemum flowers.


Quaker (aka Quaker Oats) (1901–2001): American oats supplier formed by merging 4 oat mills, which evolved into a breakfast cereal company. Quaker was bought by Pepsi, a fizzy drinks company, in 2001.

quantitative easing (Q          E): a monetary policy implemented by central banks to stimulate the economy via buying financial assets. QE is essentially a bailout of private financial institutions at taxpayer expense.

quantum mechanics: a theoretical framework explaining subatomic interactions from a particle perspective.

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.

querty: a keyboard layout based upon the frequency of letter usage in English. The term derives from the first 6 keys on the top-left letter row. The ubiquitous querty layout is inefficient, in having only 1 vowel (a) on the home row, even though most English words contain a vowel. This forces the fingers to travel off the home row for most words. Other, more efficient keyboard layouts have been designed, but none have even remotely approached querty in common usage.


Radio Electronics (1929–2003): an American electronics magazine.

rational (psychology): agreeable to reason, good sense, and sound judgment.

rationalization (sociology): setting aside human natural human inclinations toward emotional values and social mores for stark efficiency in meeting goals.

reactionism (aka reactionaryism, reactionarism) (politics): belief in extremely conservative views or principles; favoring regressive change and opposing progressive change.

recession (economics): a general slowdown in economic activity. Compare stagflation, depression.

recursion (programming languages): the ability of a behavior to iteratively call itself.

reindeer (aka caribou in North America): a deer of the Arctic and Subarctic, resident in tundra and taiga biomes.

Renaissance (14th–17th centuries): the European intellectual and cultural movement from the mid-14th century (after the Black Death) into the 17th century, characterized by collective nostalgia for classical antiquity, though it ended up with skepticism toward traditional thought. The Renaissance affected the arts, religion, politics, philosophy, and science.

Renault (1899–): French automaker.

rent (economics): excess profit from economic power.

renewable: something which doesn’t wear out or go away.

republic: a state which reflects the will of its citizenry.

Republican Party: the dominant conservative-reactionary party in the US. Contrast Democratic Party.

Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) (1989–1995): a US government-owned corporation run by William Seidman, tasked with liquidating assets of failed thrifts during the 1980s–1990s savings and loan crisis.

return on equity (RoE): the rate of return for ownership interest (shareholder equity).

Reverse Plaza Accord: a 1995 agreement among the United States, Germany, and Japan to reverse the 1985 Plaza Accord and strengthen the dollar against the yen and Deutsch mark.

riparian: the bank of a natural watercourse, such as a stream, river, or lake.

rpm: revolutions per minute.

Roaring Twenties: the economic prosperity during the 1920s of the industrialized countries in North America and Western Europe, particularly in major cities.

robber baron: beginning in the 1870s, a term applied to 19th-century American business magnates who engaged in unethical and monopolistic practices, wielded widespread political influence, and amassed enormous wealth. The term originally referred to noblemen in the Middle Ages who functioned as feudal warlords and were literally robber barons. Notable examples of American robber barons include Cornelius Vanderbilt (railroads and shipping), Andrew Carnegie (steel), J.P. Morgan (financier), John D. Rockefeller (oil), and Bill Gates (software). The clever rascals all redeemed their reputations for posterity by becoming philanthropists in their later years.

robot: a computerized device with sensory faculty and capable of independent activity.

robotics: the application of computer technology to mechanical devices, typically for industrial and commercial activities.

Roman Empire (27 bce–467): the dynastic period of ancient Roman civilization, following the 500-year Roman Republic, which was destabilized by a series of civil wars.

Romanov, House of (aka Romanoff) (1613–1917): the 2nd and last imperial dynasty that ruled Russia.

rotenone (C23H22O6): an odorless, colorless, crystalline ketone, used as a broad-spectrum insecticide, pesticide, and piscicide (fish killer). Rotenone foils electron transport in mitochondria. Rotenone occurs naturally in the roots, seeds, and stems of several plants as a defense against herbivory.

Russia: the world’s largest country (17.1 million km2), with 146 million people (2019); a late economic developer with a history of thuggish governance.


safety match: a friction match that uses red phosphorus on the striking surface.

Sahara Desert: north Africa, which is the largest hot desert, and the 3rd-largest desert, after Antarctica and the Arctic.

Sahel: the ecoclimatic and biogeographic transition zone in Africa between the Sahara Desert to the north and the Sudanian Savanna to the south.

saprovore (aka detrivore, decomposer, saprobe, saprotroph): an organism that consumes decaying organic matter.

savanna (aka savannah): a grassland biome with trees sufficiently spaced so that the canopy does not close, despite a tree density that may be greater than a forest.

savings and loan (aka thrift (institution); in Britain, building society): a financial institution that accepts personal savings deposits and makes loans to its members.

science: the study of Nature from a strictly empirical standpoint.

scientific realism: the view that the world described via science is the real (objective) world. Within this perspective, theories must both represent and predict real-world events. Contrast instrumentalism.

scientific socialism: the social-economic-political system imagined by Karl Marx: an egalitarian society with a planned economy. The term scientific socialism was coined by Marx’s collaborator, Friedrich Engels. Contrast utopian socialism.

SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) (1934–): the US federal agency charged with enforcing securities laws and regulating the securities industry.

Second World War: see World War 2.

selenium (Se): the element with atomic number 34; a non-metal used in glassmaking, pigments, and photovoltaics. Trace amounts of selenium are used for cellular function in many organisms, including all animals. In amounts larger than mere molecules, selenium is toxic.

self-organized criticality: a property of dynamic systems where a critical threshold (tipping point) exists that, when passed, sets off a substantial reaction.

Seljuk dynasty (1037–1307): a Turkish, Sunni, Muslim dynasty that gradually adopted Persian culture and advanced its stature. The present-day people of Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Turkmenistan are descendants of Seljuk Turks.

semiconductor: a material with an electrical conductivity between that of a conductor and an insulator.

Semitic culture: a culture which speaks a Semitic language. Semitic languages originated in the Middle East by the 30th century bce. Today the most widely spoken Semitic languages are Arabic (300 million), Amharic (22 m), Tigrinya (7 m), Hebrew (5 m), Tigre (1 m), Aramaic (0.8 m), and Maltese (0.5 m).

serf: a lower-class person bound to the soil and the will of the owner of the land upon which the serf lives. Compare slave, peasant.

Seven Years’ War: see 7 Years’ War.

shale: clastic (fragmentary) sedimentary rock formed by heat and pressure over millions of years.

shareholder: a person with shares of stock in a corporation or other economic enterprise. Compare stakeholder.

shekel: an ancient currency based upon unit of weight, common among Western Semitic cultures.

short sell (finance): the sale of a security which is not owned (but borrowed) by the seller, in the hope that the price drops and may thereby be bought shortly thereafter at a lower cost, reaping the short seller a profit of the difference between the security’s price when sold (short) and when subsequently bought (long).

Siberia: the vast Asian portion of Russia (since the 17th century), east of the Ural Mountains.

silane (SiH4): a colorless, flammable gas with a repulsive smell. Silane is employed in semiconductor and photovoltaics production.

silica (SiO2) (aka silicon dioxide): a ubiquitous crystalline compound. Silicate minerals make up 90% of Earth’s crust. See quartz.

silicon tetrachloride (SiCl4): a colorless, volatile, toxic liquid that fumes in air; used to produce high-quality silicon and silica.

silver (Ag): the element with atomic number 47; a soft, white, lustrous, transition metal, with the highest thermal and electrical conductivity of any metal, as well as having the greatest reflectivity. Historically, silver served as the stepchild to gold as a currency unit. Compare gold.

simian: the suborder of primate comprising the “higher primates”: monkeys, apes, and humans. Simians tend to be larger than prosimians (“lower primates”). See prosimian.

Simula: the first object-oriented programming language, developed 1962–1967 by Ole-Johan Dahl and Kristen Nygaard.

Sinai Peninsula: a triangular peninsula 60,000 km2 in size, between Egypt and Israel.

slide rule: a ruler with a sliding portion for mechanical calculation of multiplication and division, which also functions for roots, logarithms, and trigonometry.

Smalltalk: an influential object-oriented programming language developed at PARC.

smelt: the process of heating an ore to extract its base metal.

Snapple (early 1980s–1994): American bottled tea maker. Snapple was bought by Quaker in 1994 and has since passed through other owners who retained the brand name.

Snowball Earth (~800–630 mya): a period in Earth’s history of episodic near-global glaciation.

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 mind-set.

socialism: a doctrine advocating that wealth be shared among the community; a societal and economic system of sharing, typically characterized by public ownership of enterprises. See scientific socialism, utopian socialism.

sodium hydroxide (NaOH) (aka lye, caustic soda): a white, solid, and highly caustic metallic sodium base.

SOFR (Secured Overnight Financing Rate): a measure of the cost of US banks borrowing cash overnight, collateralized by US Treasury securities; compiled by the New York Federal Reserve.

software (computer): programmed code that performs data processing of every sort. Contrast hardware.

solid-state drive (SSD): a portable packaged IC serving for durable memory storage. Compare disc drive.

Solomon Islands: an island nation in Oceania, east of Indonesia, comprising 6 major islands and over 900 smaller islands.

Song Dynasty (960–1279): the era in China founded by Emperor Taizu of Song, upon his usurpation of the throne of Later Zhou. The Song often warred with northern dynasties. The Song dynasty ended from conquest by the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty. The Song government was first to issue paper money, to use gunpowder, and to establish a permanent standing navy.

source code: human-readable computer instructions in a software program. Compare object code.

Southern Ocean: the oceanic waters around Antarctica.

Southwest Airlines (1967–): American cut-rate airline.

Spanish Inquisition (1478–1534): a Spanish monarchial effort to maintain Catholic orthodoxy via violence, including torture and execution.

species diversity (aka species richness): the variety of species in an ecosystem. Compare biodiversity.

Spice Islands (aka Moluccas or Muluku Islands): an archipelago in eastern Indonesia, named for the cloves, mace, and nutmeg originally exclusively found there in the 16th century.

spinning wheel: a device for spinning yarn or thread from fibers. Spinning wheels first appeared in China in the 11th century. The technology spread to Europe within a century.

stadial: an extended cold spell of insufficient duration or intensity to be considered a glacial period.

stadtholder: literally, a place holder. A stadtholder was a medieval function: a man appointed by a feudal lord to represent him during the lord’s absence.

stagflation: a period of both high unemployment and high inflation.

stakeholder (economics): a person with a vested interest in an economic enterprise (e.g., company). Compare shareholder.

Standard Oil (1870–1911): an American oil company, established by John D. Rockefeller. Standard Oil gained monopoly power, which the US Supreme Court decreed illegal, and had the company broken up.

stannic chloride (SnCl4): a colorless, acidic liquid which fumes in contact with air, giving a stinging odor.

Star Wars (1977–): American space opera film series set “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away,” where rebels fight against galactic empires. May the Force be with you.

state (politics): an abiding political institution represented by a government. Compare nation.

steam engine: an external combustion heat engine for mechanical work that uses steam for its working fluid; conceived of in the 1st century ce by Hero of Alexandria; practically realized in 1698 by Thomas Savery.

stock (finance) (aka capital stock): a share of stock is a fractional ownership claim of a corporation.

stock market (aka equity market): a market for trading shares of stock.

stomata (singular: stoma): plant pores.

Stone Age (roughly 3.4 mya–3300 bce): the 1st principal period of the 3-age system; noted for use of stone tools, prior to the advent of metalworking. See Bronze Age, Iron Age.

Stonehenge: a famous prehistoric monument of huge standing stones in Wiltshire, England, built in stages 3100–1520 bce, with the site originally used as a burial ground. The famous sarsen stones were added in the final stage; many of which were broken up and removed during Roman and medieval times.

stratosphere: the temperature-stratified layer of Earth’s atmosphere 10–50 km above Earth’s surface, below the mesosphere and above the troposphere.

structured programming: a programming paradigm emphasizing procedural modularity and data types. Compare object-oriented programming.

Stuart England (1603–1714): the line of monarchs in the House of Stuart, of which James VI of Scotland (1566–1625) was the first, and Queen Anne (1665–1714) the last.

subclass (object-oriented programming): a class which inherits from a superclass.

subprime (finance): being inferior to the best-rated (prime) customers of banks. The minimum interest a commercial bank charges to its best customers is its prime rate. The subprime lending rate is higher than the prime interest rate.

subsidence: a sinking or downward settling of ground with scant horizontal movement; more generally, the process of lowering, falling, or flattening.

Sudanian Savanna: a broad belt of tropical savanna that runs east-west across mid-Africa.

sulfur dioxide (SO2): a toxic gas with a pungent smell.

Sumer (~5000–1900 bce): an ancient civilization of at least 12 city-states in southern Mesopotamia. Sumer was first settled by a non-Semitic people. The later-arriving Sumerians (~3300 bce), immigrants from Anatolia, referred to themselves as the “black-headed people.”

superclass (object-oriented programming): a class from which other classes (subclasses) inherit.

Superfund (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA)): a US federal law that tried to make egregious polluters pay to clean up sites they have fouled, or, barring that, using taxpayer monies (the so-called Superfund) to pay for cleanup. Owing to Republican negligence, the Superfund program has been a flop.

supply schedule: a graphical representation of the relationship between price and quantity supplied. See demand curve.

sweating (aka perspiration): producing fluids secreted by sweat glands in the skin of mammals as a means of thermoregulation via evaporative cooling. Although many mammals have sweat glands, relatively few profusely sweat enough to cool down. Horses and humans are exemplary exceptions.

Syria: a nation in the Levant. The 1st Syrian civilization started in the 3rd millennium bce. From March 2011, Syria descended into a civil war that devastated the country.


taiga (aka boreal forest): a biome characterized by coniferous forest.

tailings: residue separated during preparation of a product, typically mined ores or grown grains.

Takata (1933–): Japanese automotive parts manufacturer.

Tang Dynasty (618–907): an imperial dynasty in China, generally regarded as a high point in Chinese civilization, in being a golden age of cosmopolitan culture, notably literature, poetry, and painting. The 1st half of Tang rule was a time of stability. After an attempted usurpation (the An Lushan Rebellion), Tang central authority declined. Woodblock printing developed, and Buddhism had its initial influence on Chinese culture during the Tang Dynasty.

tapioca: starch extracted from the tuber of a cassava plant.

taqlid: an Islamic term for conforming to accepted religious law.

tariff: a governmental tax on imports or exports.

Tariff Act of 1930 (aka Smoot-Hawley Tariff): a US federal law implementing protectionist trade policies via increased tariffs on imports. The Tariff Act of 1930 was an incremental pile-on to the Tariff Act of 1928, which had jacked tariffs up.

taxon (plural: taxa): a classification of organisms.

TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol): the dominant protocols for Internet traffic.

technology: the products of engineering. Technology includes techniques as well as tools.

tectonic: processes related to the movement and deformation of the Earth’s crust.

tectonic plate: a sizable chunk of the lithosphere, including some of Earth’s crust, capable of movement.

theory of mind: the cognitive ability to attribute mental states to oneself and others.

thermal expansion: the tendency of matter to alter shape, area, or volume in response to a change in temperature (via heat transfer).

Third World: a nebulous term that arose during the Cold War for economically undeveloped countries not aligned with NATO or the Communist Bloc. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the term is used for the least-developed countries.

Thirty Years’ War: see 30 Years’ War.

three-age system: see 3-age system.

Three Mile Island (TMI) mishap (28 March 1979): a partial nuclear meltdown in reactor 2 of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. TMI was the worst US commercial nuclear power accident, replete with a massive radioactivity leak. Mechanical failures compounded by operator incompetence caused the accident.

Tikopia: a 5 km2 island in the Solomon Islands whose native people have lived sustainably for 3,000 years.

Time Warner: American media company resulting from the merger of Time (1922–), originally a magazine publisher, and Warner Brothers (1923–), originally a movie maker, along with other media companies.

tonne: a metric ton (1.102 US (short) tons).

Toyota (1937–): Japanese automaker.

tragedy of the commons: an economic theory about the inevitability of a shared, nonrenewable resource, where individual users, acting in their own self-interest, behave contrary to the common weal by depleting that resource. The term was coined by American Garrett Hardin in 1968, who warned of the dangers of overpopulation.

transformer (electricity): a device for transferring electrical energy among circuits via electromagnetic induction.

transistor: a semiconductor device used to switch or amplify electronic signals and electrical power.

Treaty of Versailles: the peace treaty that ended World War 1, signed on 28 June 1919. The harsh terms imposed on Germany upon France’s insistence practically guaranteed another major war within a few decades, which duly came.

trichloroethane (C2H3Cl3): an organochloride solvent.

trichloroethylene (C2HCl3): a clear, nonflammable, toxi liquid with a sweet smell.

trigonometry: the branch of mathematics that deals with the relations of triangles.

TruGreen: American lawn-care company.

tundra: a biome where tree growth is hindered by low temperature and short growing seasons. Tundra occurs near the poles and toward the summits of the most majestic mountains.

turbine: a machine designed to capture energy from a moving fluid to put to work.

TYA: thousands of years ago.

type (programming language): a syntactic method for enforcing levels of abstraction in the source code of software programs.

Types are the leaven of computer programming; they make it digestible. ~ English computer scientist Robin Milner


Uber (2009–): American multinational online transportation network company matching riders with contracted drivers.

Übermensch (aka overman, superman): Friedrich Nietzsche’s notion of superior people as admirable and worthy of emulation. Aside from elitist sentiment, Nietzsche was unclear exactly what he meant by Übermensch, other than being resolutely reality-based, in contrast to the otherworldliness that Christianity inspires.

underclass: the lowest social stratum in a society, usually comprising disadvantaged minority groups. Compare overclass.

United Nations (1945–): an intergovernmental organization promoting international cooperation. The UN replaced the ineffective League of Nations, which the United States refused to join (hence the League’s ineffectiveness).

United Netherlands (aka Dutch Republic, United Provinces) (1581–1795): a historic republic where the present-day Netherlands is.

United Kingdom (UK; aka Britain): a European island nation comprising the 4 countries in the British Isles: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland; sans Ireland, which is a separate nation. Britain has 66.5 million people (2018).

United States (US; aka America): the 3rd-largest country (9.6 million km2), just slightly larger than China, with 326 million people (2018). The US has the world’s-largest national economy, and is the planet’s greatest polluter, though China has been doing its best to catch up.

UNIX: an operating system developed by AT&T in the early 1970s.

USB (Universal Serial Bus): a protocol specification for serial data transfer, developed in the mid-1990s.

USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) (1862–): the US federal agriculture agency.

user (computer): someone who uses software applications.

utilitarian organization: an organization people join to get paid.

utilitarianism: a normative ethics theory, that right action is the one that maximizes utility – either in bringing happiness or reducing suffering. According to utilitarianism, the moral worth of an act is solely determined by its outcome. Utilitarianism is essentially statistical hedonism. Contrast moral absolutism.

utility (economics, psychology): satisfaction; usefulness.

utility theory (economics) (aka expected utility theory): the idea that the utility of an object or event derives from the satisfaction of its consumption. Utility theory was pioneered by John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern in 1944. See utility, consume.

utopian socialism: early, idealistic visions of socialism, as exemplified by Henri de Saint-Simon and Robert Owen. Contrast scientific socialism.


vagility: freedom of movement.

Verizon Communications (1984–): American telecommunications company. Born as Bell Atlantic when AT&T (long known as “Ma Bell”) was broken up the federal government, the Baby Bell changed its name after merging with another telecommunications company, GTE, in 2000. Verizon is a portmanteau of veritas (Latin for truth) and horizon.

Victorian era (1837–1901): British history during the reign of Queen Victoria (1819–1901). Britain had a long spell of peace (Pax Britannica), prosperity, refined moral sensibilities, and national self-confidence during the Victorian era. Cultural movement was away from the rationalism of the Georgian era (1714–1830), and toward romanticism and mysticism.

Vietnam War (aka the American War (to the Vietnamese)) (1955–1973): a continuation of the Indochina War (1946–1954), with the US stepping in when the French failed. Like the Korean War, the fight was to prevent communist North Vietnam from taking over non-communist South Vietnam. North Vietnam won, routing the Americans.

virus (software): malware that replicates and inserts copies of itself into other programs or data files when executed. Those programs or files containing a virus are infected.

Volkswagen (1937–): German automaker. The term Volkswagen is German for “people’s car.”

Volvo (1915–): Swedish manufacturer of cars, trucks, buses, construction and marine machines, and industrial engines.

von Neumann architecture: a computer architecture described by John von Neumann in 1945 which includes a central processing unit (CPU) with an arithmetic logic unit and processor registers (temporary storage) and a control unit with an instruction register and program counter, memory for data and instructions; buses for data and instruction transmission, external (stable memory) storage, and input and output mechanisms.


Waddell & Redd Financial (1937–): American financial services firm.

wage slave: a worker reliant upon a steady paycheck from a utilitarian organization to survive.

War of 1812 (1812–1815): a war between the US and Britain over British violation of US maritime rights. The US declared war for several reasons, including trade restrictions and British support to Indian tribes fighting encroachment by American settlers on the frontier. The war ended in a stalemate (Treaty of Ghent).

War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714): a war between 2 alliances of European powers over who had the right to succeed Charles II of Spain, who had greatly weakened Spain’s imperial power, even as it still had the largest empire in the world.

Waterloo (battle of, 18 June 1815): the defeat of the imperial French army, led by Napoléon, by the Seventh Coalition: an Anglo-allied army commanded by the Duke of Wellington, combined with the Prussian army under the command of Gebhard von Blücher. Wellington called it “the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life.”

wattle: a fabrication of poles interwoven with slender branches (withes) and reeds.

weak force: the nuclear force that changes one variety of matter into another; responsible, inter alia, for beta decay.

Web (software): shorthand for World Wide Web.

weed: a derogatory term for an unwanted plant.

Wells Fargo (1852–): American bank.

wildlife: a laughable term for life, coined in 1879 for undomesticated animals that might serve as human food (because if it can’t be eaten or otherwise exploited it just isn’t worth anything).

Wizard of Oz, The (aka The Wonderful Wizard of Oz): a 1900 fantasy novel by American novelist L. Frank Baum. The Wizard is a humbug who is shamed into helping Dorothy return to her home in Kansas. The Wizard of Oz is best known in its 1939 film adaptation, staring Judy Garland.

World Health Organization (1948–): a specialized agency of the United Nations concerned with public health.

World War 1 (aka WW1, 1st World War, Great War) (1914–1918): a war fought in Europe between 2 alliances: Great Britain, France, and the Russian Empire (Allies) versus Germany and Austria-Hungary (Central Powers). As the war wore on, Italy, Japan, and the United States joined the Allies, while the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria joined the Central Powers. Over 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians died from the Great War. The Allies prevailed.

World War 2 (aka WW2, 2nd World War) (1939–1945): a global war between 2 alliances–the Allies and the Axis–that involved over 30 nations. The primary Allies were Great Britain, the United States, and Russia. Germany, Italy, and Japan were the Axis powers. ~85 million people perished.

World Wide Web (aka Web): a set of Internet servers that support documents which can be located and displayed by browsers. Not all Internet servers are part of the Web.

WorldCom (1983–2002): American telecommunications corporation that committed massive accounting fraud.

worm (software): standalone malware that replicates itself to spread to other computers.


Xerox (1906–2018): a corporation focused on paper document printing and reproduction; sold to Fujifilm in 2018.


Yahoo! (1994–): an Internet portal, bought by Verizon in 2016.

Yamal Peninsula: a large peninsula in northwest Siberia, extending 700 km from the mainland. In the tongue of the indigenes (the Nenets), Yamal means “end of the land.”

Yedoma: Pleistocene-age permafrost, covering over 1 million km2 of Alaska, Canada, and Siberia; thick, organic-rich (~2% carbon by mass), permafrost deposits from the last ice age, comprising 50–90% ice.

Yom Kippur War (aka 1973 Arab-Israeli War, Ramadan War, October War) (6–25 October 1973): a 3-week war in which an alliance of Arab states attacked Israel by surprise. The war end in a cease-fire.

Younger Dryas (12.8–11.4 tya): the most recent stadial.

YouTube (2005–): a video-sharing Web site.


zaibatsu (literally: financial clique): the financial/industrial conglomerates whose size and influence afforded control over much of the Japanese economy during the Empire of Japan (from the Meiji period until the end of the 2nd World War).

zero-sum game: a hypothetical mathematical (game theory) representation of a multiple-player game played for a duration during which cumulative winnings equal cumulative losses.