Glossary – O


oak: a flowering tree or shrub native to the northern hemisphere in the Quercus genus, with ~600 species. The term oak is also used in related genera.

oat: (aka common oat, Avena sativa): a species of cereal grain, often used for livestock feed.

obedience: an act of obeying an authority. Compare conformity.

obese: so corpulent as to have irreparably altered metabolism, damaged health, and shortened lifespan. Quantitative definitional metrics – such as BMI >30 – remain controversial.

obiter dictum: an incidental, collateral opinion.

object: something manifest as cohesive matter.

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 permanence: the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be observed. Jean Piaget brought object permanence to prominence in his study of developmental psychology.

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

objectification (sociology): a process of subjugation, where people are treated as objects: means to an end.

objective: the idea of something having independence in its existence. Contrast subjective.

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

obligate: obligatory.

obligate parasitism: an organism that depends upon its host to complete its life cycle and reproduce. Contrast facultative parasitism, hemiparasitism.

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

observation: active perception.

observation inflation: a false memory of having done something which was only witnessed. See imagination inflation.

obsession: a persistent mental construct.

obsessive-compulsive disorder: an anxiety disorder of an obsession combined with a compulsion.

obsidian: volcanic glassy rock.

Occam’s razor: a principle of parsimony in logic, courtesy of William of Ockham. In explaining a system, Occam’s razor states that the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions and simplest reasoning is most logically appealing. Science employ’s Occam’s razor as a heuristic in developing theories and models – whence the failing of science through untoward simplification, as Nature never adheres to Occam’s razor.

Occident: the West; societies of European descent, including North America. Compare Orient.

occipital lobe: one of the 4 major lobes of the cerebral cortex in the mammalian brains. The occipital lobe processes imagery. See frontal lobe, parietal lobe, temporal lobe.

ocean: a large, deep body of saltwater.

ocean conveyor belt: the continuous global system of interconnected ocean currents. This marine conveyor belt system affects climate worldwide.

Oceania: a region centered on the islands in the tropical Pacific Ocean, including Australasia.

ocellar: relating to, or connecting with, an ocellus.

ocellus (plural: ocelli): a simple invertebrate eye.

ocelloid: a suBCEllular eye found in warnowiids, with subcomponents analogous to the lens, cornea, iris, and retina of eyes.

octopamine (C8H11NO2): a biogenic compound with various effects in different species.

octopus (plural: octopuses, octopi, or octopodes): a cephalopod with a soft body and 8 limbs, of over 300 species.

oculesics: the study of eyes as a conduit of nonverbal communication; a subcategory of kinesics.

oculomotor: moving the eyeball.

odorant: an odorous substance.

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.

Oedipal complex (Freudian psychoanalytic theory): the emotions of a child in desiring to sexually possess the parent of the opposite sex. These emotions are kept in the unconscious by repression.

oegopsid: a squid in the order Oegopsida, characterized by heads without tentacle pockets, eyes without a corneal cover, arms and tentacle clubs with hooks, buccal supports without suckers, and paired oviducts in females.

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

ohm: a unit of electrical resistance, named after Georg Ohm.

Old South (aka Dixieland): the rural, pre-Civil War society of the southern United States.

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

Older Dryas (stadial): a 100–150-year stadial centered around 14.1 tya, its coldest time.

Oldowan (industry): the earliest known Stone Age tool technology (2.6–1.7 mya). Named after Olduvai Gorge, where many artifacts were found by Louis and Mary Leakey during the 1930s. See also: Acheulean, Mousterian industries.

Olduvai Gorge (aka Oldupai Gorge): a rift in east Africa that is one of the most important paleoanthropological sites in the world.

oleic acid (C18H34O2): a fatty acid that naturally occurs in various vegetable and animal fats. The term oleic is derived from the oil of olive. Oleic acid is emitted by the decaying corpses of numerous insects, including bees and ants. The smell incites workers to remove the dead bodies from the nest.

oleogustus: the taste of fat; one of the 7 basic tastes.

olfaction (aka oflactics): the act or sense of smell.

olfactory bulb: a vertebrate neural bundle involved with smell.

oligarchy: inordinate power in an organization or state vested in a relative few persons.

Oligocene (34–23 mya): the 3rd and last geologic epoch in the Paleogene period; characterized by a sparsity of new mammals after a speciation burst during the preceding Eocene epoch. Global changes during the Oligocene include expansion of grasslands and a regression of tropical forests toward the equatorial belt.

oligodendrocyte (aka oligodendroglia): a glial cell that resides on neurons in the central nervous system, providing nerve cell regulation and facilitation. Compare Schwann cell.

oligophagy: eating only a few specific foods. Compare monophagy, polyphagy.

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.

oligosaccharide: a saccharide (sugar) polymer, typically with 2 to 10 component simple sugars (monosaccharides).

olive (Olea europaea): a small drupe high in healthy fat, found in Africa, the Middle East, and southern Asia.

olive baboon (aka Anubis baboon, Papio anubis): the baboon with the most extensive range: throughout north-central Africa. The olive baboon inhabits savannas, steppes, and forests. Its name derives from the color of its fur.

olivine ((Mg+2, Fe+2)2SiO4; aka peridot, chrysolite): a magnesium iron silicate mineral, common in Earth’s asthenosphere, but which weathers quickly on the surface.

Oman: an Arab absolute monarchy on the southeastern rim of the Arabian Peninsula.

omega-3 (ω-3): a fatty acid group, of which α-linoleic acid is essential.

omega-6 (ω-6): a fatty acid group, of which linoleic acid is essential.

ommatidium (plural: ommatidia): a facet of a compound eye comprising 1 or more photoreceptor cells innervated by a single axon, providing a single picture element.

omniscience: (the idea of) having comprehensive awareness and comprehension of Nature. Compare knowledge.

omnivore: an organism that consumes a variety of plant and animal matter as food. Compare herbivore, carnivore, and saprovore.

On the Origin of Species (1859): the 1st book by Charles Darwin, on evolution.

“There is a frequently recurring struggle for existence, it follows that any being, if it varies however slightly in any manner profitable to itself, under the complex and sometimes varying conditions of life, will have a better chance of surviving, and thus be naturally selected.” ~ Charles Darwin

oncogenesis: the creation of a tumor (cancer).

oncovirus: a virus that causes cancer in its host; often restricted to mammals.

onion (Allium cepa): a vegetable with a characteristic bulbous bulb, highly prized for its nutritional qualities throughout history.

Onion, The (1988–): American satirical news organization.

ontogeny: the course of development in an organism.

ontological argument: a philosophical argument for the existence of a supreme being.

ontology (philosophy): the study of the nature of reality. Compare phenomenology.

oogenesis (aka ovogenesis): the differentiation of an ovum (egg cell) into a cell which may become a zygote.

oomycete: an algae-like fungus in the Oomycota phylum. Many are plant pathogens.

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.

Oort cloud: a hypothesized cloud of comets nearly a light-year from the Sun. The outer edge of the Oort cloud defines the cosmographical boundary of the solar system, where Sun’s gravity holds sway. See Kuiper belt.

opah (aka moonfish, sunfish, kingfish, Jerusalem haddock): a large, colorful, pelagic, lamprid fish in the Lampris genus.

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.

operant conditioning: a behaviorist technique of training via reinforcement or punishment. Compare classical conditioning.

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

Ophiocordyceps unilateralis: a fungus that infects ants.

ophiophagy: snake eating.

opiate: a substance containing opium.

opioid: a group of biochemicals, such as endorphins, produced by the body during stress or pain; also, other compounds with similar effects to opium and its derivatives.

opisthokont: a broad grouping of eukaryotes that includes fungi and animals.

opium: the dried latex from the opium poppy. Opium is 12% morphine, which has been processed since antiquity to produce various medicines and chemical recreations.

opium poppy (aka breadseed poppy, Papaver somniferum): a flowering plant in the Papaeraceae family, with an original native range in the eastern Mediterranean. This poppy is grown agriculturally for its edible seeds and pharmaceutical alkaloid metabolites, most notably opium.

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.

opportunistic evolution: the theory that evolution adaptively takes place opportunistically.

opportunity cost (aka alternative cost): the cost of passing up alternatives. While opportunity cost may be considered prior to a decision, opportunity cost is most clearly a product of hindsight bias when the decision is not as satisfying as expected.

opossum (colloquially possum): a marsupial indigenous in the western hemisphere. Opossums are biological generalists, and so successful colonizers. There are 103+ opossum species in 19 genera.

opsin: a light-sensitive protein ; an organic photoreceptor that mediates the conversion of a photon into an electrochemical signal as a first step in a transduction cascade that results in a visual image. A distinct opsin is employed by mammals for the pupil reflex and non-image light detection as a basis for biorhythm.

opsonin: a molecule that enhances phagocytosis by marking an antigen for an immune response.

optic chiasma (aka optic chiasm): the part of the brain where the optic nerves partly cross.

optic nerve: the nerve bundle that transmits visual information from retina to the brain.

optimism: an opinion of positivity about a certain system. Contrast pessimism.

orangutan: a red-haired ape of 3 extant species, native to the rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia. The orangutan is the largest arboreal ape.

orb-weaving spider (Cyclosa ginnagamay): an orb web weaving spider that employs camouflage in its web that mimics bird droppings.

orbit (physics): the gravitationally curved trajectory of an object.

orca (Orcinus orca): the largest oceanic dolphin; wrongly, commonly called a “killer whale.”

orchid: a flowering plant in a diverse family with 21,950–26,049 species in 880 genera.

order (biological classification): the taxon above family and below class. Augustus Rivinus first used order in the 1690s in his classification of plants. Carl Linnaeus incorporated order into his taxonomic schema in 1735. There is no consensus on the taxonomical meaning of order.

ordinal number: a number indicating rank order (1st, 2nd, et cetera). Compare cardinal number.

Ordovician (485–443 mya): the 2nd of 6 periods in the Palaeozoic era, following the Cambrian period and preceding the Silurian. The name derives from the Celtic tribe of the Ordovices in Wales, from where rocks of the period were first taken for study.

oregano (Origanum vulgare): a perennial herb, though grown as an annual in colder climates. Closely related to marjoram.

organ (biology) (aka viscus): a collection of interconnected tissues dedicated to a common function.

organic (agriculture): a plant grown without it or its produce having artificial chemicals applied to it beyond fertilizer. Contrast conventional.

organelle: a subunit within a eukaryotic cell that has a specialized function. Organelles are membrane-bound. Cell organelles evolved through endosymbiotic union with an archaeon host cell and a bacterial endosymbiont.

organic: related to living organisms; from a chemistry viewpoint: a complex molecular structure based upon a carbon backbone.

Organic Lake: a shallow, salty, sulfuric body of water in East Antarctica.

organic solidarity (aka contractual solidarity): societal adhesion among peoples with differentiated lives, such as in industrialized nations. Contrast mechanical solidarity. Compare gesellschaft, gemeinshaft.

organism: a life form; an animated organic structure.

organitype: the paradigms which constitute an organism: the combination of phenotype, mentotype, and genotype.

organization: a goal oriented, structured, secondary group. Organizations have a sustaining existence independent of their members. See institution, bureaucracy.

organoarsenic (aka organoarsenical): a compound comprising arsenic and carbon-based molecules. Organoarsenics are produced industrially for use in insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides.

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.

oribatid (aka moss mite, beetle mite): an order of mites with low metabolic rate, slow development (several months to 2 years), low fecundity, and considerable longevity (up to several years), in the Acari group.

Orient: the East, especially East Asia; societies historically influenced by Chinese culture. Compare Occident.

Oriental fruit moth: a large moth, native to China.

origami: the traditional Japanese art of paper folding, originating in the 17th century.

Orion–Cygnus Arm: a minor spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy, 3,000 light-years across and 10,000 light-years long. The solar system swirls in the Orion–Cygnus Arm.

Ornithomimidae: a group of beaked theropods which looked somewhat like modern ostriches.

Ornithischia: an order of beaked, herbivorous dinosaurs.

ornithology: the study of birds.

Ornithoscelida: the clade of dinosaurs including ornithischians (Ornithischia) and theropods (Therapoda). See Saurischia.

Ornithurae: the clade which includes the common ancestor to all modern birds.

orogen: a mountain belt formed from compressive deformation of a tectonic plate. Orogeny refers to the process of forming orogens: mountain making.

orogeny: the process of forming orogens; mountain making.

Orrorin (6.2–5.6 mya): a genus of early hominin with anatomy closer to humans than later hominin Australopithecus afarensis. Orrorin had a precision grip much like modern humans.

ortho-water: an isomer of water with symmetric wavefunctions and atomic nuclear spins summing to 1. Contrast para-water.

orthogenesis (aka orthogenetic evolution, autogenesis): a hypothesis that organisms have a goal-directed (teleological) vector of evolution; introduced by Wilhelm Haacke in 1893 and popularized by Theodor Eimer; now considered moribund.

orthorhombic crystal system: one of the 7 crystal systems. Orthorhombic lattices comprise a rectangular prism, with base (a by b) and height (c) such that a, b, and c are distinct. All 3 bases intersect at 90° angles, rendering the 3 lattice vectors mutually orthogonal.

orthomyxovirus: a family of RNA viruses comprising 7 genera. 4 genera cause influenza in vertebrates. 1 is an arbovirus, infecting both vertebrates and invertebrates.

oryx: a large antelope of 4 species, endemic to arid Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

OS: see operating system.

Osiris: the ancient Egyptian god of the underworld, the afterlife, and rebirth. See Set.

osmobiosis: a cryptobiotic response to extreme solute (typically high-salinity water).

osmolyte: a chemical compound affecting osmosis.

osmophile: an organism capable of growing in a sugary habitat.

osmosis: the net movement of solvent molecules through a partially permeable membrane into a region with higher solute concentration, to effect an equalized solute concentration on both sides of the membrane. Osmosis relies upon kinetic energy.

osmotic pressure: the pressure required to prevent inward flow of water across a semipermeable membrane, such as a cell membrane.

osprey (aka sea hawk, fish eagle, fish hawk, Pandion haliaetus): a piscivorous bird of prey with keen vision.

OSS (Office of Strategic Services) (1942–1945): American military intelligence organization during World War 2.

ossicle: one of 3 bones in the middle ear, which are some of the smallest bones in the human body. The 3 ossicles are the malleus, incus, and stapes.

osteoarthritis: a joint disease from breakdown of joint cartilage and underlying bone.

osteoporosis: a disease of progressive bone mass and density loss.

ostracod (aka seed shrimp): a small crustacean of 70,000 species throughout natural history (30,000 extant).

ostrich: a large, long-necked, flightless bird native to Africa, in the family Struthionidae, with 2 extant species.

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

otariid (aka eared seal, otary): a semiaquatic seal. Sea lions and fur seals are otariids. True seals (phocids) are earless, and more streamlined than otariids.

Ottoman Empire (1299–1922): an empire founded by the Turks upon their conquest of Constantinople (1453), thus overthrowing the Byzantine Empire.

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.

Ottoman Turks: the Turkish-speaking population of the Ottoman Empire who were the base of the state’s military and ruling classes.

Ouranopithecus (9.7–7.2 mya): an early hominid with a large, broad face, showing a mixture of ape and human traits (based upon cranial fossils). Ouranopithecus was probably a quadruped. The hominid identified by 3 teeth as Graecopithecus (7.2 mya) may have been an Ouranopithecus.

out-group: a group generally viewed negatively. Contrast in-group.

outcrossing (aka outbreeding): introducing unrelated genes into a breeding line. Outcrossing promotes genetic diversity.

ouroboros (aka uroboros): an ancient symbol of a dragon or serpent eating its own tail which symbolizes the eternal cycle of existence.

out-of-body experience (OBE): an experience of awareness from a perspective which is outside of one’s physical body.

oval window (aka vestibular window): the membrane that separates the middle ear from the inner ear.

ovary: the egg-producing reproductive organ.

ovary (botany): the enlarged lower part of the pistil on flowers, enclosing ovules, which develop into seeds once fertilized. Such floral ovaries mature into fruit.

ovary (zoology): a vertebrate ovum-producing reproductive organ.

over-controlled aggressor: a person with strong internal controls against aggression, but who have an outburst of extreme violence once sufficiently provoked. Contrast under-controlled aggressor.

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

overcriminalization: the misuse of the criminal sanction.

overreactive aggression: the tendency toward extreme retaliation in response to even mild provocation.

overstory: the layer of foliage in a forest canopy. Compare understory.

ovicide: an egg killer.

oviduct (aka Fallopian tube): the passageway from the ovaries to the outside of the body in a vertebrate.

oviparity: egg-laying. Contrast viviparity. See ovoviviparity.

ovipore: a pore-like sex organ of a female animal, typically an insect, in which spermatophores are inseminated.

oviraptorosaur: a feathered maniraptoran dinosaur that lived during the Cretaceous.

ovoviviparity: a reproduction mode in animals in which embryos develop inside eggs that are retained within the mother’s body until they are ready to hatch.

ovule: the plant part that contains the female germ cell which develops into a seed.

ovum (egg): the female haploid reproductive cell (gamete) in oogamous organisms. Oogamy is the familiar form of sexual reproduction.

owl: a bird among 200 species of mostly solitary and nocturnal birds of prey; typified by an upright stance, a large, broad head, sharp vision and hearing, and feathers that provide silent flight. Owls are found in all biomes except the coldest (Antarctica, most of Greenland).

owlet moth: a robustly built moth in the Noctuidae family, with 4,200 genera and possibly 100,000 species.

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

oxidant: a compound capable of oxidizing other compounds that it encounters. Oxidation often damages cells.

oxidation: an increase in oxidation state by loss of electrons. Contrast reduction.

oxidation state (aka oxidation number): a characterization of the charge potential of an atom within a chemical species. An electrically neutral compound necessarily has net oxidation state of zero. The more electronegative or electropositive atoms in a compound are considered 1st in calculating the oxidation state of molecular atoms.

oxidative phosphorylation: a metabolic pathway that uses energy released by the oxidation of nutrients to produce ATP. Almost all aerobic organisms carry out oxidative phosphorylation to synthesize ATP. See respiration.

oxpecker: a bird clade of 2 species endemic to the savanna of sub-Saharan Africa. Oxpeckers sit on the backs of large animals, feeding on parasites. Oxpeckers prefer certain grazing species, avoiding others.

oxygen (O): the element with atomic number 8; a highly reactive nonmetallic element that readily forms compounds (notably oxides) with almost all other elements. Oxygen is the 3rd most common element in the universe.

oxygen minimum zone (OMZ): the layer of water in the ocean with the least oxygen. OMZ is at a depth of 200 to 1,000 meters, depending upon location and local circumstances. Oxygen minimum zones are significant in regulating the productivity and ecology of the ocean. For example, some bacteria species in the OMZ consume nitrate rather than oxygen, concentrating this nutrient. Huge bacterial mats in the OMZ off the west coast of South America engender fish populations.

oxytocin (C43H66N12O12S2): a neurohypophysial hormone that acts in the brain as a sensation modulator. Oxytocin has various effects in different animal species. In primates, oxytocin is instrumental in facilitating social bonding.

oystercatcher: a coastal wader bird of ~11 species.

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.