Glossary – W


W boson: an electrically charged massive subatomic particle; carrier of a form of the weak force; sibling of the Z boson.

wabi-sabi: a worldview and aesthetic developed in Japan that centers on acceptance of the transience and imperfection of existence. Wabi-sabi emphasizes simplicity, economy, and a sense of appreciative intimacy with Nature.

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

wagtail: a small bird with a long tail that frequently wags.

Walker circulation (aka Walker cell): a conceptual model of circulatory tropospheric air flow in the tropics, discovered by Gilbert Walker.

Wall Street Journal, The (WSJ) (1889–): a pro-business New York City-based international daily newspaper, with an emphasis on corporate doings. By circulation, WSJ is the largest newspaper in the US.

wallaby: an Australian marsupial related to the kangaroo.

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 Pacific (1879–1884): a war between Chile and an alliance of Bolivia and Peru for possession of the nitrate-rich Atacama Desert. Chile won and gained the disputed territory.

Wars of the Roses (1455–1487): a series of dynastic wars for the throne of England, between 2 rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the Houses of Lancaster and York.

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.

warbler: a small, vocal, insectivorous perching bird, with ~350 species in both the Old World and New.

warnowiid: a family (Warnowiaceae) of unicellular protists with ocelloids.

wasabi (aka Japanese horseradish): a plant in the cabbage family, used as a pungent condiment in Japanese cuisine.

wasan: a distinct mathematics developed in Japan during the Edo Period, without knowledge of Western mathematics, but contemporaneously making the same discoveries.

wasp: a flying insect of well over 100,000 species, found on every continent except polar regions. Most wasps are parasites or parasitoids as larvae, feeding on nectar only as adults. Many wasps are predatory, feeding their larvae other insects (often paralyzed). Wasp sociality varies by species, from solitary to social.

Watases lanternfish (Diaphus watasei): a lanternfish native to the seas off east Africa to Japan and Australia, at depths of 100–2005 meters.

water (H2O): the elixir of life; an odd polar molecule like no other.

water bug: a true bug of ~2,000 species in the Nepomorpha infraorder, known as true water bugs for their aquatic lifestyle. Water bugs live everywhere but the polar regions, mostly in freshwater habitats.

water column: a conceptual vertical column of water, extending from the surface to the bottom sediments.

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

water flea (aka Cladocera): a small crustacean of 620 known species, though many more exist. Water fleas are ubiquitous in inland aquatic habitats, but rare in oceans.

water potential: the tendency of water to move from one area to another due to osmosis, gravity, pressure, or matrix effects, such as surface tension.

water spider (aka diving bell spider, Argyroneta aquatica): a spider that spends most of its life submerged in freshwater ponds and other places with slow-moving water flow.

water strider: a true bug in the Gerris genus, able to walk on water. Over 1,700 species of gerrids have been identified, 10% of them marine.

water table (aka groundwater level): the upper limit of water-saturated ground.

Watergate scandal (1972): a major political scandal resulting from the 17 June 1972 break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, DC by Republican operatives.

President Nixon had authorized various “dirty tricks” against political opponents, including harassment and wiretapping. Nixon did not hesitate to abuse his power of office.

The attempted cover-up of the Watergate break-in by the administration was compromised by the discovery of Nixon having taped his White House Oval Office conversations. The tapes provided smoking-gun evidence of Nixon’s culpability. Nixon resigned on 9 August 1974 rather than face certain impeachment.

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.”

watermelon (Citrullus lanatus): a vine-like gourd that originated in southern Africa; commonly considered a melon, though melons are a different genus.

watershed (aka catchment, drainage basin): a region peripherally bounded by water draining to a certain watercourse (body of water).

watt: a unit of power quantifying rate of energy transfer, derived from joules. Named after James Watt.

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

wattled jacana (Jacana jacana): a South American wader bird.

wave (physics): a mathematical characterization of a field. Contrast particle.

wave/particle duality: the idea that an object simultaneously possesses the properties of a wave and a particle.

wavefront (physics): the locus of a propagating energy wave.

wavelength: the spatial period of a sine wave; commonly used as a statistical measure of the energy of a waveform, which is mathematically the product of a wave’s frequency and amplitude.

weasel: a small, active predatory mammal in the Mustela genus which includes least weasels, ferrets, minks, polecats, and stoats. The Mustelidae family, which also includes badgers, otters, and wolverines, is often called the weasel family.

weather: characterization of daily or other short-term tropospheric conditions in a locality. Compare climate.

weak force: the bosonic nuclear force that transforms matter from one variety of into another and causes matter to decay; hypothetically transmitted by the W or Z boson. Contrast strong force.

weak linkage (genetics): a variable correlation between genetic code and expression.

weather: characterization of daily or other short-term tropospheric conditions in a locality. Compare climate.

weaver ant (aka green ant): an arboreal eusocial ant in the Oecophylla genus, renowned for nest-building skills using leaves sewn together via larval silk.

weaverbird (aka weaver finch): a small passerine related to finches, endemic to sub-Saharan Africa and tropical Asia.

Web (software): shorthand for World Wide Web.

weed: a derogatory term for an unwanted plant.

weevil (aka snout beetle): a typically small (>6 mm) beetle of over 60,000 species in several families, mostly in the family of true weevils: Curculionidae. Some other beetles, not closely related, bear the weevil name. Most weevils have long, elbowed antennae that can fold into special grooves on the snout. Many weevils lack wings, whereas others are excellent fliers. Most weevils are herbivores. Whereas larvae typically feed on a species-specific plant (or close relations), adult weevils tend to be less picky eaters. As crop eaters, weevils are generally regarded as pests.

weight: the force that gravitation exerts upon an object, equal to the mass (m) of the object times the local acceleration of gravity (g): W = m x g. With constant gravitational acceleration, weight and mass correspond, hence the easy confusion between the two.

Wells Fargo (1852–): American bank.

Weltanschauung: see worldview.

Welwitschia: a monotypic (single species) gymnosperm genus. The Welwitschia plant is native to the Namib desert in Angola and Namibia.

West Nile virus: a mosquito- and avian-borne disease caused by virus in the Flavivirus genus.

western rosinweed (Calycadenia pauciflora): a daisy endemic to northern California Coast Ranges.

wet (chemistry): competitive interphase bonding.

wettability (chemistry): how wet something can be; the ability of a liquid to maintain contact with a solid surface, as an outcome of the intensity of intermolecular interactions.

Weyl fermion: a massless, but charged, fermion; named after Hermann Weyl. Compare Dirac fermion, Majorana fermion.

whale: an enormous marine mammal in the clade Cetacea.

WhatsApp (2009–): American instant messaging network, acquired by Facebook in 2014.

wheat: the cereal grain upon which Western civilization grew.

whiptail lizard: a family (Teiidae) of lizards native to the Americas.

whistling moth: a moth endemic to southeast Australia.

white (sociology): a light-skinned Caucasian. Contrast black.

white blood cell (aka leukocyte): an immune system cell in the blood. The term white blood cell derives from their appearing after being put through a centrifuge, as contrasted to red blood cells.

white dwarf: a high-density star, burned to the nub: a ball of mostly carbon and oxygen.

white fat (aka white adipose tissue): a passive form of mammalian fat that stores lipids as an energy reservoir. Contrast brown fat.

white-fronted bee-eater (Merops bullockoides): a richly colored, slender, bee-eating bird widely distributed in sub-equatorial Africa, with a distinctive white forehead and black mask.

white matter: (the appearance of) glia cell concentrations in the brain, as contrasted to neuronal clusters (gray matter).

whitefly: a small fly that typically feeds on the undersides of plant leaves.

whole number: a number in the set of natural numbers, albeit including zero {0, 1, 2, 3, …}.

Whooper swan (Cygnus cygnus): a semiaquatic, large, migratory northern hemisphere swan.

whorl (botany) (aka verticil): an arrangement of at least 3 sepals, petals, leaves, stipules, or branches that radiate from a single point and surround or wrap around a stem. A pair of opposing leaves is not a whorl.

whydah (aka widowbird): an African songbird with a long dark tail.

widow spider: a spider in the Latrodectus genus with females that eat their mate after mating.

widowbird: a species of passerine in the weaver family, native to sub-Saharan Africa.

wild nutmeg (aka baboonwood, Virola surinamensis): a tropical and subtropical plant. Its fruit contains lauric acid, which has antimicrobial properties.

wild pig (aka wild boar, wild hog, Sus scrofa): the wild ancestor of the domestic pig, found in Europe and Asia, including Japan, and as far south as Indonesia.

wild sunflower (Aspilia mossambicensis): a medicinal flowering shrub.

wildebeest (aka gnu): an antelope, native to Africa, in the family of even-toed ungulates. There are 2 gnu: black and blue. The blue wildebeest remained in its original range, and so is little changed from its ancestors. Black wildebeest adapted to the open grassland habitat that ranges south of where blue wildebeest live.

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).

willmind: volitional mentation. Contrast nattermind.

wing loading (aerodynamics): total weight of a flyable object divided by the area of its wing.

wintergreen oil (methyl salicylate): an organic ester made by many plants, particularly wintergreens, as an herbivory defense.

wisdom of crowds: the notion that collective decisions tend to be better than those that individuals alone could make.

wit: clever expression of keen perception. See humor.

witches’ broom (aka witch’s broom): a deformative disease of woody plants caused by phytoplasma.

witchweed (aka witches weed): a parasitic plant in the Striga genus, endemic to Africa, Asia, and Australia.

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.

wolf: a carnivorous social mammal native to north Africa, Eurasia, and North America. Wolves are apex predators.

wolf spider: a robust, agile spider with excellent eyesight in the Lycoside family, ranging from 1 to 3.5 cm. Wolf spiders do not spin webs. Most wolf spiders live in solitude.

wolverine (aka skunk bear, Gulo gulo): a fierce, stocky, muscular carnivore that resembles a small bear, but is the largest weasel. Wolverines are endemic to woodlands with cold winters in the northern hemisphere.

wood duck (aka Carolina duck): a colorful perching duck endemic to North America.

wood sorrel (common wood sorrel: Oxalis acetosella): a small flowering plant endemic to North and South America, Europe, and Australia. The tubers of wood sorrel are edible, consumed by humans for millennia. The leaves and flowers of wood sorrel contain oxalic acid, which is slightly toxic, albeit present in numerous commonly consumed foods, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, grapefruit, chives, and rhubarb.

wood white butterfly (Leptidea sinapis): a small white-gray butterfly found in meadows and forest edges in Eurasia.

woodpecker: a near-passerine found throughout much of the world, typically in forests and woodlands.

woodpecker finch (Camarhynchus pallidus): a short-tongued, strong-billed, tool-using finch endemic throughout the Galápagos Islands; named for its practice of hammering on tree branches with its bill, like a woodpecker on tree trunks.

woodrat (aka packrat): a rat in the Neotoma genus, with the greatest species diversity in the deserts of northern Mexico and the western United States.

woolly bear caterpillar (aka woolly worm): a fuzzy caterpillar of a moth in the Arctiidae family, with 11,000 species.

woolly monkey: a monkey in the Lagothrix genus (4 species), with a prehensile tail that lives in extensive social groups, endemic to the rainforests of South America. Woolly monkeys have thick fur, brown in the body with dark gray appendages.

word: a unit of language.

work (physics): energy in transit; the product of an energetic force applied to matter.

working memory: short-term memory holding immediately needed information, such as visual or auditory perception undergoing sensation.

World Health Organization (1948–): a United Nations agency concerned with international 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 WWI, WW2, 2nd World War) (1939–1945): a global war between 2 opposing 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. Germany and the United States indulged in genocidal actions: on Jews by Germany, and on the Japanese and Germans by the US. The Allies prevailed; hence the Germans and Japanese were tried for war crimes, but the Americans were not.

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.

worldview (aka Weltanschauung): a cognitive orientation toward life and Nature; coined by Wilhelm von Humboldt, who considered language and worldview entangled.

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

wormhole: a shortcut in spacetime, allowing entanglement.

wormlion (aka vermileonid): the larva of an insect in the Vermileonidae family that traps small crawling insects, typically ants, in cone-shaped pits like antlion larvae (an instance of convergent evolution).

wormwood: a hardy perennial herb in the daisy family, native to temperate biomes in Eurasia and the Americas. Wormwood contains the pesticide thujone.

wrasse: a clever, carnivorous , marine fish of 500 species in the Labridae family. Wrasse are found throughout the world in tropical and temperate seas.

wren: a small, insectivorous passerine in the Maluridae family, endemic to Australia and New Guinea.

writ of mandamus: a judicial remedy in the form of a superior court order.

Wyatt’s rebellion (1554): a popular uprising in England by Protestants against Queen Mary I’s determination to marry Catholic Philip II of Spain.