Science & Technology Almanac

By Lynn Lauerman | Go to book overview

GLOSSARY
Note: Words in italics indicate separate glossary entries.
a
abscission (life science): disjoining of a section of a plant from its body, as with a petal falling from a flower
absolute value (mathematics): distance of either a positive or negative number from zero
absolute zero (physical science): low point on the Kelvin temperature scale (0 K), corresponding to −459.7°F (−273.2°C), theorized to be the temperature at which molecules possess the least amount of energy
acceleration (physics): rate of change of speed of an object
accretion (physics): process through which the gravitational force of an object in space collects matter
acid (chemistry): water-based solution containing more free hydrogen ions (H+) than free hydroxide ions (OH); when acids are added to a neutral solution (such as water), they increase the solution’s ratio of hydrogen ions to hydroxide ions
action potential (medicine): in a nerve cell, the variation in voltage across a membrane resulting from a nervous impulse
activation energy (chemistry): energy needed to launch a chemical reaction
active galaxy (astronomy): kind of galaxy that produces and releases huge amounts of energy from a relatively small central nucleus
active transport (life science): method of transporting substances across cell membranes using energy
adrenal gland (medicine): part of the endocrine (glandular) system responsible for secreting hormones instrumental in stress-related and vital metabolic functions; it sits near the kidneys
aerobic (life science): referring to organisms or processes that need and use oxygen to process and release the energy residing in food substances
agglutination (medicine): process of antigens bunching up together to make observable clumps
agonist (life science/medicine): one of a type of muscles that contracts; with its opposite (called antagonist), it is responsible for movement
algorithm (math/computers/logic): an established and ordered set of procedures designed to arrive at a solution or solve a problem
alimentary canal (medicine): entire tube through which food passes during the ingestion and digestion process
allele (life science): one of the variable versions of a gene located at a specific point on the chromosome; the specific allele present results in a given characteristic such as hair color
allotrope (chemistry): differing forms of a single substance; the forms can possess distinct physical properties but share the same state (liquid, gas, or solid)
alloy (chemistry): metal mixed with another substance (either metal or non-metal) resulting in distinct and often advantageous properties
alluvial deposits (Earth science): sediment deposited by the moving current of a river; often in the form of a plain at the mouth of a river
alpha particle (physics): particle released during radioactive decay; the particles are characterized by a positive charge and a high level of energy
alternating current (physics): electrical current flowing first in one direction, then in the other
altitude (astronomy): the position of an object measured relative to the horizon, (mathematics): the distance from the base to the corner of a geometric oject as measured in a perpendicular line
ameba (life science): single-cell organism with a nucleus and a body made of protoplasm
amino acid (medicine): basic chemical component of protein; water-soluble molecules that combine into peptides, which in turn combine into proteins
amniotic fluid (life science): fluid that surrounds, cushions, and feeds the fetus in mammalian reproduction
anabolism (life science): collectively, the chemical processes by which organisms build complex molecules from smaller ones (compare catabolism); the constructive part of metabolism
anaerobic (life science): referring to organisms or systems that do not need oxygen to process and release the energy residing in food substances
anaphylaxis (life science): rare condition in which the body undergoes a severe physiological response to a chemical stimulus (e.g., venom from an insect bite) the typical victim experiences constriction of air passages, rapid decrease in blood pressure, and bodily collapse
angiosperm (life science): plant in which an ovary encloses the seed(s) and ripens into a fruit; angiosperms include most flowering plants
angle (mathematics): amount of rotation between two rays that share a single endpoint; typically measured in degrees or radians
animal (life science): organism belonging to the kingdom Animalia; animals are eukaryotes, obtain energy by ingesting food substances produced by other organisms, and tend to be mobile for part or all of their lives
anode (chemistry): in electrolysis, the electrode toward which negative particles tend to migrate; opposite of cathode
antagonist (life science): muscle responsible for movement; the antagonist relaxes in response to the contraction of the agonist
antibody (life science): protein produced by lymphocytes when foreign substances are present; antibodies are released into the bloodstream and play a crucial role in the immune response
anticline (Earth science): arch (typically collapsed) formed by folds in layers of the Earth’s crust
anticoagulant (life science): substance that prevents blood clots from forming; useful in the prevention and treatment of heart attacks
antigen (life science): substance that causes the immune system to produce antibodies, antigens are typically cell-surface proteins
antimatter (physics): matter consisting entirely of antiparticles
antioxidant (chemistry/life science): substance that inhibits the oxidation (chemical breakdown) of fats and oils
antiparticle (physics): particle identical in mass but opposite in other characteristics (e.g., electrical charge and spin) to a given elementary particle; when a particle and its antiparticle collide, they annihilate each other and are transformed into energy
antiseptic (life science): substance that kills microorganisms or prevents them from growing; typically used in medicine to clean surgical equipment and wounds
anus (life science): opening at the end of the alimentary canal through which waste materials exit the body
aorta (life science): major artery that carries oxygenated blood away from the heart

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Science & Technology Almanac
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iii
  • Preface v
  • Chemistry 41
  • Computers & Internet 63
  • Earth Sciences 87
  • Environment 107
  • Health & Medicine 133
  • Life Sciences 175
  • Mathematics 203
  • Meteorology & the Weather 223
  • Physics 247
  • Technology 259
  • Legislation & Regulation 293
  • Media Watch 297
  • Prizes 311
  • Biographies 337
  • Appendix One 435
  • Appendix Two 439
  • Glossary 468
  • Bibliography 485
  • Index 489
  • About the Editors 514
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