The fairly concise NEW SCIENTIST Magazine DICTIONARY ---------- of scientific words in current use based on the exhausting studies of Mr Graham Storr --------------- APHASIA n. Loss of speech in social scientists when asked during conversations at parties "But what use is your research?" ARITHMETIC n. An obscure are no longer practiced in developed countries. ATOM n. The smallest part of matter which can still be infinitely divided. BEHAVE v.i. What subjects are expected to do in PSYCHOLOGICAL experiments. BELIEF n. Something which you do not believe. BLIND a. The preferred state of the observer while conducting research. Also the assumed state of referees. BYTE n. A word in an incomprehensible language. CALIBRATION n. (In the physical sciences) The trees among which the wood is sought. CHEMICALS n.pl. Noxious substances from which modern foods are made. COMPUTER n. An amazingly versatile machine with barely imaginable potential and yet of such stupefying complexity that to make it perform the most trivial of tasks can exercise the country's finest intellects for days, or weeks, or months. CONTROL n. A vain attempt to reduce the variance in an experiment. A token gesture to show your heart is in the right place. A metaphor for the futility of the search for Truth. CORRESPONDENCE n. A great chance to ponder again the great mysteries of our age. These are: 1) If a lorry contaning perched canaries and with a gross weight of 3 tonnes were to hit a bump and set the birds in flight, would the gross weight of the lorry remain the same? 2) Why is it that we see our image reversed left to right in a mirror but not top to bottom, and 3) Why can't you cut your cheese with a knife? CUSP n. A catastrophe in a teacup. CUT v.i. & v.t. Reduce (output, efficiency, morale, etc). DATA n.pl. An accrual of straws on the backs of theories. DIAL n. (obs) Ancient source of DATA (see DIGITAL DISPLAY). DIGITAL a. Hard to read. DIGITAL DISPLAY n. Impossible to read. EMIGRATE v.i. Increase (output, efficiency, morale etc). EXPERT n. Self-publicist. EXTRAPOLATE v.i. & v.t. Make results go further in the service of your theory. FAKIR n. A PSYCHOLOGIST whose charismatic DATA have inspired almost religious devotion in its followers, even though its sources seem to have shinned up a rope and vanished. FRANKENSTIEN n. A dedicated and brilliant MAN who bears the curious distinction of being the only scientist to have his laboratory smashed by a mob of anti-vivisynthesists. GENIUS n. Person clever enough to be born in the right place at the right time of the right sex and to follow up this advantage by saying all the right things to all the right people. GOD n. Darwin's chief rival. GRAPH n. Diagram disguising the relationship between two variables. HARD a. The quality of your own DATA. Also the way it is to believe other people's. HEMISPHERE n. (psychol) A convention for dividing the brain into two equally redundant halves. HEURISTIC a. (soc sciences) A completely meaningless word used mostly in research proposals in indicate identity with peer-group. HZ abbr Hertz; unit of frequency, hence the expression: "Hz mnz bzzzzzz". IF conj. The first strep towards disappointment. ILLOGICAL a. Not fitting your theory. INCREASE n. (of salary) A reduction in the rate of decrease. INDEX n. Alphabetical list of words of no possible interest where an alpha- betical list of subjects etc. with references ought to be. INDUSTRY n. A nasty, vulgar bunch of human endeavour which is intrusively affluent. INNOVATE v.i. Annoy people. IRRATIONAL a. The idea of a number not commensurable with the natural numbers. JOKE n. The science budget. Like many other jokes of the present government (such as inflation and unemployment) this one is based on Friedman's theory of humour. Put simply, the theory is: "You've got to laugh or you'd go mad." JU-JU n. Charm, fetish, statistical test, experimental paradigm, computer etc. KELVIN SCALE n. (of temperature) A scale whereby zero is at absolute zero so that any temperature useful in everyday life is in ridiculously high numbers and 99.99999 per cent of the UNIVERSE needs to be accommodated in the bottom three or four degrees. KINETIC ENERGY n. Body's ability to do work by virtue of its motion: A property possessed by heads of department. KNOWLEDGE n. Things you believe. LASER n. Failed death-ray. LIFE n. A whim of several billion cells to be you for a while. MAD a. Misunderstood. MADMAN n. an exceptionally free thinker. MAD SCIENTIST n. one whose experiments have not been sanctioned by his institution's ethics committee. MALTHUSIAN a. Of the doctorine that a little bit of what you fancy does you good, a little less of what you fancy does us all good. MAN n. Human being (or woman). PILTDOWN MAN n. a moral tale: The moral being "Don't get caught". MEGALOMANIA n. Occupational hazard. MESOLITHIC a. One of the many ages in human history before we developed complete skulls. METEOROLOGIST n. One who doubts the long-established fact that it is bound to rain if you forget your umbrella. MICRO n. A very small COMPUTER with all the disadvantages of larger machines but for less money. MIGHTY MICRO n. a journalistic elaboration of this constructed with silicon chips. MISINTERPRET n. What others do with their DATA. MONEY n. An incentive to change occupation or emigrate. MOON n. A proof of the Heisenberg principle, that is the act of observation may alter the properties of the thing observed. NAVIGATE v.i & v.t. Course followed by those simple souls who think that any place is, or might be,worth all the trouble of finding your way there. NEUTRON n. A rather old-fashioned sub-ATOMIC particle due for replacement by 15 oinks, 8 mu-whirlygigons, 3 supergluons and a gold watch. NEUTRON BOMB n. an explosive device of limited military value since, as it only destroys people without destroying property, it must be used in conjunction with woodworm bombs, dry rot bombs and subsidence bombs. NUCLEAR a. anag = unclear - as in nuclear debate. NUCLEAR WEAPON n. Of all the wonderful achievements of the scientific endeavour, this is the one we shall be remembered for. NUCLEAR CLUB n. Everywhere except the Seychelles. NUCLEAR PHYSICS n. Playing marbles as expensively as possible. NUCLEAR SHELTER n. Somewhere to go for a couple of weeks while the world is being destroyed. OCCAM'S RAZOR n. The principle that the preferred theory is the one that employs the fewest assumptions. Since there is no good reason for this, scientists are quite right to ignore it completely. OMNISCIENCE n. Only talking about things you know about. OPTICAL ILLUSION n. see GRAPH ORTHOEPY n. (pr orthoipi) science of (pr ov) pronunciation (-shon) OXYMORON n. Figure of speech employing the conjunction of contradictory parts (eg. abnormal PSYCHOLOGIST, physical chemist,social scientist, human biologist, homo sapiens etc.) PAPER n. A half hour monologue immensely more boring than its title. PARANOIA n. A healthy understanding of the nature of the UNIVERSE. PERCEPTION n. Activity by which the mind (erroneously) refers sensations to the (wrong) external object. If there is one thing that modern PSYCHOLOGY has taught us, it is to mistrust our perceptions. Actually, there may not be anything that modern PSYCHOLOGY has taught us. PHYSICS n. The art of estimating errors. THEORETICAL PHYSICS n. The art of letting other people estimate errors. NUCLEAR PHYSICS n. An error in many people's estimate. POEM n. Knowledge is not happiness, and science But an exchange of ignorance for that Which is another kind of ignorance. Byron:Manfred. POLY n. A queer bird which spends its time imitating UNIVERSITIES. PREPOSTEROUS n. Findings contrary to your own. PRIMOGENITURE n. Fact of being first-born, for want we ended up in this line of work. PROBABILITY n. Quality of being likely (see also unpleasant). PROF n. abbr = profiterole. Attractive, hollow cake made from choux pastry with sweet or savoury filling. PROGRAM 1. n. A magic spell cast upon a COMPUTER to enable it to turn your input into error messages. 2. v.t. A pastime similar to banging your head against a wall but with fewer opportunities for reward. PROGRAMMER n. one whose time is spent devising PROGRAMS by which a COMPUTER can address people. PSYCHIATRY n. The art of keeping people's madness within socially acceptable limits. PSYCHOLOGY n. The science of proving to people what they have known for millennia. QUANTUM MECHANICS n. A last,desperate attempt by the physicists to introduce a ghost into the machine. QUARK 1. n. The sound made by a well-bred duck. 2. n. The basic component of elementary particles. Because quarks were first postulated by Rowntree and Mackintosh, they come in a range of colours and flavours. RATIONAL a. Behaving arbitrarily but in accordance with some arbitrary system. RATIONALIST v.i. & v.t. To comfort oneself by reference to such a system. RAW n. Exposed, sensitive to inspection, requiring treatment (as in RAW DATA). ROBOT n. UNIVERSITY administrator. SALARY n. Regular, fixed payments used to placate bank managers. SCALAR a. & n. Having magnitude but no directions (as with human endeavour) SCHADENFREUDE n. Failure to replicate. SCIENCE n. A system developed by people of genius over thousands of years to keep themselves in beer and skittles. SEMINAR n. A queer, ritualised appeasement gesture in which a member of the group is invited to bare his research for the other members to sink their teeth into. SERENDIPITY n. The process by which human knowledge is advanced. SEX n. Something biologists talk about alot but are rarely seen doing. SEX LIFE n. Only artists and rock stars have one of these so don't let its absence worry you. SEXISM n. If you are male you need not worry about this, if you are female you should leave such matters to the men. SIGNIFICANCE n. Meaning or importance given to seemingly trivial findings by the careful application of statistical tests. For example, in PSYCHOLOGY, a 40 millisecond difference between left and right hands in pressing a key may be highly significant when hundreds of subjects are run for hundreds of trials whereas one of your sample of four depressives committing suicide is almost certainly non-significant. SILICON n. Substance from which very small integrated circuits can be made. SILICONE n. Substance from which very large journalistic boobs can be made. SOUL n. An aspect if MAN which is entirely immaterial. SYSTEM n. A doomed plan for beating the odds. COMPUTER SYSTEM n. A COMPUTER with extra bits added to it in such a way that each extra bit doubles the chance of the whole thing failing. SOLAR SYSTEM n. A few balls of rock and ice which are going down in the TV ratings. TERMINAL n. Front-end interface for MAN-machine interactions. TERMINAL ROOM n. That place down the corridor from which all the sobbing can be heard. THEORY n. System of ideas meant to explain something, chosen arbitrarily but preferably with a view to originality, controversiality, incomprehensibility and how good it would look in print. TITRATE v.t. Judge a beauty contest. UNIVERSE n. The problem. UNIVERSITY n. (Usually remote) institution where people incapacitated by an intellectual disposition can be put out of society's way. VACUUM n. A state abhorred by Nature (see also LIFE, happiness, having a quiet cuppa etc.) WEAPON n. An index of the lack of development of a culture. NUCLEAR WEAPON "Atoms or systems into ruin hurl'd And now a bubble burst,and now a World." Alexander Pope:Essay on man YO-YO n. Something which is occasionally up but which is normally down (see also COMPUTER). ZAP n. Sound made by death-rays. ZEAL n. Quality seen in new postgraduates - if you're quick!