• Question: whats your favourite scince word?

    Asked by leahxx to Upul, Phil, Ian, Derek, Daniel on 21 Jun 2010 in Categories: . This question was also asked by kezzily.
    • Photo: Derek Mann

      Derek Mann answered on 16 Jun 2010:


    • Photo: Daniel Mietchen

      Daniel Mietchen answered on 16 Jun 2010:

      Perhaps “isostrophic” – because it was the first science term I came up with that ended up in a formal publication. It was not new per se (zoologists use it in the context of the regularity of the turns of snail shells, though I didn’t know that at the time) but new to the context of electrorotation, i.e. when electrically charged particles rotate (slowly) in quickly rotating electric fields.

      What does it mean? First, some background: When you plot the rotation speed of the particles (which may be living cells, and they were in my case) as a function of the rotation speed of the field and keep other parameters (e.g. the conductivity of the external medium in which the particles rotate) constant at biologically relevant levels, you get what is called an electrorotational spectrum. If you do this for multiple (biologically relevant) temperatures, then all of the electrorotational spectra intersect in a very narrow region, which means that the rotation speed of the field alone determines the rotation speed of the particle, since all of the temperature effects on the particle cancel out. At a given frequency of the external field, all particles thus revolve at the same speed (and if you turn “revolve” and “same” into one Greek-sounding word compatible with English, this gives “isostrophic”).

      This principle can be used to measure the temperature within single living cells. For details, see my diploma thesis (Fig. 5.1) or the paper that came out of it (the definition is on p. 1259).

      I am not aware of anyone else having used the word in this sense, though, since all of the subsequent work on the matter was focused on automating the measurement of electorotational spectra (for me, that was just the means to the end of experimentally verifying my theoretical predications about the temperature dependence of electrorotation), with temperature effects once again being forgotten (despite temperature dependence being a fundamental aspect of any physical method or biological system, the then more than two decades of electrorotation research had not seen any attempt in this direction). With this in mind, it can be questioned whether it really is a science word in this context.

    • Photo: Ian Sillett

      Ian Sillett answered on 21 Jun 2010:

      It’s got to be laser. Not only is it an amazing word, it’s an amazing invention AND it’s an acronym. Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.