Glossary of Scientific Words

From the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary:
glossary noun
an alphabetical list, with meanings, of the words or phrases in a text that are difficult to understand
For example: a glossary of technical terms

A science workshop held in Venice earlier this year under the banner of '100 parole per la scienza'(100 words for science) challenged a group of one hundred 16-18 year olds to choose 100 words that, in their collective opinion, represent crucial factors and concepts influencing trends in science today. The students were from schools all over Italy and the workshop was organized by the San Paolo Fondazione per la Scuola and Fondazione Venezia(

Their final list was assembled after an imaginative range of seminars from notable scientists and thinkers, and after extensive discussion and individual word searches of scientific works on the web and in books and journals. Here is the result, in alphabetical order:

Acid/base, aggregation status, analysis, antimatter, apparatus, atmosphere, atom, bacteria, Big Bang, biodiversity, bioethics, biosphere, black hole, carbon, cell, chaos, climate, cloning, DNA, ecosystem, electricity, electron, element, energy, entropy, environment, enzyme, equilibrium, error, ethology, evolution, experiment, force, fossil, galaxy, gene, genetically modified organism, gravity, greenhouse effect, H2O, heat, hydrocarbon, infinity, intelligence,Internet, life, light, link, magnetism, mass, matter, measurement, metabolism, mind, mole, molecule, motion, mutation, natural selection, nebula, neuron, organism, osmosis, particle, periodic table, pH, photosynthesis, planet, pollution, pressure, probability, protein, pulsar, quantum, quark, radioactivity, reaction, relativity, reproduction, research, rule, science, scientific method, solution, space, species, star, stem cell, symbiosis, systems, technology, temperature, theory, time, tissue, tumour, Universe, vacuum, virus, wave.

Scientists might all learn something from this list, representing as it does how our everyday work is perceived by a small sample of bright youngsters. Alongside several words that could just as well have been listed 100 years ago (such as acid/base, magnetism, mole, scientific method), I was struck by the number of terms hinging on ethical issues in medicine and biology (6%), the theory of evolution (5%) and clinical terminology (5%). The Internet too is up there among giant scientific words such as 'Universe' and 'atom'. This thought-provoking collection of words suggests that, as working scientists, we need to care at least as much about science education as we do about publication.

Marco Prunotto, Nephrology Unit Laboratory, Giannina Gaslini Children's Hospital,
Largo G. Gaslini 5, 16147 Genova, Italy; e-mail: moc.liamg|ottonurp.ocram#moc.liamg|ottonurp.ocram

Source: Opinion : Correspondence: NATURE, 455, 25 September 2008

The Plan

The plan is to create a glossary of these scientific words, as chosen by the kids, in the Boltzmann wiki. Contributions are solicited. Needless to say, this shouldn't be cut and paste from another source.

Suresh Govindarajan

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