LASTWORD.TXT - The Last Word - The Ultimate Scientific Dictionary

From somewhere at UMass/Lowell

                                THE LAST WORD
                     The Ultimate Scientific Dictionary

Activation Energy:      The useful quantity of energy available in one cup
                        of coffee.

Atomic Theory:          A mythological explanation of the nature of matter,
                        first proposed by the ancient Greeks, and now 
                        thoroughly discredited by modern computer simulation.
                        Attempts to verify the theory by modern computer 
                        simulation have failed.  Instead, it has been 
                        demonstrated repeatedly that computer outputs depend
                        upon the color of the programmer's eyes, or occasionally
                        upon the month of his or her birth.  This apparent 
                        astrological connection, at last, vindicates the
                        alchemist's view of astrology as the mother of all

Bacon, Roger:           An English friar who dabbled in science and made
                        experimentation fashionable.  Bacon was the first 
                        science popularizer to make it big on the banquet and
                        talk-show circuit, and his books even outsold the fad
                        diets of the period.

Biological Science:     A contradiction in terms.

Bunsen Burner:          A device invented by Robert Bunsen (1811-1899) for 
                        brewing coffee in the laboratory, thereby enabling
                        the chemist to be poisoned without having to go all
                        the way to the company cafeteria.

Butyl:                  An unpleasant-sounding word denoting an unpleasant-
                        smelling alcohol.

CAI:                    Acronym for "Computer-Aided Instruction".  The modern
                        system of training professional scientists without
                        ever exposing them to the hazards and expense of 
                        laboratory work.  Graduates of CAI-based programs are
                        very good at simulated research.

Cavendish:              A variety of pipe tobacco that is reputed to produce
                        remarkably clear thought processes, and thereby leads
                        to major scientific discoveries; hence, the name of a 
                        British research laboratory where the tobacco is 
                        smoked in abundance.

Chemical:               A substance that:  1)  An organic chemist turns into a
                        foul odor;  2)  an analytical chemist turns into a 
                        procedure;  3)  a physical chemist turns into a
                        straight line;  4)  a biochemist turns into a helix;
                        5)  a chemical engineer turns into a profit.

Chemical Engineering:   The practice of doing for a profit what an organic
                        chemist only does for fun.

Chromatography:         (From Gr. chromo [color] + graphos [writing])  The 
                        practice of submitting manuscripts for publication
                        with the original figures drawn in non-reproducing
                        blue ink.

Clinical Testing:       The use of humans as guinea pigs.  (See also PHAR-
                        MACOLOGY and TOXICOLOGY)

Compound:               To make worse, as in:  1)  A fracture;  2)  the 
                        mutual adulteration of two or more elements.

Computer Resources:     The major item of any budget, allowing for the 
                        acquisition of any capital equipment that is obsolete
                        before the purchase request is released.

Eigen Function:         The use to which an eigen is put.

En:                     The universal bidentate ligand used by coordination
                        chemists.  For years, efforts were made to use ethylene-
                        diamine for this purpose, but chemists were unable
                        to squeeze all the letters between the corners of
                        the octahedron diagram.  The timely invention of 
                        en in 1947 revolutionized the science.

Evaporation Allowance:  The volume of alcohol that the graduate students
                        can drink in a year's time.

Exhaustive Methylation: A marathon event in which the participants methylate
                        until they drop from exhaustion.

First Order Reaction:   The reaction that occurs first, not always the one 
                        desired.  For example, the formation of brown gunk in
                        an organic prep.

Flame Test:             Trial by fire.

Genetic Engineering:    A recent attempt to formalize what engineers have been
                        doing informally all along.

Grignard:               A fictitious class of compounds often found on organic 
                        exams and never in real life.

Inorganic Chemistry:    That which is left over after the organic, analytical,
                        and physical chemists get through picking over the 
                        periodic table.

Mercury:                (From L.  Mercurius, the swift messenger of the gods)
                        Element No. 80, so named because of the speed of which
                        one of its compounds (calomel, Hg2Cl2) goes through 
                        the human digestive tract.  The element is perhaps 
                        misnamed, because the gods probably would not be
                        pleased by the physiological message so delivered.

Monomer:                One mer.  (Compare POLYMER).

Natural Product:        A substance that earns organic chemists fame and glory
                        when they manage to systhesize it with great difficulty,
                        while Nature gets no credit for making it with great 

Organic Chemistry:      The practice of transmuting vile substances into 

Partition Function:     The function of a partition is to protect the lab
                        supervisor from shrapnel produced in laboratory 

Pass/Fail:              An attempt by professional educators to replace the
                        traditional academic grading system with a binary one
                        that can be handled by a large digital computer.

Pharmacology:           The use of rabbits and dogs as guinea pigs.  (See also
                        CLINICAL TESTING, TOXICOLOGY).

Physical Chemistry:     The pitiful attempt to apply y=mx+b to everything in
                        the universe.

Pilot Plant:            A modest facility used for confirming design errors
                        before they are built into a costly, full-scale
                        production facility.

Polymer:                Many mers.  (Compare MONOMERS).

Prelims:                (From L. pre [before] + limbo [oblivion])  An 
                        obligatory ritual practiced by graduate students 
                        just before the granting of a Ph.D. (if the gods are 
                        appeased) or an M.S. (if they aren't).

Publish or Perish:      The imposed, involuntary choice between fame and 
                        oblivion, neither of which is handled gracefully by
                        most faculty members.

Purple Passion:         A deadly libation prepared by mixing equal volumes of 
                        grape juice and lab alcohol.

Quantum Mechanics:      A crew kept on the payroll to repair quantums, which
                        decay frequently to the ground state.

Rate Equations:         (Verb phrase)  To give a grade or a ranking to a
                        formula based on its utility and applicability.  H=E,
                        for example, applies to everything everywhere, and
                        therefore rates an A.  pV=nRT, on the other hand, is 
                        good only for nonexistent gases and thus receives
                        only a D+, but this grade can be changed to a B- if
                        enough empirical virial coefficients are added.

Research:               (Irregular noun)  That which I do for the benefit of
                        humanity, you do for the money, he does to hog all the

Sagan:                  The international unit of humility.

Scientific Method:      The widely held philosophy that a theory can never be 
                        proved, only disproved, and that all attempts to 
                        explain anything are therefore futile.

SI:                     Acronym for "Systeme Infernelle".

Spectrophotometry:      A long word used mainly to intimidate freshman 

Spectroscope:           A disgusting-looking instrument used by medical 
                        specialists to probe and examine the spectrum.

Toxicology:             The wholesale slaughter of white rats bred 
                        especially for that purpose.  (See also CLINICAL 
                        TESTING, PHARMACOLOGY).

X-Ray Diffraction:      An occupational disorder common among physicians, 
                        caused by reading X-ray pictures in darkened rooms
                        for prolonged periods.  The condition is readily 
                        cured by a greater reliance on blood chemistries; the
                        lab results are just as inconclusive as the X-rays, but 
                        are easier to read.

Ytterbium:              A rare and inconsequential element, named after the
                        village of Ytterby, Sweden (not to be confused with
                        Iturbi, the late pianist and film personality, who 
                        was actually Spanish, not Swedish).  Ytterbium is 
                        used mainly to fill block 70 in the periodic table.
                        Iturbi was used mainly to play Jane Powell's father.