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 science.

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 
			withoutever 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-

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 ease.

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 

Pharmacology:		The use of rabbits and dogs as guinea pigs. (See 

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 glory.

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 

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.

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