Life Sciences Terminology

  1. Below you see a fragment of a high school biology text. A single paragraph contains five definitions which appear in bold. Is it true that a simple leaf is indeed simple given all the intricate structure we may discern from the photo.

  2. The following definitions are taken from Heath Biology by J.E.McLaren and L.Rotundo. Their only purpose is to demonstrate that the biological terminology may not quite coincide with the every day plain English. (Note in passing that life sciences introduce and use an enormous amount of specific terms: nucleotide, enzyme, dipeptide, etc... )

    BiologyAmerican Heritage Dictionary
    An adaptation is a structure or behavior that allows survival in a particular environment. The play is an adaptation of a short novel.
    Energy is the ability to do work. A speech delivered with energy and emotion.
    In the center of each atom is a structure called a nucleus A few paintings that formed the nucleus of a great art collection.
    A base is a substance that separates in water forming ions that react with hydrogen ions. The lowest or bottom part: the base of a cliff; the base of a lamp.
    In the process of cellular respiration, cells convert the energy of food molecules into a form of energy useable by cells. Respiration is the act or process of inhaling and exhaling; breathing.

  3. Amoebas multiply by dividing. (Surprisingly, the same holds for the Russian Peasants!)
  4. Genetic engineering is an oxymoron because how can one breed bridges?
  5. "This system is so versatile and adaptive that it can truly perform magic. For example, if an egg is divided into two, either naturally or artificially, then it can produce two babies. Twins. If two eggs of the same kind are fused into one, the usual result is one normal-sized baby. In egg mathematics, 1/2 + 1/2 = 2 and 1 + 1 = 1." (From J.Cohen and I.Stewart, The Collapse of Chaos.)
  6. An interesting word usage appears in R.Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design:

    Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose. Physics is the study of simple things that do not tempt us to invoke design. At first sight, man-made artefacts like computers and cars will seem to provide exceptions. They are complicated and obviously designed for a purpose, yet they are not alive, and they are made of metal and plastic rather than flesh and blood. In this book they will be firmly treated as biological objects.

    The reader's reaction to this may be to ask, 'Yes, but are they really biological objects?' Words are our servants, not our masters. For different purposes we find it convenient to use words in different senses.

  7. Naming of centipedes in various languages deserves a page of its own.

Language of Mathematics, Language of Science and Plain Language

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