Science and Technology A-Z


Acid – The word ‘acid’ comes from the Latin ‘acere’, which means ‘sour’. Acids can change litmus (a blue vegetable dye) from blue to red so this can be used to identify the presence of acids. Some common acids include Vitamin C which has the chemical name of ascorbic acid and the acid formed when milk is fermented to form yogurt is known as lactic acid. Phosphoric acid is used as an acidifying agent to give cola drinks their tangy flavour.  As a result the cola is actually more acidic than lemon juice or vinegar.  However, by adding vast amount of sugar or sweeteners this then acts to mask and balance the acidity.

ActiveX –  A set of loosely defined conventions and protocols developed by Microsoft in 1996 to assist with enabling content rich and interactive web pages. Comprising of objects and controls, or specific sections of code, which allow commonly used function such as a spell checker or a video player to be called up. It did this without user intervention and in the process of doing so,  it opened up browsers using ActiveX,  mainly Internet Explorer, to the attacks of unscrupulous programmers who exploited weaknesses and placed malevolent programs,  so called malware,  on users computers. Shortly after its release ActiveX was made open source but this did not improve its adoption in the software world that encompassed and interfaced with the WWW remaining mainly implemented by Microsoft despite its open source status. Frequently the focus of security breaches, updates and ever increasing security restrictions, as of 2015, ActiveX is now considered by Microsoft as a “legacy technology” and will not feature in its forthcoming web browser replacement for Internet Explorer.  Footnote: Perhaps it should now be renamed InactiveX………

Adware – Computer adware is similar to spyware and anti-virus software in that it lurks in your computer and can cause problems resulting in it eventually slowing down and being less efficient. It is however considered to be a more legitimate type of software in that it is often bundled into some free software or computer programmes/games and is installed onto your computer automatically once you start saving them. Some forms of adware download advertising content when a particular application is being run and these then results in pop-up adverts appearing on the user’s computer. Other adware systems behave like spyware as it tracks and reports user data to the programme’s originators and/or third party websites. Your preferences and search terms are then relayed to advertisers so that ads may be targeted specifically to what is perceived to be your interests. Many anti-virus software programmes now search for and remove adware before it can create problems with computers and also stop the computer user’s data being monitored from the more intrusive types of adware spyware which is why it’s so important to ensure that computers have updated anti- virus and spyware removal software programmes on them.

Apple Mac – Early in 2015, a recycling company found an old Apple Mac – actually an Apple-1, which was first released back in the late 1970s, in a recycling area – they sold it at auction for 200,000 US dollars!


Bandwidth – This is the amount of data that can be passed along a communications channel within a given period of time. The difference between the limiting frequencies of a continuous frequency band expressed in hertz (cycles per second). The term bandwidth is also loosely used to refer to the rate at which data can be transmitted over a given communications circuit. In the latter usage, bandwidth is usually expressed in either kilobits per second or megabits per second.  All computers and devices that connect to the internet whether it’s a laptop, desktop, tablet, or phone contribute to your bandwidth usage. If you’re trying to test the speed of your connection and there’s another device using up bandwidth, it makes it hard to get a more accurate idea of what your actual speeds are at that time.  Bandwidth throttling means limiting how fast you can access something when online and this is usually done to restrict people from downloading lots of large files like films or to reduce the number of people accessing a particular website to reduce congestion and enable it to cope better with the internet traffic to its site.

Blu-ray – This format was developed to enable recording, rewriting and playback of high-definition video (widely known as HD), as well as for storing large amounts of data. Its advantages include that it offers more than five times the storage capacity of traditional DVDs and can hold up to 25GB on a single-layer disc and 50GB on a dual-layer disc and giving sharper pictures for broadcast/film recordings. While current optical disc technologies such as DVD, DVD±R, DVD±RW, and DVD-RAM rely on a red laser to read and write data, the new format uses a blue-violet laser instead, hence the name Blu-ray. The main benefit of using a blue-violet laser is that it has a shorter wavelength than a red laser which makes it possible to focus the laser spot with greater precision. Pioneer has pushed the data storage limits to 500GB by using 20 layers on a single disc. Player manufacturers have included the ability for their units to also play older standard DVDs ensuring that people can play their older non Blu-ray videos and CD’s on their machines too.


Cloud Computing – 90% of Microsoft’s 2011 R&D budget was spent on cloud computing strategy and products.  The cloud computing market is expected to reach 241 billion dollars by 2020.


Dark Matter – a currently theoretical concept used to explain anomalies in astronomical observations where galaxies are rotating with such speed that the gravity generated by their observable matter could not possibly hold them together and they would fly apart.  These observations and the absence of any directly observed cause, leads scientists to believe that something we cannot see is at work which is giving these galaxies extra mass thereby generating the extra gravity they need to stay intact.  Since it is not visible, they call this undetected cause dark matter.  Dark matter does not interact with the rest of the universe in ways currently understood by scientists and can only be inferred from the gravitational effect it seems to have on visible matter.   Visible matter accounts for about 5% of our universe and dark matter is believed to be about five and half times larger at 27%.


Earth – The Earth is the only planet in the solar system not named after a mythical being.  The earth is the most dense planet in the solar system.  The rotation of it is gradually slowing down, approximately 17 milliseconds per hundred years.  Earth’s water was initially trapped within the planet.  Over time the Earth’s water was brought to the surface by the planet volcanic activity.


Facebook – More than 2.5 billion pictures are uploaded to Facebook each month.  If Facebook were a country it would be the fifth largest country in the world, after China, India, the US and Indonesia.  Syria, China, Vietnam and Iraq have banned Facebook.


Google –  A fellow Stanford University graduate student Sean Anderson suggested the name Google to its creators Larry Page and Sergey Brin for their new internet search site “googolplex.” However, Page suggested they shorten it instead to “googol,” which refers to the number 1 followed by 100 zeroes. Subsequently Anderson mistyped “googol” as “Google,” which by coincidence was still an available name and this was then used instead. The name was meant to reflect Google’s mission aims to organise the massive amounts of information that were constantly being added to the Internet ‘Web’.


Heliosphere – Helios was the Greek Titan (a second tier deity) who drove the chariot carrying the sun across the sky every day. Our sun, like all suns, generates a solar wind which is often mooted as having the potential to propel spacecraft with huge solar sails throughout the solar system and beyond.  In our solar system and within the Heliosphere, our suns solar wind is dominant but outside the solar system, the galactic solar wind is dominant.  The Heliopause is where the two meet and cancel each other out.  Future solar sailors may find this is the earthly equivalent of the being caught in the doldrums. In December 2004, after 33 years in space, Voyager 1 crossed into the Heliopause at approximately 17 billion kilometres (10.6 billion miles) from the Sun.


Instagram – The US, Japan and Brazil are the three countries with the most Instagram users (as at 2014).  The top ten selfie-related hashtags total over 41 million photographs.  No filter is actually the most popular filter on the site.


JPEG – JPEG is an acronym for joint photographic experts group, the organisation that developed the JPEG format.  If a JPEG image is opened, edited and saved again, it results in additional image degradation.


Keratin – The key stuctural material making up the outer layer of human skin.  Keratin is also the key structural component of hair and nails.  You can have keratin treatments to your hair.  A keratin treatment is a hair straightening treatment that can really cut down on frizz and curls.


Light – Sunlight can reach a depth of 80 meters in the ocean.  The sun is actually white when seen from space, because it is not scattered by the atmosphere.  The world’s longest lasting light bulb, the Centennial Light in California has reportedly been burning since 1901, with a few interruptions during power failures.  In a double rainbow, light is reflected twice inside each water droplet and the colours in the outer arc appear in reverse order.


Molecules – Molecules can have different shapes.  Some are long spirals while others may be pyramid shaped.  Oxygen gas normally is the molecule O2 but it can also be O2 which we call ozone.


Noise –  Sound travels at the speed of 1130 feet per second, or 770 miles per hour.   At least 15% of adults have permanent hearing damage due to noise exposure.  Sound travels four times faster in water than in air.

Nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) – Nucleic acids are chemical compounds found in all plant and animal cells, as well as in bacteria and viruses. There are two types of nucleic acid. DNA (desoxyribonucleic acid) is found in the nuclei of cells. RNA (ribonucleic acid) is found in the cytoplasm of cells. DNA is believed to be an essential component of genes, the hereditary material that passes the characteristics of living things onto the next generations


Open Source – The first open source software is the A-Z system that was developed for the UNIVAC complier in 1953.  Open source is the free sharing of technical information.  In 1998, only 10% of organisations were using open source software (OSS); by 2011 more than 50% of organisations surveyed by Gartner, reported using open source software.


PDA – PDA stands for personal digital assistant.











Zinc – Zinc is essential to life.  Every cell requires zinc to multiply.  Your body requires zinc to make white blood cells.  You need zinc for healthy skin.  The US penny is 98% zinc, with a copper coating.  The best source of zinc is lean red meats and sea foods, especially oysters.