Sunday, January 31, 2010

Marine biology: Osedax, also known as zombie worms

Osedax worms, also known as zombie worms, are bone-eating worms [1]; the Latin-derived word “Osedax” means “bone devourer.” Crispin Little explains [2]:
Zombie worms, also known as Osedax (Latin for “bone devourer”), grow “roots” in dead whale bones, which they slowly consume. The worms seem to live exclusively at whale falls. […] A least five different species of Osedax have been discovered so far.
One species, Osedax rubiplumus, has been found on an almost decomposed gray whale carcass (lying 2,891 meters deep) in Monterey Bay, California, where they, along with sea cucumbers, are scavenging the remaining whale bones (see page 82 in [2]).

Osedax worms leave borings in dead whale bones. A fossil specimen of such an Osedax-marked bone has yet to be found.

: Osedax < Family: Siboglinidae < Order: Sabellida < Class: Polychaeta < Phylum: Annelida < Kingdom: Animalia

Keywords: marine annelid worms, ecosystems, biodiversity, deep seafloor, scavenger stages, sulfophilic stage

Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute: Osedax, the bone-eating worms.
[2] Crispin T. S. Little: The Prolific Afterlife of Whales. Scientific American February 2010, 302 (2), pp. 78-84.

Marine biology: Osteopelta (small, bone-associated shield), limpets

Osteopelta is the name for a specialized group of limpets. The word is derived from the Greek/Latin noun pelta, meaning small shield, and the prefix osteo- from the the Greek word osteon for bone (as occurring, for example, in the word osteoporosis). Osteopelta limpets have been found in assocoation with bones (!): alive on bones of whale carcasses sunken to the seafloor [1] and fossilized along with bones of a leatherback turtle from the Middle Eocene [2].
Crispin Little refers to the discovery of Osteopelta in recovered whale bones [1]:
[…] a tiny, previously unknown species of limpet—limpets are snail-like mollusks with conical rather than spiral shells—was described in 1985, soon followed by others. The limpets were named Osteopelta bacause of their association with bones.
Keywords: Osteopeltidae, ecosystems, biodiversity, deep seafloor, scavenger stages, fossil bones

[1] Crispin T. S. Little: The Prolific Afterlife of Whales. Scientific American February 2010, 302 (2), pp. 78-84.
[2] Craig R. Smith and Amy R. Baco: Ecology of Whale Falls at the Deep-Sea Floor. Oceanography and Marine Biology: an Annual Review 2003, 41, pp. 311-354 (see page 343) .PDF.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Legionella pneumophila and Legionnaires' disease

Legionella pneumophila is a bacterial pathogen, which causes diseases such as Pontiac fever and Legionnaires' disease, also known as Legion Fever. Legionella pathogens, like some other bacteria, evolved by protecting themselves from attacks by single-celled organisms in soils such as soil amoebas, which were playing the key role in giving the title bacteria and disease their names [1]:
At an American Legion meeting in Philadelphia in 1976, amoebas containing Legionella bacteria were blown through air-conditioning ducts into the hotel and delivered deep into the conventioneer's lungs. Macrophages [white blood cells within tissues] in the humans' alveoli [primary sites of gas exchange with the blood in the respiratory system] ingested the Legionella, much as an amoeba would. Thirty-four people died of the resulting respiratory illness, and Legionnaires' disease was born.
Keywords: history, nomenclature, microbiology, legionellosis

[1] B. Brett Finlay: The Art of Bacterial Warfare. Scientific American February 2010, Volume 302, Number 2, pp. 57-63.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Acronym in photovoltaics: XSC for excitonic solar cell

When it comes to acronym building, the letter x is sometimes the preferred or alternate letter of a word or an affix to be carried over into the acronym—regardless of x's position in the former. For example, the acronym for extensible markup language is XML (instead of EML). The acronym XSC (but also ESC) has been used for excitonic solar cell [1].
XSCs—in contrast to conventional solar cells—function by a different mechanism involving the generation, diffusion and dissociation of excitons (see The noun exciton and the adjective excitonic).

Keywords: photovoltaic devices, solar cells, exciton

[1] Brian A. Gregg: The Photoconversion Mechanism of Excitonic Solar Cells. MRS Bulletin January 2005, 30, 20-22. PDF.

The noun exciton and the adjective excitonic

The word exciton derives from the noun excitation and the suffix -on [1-3]. This suffix in exciton equals the preposition “on” and makes one think exciton is short for “the excitation is on,” but the suffix -on indicates that we are talking about a sub-nanoscale object of the wave-particle world (compare with the nouns photon, phonon, electron, proton, neutron, etc.).
An exciton is a bound electron-hole pair that originates, diffuses and dissociates inside—or at the interface of—a crystal. Direct observation of excitons is difficult [4]:
Because the [negative] electron and the positive hole have equal but opposite electrical charges, the exciton as a whole has no net electrical charge (though it transports energy). This makes excitons difficult to detect, but detection is possible by indirect means.
The adjective excitonic is used to specify materials or devices in which excitons can occur or play a critical role in their function. An excellent example are excitonic solar cells for converting light into electrical energy [5,6]. No surprise, there is a lot of excitement about excitons.

The English noun exciton in other languages
French: exciton
German: Exziton (neuter)
Italian: eccitone
Portuguese: exciton
Spanish: excitón

[5] Allon I. Hochbaum and Peidong Yang: Semiconductor Nanowires for Energy Conversion. Chem. Rev. 2010, 110, pp. 527-546 (see pages 531 to 536 on excitonic solar cells).
DOI: 10.1021/cr900075v
[6] Brian A. Gregg: The Photoconversion Mechanism of Excitonic Solar Cells. MRS Bulletin January 2005, 30, 20-22. PDF.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

DecaBDE, short for decabromodiphenyl ether

The flame retardant decabromodiphenyl ether (C12Br10O) is often addressed by its short name decaBDE, sometimes spelled deca-BDE. It is also encoded as BDE-209. Other names are bis(pentabromophenyl)ether and its IUPAC name:

DecaBDE is a perbrominated aromatic ether compound. Based on studies exposing the risks for human health and the environment due to decaBDE's potential for bioaccumulation and degradation into toxic products, three companies are now phasing out the production of this chemical [1,2]. Alternatives have been evaluated [3].

Identifiers for decabromodiphenyl ether:
CAS Registry Number: 1163-19-5
EINECS Number: 214-604-9
RTECS Number: KN352500
Beilstein Number: 2188438

Decabromodiphenyl ether in other languages:
French: oxyde de bis(pentabromophényle)
German: Bis(pentabromphenyl)ether
Spanish: bis(pentabromofenil)éter

[1] Glenn Hess:
Industry Drops Flame Retardant. Chemical & Engineering News January 4, 2010, 88 (1), page 10.
DecaBDE Study: A Review of Available Scientific Research. Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. HTML.
Report on Alternatives to the Flame Retardant DecaBDE: Evaluation of Toxicity, Availability, Affordability, and Fire Safety Issues. Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, March 2007. PDF.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Synfuel, short for synthetic fuel

The noun synfuel derives from the adjective synthetic and the noun fuel. A synfuel is a liquid or gaseous fuel derived especially from a fossil fuel that is a solid (as coal) or part of a solid (as tar sand or oil shale) [1].
Synfuels are considered as alternatives to liquid oil, which—within this terminology—is a natfuel (naturally occurring fossil fuel). Coal, oil shale, and tar sand, which all are low state grade energy resources, can be converted by industrial processes into higher state grade resources with the goal to replace natfuel-oil. However, this is inefficient and environmentally problematic. Douglas Reynolds has discussed the economics of oil alternatives and explains [2]:
Since they [synfuels] start out as low state grades, they require expensive transformations before firms can convert them into liquid or gas that could be used in the oil substitutes EUC [energy utilization chain]. Usually, oil from synfuel is three times as labor-to-energy intensive and 10 times as capital-to-energy intensive as crude oil (Rocks, 1989) [Lawrence Rocks: Fuels for tomorrow. Pennwell Corp., Tulsa, OK, December 1980]. Again we get the entropy subsidy problem, where when fuel prices go up, so do labor and material prices. These input prices in turn cause the labor- and material-intensive synfuels [boldface mine] to cost more than originally expected. Thus, any attempt to estimate the cost of synfuels is automatically an incorrect cost, because it does not nor cannot account for the entropy subsidy problem.
Keywords: etymology, energy, technology, resources, oil substitutes, synthetic fuels

[2] Douglas B. Reynolds: The Energy Utilization Chain: Determining Viable Oil Alternative Technology. Energy Sources 2000, 22, pp. 215-226.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Anatomy and winter sports: the word skeleton

The word skeleton comes from the Medical Latin word sceletus, which has its roots in Greek terms such as skleros, meaning hard, and skeleton soma, meaning dried-up body or mummy.
Today, the English word skeleton means framework. We may think of our own anatomical framework and the bone structures of other humans and animals. The noun skeleton is further used, for example, in architecture, referring to the steel skeleton of skyscrapers and in chemistry, referring to “essential parts of a molecular structure” such as the molecular backbone and some of its branches. Last not least, there is the skeleton in sliding sports. A skeleton, made of fiberglass as well as metal and somewhat resembling a human skeleton, takes an athlete downhill on snow or ice—just as a bobsleigh or a luge. Men's skeleton was raced in St. Moritz, Switzerland (1928 and 1948 Olympic Winter Games) and thereafter disappeared for a while from the Olympic scene. Since the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, USA, men's and women's skeleton are raced. This year's Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada, are an excellent occasion to watch skeleton races (see About the Sport for more on “skeletoning”) at the Whistler Sliding Centre.

Acronyms in materials science: TCO, AZO, GZO, IZO, MZO for thin film oxides

TCO stands for transparent conductive oxide. TCO is used as thin film or coating material in electro-optical devices including solar cells. TCOs are oxides of one or more metals that are typically doped with an additional metal. The examples, following TCO in the title, all refer to doped zinc oxide (ZnO) materials. The first letter encodes the dopand metal and ZO is short for ZnO. The oxides are:
  • AZO: Al-doped ZnO (aluminium-doped zinc oxide)
  • GZO: Ga-doped ZnO (gallium-doped zinc oxide)
  • IZO: In-doped ZnO (indium-doped zinc oxide)
  • MZO: Mg-doped ZnO (magnesium-doped zinc oxide)

Comment: Unfortunately, MZO is also used as acronym for metal-doped ZnO, bringing ambiguity to the three-letter acronyms. What about using AlZO, GaZO, InZO, MgZO and
MeZO instead? This schema further allow us to distinguish between Ag-doped ZnO and Al-doped ZnO, i.e. between AgZO and AlZO.

: chemistry, device design, surface coating, light transmittance

Selected literature
[1] S. H. Jeong, B. N. Park, S.-B. Lee and J.-H. Boo: Metal-doped ZnO thin films: Synthesis and characterizations. Surface & Coatings Technology 2007, 201, pp. 5318-5322. PDF.
[2] H.-K. Park; J.-W. Kang; S.-I. Na, D.-Y. Kim and H.-K. Kim: Characteristics of indium-free GZO/Ag/GZO and AZO/Ag/AZO multilayer electrode grown by dual target DC sputtering at room temperature for low-cost organic photovoltaics. Solar Energy Materials & Solar Cells 2009, 93, pp. 1994-2002.
DOI: 10.1016/j.solmat.2009.07.016.
[3] K. Ramamoorthy, K. Kumar, R. Chandramohan, K. Sankaranarayanan, R. Saravanan, I. V. Kityk and P. Ramasamy: High optical quality IZO (In2Zn2O5) thin films by PLD - A novel development for III-V opto-electronic devices. Optics Communications 2006, 262 (1), pp. 91-96.
DOI: 10.1016/j.optcom.2005.12.042.

D. R. Sahu and J.-L. Huang: Development of ZnO-based transparent conductive coatings. Solar Energy Materials & Solar Cells 2009, 93, pp. 1923-1927.
: 10.1016/j.solmat.2009.07.004.

[5] J. Springer, A Poruba, M. Vanecek, S. Fay, L. Feitknecht, N. Wyrsch, J. Meier, A. Shah, T. Repmann, O. Kluth, H. Stiebig and B. Rech: Improved Optical Model for Thin Film Silicon Solar Cells. Presented at 17-th European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference, Munich 2001. PDF.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bions, biologically related and structurally similar ion complexes

John D. Young and Jan Martel recently introduced the term bion for biologically related and structurally similar ion complexes [1]. They have produced an entire family of such structures by engineering nanobacteria-like particles to prescribed compositions. Young and Martel explain:
Bions come in all sizes and shapes and they can mimic biological forms that appear alive. Beyond demonstrating the nonliving nature of nanoparticles, they promise to further elucidate how building materials consisting of tiny nanoblocks are fabricated and assembled in nature.
Note: In debates concerning the safety/danger of nanotechnology one should always keep in mind that there are man-made nanoparticles and naturally occurring nanoparticles (mineral-organic assemblies), as the reports by Young and Martel (and also others) showcase nicely. Benefits and hazards of nanoparticles—similar to “toxic plants” that play roles as poison as well as pharmaceutical resources—should not be discussed in generalized whether or not terms, but in terms of specific nanostructures and their properties. Bions should make a significant topic in such discussions and, certainly, in future research.

Keywords: microbiology, materials science, nanoparticles, mineral-protein interaction, health and safety

References and selected links
[1] John D. Young and Jan Martel: The Rise and Fall of Nanobacteria. Scientific American January 2010, Volume 302, Number 1, pp. 52-59.
[2] Jan Martel and John D. Young: Purported nanobacteria in human blood as calcium carbonate nanoparticles. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (PNAS) April 2008, Volume 105, Number 14, pp. 5549-5554.
Full text:

Friday, January 22, 2010

Acronym in sports: VANOC for Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games

The vision for this year's Winter Games in and around Vancouver comes from a passion for sports, culture and sustainability. Behind this mission and the organizational efforts to make it all happen is the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) : VANOC is a not-for-profit organization, incorporated under the Canada Corporations Act. Supported in part by the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia, VANOC is responsible for the planning, organizing, financing, and staging of the Games.

About the Winter Games 2010
In French: À propos des Jeux d'hiver
VANOC's website:

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Georg Friedrich Händel and other names of this Baroque composer

The German-born composer Georg Friedrich Händel (1685-1759) is known for his operas, concertos and choral music, above all the Messiah, first performed in 1742 at Musick Hall in Dublin [1]. The Italians call him Giorgio Federico Hendel (Monsù Hendel). In France, he is known as George Frideric Hændel (Monsieur Hændel). And in England, the country he chose as his home, he is George Frideric Handel (Mister Handel).
Herr Händel was a composing cosmopolitan—living, traveling and performing in many parts of Europe. As a free-spirited musical entrepreneur, he did not insist on the German spelling of his name, but wrote, or let people write, his name in terms of mutual convenience. That is, why Händel's name may appear on original documents or in the literature as Haendel, Handle, Handell, Händtler, Hendell, Hendler, Hondel, Endel or Händeler [2].

[1] Jonathan Kandell:
Hallelujah. Smithsonian December 2009, Volume 40, Number 9, pp. 42-48; Excerpts.
[2] Franz Binder:
Georg Friedrich HändelSein Leben und seine Zeit. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, München, Originalausgabe Februar 2009 (page 7).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Acronym in musical arts: TOCCATA for The Orchestra and Community Choral Artists of the Tahoe Area

The Orchestra and Community Choral Artists of the Tahoe Area (TOCCATA) was founded in 2005 by James and Nancy Rawie as a non-profit musical arts organization based in Incline Village at Lake Tahoe, Nevada. TOCCATA ( performs in churches and resorts in the Reno-Tahoe area, presenting symphonic and choral music including masterpieces by Bach, Corelli, Händel, Telemann, Vivaldi, Mozart and many other Baroque and classical composers.
TOCCATA donors are grouped by the amount of their contribution. Browsing the list of donor groups is like a walk through an arboretum. You can be a Snow Cone if you donate a little or a Pine Cone if you donate $100. Donating more may get you in the White Fir Circle, Red Fir Circle, Jeffrey Pine Circle, Lodgepole Pine Circle, Ponderosa Pine Circle or Sugar Pine Circle. What about the Tahoe Rim or Tahoe Summit to circle above all?

Monday, January 18, 2010

James Hutton's scondary sandstone strata now called Upper Old Red Sandstone

Sandstone is a detrital sedimentary rock consisting of individual grains of sand-size particles 0.06 to 2 millileters in diameter either set in a fine-grained matrix (silt or clay) or bonded by chemical cement [1].
Upper Old Red Sandstone is found as surface rock in Scotland along the North Sea coast, where it helped James Hutton in the 1780s demonstrate his theory of geologic formations via cyclic processes occurring over long time spans [2]. Hutton called the rock system “secondary sandstone strata.” This coarse red sandstone is younger than the primary micaceous schistus (Silurian graywacke), the other distinct type of surface rock at Hutton's outcrop location, thought to have been formed separately (the secondary rock type after the primary one) at different geological times in erosion-sedimentation-uplift cycles.

Keywords: mineralogy, geology, history, Scotland, rock names

[1] Dictionary of Geology and Mineralogy. Second Edition. McGraw-Hill, New York, 2003.
[2] Jack Repcheck: The Man Who Found TimeJames Hutton and the Discovery of the Earth's Antiquity. Persus Publishing, Cambridge, MA, 2003.

Primary micaceous schistus, today know as Silurian graywacke

Graywacke is an argillaceous sandstone characterized by an abundance of unstable mineral and rock fragments and a fine-grained clay matrix binding the larger sand-size detrital fragments [1].
Silurian graywacke
formed during the Silurian period in the Paleozoic era, sometime between 430 and 390 million years ago. This type of shale is found as surface rock, for example, in Scotland along the North Sea coast, where it helped James Hutton in the 1780s demonstrate his theory of geologic formations via cycles of uplift, erosion and sedimentation occurring over long time spans [2]. Mineralogists at that time labeled this smooth, grayish stone as “primary micaceous schistus.”

Keywords: mineralogy, geology, history, Scotland, rock names

[1] Dictionary of Geology and Mineralogy. Second Edition. McGraw-Hill, New York, 2003.
[2] Jack Repcheck: The Man Who Found TimeJames Hutton and the Discovery of the Earth's Antiquity. Persus Publishing, Cambridge, MA, 2003.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

British versus American spelling: palaeontology versus paleontology

Ontology, derived from the Greek words onto- for existence or being and -logy for study or interest, is the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being [1]. The prefix palaeo-, or paleo- in the USA, comes from Greek palaios, meaning ancient. Therefore, palaeontology or paleontology is concerned with ancient beings or organisms: fossil animals and plants. Palaeontology is considered (and should be) a science! It uses scientific methods, relying on physics, chemistry, biology and geology, to study prehistoric life. Based on fossils and facts found, sometimes however, far-reaching conclusions are derived that introduce a metaphysical flavor to this branch of natural science— whether spelled palaeontology or paleontology.

[1] Michael Quinion: OLOGIES AND ISMSWord Beginnings and Endings. Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, 2002.

Acronym in marine biology: TOPP for tagging of Pacific pelagics

Tagging of Pacific pelagics (TOPP) is a program of the international Census of marine life (CoML) that began in 2000 [1-3]. The TOPP project is taking a multispecies approach. It leads to understanding of pelagic habitat use by Pacific predator species such as marine vertebrates and large squid in the North Pacific. The TOPP Census page is a portal to maps, data and references to published studies on behavior, distribution and migration patterns of sea birds, whales, seals, bluefin tuna, white sharks and many other animals.
In a current Bay Nature article [2], Glen Martin summarizes recent TOPP activities and results with a focus on white sharks:
During the past decade, TOPP has deployed sophisticated satellite archival tags and sonic tags on 4,000 individual Pacific predators including blue whales, elephant seals, leatherback turtles, black-footed albatrosses, bluefin tuna, and blue, white, mako and salmon sharks.
Among the findings of this research: contrary to past assumptions, white aharks are not coastal homebodies. Early conclusions by TOPP scientists—published in 2002— demonstrated that white sharks are wide-ranging, venturing far into the Pacific, with one individual traveling 3,800 kilometers in 40 days to the west coast of Kahoolawe Island in the Hawaiian archipelago.
Tagging studies revealed that white sharks converge at the “White Shark Café”, an area at about equal distances away from Hawaii and the Californian coast. What are these top—or better TOPP—predators doing there?

Keywords: oceanography, tracking of marine species, Pacific Ocean, migration of white sharks

[1] Barbara A. Block, Daniel P. Costa, George W. Boehlert and Randy E. Kochevar: Revealing pelagic habitat use: the tagging of Pacific pelagics progam. Ocean. Acta 2003, 25, 255-266. PDF.
[2] Glen Martin: Beyond JawsFathoming the Ways of the White Shark. Bay Nature January-March 2010, pp. 16-19, 23. Online-Article.
[3] Tagging of Pacific Predators: TOPP.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ancient Greek city of Edessa, now the Turkish city of Şanliurfa

Edessa was founded in 303 or 302 B.C. and named after the old capital of Macedonia [1]. For many centuries it was an important stop on the Silk Road for merchants carrying goods to Antioch. Edessa is now the Turkish city of Şanliurfa, also written as Sanli Urfa and simply known as Urfa. Şanliurfa is located about 250 kilometers east of the Turkish city of Andana. It is surrounded by desert bounded by the Taurus Mountains to the north, the Euphrates River to the East, and Syria to the South. As most places in Turkey, Şanliurfa is rich in history and archaeologically interesting sites including the recently discovered and excavated Byzantine floor mosaics, in almost pristine conditions, of a large villa serving as a palatial home [1].

Note: There also is the capital of the Pella Prefecture of Macedonia, Greece, with the name Edessa. Further there was the Syriac speaking kingdom Edessa or Osroene (also spelled Osrohene or Osrhoene) with Edessa as its capital.

Keywords: geography, archaeology, ancient Greece, modern Turkey

Reference and links
[1] Marco Merola: Turkish Delights • Spectacular Byzantine Mosaics Revealed. Archaeology January/February 2010, Volume 63, Number 1, pp. 35-37. Online-Article.
[2] Urfa pictures - Turkey