Word of the Day

Word of the day

Sunday, November 21, 2021

tesseract

[ tes-uh-rakt ]

noun

the generalization of a cube to four dimensions.

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What is the origin of tesseract?

Tesseract “a four-dimensional cube” derives from Ancient Greek tésseres (also téttares) “four,” which is also the source of tessellate “to form small squares,” after the number of sides in a square, and the combining form tetra- “four,” as in tetrahedron, a figure with four faces, and tetralogy, a series of four related books or films. Tésseres comes from the Proto-Indo-European root kwetwer-, which is the source of English four, forty, fortnight, and farthing and Latin quattuor and quadri- “four” (as in quatrain, a four-line poem, and quad, a four-sided common space), quārtus “fourth” (as in quarter, which is one-fourth of a dollar), and quater “four times”  (as in quaternary “consisting of four”). Tesseract was first recorded in English in the late 1880s.

how is tesseract used?

[H]yperspace was to be apprehended by the “mental or inner eye”….The ultimate vision, at least for the trainee, came with the apprehension of the hypercube or tesseract, which could be visualized through the manipulation of … cubes. One was to build a tesseract from an intricate arrangement of those cubes and then—in order to “see” it—pass the tesseract through three-dimensional space. Just as a sphere passes through a plane in two-dimensional slices, so the tesseract would pass through three-dimensional space in three-dimensional slices.

Dan Burton and David Grandy, Magic, Mystery, and Science: The Occult in Western Civilization, 2004

The robot is building a tesseract. He motions at a glowing cube floating before him, and an identical cube emerges. He drags it to the left, but the two cubes stay connected, strung together by glowing lines radiating from their corners. The robot lowers its hands, and the cubes coalesce into a single shape—with 24 square faces, 16 vertices, and eight connected cubes existing in four dimensions. A tesseract. This isn’t a video game. It’s a classroom. And the robot is Brian Greene, a physicist at Columbia University and bestselling author of several popular science books.

Nick Stockton, "String Theory's Weirdest Ideas Finally Make Sense—Thanks to VR," Wired, June 2, 2017

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Word of the day

Saturday, November 20, 2021

cenotaph

[ sen-uh-taf ]

noun

a sepulchral monument erected in memory of a deceased person whose body is buried elsewhere.

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What is the origin of cenotaph?

Cenotaph “a monument erected in memory of a person buried elsewhere” derives by way of Latin cenotaphium from Ancient Greek kenotáphion, literally meaning “empty tomb,” from kenós “empty” and táphos “tomb.” A common misconception is that the ceno- element of cenotaph is related to the identical combining forms ceno- (also caeno- or caino-) “new” and ceno- (also coeno-) “common,” but despite the resemblance, there is no connection. The diphthongs ai and oi in Ancient Greek, which were adapted as ae and oe in Latin, both frequently become e in American English, which can easily result in homonyms—words that sound and are spelled the same but are unrelated. A similar example occurred with the element pedo- in pedology, which can mean “soil science” when pedo- is derived from Ancient Greek pédon “soil,” or can mean “the study of child development” when pedo- is derived from Ancient Greek paîs (stem paid-) “child.” Cenotaph was first recorded at the turn of the 17th century.

how is cenotaph used?

Archaeologists said on Friday they had discovered an ancient cenotaph that almost certainly commemorated the legendary founder of Rome, Romulus, buried in the heart of the Italian capital. The small chamber containing a simple sarcophagus and round stone block was originally found at the start of the last century beneath the Capitoline Hill inside the old Roman forum.

Crispian Balmer, “Archaeologists unveil possible shrine to Rome’s first king,” Reuters, February 21, 2020
[T]he Austrian Government has practically decided to erect an imposing monument on the summit of Grossglockner, the highest mountain in the Tyrolese Alps, to the memory of the unknown Austrian soldier. The site of the cenotaph has been chosen by engineers. The project, however, is meeting some opposition from Vienna, where it is considered that the monument should be erected in the Austrian capital. Alpinists are supporting the first plan.

"Austria to Build a Cenotaph On Its Highest Alpine Peak," New York Times, March 25, 1926

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Word of the day

Friday, November 19, 2021

nugatory

[ noo-guh-tawr-ee ]

adjective

of no force or effect; ineffective; futile; vain.

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What is the origin of nugatory?

Nugatory “of no force or effect” comes from Latin nūgātōrius “worthless, useless,” from the verb nūgārī “to trifle.” Nūgārī, in turn, derives from the plural noun nūgae “trifles, idle talk, frivolities,” which is also the source of nugacious, a synonym of nugatory, and nugacity, a noun that means “insignificance.” While it may seem odd that Latin features nouns such as nūgae that always appear in the plural, English is no stranger to nouns that usually or exclusively appear in plural form. Many objects that contain two component parts, such as pants, trousers, scissors, and shears, are typically limited to the plural, as are certain location-related words, such as headquarters and surroundings. Nugatory was first recorded in English at the turn of the 17th century.

how is nugatory used?

I am sending you herewith photo and description of our pressure testing machine. It is our belief that the method and construction employed entirely avoid errors from the following sources: (1) Variation in wind velocity; (2) Variations in temperature and density of the atmosphere; (3) Travel of center of pressure; (4) Variation in angle of incidence owing to movements of the mounting arms, The first two causes gave Mr. Langley trouble; while the third and fourth vitiate somewhat the natural wind experiments of Lilienthal. Gravity and centrifugal force are also rendered nugatory.

Wilbur Wright, Letter to Octave Chanute, January 19, 1902

While outdated theory may not render one’s interpretations nugatory, they may seem quaint to those who work within the field from which the ideas came, and intramural strife, if it remains unobserved, can not then serve to provide occasions for fruitful comparison, since intellectual battles in one arena often have interesting parallels and previously unimagined consequences within another.

Carlo Ginzburg, James D. Herbert, W. J. T. Mitchell, Thomas F. Reese and Ellen Handler Spitz, "Inter/disciplinarity," Art Bulletin, Vol. 77, December 1995

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