Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for some of the most interesting words of the week. The latest: why you procrastinate; a whale’s white thinger-doodles; and robot sperm to the rescue.
“Akrasia is the state of acting against your better judgment. It is when you do one thing even though you know you should do something else.”
James Clear, “The Akrasia Effect: Why We Make Plans But Don’t Follow Through,” Lifehacker, January 13, 2016
Akrasia, also spelled acrasia, refers to excess or intemperance, and comes from a Greek word meaning “lack of self-control.” Lifehacker says that the Akrasia effect may be attributed to “time inconsistency,” or “the tendency of the human brain to value immediate rewards more highly than future rewards.”
“Khan posted some tips and basic terminology for whale identification: the white thinger-doodles are callosities; the nose end of the whale is its bonnet.”
Elizabeth Preston, “Making Facebook for Whales,” The Atlantic, January 14, 2016
On a whale, callosities are a “pattern of whitish markings” on its head which are “key to identifying it,” says The Atlantic. A callosity in general can refer to a callous or a calloused demeanor.
“People whose ancestors never left the continent would not have crossed paths with Neanderthals or the Denisovans, a mysterious group of humans who lived in and around Siberia at the same time.”
Iam Sample, “Human-Neanderthal relationships may be at root of modern allergies,” The Guardian, January 7, 2016
The Denisovans refer to an “extinct grouping of the genus Homo that lived in the Altay Mountains some 41,000 years ago.” They’re named for the Denisova Cave in Siberia, Russia, where their remains were first discovered.
“For parachute kids, living in the U.S. is a chance to learn a new language and culture and to escape China’s ultra-competitive college entrance exams.”
Stephen Ceasar and Cindy Chang, “3 teens from China will go to prison for a San Gabriel Valley attack on a classmate,” Los Angeles Times, January 7, 2016
Like paratroopers dropped off solo into foreign territory, parachute kids are sent overseas without their parents to study in the U.S. A kind of opposite might be helicopter parents who, some might say, spend too much time hovering over their children.
“Now a team of German researchers has invented a ‘spermbot’ that can help sperm swim better to improve couples’ fertility.”
Alexandra Ossola, “Tiny Motors Could Help Slower Sperm Swim to Egg,” Popular Science, January 13, 2016
A spermbot is a kind of nanobot designed to be directed to slow-moving sperm, to fit over the sperm’s tail, and be driven to the egg.