Word Buzz Wednesday: biohybrid, hyperuniformity, corn sweat

Corn field

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for some of the most interesting words of the week. The latest: skinjob Cylons, here they come; the hidden order of chicken eyes; never let ‘em see you corn sweat.

word gap

“But these efforts to close the ‘word gap’ often overlook a fundamental problem. In high-poverty neighborhoods, books—the very things that could supply so many of those 30 million-plus words—are hard to come by.”

Alia Wong, “Where Books Are All But Nonexistent,” The Atlantic, July 14, 2016

The term word gap refers to the difference between the number of words “a typical child in a white-collar family will hear” and the number a child in welfare will hear before age 4. According to The Atlantic, the gap is 32 million words.


“Our ray outperformed existing locomotive biohybrid systems in terms of speed, distance traveled, and durability (six days), demonstrating the potential of self-propelled, phototactically activated tissue-engineered robots.”

Lisa Calhoun, “Scientists Create Successful Biohybrid Being Using 3-D Printing and Genetic Engineering,” Inc., July 11, 2016

A biohybrid is something composed of biological and nonbiological components. Inc. describes an artificial stingray made up of “a 3-D-printed rubber body” and skeleton, and rat heart cells adapted so they can “respond to light by contracting.”


“Beyond bird eyes, hyperuniformity is found in materials called quasicrystals, as well as in mathematical matrices full of random numbers, the large-scale structure of the universe, quantum ensembles, and soft-matter systems like emulsions and colloids.”

Natalie Wolchover, “A Bird’s-Eye View of Nature’s Hidden Order,” Quanta Magazine, July 12, 2016

The term hyperuniformity was coined in the early 2000s by Salvatore Torquato, a professor of theoretical chemistry at Princeton University. It seems to be a shortening of disordered hyperuniformity, a type of “correlated disorder at large length scales,” and considered another type of matter beyond solids, liquids, gases, and plasma.


“While bombing, the guys kept one eye on the wall and on scanning for possible undercover cops.”

Ray Mock, “I Went Bombing with Hong Kong’s Biggest Graffiti Writers,” VICE, July 17, 2016

Bombing in graffiti-speak means to cover an area with graffiti. Analogous is yarn bombing, which uses knitted items instead of spray paint or ink.

corn sweat

“Midwest cities such as St. Louis, Kansas City and Minneapolis can get very humid, especially during a summer heat wave. One of your favorite veggies could be partly to blame.”

Jennifer Gray and Dave Hennen, “High temperatures, ‘corn sweat’ form dangerous heat dome over U.S.,” CNN, July 17, 2016

Apparently corn sweats like a human. Its leaves release water, says CNN, which is released into the atmosphere as the wind sweeps across, resulting in higher humidity levels in the surrounding air.