Word Buzz Wednesday: Gaian bottleneck, Janus point, nobble


Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for some of the most interesting words of the week. The latest: explaining the lack of aliens; a backwards bizarro universe; and sabotaging show dogs.


“Science and technology professor Sherry Turkle has emerged as the most high-profile voice among these disconnectionists.”

Nathan Jurgenson, “Fear of Screens,” The New Inquiry, January 25, 2016

According to The New Inquiry, disconnectionists:

see the Internet as having normalized, perhaps even enforced, an unprecedented repression of the authentic self in favor of calculated avatar performance.

In simplest terms, our online selves aren’t our real selves, and we must disconnect from the Internet and perhaps technology in order to regain their true selves. However, one might question if any self we present to the outside world is our “true” self.

Gaian bottleneck

“The paradox of astrobiology is that many planets likely check all the boxes for being habitable for life, but we have yet to discover any. The researchers have named their solution to this paradox the ‘Gaian Bottleneck.’”

Jeva Lange, “Astrobiologists have a new theory for why we haven’t found aliens: They’re all extinct,” The Week, January 21, 2016

The Fermi Paradox, named after Italian physicist Enrico Fermi, refers to the conundrum that despite the “extremely high probability” that alien life exists, we have yet to discover a trace of it.

A possible solution to this, suggests Astrobiologists from the Australian National University Research School of Earth Sciences, is what they’re calling the Gaian bottleneck, the idea that “life exists for a brief time on other planets” but goes extinct quickly.

Janus point

“Barbour compares the Janus point to the moment where a river splits in two and flows in opposite directions.”

Olivia Goldhill, “It’s possible that there is a ‘mirror universe’ where time moves backwards, say scientists,” Quartz, January 18, 2016

Physicists from the University of Oxford, the University of New Brunswick, and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics propose that after the Big Bang, particles expanded outwards and in “two different temporal directions.” They call the moment before this expansion the Janus point, named for the Roman god of gates and doorways, who is depicted with two faces turned in opposite directions.


“In the manosphere, the red-pill truth is that men are victimized by a contemporary culture that is biased toward the female perspective.”

Rachel Monroe, “From Pickup Artist to Pariah,” New York Magazine, January 2016

The manosphere is a collection of blogs, sub-Reddits, and other sites “inspired” by the 2005 book, The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists.


“‘Nobbling’ is said by some to be common in the fiercely competitive run-up to Crufts, a series of qualifying dog shows, in which the competition and, supposedly, the intrigue is intense.”

Mark Seal, “The Dark Underside of the Show-Dog World,” Vanity Fair, January 31, 2016

In dog show parlance, to nobble is to sabotage a rival dog. The word nobble originated in the 18th century, says the Oxford English Dictionary, and means to strike, hit, or beat up. By the mid-19th century, the word also referred to tampering with a horse or greyhound to keep it from winning a race, and by extension, to harm or injure in general.