Word Buzz Wednesday: ili pika; mukbang; telomere


Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, in which we round up our favorite buzzworthy words of the week. The latest: the elusive “magic rabbit”; performance binge eating; and space-time-aging mind meld.

Ili pika

“Meet the Ili pika (Ochotona iliensis), an extremely elusive, cuddly creature that is rarely seen by human eyes.”

Jenny Zhang, “Adorable Teddy Bear-like ‘Magic Rabbit’ Spotted for the First Time in Two Decades,” My Modern Met, March 26, 2015

This cuddly China native “has been spotted only a handful of times in the Tianshan Mountains” of Xinjiang province, says My Modern Met.

Dubbed the “magic rabbit” by those who study it, the Ili pika was named by its discoverer, conservationist Li Weidong. Ili is short for “iliensis,” while pika is a small, tailless, furry mammal that belong to “the order of lagomorphs,” which includes rabbits and hares. Pika might come from the Russian pikat’, “to squeak.”


“The demands on Ahn and other mukbang stars like her are high — she can’t just eat, she must eat ferociously.”

Elise Hu, “Koreans Have An Insatiable Appetite For Watching Strangers Binge Eat,” NPR, March 24, 2015

Mukbang, which translates from Korean as “eating broadcast,” involves a broadcast jockey loudly and enthusiastically chowing down on an inordinate amount of food on livestream video.

As many as 45,000 Korean viewers watch mukbang during dinnertime. One mukbang “star” says that her mostly female fans are probably dieting and eating vicariously through her.

See also food porn.


“Lee Seok-young, a defector from the North, said he smuggled 18,000 Chinese-made notel into the country last year.”

James Pearson, “The $50 device that symbolizes a shift in North Korea,” Reuters, March 27, 2015

The notel — the word combines “notebook” and “television” — is a small portable device that can play media via DVDs and USB sticks. It’s “easily concealed,” and therefore “easily smuggled into the country and passed hand to hand.” Up to “half of all urban North Korean households” have one.

[H/t Erin McKean.]


“The TSA has insisted on keeping documents about SPOT secret, but the agency can’t hide the fact that there’s no evidence the program works.”

Jana Winter and Cora Currier, “Exclusive: TSA’s Secret Behavior Checklist to Spot Terrorists,” The Intercept, March 27, 2015

SPOT is a backronym that stands for “Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques.” (A backronym is when the acronym is formed first and the corresponding words picked to fit the letters.)

Some example “observations” that signal you might be a terrorist are exaggerated yawning, excessive complaints of the screening process, excessive throat clearing, and whistling.

[H/t Edward Banatt.]


“Scientists expect that radiation, weightlessness, changes in diet, and other features of life on the ISS will also make Scott Kelly’s telomeres shorten more quickly than his brother’s.”

Gideon Lichfield, “Astronaut Scott Kelly will return from a year in space both older and younger than his twin brother,” Quartz, March 27, 2015

Telomeres, says Quartz, are “sections of DNA found at the end of every chromosome in your body.” They sort of act like “the end caps on a copper wire that stop it from fraying,” and shorten “each time a cell replicates and copies its DNA into a new cell.” When they get too short, “replication stops, making the body susceptible to decay or cancer.”

So while Scott will be chronologically younger than his six-minute older twin — over 342 days, he “will become 25 microseconds a day younger” — he’ll be physiologically older.

[Photo via My Modern Met: By Li Weidong]