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vocabulary
1000+ books

100 Words Encountered in

Engineering

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optic
an optical illusion†
optical = relating to sight or light
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Library3 uses in 10 avg bks
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elegant
as in:
as elegant equation
It is an elegant solution that will reduce complexity and save material.
elegant = a solution that is simpler (and often more comprehensive) than most would anticipate
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Library10 uses in 10 avg bks
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simulate
A computer model is used to simulate the effects of wind.
simulate = imitate or represent
DefinitionGenerally simulate means:
make an imitation or representation of
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Library6 uses in 10 avg bks
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parameter
I enjoy writing for the paper, but I wish my work wasn't bound by such tight parameters.†
parameters = a fixed limit that establishes how something should be done
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Library1 uses in 10 avg bks
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ratio
The ratio of the 2nd to 4th finger length predicts spatial ability in men.
ratio = the relative magnitudes of two quantities — often expressed as a:b (which could also be expressed as the fraction a/b)
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Library3 uses in 10 avg bks
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assess
as in:
assess the situation
They assessed the property's value at $500,000.
assessed = considered and judged
DefinitionGenerally this sense of assess means:
consider something and make a judgment
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Library4 uses in 10 avg bks
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continuous
The national power grid is under almost continuous attack.
continuous = constant (uninterrupted)
DefinitionGenerally continuous means:
continuing in time or space without interruption or irregularity
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Library8 uses in 10 avg bks
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optimal
It is the optimal solution.†
optimal = most desirable possible — often given the circumstances
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radiation
Ionizing radiation has enough energy to ionize atoms or molecules.
radiation = particles emitted by nuclear decay (i.e., particles smaller than an atom that are sent out due to radioactivity)
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Library4 uses in 10 avg bks
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inclusive
as in:
10 to 20 inclusive
I was grouped with students who scored 53% to 64% inclusive.
inclusive = including stated limits
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Library0 uses in 10 avg bks
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contract
as in:
the metal contracted
When it is cold, the bridge contracts and the joints are further apart.
contracts = gets shorter or smaller
DefinitionGenerally this sense of contract means:
when something gets shorter or smaller
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Library9 uses in 10 avg bks
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dynamic
as in:
a dynamic personality
a dynamic speaker†
dynamic = being energetic or enthusiastic — often inspiring others
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Library1 uses in 10 avg bks
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equilibrium
Panic threw the stock market out of equilibrium.†
equilibrium = a stable situation in which forces are in balance

or:

a person's sense of physical or (more rarely) emotional balance
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Library2 uses in 10 avg bks
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equivalent
At $50 a share, it is equivalent to about a billion dollars.
equivalent = being equal or essentially equal
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Library7 uses in 10 avg bks
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algorithm
We wrote a computer algorithm to find words that would interest you.†
algorithm = a precise rule (or set of rules) specifying how to solve some problem
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schema
It is a useful schema for discussing perception and understanding.†
schema = a representation of a complex system
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methodology
a proven research methodology
methodology = a system of principles and procedures for doing or studying something
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polymer
Cellulose is a natural polymer.†
polymer = a compound consisting of large molecules made up of a linked series of repeated smaller molecules (simple monomers)
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indicate
These maps are drawn with north to the top unless otherwise indicated.
indicated = pointed out (shown)
DefinitionGenerally indicate means:
to show (point out, demonstrate, express, or suggest)
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Library38 uses in 10 avg bks
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symposium
I'm excited to attend the symposium on robotics.
symposium = a gathering to discuss a specific subject — generally with shared and breakout sessions in which individual or panels of experts address audiences
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criteria
We're considering five primary criteria as we compare job applicants.
criteria = reference points against which things can be evaluated
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sequential
She has a gift for breaking a complex task into a simple series of sequential steps.
sequential = happening in a specific order — especially chronological order
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Library6 uses in 10 avg bks
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phenomenon
It is a growing social phenomenon on high school campuses.
phenomenon = something that can be seen and is of special interest
DefinitionGenerally phenomenon means:
something that exists or happened — especially something of special interest — sometimes someone or something that is extraordinary
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Library7 uses in 10 avg bks
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mean
We have a mean annual rainfall of 23 inches.
mean = average
DefinitionGenerally this sense of mean means:
the average number
For example, the mean of 1 & 3 is 2.
More generally, the mean of n numbers is computed by dividing the sum of the numbers by n; for example, the mean of 1, 2, and 6
= (1+2+6) / 3
= 9 / 3
= 3
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median
median household income†
median = the middle value of an ordered set of values (or the average of the middle two in a set with an even number of values)

The median of 2,4,7,7 is 5.5.
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mode
The most frequent class size (or the mode) is 20 students.†
mode = the most frequent value of a collection of values; for example: 7 in the series 1,1,2,4,7,7,7,9,13,29
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Library7 uses in 10 avg bks
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enhance
This sauce will enhance the flavor of the meat.†
enhance = increase quantity or quality
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Library4 uses in 10 avg bks
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approximate
The state has approximately as many Republicans as Democrats.
approximately = about (but not exactly)
DefinitionGenerally approximate means:
almost, but not exact; or similar
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Library8 uses in 10 avg bks
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linear
a linear measurement
linear = relating to a line
DefinitionGenerally linear means:
relating to a line

or:

describing a proportional relationship that can be graphed with a straight line (described mathematically as an equation whose terms are of the first degree)

or:

more rarely:  a straightforward sequence such as "linear thinking"
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simultaneous
It is published in simultaneous print and electronic editions.
simultaneous = at the same time
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Library12 uses in 10 avg bks
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diffuse
When the United States focused on terrorism, the movement went further underground and became more diffuse.
diffuse = spread out
DefinitionGenerally diffuse means:
to spread; or to soften or calm

or:

to be spread out (not concentrated) — sometimes implying a lack or organization or the use of too many words
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Library3 uses in 10 avg bks
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static
He was raised in a static village community where most people farmed in the same manner as their grandparents.
static = not changing
DefinitionGenerally this sense of static means:
not moving or not changing
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Library8 uses in 10 avg bks
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coefficient
2 meanings
as in:
2x or y(a+b)
Divide by 2 to eliminate the leading coefficient.
coefficient = mathematics:  a number that is multiplies a variable in an expression (such as 2 in 2x)

or:

mathematics:  any factor of a term (such as y in y(a+b))
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as in:
coefficient of thermal expansion
Determine the coefficient of friction between the two objects.
coefficient = physics:  a constant number that serves as a measure of some property or characteristic (such as the coefficient of thermal expansion)
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correspond
4 meanings
as in:
corresponding time period
Eskimos have many words that correspond to the English word snow. For example, there are different words for "snow on the ground", "fresh snow on the ground", "soft snow on the ground", "a crust of snow on the ground" and so forth.
correspond = are equivalent
DefinitionGenerally this sense of correspond means:
connect or fit together by being equivalent, proportionate, or matched

(Two things are equivalent if they have the same or very similar value, purpose, or result.)
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Library4 uses in 10 avg bks
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as in:
corresponding by email
We correspond regularly via email.
correspond = write to each other
DefinitionGenerally this sense of correspond means:
communicate by writing letters or email
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as in:
a correspondence course
She took a correspondence course while she was in prison.
correspondence = done from afar via written communication
DefinitionGenerally this sense of correspondence means:
done from afar
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Library3 uses in 10 avg bks
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as in:
foreign correspondent of the paper
Let's get a report from our correspondent in Mexico City.
correspondent = reporter
DefinitionGenerally this sense of correspondent means:
a reporter — typically from a foreign country or with a particular expertise
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transparent
as in:
transparent shower door
The transparent shower door shows water spots.
transparent = able to be seen through with clarity
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opaque
as in:
opaque shower door
They are engineering a window that can convert from transparent to opaque with the push of a button.
opaque = not able to see through at all
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Library2 uses in 10 avg bks
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translucent
I could see a vague form through the translucent glass.
translucent = almost transparent; allowing light to pass through diffusely
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Library5 uses in 10 avg bks
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denotes
The asterisk ("*") denotes a footnote.
denotes = indicates
DefinitionGenerally denotes means:
means literally; or indicates
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combustion
internal combustion engine†
combustion = the act of burning
DefinitionGenerally combustion means:
the act of burning

or metaphorically:

a state of violent disturbance and excitement
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finite
We are a wealthy country, but we still have to wisely allocate finite resources.†
finite = limited or with boundaries
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propagate
as in:
propagate the idea
The spread of the Roman Empire helped to propagate the idea throughout Europe.
propagate = spread
DefinitionGenerally this sense of propagate means:
to spread
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subsequent
Her guess was proven right by subsequent developments.
subsequent = following
DefinitionGenerally subsequent means:
following something else
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Library4 uses in 10 avg bks
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hydraulic
The train uses hydraulic brakes.
hydraulic = relating to liquid — often describing machinery as moved by pressurized liquid
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flexible
The job has flexible working hours.
flexible = adaptable to different conditions
DefinitionGenerally flexible means:
bendable or adaptable in various senses:
  • easily bent without physical damage or injury — as of a hose or gymnast
  • able to adjust readily to different conditions — as of a plan
  • willing to make concessions — as of a boss
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Library4 uses in 10 avg bks
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discrete
We collected data from three discrete studies.
discrete = separate or distinct
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essential
The essential feature of the pen is that it writes so consistently.
essential = absolutely necessary; or of greatest importance
DefinitionGenerally essential means:
absolutely necessary; or of the greatest importance

or:

the defining or most important aspect of something
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Library20 uses in 10 avg bks
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matrix
a matrix of connective tissue†
matrix = a rectangular array of elements (or entries) set out by rows and columns
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Library2 uses in 10 avg bks
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innovate
Apple is considered one of the most innovative companies.
innovative = introducing things that are new and different
DefinitionGenerally innovate means:
bring something new to an environment
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Library3 uses in 10 avg bks
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relevant
It is easier to learn things that seem relevant to your life.
relevant = related in a meaningful way to the issue in question
DefinitionGenerally relevant means:
relating in a meaningful way to the issue in question
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Library5 uses in 10 avg bks
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component
It has only three major components.
components = parts
DefinitionGenerally component means:
a part of something
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Library5 uses in 10 avg bks
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hardware
We think it's a hardware failure.†
hardware = the physical part of a computer system
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Library5 uses in 10 avg bks
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software
We spend more on software than hardware.
software = written programs stored in computer hardware (physical components of a computer) which instruct the hardware on what tasks to perform
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Library3 uses in 10 avg bks
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constraint
Both sides have demonstrated a lack of constraint in the discussions.
constraint = staying within limits (in this case restraining themselves from saying things that make it hard to work together)
DefinitionGenerally constraint means:
something that limits something's motion or someone's actions; or the state of being so limited
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laser
The nightclub has a laser light show.†
laser = an optical device that produces an intense monochromatic beam of coherent light
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synthesis
His operas are the synthesis of music and drama in perfect harmony.†
synthesis = the combination of components into a complex whole
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frontier
as in:
the frontier of brain science
She wants to extend the frontiers of voice-controlled computer applications.
frontiers = the most recent understandings and achievements in a changing field
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Library2 uses in 10 avg bks
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comprised
The university is comprised of six colleges.
comprised = made up of (composed of)
DefinitionGenerally comprised means:
made up of (composed of); or included
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Library4 uses in 10 avg bks
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amplitude
The amplifier to increase the amplitude of sound waves.†
amplitude = greatness of magnitude or range — especially the height of a wave
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artificial intelligence (AI)
It is an artificial intelligence program to help diagnose disease.†
artificial intelligence = a branch of computer science developing software that mimics human intelligence
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thermodynamics
The first and second laws of thermodynamics are the ones that are best known.†
thermodynamics = the branch of physics concerned with the conversion of different forms of energy
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vertical
The architect used long vertical lines to pull the eye upward.
vertical = oriented straight up and down (90 degrees relative to the floor)
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Library7 uses in 10 avg bks
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horizontal
Paintings in which horizontal lines dominate, tend to be relaxing.
horizontal = in line with the floor, horizon, or another flat base
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diagonal
The artist used diagonal lines to create tension.†
diagonal = a straight line connecting opposite corners of a rectangle; or any slope that could connect the corners of an imaginary rectangle that has one side parallel to the floor
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nanotechnology
She is studying nanotechnology with a specialty in molecular self-assembly.†
nanotechnology = the branch of engineering that deals with things smaller than 100 nanometers — especially with the manipulation of individual molecules
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synthetic
The couch is covered with synthetic leather.
synthetic = artificial (man-made rather than natural)
DefinitionGenerally synthetic means:
artificial (man-made rather than natural)

or more rarely:

apparent, but not genuine
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quantum
A photon is sometimes referred to as a "light quantum."†
quantum = physics:  the smallest indivisible quantity of something — especially energy
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solvent
as in:
the company is not solvent
The company is no longer solvent.
solvent = capable of meeting financial obligations
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devise
She plans to devise something to launch water balloons.
devise = come up with (invent or create)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of devise means:
to come up with a way of doing something — typically a creative idea or plan
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Library8 uses in 10 avg bks
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calculus
She placed out of calculus in college.
calculus = the branch of mathematics that is concerned with continuously changing values
DefinitionGenerally this sense of calculus means:
any system or process used to calculate values or to reason

or:

the branch of mathematics that is concerned with continuously changing values
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diffraction
They use X-ray diffraction to scan luggage at the airport.†
diffraction = an effect on light when it passes an obstacle such as an opaque edge; or (more rarely) a similar effect on other waves/particles such as water, sound, and x-rays
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trivial
We're in agreement on the main issues. We just have some trivial details to work out.
trivial = unimportant
DefinitionGenerally trivial means:
of little importance; or describing  a challenge as uninteresting and easy to solve
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reciprocal
as in:
reciprocal numbers
the reciprocal ratio of a:b is b:a
reciprocal = inversely related — especially one of a pair of numbers whose product is 1; e.g., 1/5 is the reciprocal of 5
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logarithmic scale
Earthquake force is measured with a logarithmic scale (the Richter scale).†
logarithmic scale = A scale in which positions are proportional to the logarithms of underlying values.

(editor's note:  A normal (linear) scale might show one unit per inch; whereas a logarithmic scale (of base 10) might show 10 units at the first inch, 100 at the second, 1000 units for the 3rd, ...)
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plasma
as in:
a plasma gas
In a plasma, electrons and positive ions are attracted to each other, but are too energetic to stay together.
plasma = an ionized gas (typically at high temperature) that is a good conductor of electricity and reacts to magnetic fields
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semiconductor
Semiconductor materials are at the foundation of modern electronics.†
semiconductor = a material that conducts electrical current under certain circumstances
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transistor
Today, most transistors are embedded in integrated circuits.†
transistors = a semiconductor device use to amplify (or control) electrical current
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integrated circuit
Better integrated circuits will result in better phones.†
integrated circuits = a microelectronic computer circuit incorporated into a single chip or semiconductor
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hydrostatics
analyze the hydrostatics, hydrodynamics, and stability of the hull†
hydrostatics = the study of the mechanical properties of fluids that are not in motion
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polarized light
Polarized sunglasses reduce glare caused by reflected light.†
polarized sunglasses = Light that vibrates in a single plane (as contrasted to ordinary light that vibrates in all directions)
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alkaline
an alkaline battery†
alkaline = having a pH greater than 7 (this is the opposite of acidic)
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decentralize
The government is decentralizing economic decision making.†
decentralizing = to change from one area of control or concentration to multiple areas
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diode
Today, there are many specialized diodes, such as LEDs.†
diodes = an electronic component that acts like a one-way valve
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ductile
It is less ductile in the cold.†
ductile = metal that is easily bent
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anion
Anions are larger than their parent molecule or atom.†
anions = a negatively charged ion
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cation
A hydrogen cation contains no electrons, and thus is much smaller than the parent hydrogen atom.†
cation = a positively charged ion
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derive
She likes to win, but she doesn't derive pleasure from watching others lose.
derive = get
DefinitionGenerally derive means:
to get something from something else

(If the context doesn't otherwise indicate where something came from, it is generally from reasoning—especially deductive reasoning.)
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derivative
a highly derivative prose style
derivative = something developed from something else
DefinitionGenerally derivative means:
something developed from something else such as:
  • a word based on another word
  • a mathematical value from a function
  • the value of a financial instrument
  • a work of art such as a film or painting that lacks ideas not previously expressed in other works of art
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histogram
Most people will learn more from looking at a histogram than from seeing the underlying standard deviation.†
histogram = a bar chart representing a frequency distribution; heights of the bars represent observed frequencies
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machine tool
The factory closed and the machine tools were shipped to Mexico.†
machine tools = a powered mechanical device, typically used to fabricate metal components of machines by the selective removal of metal such as cutting, grinding or drilling
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joule
A joule is the amount of energy required to lift a small apple one meter straight up.†
joule = a small unit of electrical energy
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colloid
Colloid science has become important to nanotechnology.†
colloid = a mixture with properties between those of a solution and fine suspension
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potential energy
The pendulum repeatedly converts potential energy to kinetic energy and then back.†
potential energy = the energy stored in an object due to its position;

For example:  an apple in a tree has potential energy that will be released if it is dropped to the ground; or a stretched rubber band has potential energy realized if it is released.
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abrasion
as in:
abrasion of the rubber
We're convinced the skid marks are from her car because the rubber abraded from her tires is consistent with the length of the skid marks that lead to the crash.
abraded = wear away by rubbing
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conservation of energy
The First Law of Thermodynamics applies conservation of energy to thermodynamic systems.†
conservation of energy = physics:  the fundamental principle that the total energy of an isolated system is constant despite internal changes
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right angle
The lines intersect at right angles.†
right angles = an angle measuring 90 degrees
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surface tension
Surface tension permits the water strider to walk on the surface of water.†
surface tension = physics:  some insects can walk on water because of this water/air boundary created by the attractive forces between water molecules
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† 
Sample usage followed by this mark was not checked by an editor. Please let us know if you spot a problem.
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