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*Inspired by this post: http://blogs.agu.org/mountainbeltway/2011/10/17/words-matter/, this is a crowd sourced collection of words that have different meaning for scientists and the public. Please feel free to add entries to the bottom. Avoid jargon that has no common usage, this list is specifically for terms with multiple meanings. Words in bold are from the original list. Additional suggestions for better choices are welcome.

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Please add new entries to the bottom of the list, don't rearrangePlease note that we're focusing on terms that legitimately have multiple meanings, not just terms that are poorly understood"Better Choice" when communicating to the public, strict definitions and equations may not be the best option for outreachNotesContributors are invited, but not required, to add their name to this list:

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Andrew David Thaler

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Scientific TermGeneral Meaning/PerceptionBetter ChoiceJoonas Mäkinen

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Kimberly Clarke

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abstractvague, intangibleSummary, Take home message
Bryan Maloney

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acceleratespeed upSonia Furtado Neves

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accommodationplace to sleep/change to make someone more comfortablefocusing of the eye's lensJohn Aspinall

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aerosolspray cantiny airborne particleGeorge Collins

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alcoholbeerpreservative, rubbing alcohol, drinking alcohol, etc. Bryan Maloney

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amplificationsomething that makes music louderincreasingMarc Percher

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anomalyabnormal occurencechange from long-term averageBrian Glanz

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anti-bioticsoap, hand sanitizer, kitchen cleanersterilizer, agent to kill microbesTom Smerling

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assayjudge, essayanalyze, a method used to testMichael Bowen

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attractionliking someone a lotbeing pulled towards each otherJeffery James

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bacteriadirty, unhealthy, infectious agentsmicroscopic organisms, microbesCaitlin Wiltshire

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basicsimple, easy[of research] not applied, fundamental, alkalineKevin Yaroch

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biasdistortion, political move, prejudiceoffset of an observationAngela A. McComb

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blindunable to seelacking an exit

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blind teststumbling around randomly?experiment designed to eliminate bias

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carbohydratespasta, potatoesgroup of natural molecules made of only carbon, hydrogen and oxygenCricket Darby: cartoonhumorous graphic or visual jokebrief schematic

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chaoticdisorganizedlack of pattern, difficult to predict Cricket Darby: platformraised horizontal surface??

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chemicaltoxic substance, poison, synthetic compoundsany molecule / chemical element, emphasize that 'chemical free' is practically impossiblefeel close to, empathize withjoining of atoms via electron sharing in a molecule

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cleavagegap between breastsbreak apart, slicing of molecules, division of cells, brittle fracture

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climateweatherlong-term trends in weather

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cloneduplicate whole organisms which will turn evilduplicate a piece of DNA, copy of genetic information [1]

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cloninghuman duplicationgrowing bacteria with inserted DNA, generating new genetic elements by cut-and-glue of DNA

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confidencecertaintywithin an acceptable range

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conservedprotected, pickled, canned[of a gene or trait] present in similar forms in different organisms, almost unchanged throughout a group's evolution [2]

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constraintlimit freedomlimit uncertainty

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controlauthorityunaltered comparison, duplicate sample without test substance

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cosmopolitansophisticated, urbanwidely distributed in an ecosystem

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criticalpoint at which stuff goes wrongpoint at which interesting things happen

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culturea way of life, behavioral traits, clubgrowth or sample, out of body growth of living tissue

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depressant induces depressionreduces the activity of a specific part of the body or brain

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differentiatedistinguish two or more objectsfind the slope of

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drugillegal substancesmedicine, medically active

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E. colitainted water, food poisoning, feceslaboratory culture, microbe

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energy conservationfrugality, efficiencyThe fact that energy can't be created or destroyed, only converted

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enhanceimproveintensify, increase

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errormistake, wrong, incorrectdifference from exact true number, range in which we believe the value of the measured quantity to be

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estimateguesseducated guess/extrapolate from well understood results, assumption from the available information

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evolveGrow stronger/more complex (usually in terms of an individual)accumulation of gradual changes within a population, survival of most successful variant, change over time

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exoticglamorous and unusualnon-natives species, invasive species; rock transported a long distance (e.g. by a glacier)

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experimentguinea pigs, lab ratscontrolled test

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exponentialgreatly increaseda mathematical relationship

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fitnessstrength, power, healthreproductive success

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fluxchanging, unstablebe explicit - flow of mass, energy, etc.

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forceeffort, violencebe explicit when discussing mass times acceleration

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gene/genome defining trait, identitycoding region, information about how to build or regulate part of an organism

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genericcheap, low-qualitycommon

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genetic modificationfranken-food, monstersbe specific about the gene and the experimental organism

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hypothesisguesseducated guess, informed prediction that will be tested, calculated guess

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immortalgod-likeable to replicate indefinitely

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integratebring togetherfind the area under

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Large-scaleBroad in scope, greater areacloser to actual size; closer to 1:1 ratio; smaller area on a map

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lawlegal mandatefundamental principle

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layignorant, uninformednon-specialist, general public

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manipulationillicit tamperingscientific data processing

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massiveenormoushas mass, lacks internal structure

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modeldiorama, fashion modelcomputer simulation, mathematical equation that has been tested against known quantities, example capturing a specific situation

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momentumsocial trend, popularitybe explicit when discussing mass times velocity

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mulefemale horse+male donkeysterile hybrid

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mutantX-men, abnormalchange in gene, genetically different from others

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negative reinforcementpunishment for a negative behaviorremoval of adverse condition, removal of punishment [3]

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nominalsubstandardPerforming within expected parameters.

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normalizemake ordinaryrescale

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off-label/unlicensed druguntested/unauthorised drugdrug used to treat a condition other than the one it's generally used for

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optimistic hopefulnot likely

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order of magnitudeFactor of 2About 10 times larger or smaller

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organicnatural, FDA Organic Labelcarbon-containing molecule, specific reaction

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perturbanxious, unsettled, confusedalter pattern

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positive feedbackgood response, praiseself-reinforcing cycle

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positive trendgood trendupward trend

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potencystrength, effectivenessstrength of a drug's effect relative to the dose

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powerstrength, authorityability to reject false negatives, rate of work, product of multiplying a number by itself

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predictionability to see the future perfectlycalculated guess based on previous data

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primerbase coat of paint, instructionsshort strand of DNA for making copies, starting point of a process

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probablelikelyinclude a measure of probability

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problemdifficultyquestion, challenge

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proofabsolute evidencevalidation of a statement by specified rules

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proteinmeat, cheese, body building supplementstiny biological machines (enzymes), biological scaffolds (structural proteins), organic self-active tool

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quantum changesudden change, big changethe smallest possible change

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racehuman racessub-group of a species of population, strain, ethnicity/ancestryrace - often confused with ethnic identity

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rainforestpristine, edenic jungledescribe the region/ecosystem

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randomproceeding without purposeunpredictable, some probability of multiple options

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recentrelative to human time scalespecify time scale - hundred, thousands, millions of years

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relativityeverything is relativeexplicit reference to theory of relativity

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researchliterature search, summaryexperimentation, project

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retardedmentally handicappedslowed down, delayed

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robotTerminator, job-stealerremote operated vehicle, pipetting machine, etc.

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scaledevice to measure weightsize or scope

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schemedevious plotsystematic plan

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sensitivitydelicateaccuracy of measurement [4]

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signindication, astrological signplus or minus sign

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significantmeaningful, importantstatistically supported, proven to be correct with a certain probability, less than 5% chance of being wrong

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small-scaleLimited in scope, smaller areaRatio smaller than 1:1; larger area on a map

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solutionthe means to solve a problema solvent with a substance disolved in it

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speciesdiscrete biological unitcontext dependent - group of related individuals

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spinthe act of rotating, political biasangular momentum

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statisticmade-up number, dehumanisationsummary of data

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stimulated/spontaneous emissiontickled, excitedsynchronized light waves / light waves in random directions

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supports/does not support the hypothesisprovenemphasize that neither is ever absolute proof [5]

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theoryhunch, speculationscientific understanding, explanation

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trialjudge and jury, innocent or guiltycontrolled test

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trivialpointless, meaningless, insignificant[of a problem] with a straightforward solution

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tumorcancerunrestricted cell growth, immortal cell, not necessarily malign

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uncertaintyignorancerange

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valuesethics, monetary valuenumbers, quantity

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New Entries

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skewout of whack, cattywompuslack of alignment in time or space<- clearer Better Choice needed

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greenhouse gassome gas in the sky related to saving energyheat-trapping gas

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anthropomorphicsomething about foreign cultureshuman-shapednot anthropogenic?

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adapt/adaptationchange made in response to somethinggenetic adaptation?

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academicirrelevant, theoreticalmember of the scientific research community typically within the university system<- clearer Better Choice needed

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Combsomething to do your hairspeed up or slow down, a change in speed or direction<- clearer Better Choice needed

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gelsomething to fix your hairsomething to separate macromolecules<- clearer Better Choice needed

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lanewhere you drive your carwhere you run your macromolecules<- clearer Better Choice needed

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wellwhere you take water fromwhere you load your sample<- clearer Better Choice needed

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normalordinaryperpendicular

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lightvisible lightelectromagnetic radiation, or visible light

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radiationdangerous rays that can kill you, turn you green, or make you grow extra limbsemitted energy or particles

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massweightmeasure of the amount of matter in an object<- clearer Better Choice needed

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conservationprotecting the environment, opposing pollution, protecting endangered speciesa quantity does not change as the system evolves; e.g. conservation of mass/energy
a symmetry of a physical system (see Noether's law)
<- clearer Better Choice needed

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indeterminacyignorance; undecidednessdescribes a probabilistic system in quantum physics<- clearer Better Choice needed

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wavewater waves/ physical non contact greetingup and down motion, yo-yo motion

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dirty/promiscuous (drug)indiscriminate sexability to activate receptors outside of targeted area

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morphologyan entity's ability to change into another form or being Definition varies from discipline to discipline. Suggest not using it in public discourse.

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meanrudeaverage

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crystalfancy glass, or jewel-like rocka characteristic molecular structure that forms as a substance is solidifying<- clearer Better Choice needed

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richwealthy or flavorfulabundant [in]

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failuresomething that didn't workmechanical breaking

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cascadewaterfallone action that causes others which cause others

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salttable saltcompound formed by the reaction of an acid and a base<- clearer Better Choice needed

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efficiencyhow fast something workshow little heat energy is wasted

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impulsedesireChange in momentum of an object

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polymerplasticmaterial made out of repeating units

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plasticgarbage bagnon-recoverable mechanical deformation
changeable in form

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elasticstretchyrecoverable mechanical deformation

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plasmapart of bloodionized gas

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gasfart, air
one of the three states of matter

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solidsturdyone of the three states of matter

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neonVegas lightsnoble gas

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nobleregalgroup 8 on the periodic table--non reactive gasses<- clearer Better Choice needed

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defectproblemperturbation away from a perfect crystal

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dislocationjoint that is out of socketcrystallographic defect in a solid

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basea baseball marker, an outpost, reliable political supporta substance that is the counterpart of an acid, with a pH over 7<- clearer Better Choice needed

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studycram for a testset of experiments

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ceramicporcelainMaterial with strong, directional, covalent bonding

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planeairplanetwo dimensional group of atoms in a crystal

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creepsketchy persontime dependent plastic deformation

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yieldgive right of waybegin plastic deformation

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Kryptonwhere superman is fromKr, an element

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noiseannoying sounddata spread

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spectrumwide varietya signal which can be decomposed into frequency components

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stressA feelingaverage force per unit area<- clearer Better Choice needed

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strainstresschange in length normalized by original length

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normalusualperpendicular

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normalizemake usuala process for reducing statistical error

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bodyphysical part of a personany thing

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sliptrip and fallprocess by which dislocations produce plastic deformation<- clearer Better Choice needed

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loadtruck-fullapply force or the force which is applied

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neckingmaking out/ gulping down a pint of alcoholic beveragethinning of a material in cross section when loaded in tension
<- clearer Better Choice needed

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tensionstressforce pulling a material out<- clearer Better Choice needed

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principalleader of a schoolprimary

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mechanicsmultiple auto repair peoplea branch of physics

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classicala type of musicNewtonian physics

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lithiuma medication for bipolar disorder
the lightest metal, Li

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nickelfive centsa metallic element

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radiussurrounding areahalf the diameter

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critical pointmost important ideawhen three phases of matter are in equilibrium

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florinetooth strengtheneran element

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chlorinea chemical for poolsan element

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nuclear reactionpower generation
a reaction changing chemical element

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empiricaldealing with an empirebased solely on experimentwould "based on measurement" be more informative/accurate?

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mercurya planeta metal that is liquid at room temperature<- clearer Better Choice needed

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florescencea type of lightbulbemission of light by a substance that has absorbed light of a different wavelength
<- clearer Better Choice needed

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metal/metallicitysilver-coloured solid, how sparkly and silvery something appears/ form of musicelements other than those created in the Big Bang, proportion of heavier elements<- clearer Better Choice needed

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principal investigator / PIperson charged with finding out what's wrong, private detectivelead scientist, lead researcher, team leader

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sexgender, ie man, woman, etc, intercoursebiologically determined, ie male or female

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observationwatching somethingexamination, notes recorded during experimentation

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artifact / artefacta historical or cultural archeological relica systematic error or bias caused by the setup of an experiment; caused by humans and not truly reflective of the natural results. In archaeology, any object intentionally modified by humans.<- clearer Better Choice needed

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proposalsuggestionresearch project, application/request to use a facility, plan

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volatileexplosive, fieryhighly fluctuatingdynamic, or, quickly changing

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secularnon-religiousnon-cyclical
[1] Possibly could be "Weather of the past few months" for the public and "Weather over years of collection" for a better phrasing -- Wed Oct 19 2011 20:22:04 GMT-0500 (CDT)
[2] In context, if talking about genes/traits, I think this should be obvious, no? -- Wednesday, October 19, 2011 12:44:14 PM
[3] the public doesn't know what 'aversive stimulus' means -- Wed Oct 19 09:36:43 2011
[4] Strength of effect due to change -- Wed Oct 19 2011 13:43:12 GMT-0600 (Mountain Daylight Time) I think that your Better Choice definition is too long.-- Wednesday, October 19, 2011 12:55:07 PM
[5] how about "is consistent with the hypothesis (although this does not prove it is correct)" -- Wednesday, October 19, 2011 11:53:40 AM