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KELVIN SCALE: See TEMPERATURE.

Ketamine Hydrochloride: A non-barbiturate substance originally used intravenously or intramuscularly to produce anesthesia where the patient may appear to be awake but is unaware of the environment and unresponsive to pain. It is still popularly used in veterinary medicine. Ketamine - or "special-K" - became prevalent in the club scene in the 1990s as an ecstasy additive or alternative. Its tranquillizing effects have earned it the media tag of "date-rape drug" (much like alcohol). When snorted it relieves pain, produces distortion of time and perception, hallucinations, loss of motor control, and in overdose respiratory depression, coma or death. (See ECSTASY, PHENCYCLIDINE HYDROCHLORIDE). (IP+MP)



KEW GARDENS: Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. UK., houses a large number of plant varieties with extensive and smoothly manicured lawns, severs as a picnic spot with Palm House and Chinese Pagoda. (JA)

KEYSTONE SPECIES: An important species which plays a key role in holding the ecosystem together, the absence of which would have catastrophic consequences for community composition and ecological structure across the food web. Conservation of these organisms is the key to the survival of many others irrevocably linked by natural systems and processes. Keystone species are often the dominant habitat vegetation, but may be harder to predict ranging from the charismatic sea otter to otherwise inconspicuous soil or plankton organisms. (See INDICATOR SPECIES) (MP)


KIDNEY DIALYSIS: Also called Hemodialysis, Renal Dialysis, or Dialysis,  in medicine, the process of removing blood from a patient whose kidney functioning is faulty, purifying that blood by dialysis, and returning it to the patient's bloodstream. The artificial kidney is a machine that provides a means for removing certain undesirable substances from the blood or of adding needed components to it. By these processes the apparatus can control the acid–base balance of the blood and its content of water and dissolved materials. Another known function of the natural kidney—secretion of hormones that influence the blood pressure—cannot be duplicated. Modern dialyzers rely on two physicochemical principles, dialysis and ultrafiltration. Dialysis was first used to treat human patients in 1945. In the 1960s there were many ethical questions of how to allocate persons to the limited number of dialysis machines. (DM)

KILO- : A prefix denoting 103 thus in units of length 1 kilometer (km) = 103 meters (m) and in units of mass 1 kilogram (kg) = 103 grams (g). (See METRIC UNITS). (IP)

KINGDOM: 1. Politics: A territory, country or community reigned over by a king or queen. Sovereign rule may be actual and supreme, or only nominally behind the scenes of a democratic government. Ethical concerns have been raised about authoritarian kingdoms whose rule is obtained by bloodline rather than by other independent means of approval. 2. Biology: The highest level of taxonomic classification of organisms, commonly divided into the Animalia, Plantae, Fungi, Protista and Monera. (See PHYLUM, SPECIES, TAXONOMY) (MP)

KITAB-E-AKDAS: (in Arabic/Persian literally "Most Holy Book") The most sacred book of the Baha'i. This book provides the laws and regulations for Baha'is. (AG)

KINDNESS: See BENEFICENCE.

KING, MARTIN LUTHER, JR. : (1929-1968, USA) a Baptist minister and social activist who led the civil rights movement in the United States from the mid-1950s until his death by assassination in 1968. His leadership was fundamental to that movement's success in ending the legal segregation of black Americans in the South and other parts of the United States. King rose to national prominence through promoting nonviolent tactics with lessons from Matma Gandhi, in famous events like the March on Washington (1963) to achieve civil rights. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964. He was assassinated in 1968. (DM)

KNOWLEDGE: Knowledge is true belief with justification. This opens up questions on the nature of truth, the conditions for belief, the criteria of justification and the organization of information. Epistemology is the philosophical ‘theory of knowledge’ investigating its nature, scope, acquisition and turnover. Sources of knowledge may be perception (sensations), cognition (reason, introspection), experience, understanding or memory. Facts and beliefs are sorted into ‘domains’ of knowledge. Meta-knowledge is knowledge about knowledge; categories, interactions, problem-solving, decision-making and uncertainty. Various hierarchies and systems of knowledge have been proposed (e.g. Hume, Kant, Gettier, Foucault). Knowledge is open to opinion, and subject to justification, explanation, interpretation, criticism and skepticism. Science is well placed to contribute knowledge due to its empiricism, experimental rigor, falsifiability and critical review processes (e.g. Bacon, Popper, Kuhn). There are limits to science-based knowledge however, just as there are limits to knowledge itself. In a real way the classifications of human professions, with their associated journals and fields of study, represent an architecture of knowledge. There is advantage to be gained from investigating the ‘knowledge gaps’ between established domains, professions and ideas. (See BEST AVAILABLE INFORMATION, EDUCATION, EPISTEMOLOGY, EXPERT, KNOWLEDGE ACQUISITION, INFORMATION, INTELLIGENCE, MEME, META-KNOWLEDGE, ONTOLOGY, UNCERTAINTY, UNKNOWABLE) (MP)

KNOWLEDGE ACQUISITION: Knowledge is acquired through sensations, reason, introspection or memory. Data, information, statistics, processes, causal theory, hypotheses and heuristic rules combine to produce knowledge stored as fuzzy sets in language, memories and conceptual models. Knowledge and beliefs are arranged along a scale from doubt to certainty; one’s knowledge has passed the truth condition, one’s faith passed the belief condition. This occurs through the process of justification. Further down the scale is possibility, uncertainty, risk, indeterminacy and ignorance. This is the coal-face of philosophy and scientific research. (See BEST AVAILABLE INFORMATION, COMPLEXITY THEORY, DATA MINING, EDUCATION, FUZZY LOGIC, IDEAS PRODUCTION, INFORMATION, KNOWLEDGE, MEMETICS) (MP)

KNOWLEDGE ENGINEERING: The branch of engineering which integrates knowledge from a domain expert into computer systems to create information technology, expert systems and artificial intelligence. (See EXPERT SYSTEM) (MP)


KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT: The management of professional expertise and experience in an organization. Top management is in charge of strategic decision-making, middle management handles tactical decisions, and employees make workplace decisions, but with both upwards and downwards flow of ideas and knowledge. (See SUSTAINABLE CORPORATION) (MP)

KNOWLEDGE VALIDATION: The testing of knowledge to determine its accuracy and precision. In science, knowledge validation is performed using experiments to test the veracity of hypotheses. In technology, modeling tools such as expert systems must undergo sensitivity analysis to test the robustness of any knowledge the system may produce. (See SENSITIVITY ANALYSIS) (MP)



KORAN: see QURAN.

KOSHER: See KASHRUT.

K'UNG FU-TZU: See CONFUCIUS.

KURTOSIS: A measure of the degree of peak in a frequency distribution. A sharp peak is leptokurtic, moderate is mesokurtic and a platykurtic distribution is relatively flat. (See MEASURES OF DISPERSION, NORMAL DISTRIBUTION, SKEW) (MP)

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LABELING: See STIGMATISATION.

LAMARCKISM: Theory of evolution in which organisms produce offspring with adaptive characteristics as a direct result of their own environments. So, for example, a person of average musical ability as a child who then became a professional musician would be expected to have children of above average musical ability. Classic experiments in the early twentieth century dealt a blow to Lamarckianism. In these experiments mice had their tails cut off for generation after generation. Yet, contrary to what Lamarckianism would predict, each generation of mice was still born with normal tails. Some biologists think that Lamarckianism may still be important in certain circumstances but Darwin's alternative theory of natural selection is almost universally held to be correct. (See DARWIN) (MR)

LA NINA-SOUTHERN OSCILLATION PHENOMENON refers to the warm ocean current that blows along the northern tropical coast of South America in its stabilizing phase. La Nina refers to "the child" of constancy as opposed to El Nino "the Child" of change (see EL NINO-SOUTHERN OSCILLATION PHENOMENON, SOUTHERN OSCILLATION INDEX). (IP)



LAND DEGRADATION: The decline in integrity, fertility and usefulness of the land, usually as a result of human mismanagement. This reduction in land quality has impacts on both human utility such as farm productivity, and ecosystem utility such as the ability to maintain biodiversity. Common forms of land degradation include water and wind erosion, salinization from over-irrigation or land clearing, soil acidification from overuse of fertilizers, habitat and vegetation destruction, chemical contamination and pollution, landslips and other soil loss or movement, decline in soil structure from stock trampling, soil compaction from heavy equipment, and loss of soil fertility due to excessive agriculture. (MP)

LAND MINES: Land mines are anti-personnel bombs laid covertly across the landscape to wait for a passer-by to trigger their deadly explosive charge. They stand out from other weapons by being non-discriminatory – equally devastating to a civilian as a combatant, and long-lasting – usually long beyond any cease in hostilities. Land mines are a major problem in many less developed countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Bosnia, Angola, Mozambique, Rwanda and Somalia, but have been typically manufactured by rich countries such as the US, UK, Russia, France and China. Recent air-released mines have euphemistically been termed ‘cluster bombs’. Eminent personalities have crusaded against land mines, including Tibet’s Dalai Lama and Britain’s late Princess Diana. At the very least, new deployments should include a time-out function or remote electronic turn-off mechanism. The UN has contributed with the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction. (See CONVENTIONAL WEAPONS, DISARMAMENT, EXPLOSIVES, NON-LETHAL WEAPONRY) (MP)


LAND RIGHTS: See NATIVE TITLE LEGISLATION - AUSTRALIA.

LANDSAT: Any of a series of land-observing satellites useful for civilian land-use mapping, resource assessment, and measuring habitat destruction and other environmental data. The first satellite was launched from the US in 1972 under the Earth Resources Technology Satellite project, a program renamed ‘Landsat’ in 1975. A ‘Seasat’ satellite for monitoring of the oceans has also been in existence. Landsat has operated with a non-discriminatory ‘open skies’ policy, despite broad similarities with spy satellites which have applications to military intelligence. (See LAND USE, REMOTE SENSING, SPY SATELLITES) (MP)

LAN ONG: (1720-1791) Vietnamese physician. His major work is "Hai Thuong y tong tam linh" (Treatise on Medical Knowledge Accumulated by Hai Thuong). This work contains an encyclopedic range of medical information, based both on Chinese and Vietnamese sources. Lan Ong's work also includes descriptions of 722 plant species and their medicinal applications. (AG)

LAO-TSE: (Lao-zi in pinyin spelling) Author of the text Daodejing (Tao Te Ching). The text itself is from the 3rd cent., but the teachings contained in it are more ancient. In this book, Lao-Tse focuses on concepts of non-action, and nothingness in an attempt to understand the complexity of the universe. (See TAO TE CHING). (AG)



LAPAROSCOPY: Direct visualization of the ovaries and the exterior of the fallopian tubes and uterus by means of a laparoscope (a long, narrow, illuminated instrument) introduced through a small surgical incision below the navel, to evaluate any abnormalities. Surgical procedures may also be performed using this method. (IP)

LASER TECHNOLOGY: (Abbreviation of ‘Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation’) The production of monochromatic high-intensity beams of light, with applications for example to medicine (e.g. acupuncture, tissue removal) and multimedia (e.g. printing, compact discs). (See LASER WEAPONS) (MP)

LASER WEAPONS: The laser weapon has long been a staple of science fiction spacecraft, but fortunately has had limited attention in real-world military deployment. Nevertheless, blinding lasers have been commercially available, and can blind temporarily or permanently depending on how they are used and whether the victim is wearing vision enhancement equipment. Blinding lasers have been discussed in the ethical context of non-lethal weaponry, however the horror of deliberately causing blindness is debatably at similar depths of inhumanity as killing humans outright with bombs. An ‘X-Ray Laser’ has been tested in connection with missile defense programs. Lasers may well become part of future space-based military development, such as a precision weapon beamed from a spy satellite to ground targets. (See MISSILE DEFENSE, NON-LETHAL WEAPONRY, SPACE WEAPONS) (MP)

LATE ONSET DISORDERS: Disorders that normally become symptomatic in adult life. (JA)

LATERAL THINKING: Producing ideas by thinking ‘outside the box’, or along an alternate tangent of thought to the traditional ‘high probability’ train of ‘vertical’ literal thinking. A term developed by Edward de Bono, lateral thinking can be induced by looking at a problem from many points of view, reversing components of an idea, ‘working backwards’ from an option/solution, recognition of spaces of the possible, departure from strong polarizing ideas, and the use of chance and an open mind. Lateral ideas must still be brought back and judged by rational reasoning. (See BRAINSTORMING, PO, REASONING) (MP)


LAW: The science or philosophy of law; or, a legal system. (See CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, CONTRACT, CRIMINAL LAW). (DM)

LAW OF CONSERVATION OF ENERGY: The principle that the total energy of a system cannot change unless energy is taken from or given to the outside. Thus the law states that the total energy - resting mass energy + kinetic energy + potential energy - of a closed system remains constant; that is, the total value of a particular physical or living system is conserved. Earth is a closed system, therefore, the idea of perpetual growth, as in consumerism or human population growth, is a losing strategy overall. Therefore, excessive wealth generates excessive poverty, excessive land use generates excessive land degradation. (See SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT). (IP)


LD50: Dosage of a chemical compound which will result in the death of 50% of test animals given the compound. (AG)

LEARNED HELPLESSNESS: describes the behavior of an individual - human or animal - who has learned that an outcome is independent of his or her reaction. For example, if a dog is subjected to captivity it has no control over, it rapidly gives up any attempt to escape even when the possibility to escape becomes available. The condition has profound emotional and physical effects and the loss of control over external events, in some circumstances, may also produce an overall powerlessness. Ironically, the belief that one has lost control over ones fate and is in a helpless situation may be more imagined than real as there are distinctions in the ways individuals view uncontrollable distressing events. Some believe that life's rewards are to be found internally while others rely more on external events provided by others or chance happenings (see ALLOSTASIS, HOPE, WELLBEING). (IP)


LEEUWENHOEK: Anton van. A pioneer in the development of microscopes during 1700s and contributed much to the study of food chains and population. (JA)

LEGAL GUARDIANS: Individuals empowered by law to make decisions concerning the welfare of persons considered legally incapable of acting on their own behalf, such as minors and mental incompetents. (DM)

LEGISLATION: in a modern state, the mode of establishing rules (laws, regulations) by parliaments. Democratic theory distinguishes between legislative powers, executive powers (the government), and jurisdiction. (BP)

LEGALISM: The position that ethical action consists in strict conformity to law or rules; cf. antinomianism, rules of practice, situationalism.

LEIBNIZ, BARON GOTTFRIED WILHELM VON: (1646-1716) German mathematician and philosopher, he conceived the idea of "possible worlds". There are infinitely many possible worlds, and God created the best of them all: this world. In his play, Candide, Votaire satiricized the idea that a world which contains as much tragedy as our world contains can have been chosen by an all-good God as the "best of all possible worlds". (FL)

LEOPOLD MATRIX: A large matrix of environmental elements/characteristics in horizontal rows and potential environmental impacts in the vertical columns. For each policy option, the potential impacts are estimated for each element by indicating a ‘magnitude’ and ‘significance’ score in each of the intercepting boxes of the matrix. This allows the distributions and total impacts of different policy options to be easily compared. The Leopold Matrix was developed by Luna B. Leopold and others in 1971 and is still commonly used in Environmental Impact Assessment. (See ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT, MATRIX METHODS) (MP)


LEPTIN: A hormone which controls adiposity by signaling the brain’s satiety center in the hypothalamus to stop eating, to eat less, or to burn calories faster. Fat mice have a genetic mutation in the leptin gene and it is thought that human obesity is an indirect result of faulty leptin receptors (Greek lep"tin thin). (IP)

LEPTON: (Greek: leptos "thin" or "peeled") Leptons, along with quarks and their respective antiparticles, are the irreducible components of matter. Leptons are simple elemental particles including electrons and neutrinos. (See QUANTUM MECHANICS, QUARK) (MP)

LESBIAN/ISM: the homosexual love between two women [in ancient Greece lesbianism was termed trivodismos derived from the verb trivo to rub]. In western mythology, lesbian love had its origins on the island of Lesbos (the homeland of the famous poet Sappho) where friendships between women were at a more developed stage. Sappho was the first to make "Sapphic love" - expressing and cultivating other interests outside the home. The innovation within the then male dominated society of having yearly beauty contests, where female athletes competed in their sector for their own honor along similar lines to the Olympic Games, was established in Lesbos. It is said that Sappho was to young women what Socrates was for his male students (see SAPPHO OF LESBOS). (IP)

LESS DEVELOPED COUNTRY: Another phrase in the search for a politically-correct description of not so wealthy nations, the Less Developed Country is synonymous with the ‘Third World’, ‘South’ or ‘Developing Nations’. (See DEVELOPING NATIONS, FOURTH WORLD, SOUTH, THIRD WORLD) (MP)


LETHAL: Causing or able to cause death, as in lethal dose (toxins) or lethal radius (explosives). (MP)

LEUKOTOMY: literally "cutting the white matter", a neurosurgical procedure in which the nerve fibers in the bundle of white matter in the frontal lobe of the brain’s cortex are cut in order to interrupt transmission, thereby isolating the prefrontal cortex from the rest of the cerebral cortex; that is, the frontal lobes cease to play any part in the patient’s life. White matter is the term used for the fiber connections between groups of brain cells and in this case the nerve connections between the frontal lobes and the rest of the brain are severed with a wire loop passed through the bony orbit of the eye. The procedure is adopted for the treatment of an extended variety of mental disorders; particularly violence, personality disorders, intractable depression and pain. The operation was developed by a Portuguese neurosurgeon, Egaz Moniz (1875-1955), who heard of an experimental procedure whereby legions of the front part of the brain suppressed "neurotic" behavior in monkeys. At a time when brain function was little understood and drugs for severe psychiatric conditions were not available, leukotomy was considered - right up until the 1960s - to be a more humane treatment to calm down severely agitated and aggressive patients. Other routinely used alternative treatments for mentally ill patients included straitjackets, isolation in locked padded cells, or insulin injections to induce comas. The procedure is seldom performed these days because, while in many cases it does make the patients calm, it also has many undesirable effects such as personality change including aggression, other socially unacceptable behavior, incontinence, apathy and complete lack of motivation (see ELECTROCONVULSIVE THERAPY, FRONTAL LOBE, SEROTONIN RE-UPTAKE INHIBITORS). (IP)

LEXICOGRAPHY: The attempt at discovery, definition and description of the meanings of words, such as in the writing or compilation of a dictionary. A dictionary or encyclopedia is a snapshot of the current range in an evolutionary passage of memes, a reflection of language, culture and philosophy. For example, in Jean-Luc Godard’s dystopian science fiction film Alphaville, future society has replaced the Bible with a socially-conforming dictionary but one without any entry for the word "conscience". (See CONSCIENCE, DEFINITION, MEME, SEMIOTICS) (MP)

LIBERAL DEMOCRACIES are intended to be neutral systems in which the citizens can believe and value whatever they wish within the rule of law. This model has proved immensely successful (see LIBERAL UTILITARIANISM) in some places, although in others, e.g. German social democracy, it was less successful.

LIBERAL UTILITARIANISM: Owing to the short-comings of libertarianism, communitarianism and socialism, liberal utilitarianism has evolved and been embraced by some of the most successful democracies such as Denmark and other Nordic European countries who have advanced policies based on both liberal and egalitarian principles. Liberal utilitarianism states that individuals should be left free to make their own choices provided that the consequences of their decisions are not likely to have an adverse effect on the basic needs of others. The distinguishing feature between liberal utilitarianism and libertarianism is that in the former other people's needs are taken fully into account in ethical and political decision-making. For example, affluent libertarian nations are not obliged to donate food to nations in need since they do not recognize an obligation to share their wealth with others, but nations who have taken on liberal utilitarian ideals, are obliged to help because they recognize individual and collective responsibilities towards others. In health care policy, for example, liberal utilitarianism stands for an extensive system of socialized medicine, accompanied with a passionate respect for the autonomy of patients and other users of the services; that is, democracy in this model stands for both concern for the wellbeing of the population and consideration towards the privacy and freedom of individuals. (See COMMUNITARIANISM, DEMOCRACY, LIBERTARIANISM, SOCIALISM, UTILITARIANISM). (IP)

LIBERTARIANISM: An ethical and political philosophy which promotes that the citizens appoint for themselves a governing body which is entitled and obligated to protect the rights of its citizens to liberty, life, health and private property without the illegitimate interference of others. Within the libertarian model, those in government should not take any redistributive measures; that is, they should not collect taxes from one group of citizens and then spend it on services which satisfy the needs of another group. Interpreting this within the health care sector, for example, it means that the state should not arrange any kind of socialized medicine, and that health care services ought to operate primarily on the principles of the free market, and secondarily on the basis of charity. Medical legislation is needed only to protect individuals against fraudulence and malpractice. The implication is that ethical choices should be left almost exclusively to those who pay for the services rendered by health care professionals and biomedical research groups. For example, if an individual wants to have a particular contraceptive, an abortion, or a specific surgical procedure, this choice is limited only by his/her finances and by the capacity to find a physician offering these services. On the other hand, if the executives of a business enterprise endeavor to develop new gene-splicing techniques, they are free to proceed provided that they do not unduly threaten another's life, liberty or property in the process. (See COMMUNITARIANISM, DEMOCRACY, LIBERAL UTILITARIANISM, SOCIALISM, UTILITARIANISM). (IP)




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