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MENTAL HEALTH: Since the founding of the United Nations the concepts of mental health and hygiene have achieved international acceptance. As defined in the 1946 constitution of the WHO, “health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” The term mental health represents a variety of aspirations: rehabilitation of the mentally disturbed, prevention of mental disorder, reduction of tension in a stressful world, and attainment of a state of well-being in which the individual functions at a level consistent with his or her mental potential. The concept of optimum mental health refers not to an absolute or ideal state but to the best possible state insofar as circumstances are alterable. Mental health is regarded as a condition of the individual, relative to the capacities and social-environmental context of that person. Mental hygiene includes all measures taken to promote and to preserve mental health. Community mental health refers to the extent to which the organization and functioning of the community determines, or is conducive to, the mental health of its members. (DM)

MENTAL ILLNESS: Throughout history the mentally ill or disturbed have been viewed with a mixture of fear and revulsion. Their fate generally has been one of rejection, neglect, and ill treatment. Though in ancient medical writings there are references to mental disturbance that display views very similar to modern humane attitudes, interspersed in the same literature are instances of socially sanctioned cruelty based upon the belief that mental disorders have origins such as possession by demons. (DM)

MENTAL INCOMPETENCE: Is established when there exists an essential deficiency of the faculties of reasoning, or when a person is incapable of understanding and acting with informed choice in the ordinary affairs of life. (See INFORMED CONSENT, MENTAL COMPETENCE OR CAPACITY). (IP)


MENTALLY RETARDED: See MENTALLY DISABLED.

MERCENARY ARMIES: See INSTITUTION OF WAR.

MERISTEM: Embryonic tissue found on stem and root apex with totipotent property for lifetime growth, three types: 1. Protoderm-outer most protoderm which forms epidermis (epidermal tissue) 2. Ground meristem gives rise to ground tissue, 3.procambium forms vascular tissue. Apical meristem is infection *(virus) free. Daughter plants derived from them also virus free. An example of micro-propagation. (JA)

MESCALINE: A spychoactive poisonous alkaloid derived from the flowering heads of Lophophora williamsii or peyote - the spineless cactus that grows in Mexico and the southwestern United States (made famous by Aldous Huxley in his book The Doors of Perception). The drug produces visual hallucinations and can change an individual’s perception of the world by stimulating grand illusions and exalted feelings of power. The experience was known and exploited for centuries by Central American First Nation people, who used it in specific religious ceremonies to produce awe, euphoria and a feeling of ecstasy. Mescaline has a similar chemical structure to noradrenaline (norepinephrine), one of the three principal neurotransmitters that balance mood (see BRAIN NEUROTRANSMITTERS, HALLUCINATION, PSILOCYBIN). (IP)


MESOLITHIC AGE: The archeological age beginning about 15,000 years ago characterized by pastoralism or the raising of domestic animals. (IP)

MESOMORPH: A person with a body shape (somatotype) typified by muscular frame, large bones and athletic features, who may find it genetically easier to develop muscle and maintain fitness. (See ECTOMORPH, ENDOMORPH) (MP)


MESOTHELIOMA: See SILICOSIS.

MESSENGER RNA, mRNA: A class of RNA produced by transcribing the DNA sequence of a gene. The mRNA molecule carries messages specific to each of the 20 amino acids. Its role in protein synthesis is to transmit instructions from DNA sequences (in the nucleus of the cell) to the ribosomes (in the cytoplasm of the cell). (DM)

MESTIZO: (Spanish: ‘mixed’) American-Spanish term (e.g. Mexico) referring to a person of mixed European and First Nation (American Indian) descent. (MP)

META- : Combining prefix from the Greek: meta- means ‘above’ or ‘outside’. (See ANTI-, INTER-, INTRA-, MACRO-, MAL-, MEGA-, MICRO-, MULTI-, PSEUDO-, TRANS-). (MP)

META-ANALYSIS: Investigation of a problem from ‘above’, what assumptions, models, theories, systems, processes, context, uncertainties, biases and other aspects pertinent to science, problem-solving, decision-making and policy. The meta-analysis usually reviews a large multidisciplinary range of studies. (See ANALYSIS) (MP)

METABOLISM: See HALF-LIFE.


METAETHICS: See ETHICS.

META-KNOWLEDGE: Knowledge about knowledge, for example ways of knowing, knowledge categories, significance of knowledge, links and interactions, knowledge applications, and understanding of uncertainties and ignorance. (See KNOWLEDGE) (MP)

METAPHOR: ‘Metaphor’ is a literary and thinking device used to compare something unknown with something known. ‘Metonymy’ is rhetorical use of the metaphor in place of the real thing. The purpose of metaphor is to aid understanding through memorable comparison. Such juxtaposition may be illuminating, creatively interesting, or sometimes misleading. Care not to be misled by over-assumption of additional characteristics which may not be present in both, or confusion of the metaphor for actuality (e.g. the ‘Selfish Gene’ metaphor). (See AMBIGUITY) (MP)


METAPHYSICAL: The principles underlying a particular subject or system of beliefs. (DM)

METASTASIS: (Greek meta 'change' + stasis 'standing'). The process by which malignant tumor cells are transported by the lymphatic and/or circulatory systems away from the primary tumor and implant in other nodes and organs of the body. The prospects of survival are significantly decreased after metastasis reinforcing the need for early tumor detection and treatment. (See CANCER). (IP+MP)


METHADONE: See METHADONE HYDROCHLORIDE.

METHADONE HYDROCHLORIDE: A synthetic narcotic belonging to the group of drugs known as opioids which are similar in chemical structure and action to morphine. Although its addictive qualities may make itself a drug of abuse, it has been successfully used in methadone programs as a substitute for the treatment of heroin and other opioids addictions. Its effect lasts much longer than heroin - a single dose is effective for approximately 24-hours compared with heroin's couple of hours. In treatment programs, methadone is usually given out in syrup form and drunk with cordial or fruit juice. Pregnant women who are dependent on opiates are encouraged to enter a methadone program as early as possible into their pregnancy as it is believed to result in fewer complications than the use of other opiates, such as heroin. However recent evidence indicates that methadone may be as damaging to the fetus as heroin. A person can only become a client of methadone treatment after being assessed by a doctor who is an approved methadone prescriber. (See HEROIN, JUNKIE). (IP)

METHYL ISOCYANATE (MIC): It is a poisonous gas involved in the Bhopal poisonous gas accident in 1985. It interferes with the mitochondrial electron transport chain, blocks cytochrome oxidase, stops the production of ATP and finally leads to death. (See BHOPAL) (JA)

METRIC UNITS: A system of units based on the meter and the kilogram that used multiples and sub-multiples of 10. All scientific work is done using the metric system of units. (See IMPERIAL UNITS, KILO-, MEASUREMENT, NANO-, SCALE, SI UNITS) (IP)

METROPOLIS: A major urban area and its cityscape, with one or multiple central business districts, including connecting suburbs, settlements and supporting infrastructure, typically with a population of several million ranging from 50,000 to tens of millions. (See ECUMENOPOLIS, MEGALOPOLIS, SUSTAINABLE CITY, URBAN SPRAWL) (MP)

MHC: See MAJOR HISTOCOMPATIBILITY COMPLEX.



MIC: See METHYL ISOCYANATE.

MICRO-: Standard SI Unit multiplier denoting one millionth, or ten to the power of minus six (micro: 10-6). This is the scale relevant to larger molecules, cells, unicellular organisms and microchip circuits. (See INTRA-, MACRO-, MEGA-, NANO-, SCALE) (MP)

MICROBIAL ECOLOGY: The study of the relationships among microorganisms and between microorganisms and their environment. Concerns of microbial ecologists include fluxes of biologically active substances (e.g., nutrients, metals, water pollution and toxic chemicals in the environment). (see BACTERIA; MICROORGANISMS). (IP+RW)

MICROBOT: (Microscopic + robot) Miniaturization of wireless, networked robotic technology at the millimeter or micro-scales, currently also known as ‘motes’. (See MOTES) (MP)

MICROCHIP: A microchip is a tiny set of integrated circuits on a semiconductor base such as silicon, designed to perform a set of electronic tasks. A microprocessor is a microchip which contains the whole central processing unit of a computer. (See MICROCHIP IMPLANTS) (MP)

MICROCHIP IMPLANTS: Miniature electronic devices which are implantable under the skin of animals to perform functions such as cybernetic communication or micro-tag identification. Investigations are beginning in human subjects such as cybernetic self-experimenter Kevin Warwick, whose internet-enabled implant can do things such as send message signals to his nervous system or activate light switches on his approach. (See CYBERNETICS, CYBORG, PSYCHOKINESIS, TELEPATHY) (MP)

MICROECONOMICS: The branch of economics which investigates economic policy in terms of individual decision-making, for example supply and demand, competition, capital flows, government and corporate finance, and income distribution. (See ECONOMY, MACROECONOMICS) (MP)


MICROCOSM: See MICROECOSYSTEM.

MICROECOSYSTEM: A miniature system with living organisms like bacteria growing in a culture tube - a miniature man made ecosystem or biospheres, = microcosm with regulators for the control of inflow and out flow of nutrients. (JA)



MICROHABITAT: Specific localized conditions in which an organism lives, such as a certain type of soil. Microhabitats reflect the non-uniform nature of the environment and the availability of many ecological niches within any habitat. A diversity of microhabitats may be required for the co-existence of species competing for overlapping niches. (See HABITAT) (MP)

MICROINJECTION: A technique used for the insertion of genes from one cell into another cell, in which highly purified copies of a specific gene of interest are injected into a cell. Copies of one specific gene of interest can be injected into a fertilized animal egg. The egg is then surgically implanted in a female animal's reproductive tract. (see ICSI). (DM)

MICROORGANISMS: Minute, microscopic, or submicroscopic living organisms (e.g. bacteria, mycoplasma, and viruses). (DM)



MICROPROCESSOR: See MICROCHIP.

MICROPROPAGATION: A form of plant breeding commonly called propagation, used in modern horticultural technology, using the regenerative powers of individual cells and tissues to produce numerous independent plants from a single parent plant. (JA)

MICROSATELLITE: Short repeated sequence made up of two to four nucleotides, present on average every 50kb (kilo base pair) in the genome. The most common (from 35.000 to 1500.000 in the whole genome) are clusters of di-nucleotide sequences (CA)n or (GT)n, where the number (n) of the CA/GT units at a given locus can vary from one individual to the other. Due to their repetitive structure, microsatellites undergo frequent slippage events during replication of DNA, giving rise to a high polymorphism of these sequences. This feature has made them very a useful tool in linkage analysis, population studies (phylogenetic and evolutionary studies) and forensic DNA analysis (see STR) (GK)

MIDDLE WAY: In Buddha’s philosophy, his ‘Middle Way’ (Madhyamika) is a life which does not follow extremes of pleasure on the one hand, or extreme asceticism on the other. Buddha’s Middle Way to enlightenment is a union of all reality, and involves moderation, contentment, compassion and following the Eightfold Path. (See BUDDHA, BUDDHISM, EIGHTFOLD PATH, FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS) (MP)


MIDRASH: (from the Hebrew root d.r.sh., meaning "to seek", "to inquire") The word Midrash refers both to a method of allegorical interpretation of scripture and to a group of texts which interpret the Old Testament in allegorical manner. Two major types of Midrash collections are: Midrash Halacha (see Halacha) and Midrash Aggada. The Midrash Halacha collections deal with Halacha applications of the text. Midrash Aggada collections include a more extensive elaboration verse by verse, of allegorical interpretation of the Old Testament, especially its narrative sections. In the Midrash collections, it is possible to find views of ancient Jewish sages on life, human society, interpersonal relations, human beings and the universe, creation, and many other topics. Due to the allegorical nature of Midrash, at times animals are portrayed as speaking, and through this it is possible to learn of attitudes of these ancient sages towards other species. (AG)

MIGRATION CORRIDORS: See HABITAT CORRIDORS.

MILESTONE: A significant event, indicator or mark in the passage of time and progress through life or human history. (MP)

MILL, JOHN STUART: (1808-1873) Mill followed Jeremy Bentham in developing UTILIARIANISM (q.v.) as a philosophy of ethics. He also distinguished himself in ethics by his book, On the Subjection of Women, an important source in the women's rights movement. In pure philosophy, he wrote a book on logic in which he argued that mathematics is an empirical science like any other, simply describing facts in the world. This means that we know that 5 plus 7 equals twelve, because every time we have observed 5 things plus 7 things, we have found there to be 12 things. But if this is merely a statement of observation, it will not therefore follow that the next time we see 5 things plus 7 things, there will necessarily be twelve of them. The philosopher and mathematician, Gottlob Frege fiercely attacked Mill, arguing that unlike empirical observations, mathematics are necessarily, absolutely and eternally true. Frege and RUSSELL (q.v.) tried to develop axiom systems to prove mathematics as absolute truths. But since the completeness of axiom systems was questioned by Kurt Godel in 1931, it has become clear that we are still far from understanding the truth about this debate.(FL)

MILTON, JOHN: (1608-1674) John Milton is best known for his religious poetic works like Samson Agonistes, On his Blindness, and Paradise Lost. In the latter work, there is the idea of the fallen angel, the daemon Satan, deceiving humans into doing unethical things. And in the philosophical works of his French contemporary, Rene Descartes, there is the idea of an evil daemon, deceiving people into intellectual error.

So it must have been an age preoccupied for some reason with bad angels. Milton's greatest influence on the history of ethics, however, was through his many political pamphlets. He was on the side of Cromwell, the Protestant reformist revolutionary who defeated the Stuart monarchy and killed King Charles the First. Cromwell defended the regicide. But over the ensuing years, kings and politicians have succeeded in convincing people that although all murder is a sin against the sanctity of human life, the lives of kings and politicians are a little holier. In his pamphlet, On the Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, Milton argued, on the basis of Bible and philosophy, for the idea of a contractual relationship between a people and its ruler. This is a relationship in which the ruler gets all his or her authority from the consent of the people. And the people, as in the revolt of the Biblical Ten Tribes of Israel, have the right to break the contract whenever the ruler does not fulfil his or her obligations. This concept of a social contract, which was embodied in the American Declaration of Independence, is often credited to Thomas Hobbles, John Locke or Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Milton's original contributions to this basic idea of modern democracy is usually ignored. (FL)

MINERAL AND VITAMIN DEFICIENCY: Deficiencies may result due to an inability to use one or more of these elements essential in nutrition because of lack of that item in the diet, malabsorption or genetic defect. Deficiency symptoms vary according to the function of the substance in promoting growth and maintenance of health. Vitamin and mineral requirements are especially important in health care for infants, children, adolescents and the sick and elderly because the demand for these essentials is higher per unit of body weight compared with more stable times. (See NUTRITION, VITAMIN A, VITAMIN B COMPLEX, VITAMIN B, VITAMIN C, VITAMIN D, VITAMIN E, VITAMIN K, MINERALS). (IP)

MINERALS: (Latin minera 'mine'). Inorganic substances with characteristic chemical compositions and structures - typically crystalline - occurring naturally in the earth's crust. Minerals are constituents of all body tissues and fluids, and they are essential in the maintenance of physiological processes acting as catalysts in nerve transmission, muscle contraction and metabolism of nutrients in foods. Our supply of minerals comes almost exclusively through the food chain. Plants take them from the ground and incorporate them into organic compounds that we consume by eating either plants or animals that ate the plants. The main exception is table salt (sodium chloride or NaCl) which provides sodium and chloride in inorganic form. The minerals calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, sulphure, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, cobalt, molybdenum, selenium and zinc are all essential in animal and, therefore, human nutrition. (See BIOGEOCHEMICAL CYCLE, MINERAL AND VITAMIN DEFICIENCY, NUTRITION, VITAMIN). (IP)

MINISATELLITE: Discovered by A. Jeffreys in 1985, these dispersed repetitive elements of the human genome have shown to be very polymorphic and were therefore introduced as the first tools for human identification purposes in forensic cases. They contain a short repeated element, whose core sequence is very similar to bacterial chi ( ) sequences. (See also FORENSIC DNA ANALYSIS, VNTR). (GK)

MINORITY GROUPS: Small groups within a population whose ethnicity, culture or religion are under-represented by a state’s democratic processes, and who may be the subject of racism or human rights violations at the hands of the majority population. Minority opinions often struggle to gain full recognition in democratic systems reflective of the majority view and neglectful of the diversity. (See ACTIVISM, AFFIRMATIVE ACTION, EMPOWERMENT) (MP)

MINORS: Persons who have not attained the age at which full civil rights are accorded. (DM)

MIRAGES: Lie in the uncertain twilight zone between the real and the unreal. They are caused by refraction; that is, a change in direction of light rays when they move from one transparent medium to another of different density, such as from air to water or vice versa. Mirages are illusions because the observer’s brain mistakenly thinks the light is traveling in a straight line so the observer sees real objects displaced from their true positions (see HALOES, RAINBOWS). (IP)

MIRV: A Multiple Independently Targeted Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV) is a missile which carries a payload of multiple separate smaller missiles. Each sub-missile is a self-contained weapon, sometimes released along with decoys, and independently targeted at a range of military, transport and communications facilities. The MIRV developed from the Multiple Re-entry Vehicle (MRV), a missile which opened up to spray non-targeted extra missiles over a wider area to increase the chances of a strategic hit. (See ICBM, MISSILES, SLBM) (MP)

MISCONDUCT: Violation of laws, regulations, or professional standards. (See CONFLICT OF INTEREST, FRAUD, MALPRACTICE, MORAL COMPLICITY). (DM)

MISHNA: The Mishna is a Jewish holy book, next in authority after the Bible. It is believed that when God gave the Tora (the first five books of the Bible) to the Israeli people through Moshe, God gave it in two forms: written and oral. The oral Tora is the explanation of the written one. Moshe passed the explanation on to Yehoshua-ben-Nun (Joshua), from whom it was passed on from generation to generation, until the present day. This interesting story is told in the very readable Mishnaic Treatise of the Fathers, which has been translated into English and many other languages. The explanation was never written down until the time of the Roman occupation of the Land of Israel. But the Romans were making is very difficult for people to learn Tora, and it was in danger of being forgotten altogether. So Rabbi Yehuda-ha-Nasi broke the tradition and wrote down what he had received of this tradition. The Mishna later became part of the TALMUD (q.v.) Probably the Mishnaic passage best known to bioethicists comes from the treatise Ohalot, in which clear permission is given to perform an abortion when the mother is in danger because, as the Mishna states: "her life comes before its life". This passage marks a clear distinction between Judaism and Christianity on the abortion issue. Subsequent discussion has centred on the question of how much danger the mother must be in before abortion is permitted. (FL)

MISINFORMATION: Making general claims on the basis of partial knowledge. (IP)

MISOXENIA: (from the Greek "mis-"= hate, "xene"= foreigner) Hatred of foreigners. The term xenophobia was clumsily applied to take this meaning. However, the term "xenophobia" is confusing, as its name indicates fear of foreigners, rather than hatred of them. While it is true that often feelings of fear may be accompanied by feelings of hate, the two are different emotions. Arachnophobia is fear of spiders, not hatred of spiders. Acrophobia is a fear of high places, not hatred of them. One who is acrophobic does not seek to destroy high places, but rather to avoid coming into contact with them. It is understandable how misoxenia can form, because in contact with outsiders, one easily forms stereotypes after meeting a few members of a group of outsiders. If the stereotype contains some negative aspects (and many stereotypes do), this plants the seeds of hatred, which can grow if encouraged by political speeches and demagoguery. It can also be encouraged by difficult economic conditions, when people are likely to search for simple reasons for economic troubles, and a foreign scapegoat is a common reason to be found. While fear of the foreigner can be overcome to some extent by positive contact with members of the foreign society, hatred of the foreigner is more difficult to overcome, especially when it has the cumulative effect of several generations. (AG)

MISSILES: Missiles include anything projected or fired at a target, such as arrows and bullets, with current usage commonly referring to rocket-propelled explosive weapons used in warfare. Explosive missiles include the grenade (hand-thrown bomb), mortar (portable ground-launched bomb), rocket launcher (portable or fixed), SAM (Surface-to-Air Missile), MRBM (Medium-Range Ballistic Missile), IRBM (Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile), ICBM (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile), SLBM (Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile), MIRV (Multiple Independently-targeted Re-entry Vehicle), Cruise Missiles, Autonomous ('smart') Missiles, Nuclear Missiles and Antimissiles. The proliferation of missile technology and global unease about nuclear and biochemical weapons have contributed to the development of regional arms races and expensive new weapons in space proposed to protect allied countries from incoming ICBMs. The SALT (Strategic Arms Limitations Talks/Treaty), ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) and Non-Proliferation Treaties serve as imperfect examples of the international attempts required to regulate and reduce this explosive proliferation. (See AUTONOMOUS WEAPONS, BALLISTICS, CONVENTIONAL WEAPONS, EXPLOSIVES, ICBM, MIRV, MISSILE DEFENSE, NUCLEAR WEAPONS, SLBM) (MP)

MISSILE DEFENSE: The concept of a protective shield against nuclear or biochemical attack, in which incoming ICBMs are destroyed by land, ship or space-based defensive weapons. The first US initiative was the Zeus anti-missile missile, but Cold War paranoia during the Reagan administration sparked expensive and earnest attempts at missile defense, commonly dubbed the ‘Star Wars’ project. Despite the decline of the Soviet threat after the Cold War, the Bush Snr., Clinton and Bush Jr. administrations have revived the concept with projects known as the ‘Strategic Defense Initiative’ or ‘National Missile Defense’. Tests have been carried out to determine the effectiveness of “hit to kill” technology in which the kill vehicle intercepts and destroys incoming missiles in the upper atmosphere. These ‘simplified’ tests have not been able to demonstrate success in a real-world scenario, for example scientists have disputed the possibility of distinguishing a real missile from its counter-measures, or decoy targets. In addition, the initiative would have no effect against typical terrorist tactics, for example a ‘suitcase bomb’. Nevertheless, such projects have broken defense spending records, measured in the $US hundreds of billions. Such spending is justified by arguments such as protection of civilians and minimizing the likelihood of the use of offensive missiles against the US and its allies. However, opposing ethical arguments suggest that missile defense projects will enflame new technology and arms races, such as the development of multiple nuclear ‘bomblets’, and act as a cover for the development of offensive weapons in space. (See HARD POWER, ICBM, NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION, NUCLEAR WEAPONS, SPACE WARFARE) (MP)




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