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MISTAKE: (Old Norse: mistaka) An accidental wrong action or judgment having negative repercussions despite no original intention of harm. Although genuine mistakes should be forgivable, the issues of negligence and reparation may arise. Having to learn from your own mistakes is not as wise as learning from the mistakes of others. (MP)

MISTRESS: 1. a woman who has the power of controlling or disposing of authority; for example, head of household or authority over servants. 2. a woman who has a continuing sexual relationship with one man outside marriage (see COURTESAN). (IP)

MITOCHONDRIAL DNA: Circular DNA molecule embedded in the matrix of the mitochondrion. Its size in mammals is around 16kb, whereas in S. cerevisiae it is 84kb. The mtDNA molecule in humans is 16.569 base pairs long. One of the differences between both molecules is that the human mitochondrial genes do not posses introns, whereas two genes in the yeast have large introns (Cytb and CO1). There is also a considerable amount of yeast mtDNA that seems to be non-coding (25% stretches rich in AT). In humans, the two strands (H and L) differ in nucleotide content, the H (heavy) strand comprising mainly G and T residues ( 61%), whereas the L (light) strand contains mainly A and C bases. Mitochondria are only maternally transmitted to the next generation in the human species. Its segregation in mitosis occurs at random; therefore, mtDNA does not show recombination. Since there are multiple mitochondria per cell, each one having several copies of DNA, it is possible to find different mutations of the mtDNA within a same cell; these can be transmitted in a random way to the daughter cells. This phenomenon is called heteroplasmy. Mice show some degree of paternal transmission of mtDNA. (GK)

MITOCHONDRIAL DISEASES: Comprises a heterogeneous group of diseases affecting muscle and nervous system cells (see MITOCHONDRIAL MYOPATHIES), as well as multiple internal organs. Therefore, these diseases have also been named mitochondrial cytopathies. They are characterized by enzymatic deficiencies of the respiratory chain, often accompanied by aberrant mitochondria, and abnormalities of the mitochondrial or nuclear genes encoding several proteins of the mitochondrial respiratory metabolism. mtDNA abnormalities consist of point mutations at particular positions, or deletions of varied locations and length. Multiple deletions have been sometimes found in a same patient. In some cases, other members of the family (i.e. the mother and sibs) may exhibit mtDNA deletions with varied degrees of clinical compromise, due to a threshold effect of the number of normal versus truncated mtDNA molecules, making genetic counselling a difficult issue. (GK)

MITOCHONDRIAL MYOPATHIES: Group of muscular diseases showing mtDNA abnormalities (see MITOCHONDRIAL DISEASES). The name was coined in 1962 in the case of a patient whose muscle cells showed abnormal fibres under the microscope, termed ragged red fibres (RRF). Point mutations are responsible for MELAS, MERRF, NARP, Leber Optic Atrophy and Leigh syndrome, whereas External Ophthalmoplegia, Kearns-Sayre Syndrome and Pearson Syndrome are due to deletions ranging from 1.3-8kb. Mutations in nuclear genes have also been found in patients where an autosomal dominant mode of inheritance is evident. (GK)

MITOSIS: A type of cell division that produces daughter cells that typically have the same number of chromosomes as the originating cells. (DM)


MO TZU: Mo Tzu lived in 6th century B.C. China, and had an opposing view to Confucius who believed that people should love their family first and other persons to lesser degrees. Mo Tzu believed that human love should be modeled on the will of Heaven which he argued loves everyone equally. Love should be extended to all persons everywhere without distinction, and condemned the ethic of family loyalty blaming it as a cause for social conflict and warfare. He wrote Familial love "should be replaced by the way of universal love and mutual benefit...It is to regard other people’s countries as one’s own. Regard other people’s families as one’s own. Regard other people’s person as one’s own. Consequently, when feudal lords love one another, they will not fight in the fields. When heads of families love one another, they will not usurp one another. When individuals love one another, they will not injure one another. When ruler and minister love each other, they will be kind and loyal. When father and son love each other, they will be affectionate and filial. When brothers love one each other, they will be peaceful and harmonious. When all people in the world love one another, the strong will not overcome the weak, the many will not oppress the few, the rich will not insult the poor, the honoured will not despise the humble, and the cunning will not deceive the ignorant. Because of universal love, all the calamities, usurpations, hatred, and animosity in the world will be prevented from arising." Mo Tzu distinguished love from the emotional experiences of the heart, identifying it wholly with the mind. While he allowed for differential treatment that the practice of filial piety, family love, implies, he believed that limits on caring only for one’s own had to be strictly enforced when it ceased to be beneficial for all. (DM)

MODE: (Latin: modus "measure" or "manner") 1. In statistics, the value in a data set which occurs with the greatest frequency. In a bimodal distribution, it may be more relevant to report two modes, rather than the mean or median which may lie between the peaks and be less likely to occur. (See MEAN, MEDIAN) 2. The manner in which things are done, as in the prevailing fashion or mode of operation. (MP, JA)

MODEL: A simplified representation of a system or the surrounding environment. Models are created from the following procedures: search for meaningful patterns and processes, selection of basic structures with stable form, establishment of function and connection, simplification to a manageable level of complexity, and transformation into a well defined set of information. As fundamental examples, scientific knowledge is based on mathematical models, words and definitions are models of reality transferred into language, and a paradigm is a conceptual model of the world. On paper, a model is like an architect’s blueprint or electrician’s diagram - a graphical representation of the structure, function and processes of connected elements, with different symbols or icons denoting specific types of system/process, energy/material flows, inputs/outputs, reservoirs/sinks, options/decisions etc. Models of all sorts are applicable and relevant to any professional field seeking to understand what is going on within, between and around us. (See CENSUS, COMPLEXITY, EXPERT SYSTEM, INDICATOR, MEASUREMENT, MODELING, STATISTIC, SCIENTIFIC METHOD, SYSTEM) (MP)

MODELING: There are many ways to categorize the numerous types and methods of modeling (UK/Australian spelling: ‘modelling’). One of the most useful ways of classifying models is by function or purpose:

Descriptive modeling measures and describes environmental states and structures at different scales (e.g. Definitions of words, Language, Mapping, Blueprints, Simulation Models, Descriptive Statistics, Systems Analysis, Systems Theory, Network Diagrams, Hierarchical Analysis, Geographical Information Systems, State of the Environment Reports etc).

Explanatory modeling determines the processes and flows (matter, energy, money) contributing to a problem and how can they be directed towards the objectives; to determine interactivity within the model, causes and effects, and tendencies for change. (e.g. Network Flowcharts, Process Modeling, Causal Modeling, Statistical Inference, Feedback Circuits, Cybernetics, Material Flux Analysis, Life Cycle Assessment etc).

Predictive modeling attempts to assess and predict the potential impacts of the options and preferred impacts/outcomes of the objectives (e.g. Risk Analysis, Cost/Benefit Analysis, Hypothesis Testing, Probability Analysis, Game Theory, Pressure/State/Response Model, Environmental Impact Assessment, Social Impact Assessment etc).

Prescriptive modeling defines and recommends policy or procedural conditions for the preferred outcomes, such as sustainable management procedures (e.g. Laws, Policy objectives, Strategic Environmental Assessment, Decision Support Systems, Expert Systems etc).


MODERNIZATION: In the past modernization has typically been seen as including aspects of growth, urbanization, industrialization, commercialization, capitalism, democracy, globalization, secularism, postmodern relativity, individualism and technological determinism. But modernization encapsulates that which is new, and now the meaning itself is modernizing with spreading realization of the limits to industrial development on Earth. In this century, modernization will indicate progress in sustainable development, science-based management, green technology, resource & energy efficiency, access to information & technologies, conflict resolution, tolerant pluralism, and increased health, literacy, wellbeing, leisure and ethics. (See DEVELOPMENT, GLOBALIZATION, PROGRESS, TECHNOLOGY, WESTERNIZATION) (MP)


MOLECULAR COMPUTER: A potential future technology proposed by the science of molecular electronics. The molecular computer would be an extremely small, powerful, dense, heat-efficient computational device made up of various components of differing electrical properties being developed by the field. The molecular computer would largely be made up of carbon-based molecules - organic chemistry such as that of life. Molecular arrangements of DNA information storage mechanisms have been a source of inspiration, implying that the physics can be made to work if we could more efficiently manipulate the components. Separate concurrent lines of research are also developing and refining quantum computers and DNA computers. (See DNA COMPUTER, MOLECULAR ELECTRONICS, NEURAL COMPUTING, QUANTUM COMPUTING) (MP)

MOLECULAR ELECTRONICS: The science of arranging molecules to act as electronic circuits. Various arrangements of organic molecules have been manipulated to act like logic gates, switches, diodes, resistors, wires, and potentially also transistors. The supporting infrastructure of possible future molecular computers may include spherical (e.g. buckminsterfullerene), wire-like (e.g. special carbon-chains) and tubular (e.g. carbon nanotubes) organic molecules which have been developed and investigated for their electrical properties. Hexagonal carbon nanotubes conduct electricity when arranged in a straight line, and are an effective semi-conductor when arranged as a helix. The electrical properties of carbon in this form have aroused interest in computer researchers who foresee bottlenecks in the miniaturization of silicon devices. Molecular electronics probably holds many of the keys to artificial life, artificial intelligence and nanotechnology, and as such also opens up a new paradigm of technological possibility and ethical concern. (See ARTIFICIAL LIFE, ASSEMBLER, BUCKMINSTERFULLERENE, FULLERENES, MOLECULAR COMPUTER, NANOTECHNOLOGY WEAPONS, NEURAL NETWORKS, QUANTUM COMPUTING) (MP)


MOLLUSCA: One of the oldest phyla of complex invertebrates; all major lines were already established during the Cambrian period. This phylum is characterized by a thick, muscular body wall; a muscular foot, generally used for locomotion; and several other characteristics that are usually, but not always present: non-segmented, the body secretes a shell that encloses a mantle cavity, a regionalized digestive tract, and a well developed circulatory system. Extant classes include the Polyplacophora, Gastropoda (snails), Bivalvia (bivalves), Cephalopoda (squids and octopuses). (RW)

MOMENTUM: The mass times the velocity of a moving object gives its momentum (p) in kilogram meters per second (kg.m/s). The more momentum, the more damage it can do and harder it is to stop. Change in momentum is called ‘impulse’. (See ENERGY, FORCE, WORK). (MP)

MONERA: One of the five taxonomic kingdoms (along with Animalia, Plantae, Fungi and Protista), the Monera include the Archaebacteria and Eubacteria including Cyanobacteria. The monera lack a membrane-enclosed nucleus. (See BACTERIA) (MP)

MONGOLISM: A common congenital malformation, with mongoloid eye folds. This term has now been replaced by Down's syndrome. (See DOWN’S SYNDROME). (JA)

MONOCLONAL ANTIBODIES: Identical antibodies that recognize a single specific antigen and are produced by a clone of specialized cells. (DM)

MONOAMINE OXIDASE: A neurotransmitter which metabolizes adrenaline, the hormone that enables the body to meet a threat by either running away, standing ones ground or fighting - also called the flight/fight response. (IP)


MONOCULTURE: The agricultural production of a single crop type, consisting of large tracts of land containing virtually only one species. Such a landscape is far removed from resembling natural habitat, and may be considered almost ecologically inert. This conventional style of agriculture "mines the land" of its fertility and ecology and is an underestimated environmental concern. To increase biodiversity across these extensive areas, monocultures should be replaced with polycultures and permaculture practices such as agroforestry. (See PERMACULTURE, POLYCULTURE). (MP)

MONOECIOUS: (Greek: mon 'single' + oikion 'house') Hermaphroditic organisms which produce both male and female gametes in the same individual; for example some plants like maize or animals like earthworms (Greek mon single oikion house) (see DIOECIOUS). (IP)

MONOGENIC DISORDER: Genes are involved in genetic disorders in human beings. If disorders are traced to a single gene then such disorders are called monogenic disorders e.g. sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy. (JA)

MONOSOMY. One chromosome or a portion (partial monosomy) of it is missing. Monosomies lead to very severe phenotypes and do not survive to birth; therefore, the only one that is viable is Turner syndrome (XO monosomy). Somatic monosomy is sometimes observed in cancer tissues, leading to a hemizygotic genotype for a mutated oncogene. (GK)

MONOTHEISM: The doctrine or belief that there is only one God, the oneness of God, common to Judaism,Christianity and Islam. The first act that one does to embark on Islam is the deceleration of faith which means, reiterates the necessity of the belief in the oneness of Allah (see ALLAH). (AB)

MONTANE: (Latin: montanus ‘mountain’) Existing on or pertaining to mountains or the mountain environment, especially the communities below the ‘tree line’, above which are snow-covered alpine altitudes. Many montane environments may qualify as ‘ecological hot-spots’ because mountains act to isolate ecosystems into biogeographically distinct evolutionary ‘islands’. (See ECOLOGICAL HOT SPOTS) (MP)

MONTREAL PROTOCOL: International successes towards the phasing out of CFCs as a result of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (1987) and its revisions (London 1990, Copenhagen 1992) are a potential model for dealing with other environmentally harmful chemicals. (See KYOTO PROTOCOL, OZONE HOLE) (MP)


MOOD: Mood is the balanced and consistent extension of emotion over time. For example, happiness is the mood resulting from consistent extension of the pleasure/joy emotion. Similarly, the mood disorder of depression is extension of sad emotions over a long time period. (See ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, EMOTION, HAPPINESS) (IP & MP)

MOORE, GEORGE EDWARD: (1873-1958) George Edward Moore was a colleague of BERTRAND RUSSELL (q.v.) at Cambridge. He opposed the idealist philosophies, which said that only our thoughts and sense experience exist, and that the world of material objects, time and space, are not real. He therefore developed a "philosophy of common sense", and thought that he could prove that material objects exist by holding up a hand and saying, "this is a hand". Those who would like to reply to Moore by saying that they do not see a hand but only sense experiences in their brains or souls, are dismissed as being in disagreement with "common sense". The later Ordinary Language Philosophy movement, which held that the way educated Englishmen, especially Oxonians, usually speak, has got to be right, was really a development of Moore's philosophy.

In his influential book on ethics, Principia Ethica, Moore taught the doctrine of "Intuitionism", according to which "good" is a simple, intuitable quality like the colour yellow. Being simple, the quality of goodness cannot be defined, any more than can the quality of being yellow be defined. Just as we immediately see that something is yellow, so we can immediately see that something is good. It has been debated whether Moore's intuitionism can explain how some things may appear good to some people or societies, and bad to others. (FL)

MOOT: As in "a moot point" - a discourse of legislators on a point of law. (IP)

MORAL: 1. of or concerned with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human actions and character; that is, pertaining to the discernment of good and evil 2. the lesson or principle contained in or taught by a fable, story, or event 3. rules or habits of conduct, especially sexual, with reference to standards of right and wrong (See MORAL PHILOSOPHY, contrast with ETHICS). (IP)

MORAL COMPLICITY: Association with or participation in an act that is, or is perceived to be, immoral. (See CONSCIENCE, MISCONDUCT). (DM)

MORAL DEVELOPMENT: The process by which individuals internalize standards of right and wrong conduct (DM)

MORAL PHILOSOPHY: Designed to teach goodness or correctness of character and behavior; that is, instructive of what is good and bad according to an established code of behavior. (IP)

MORALITY: Generally accepted standards of right and wrong conduct. (DM)

MORBIDITY: An index in reproductive status of a population. Indicates the state of illness or sickness. The concept of "good health" changes from a culture to culture and its meaning changes over space and time. Definitions vary among researchers since it is highly subjective and based on perception and reporting of the state of illness. It measures the proportion of the total population who regard themselves as having become sick or diagnosed as sick, it deals with the prevalence and incidence of the sick in a population. (JA)

MORPHIC RESONANCE: A controversial but testable theory of morphogenesis, developed by Rupert Sheldrake based on the concept of morphogenetic fields. The easy emergence of form which already exists, contrasted with the difficult emergence of new form (e.g. a new idea, new chemical), is explained by the morphic resonance of the existing form. (See HOLOGRAPHIC UNIVERSE THEORY, MORPHOGENESIS, TELEPATHY) (MP)

MORPHINE: (Greek Morpheus 'god of sleep'). (C17H19NO3). The principal alkaloid of opium contained in the dried juice of the heads of the oriental (white) poppy Papaver somniferum. Morphine acts on the central nervous system to produce both analgesia and euphoria but is also a depressant, particularly of the respiratory system. Morphine was isolated in 1803 by Sert_rner who, owing to its sedative properties, named it Morpheus after the God of Sleep. It is a most useful narcotic analgesic with powerful sedative properties making the drug apt for clinical use in the relief of persistent visceral pain, especially that associated with incurable diseases. It has also been used for serious anxiety states, as a pre-medication drug before surgery, and to produce euphoria in the dying. However, morphine is a strong addictive drug with severe withdrawal symptoms; therefore, addicted individuals are often transferred to methadone, which has less severe withdrawal symptoms. (See ADDICTION, HEROIN). (IP)

MORPHOGENESIS: The development of distinctive shape and form, for example cell differentiation into organ systems, stages of embryonic development, and growth of organisms. (MP)

MORTALITY: The number of deaths in a given population during a given period of time or from a particular cause. (DM)

MORES: The accepted traditions, customs or code of behavior of a particular social group that is regarded to be an essential to its survival and welfare. (IP)

MORULA: (the Latin for mulberry) once the proliferating cells from the fertilized egg compact, they appear at the 12-16 cell stage like a mulberry. Hence the name is applied to the embryo about three days after fertilization. (DM) Since cells at this stage are still totipotent, the morula can be separated in two and give rise to monozygotic twins. They will be genetically identical, although epigenetic factors and de novo mutations may alter their phenotype. Morulas are used for pre-implantation screening during IVF processes: a blastomere is separated from the whole morula and used for genetic testing, without apparently affecting the subsequent development of the embryo. In particular cases, ethical issues relating to the possibility of mosaicism or chimerism of the blastomeres must be taken into account. (See IVF) (GK+DM)

MOSAICISM: It is of two kinds, somatic and germinal. Refers to the presence of cells with different genetic constitution in the same organism, such as genetic mutation in cancer cells that is not shared by other normal cells. It is a somatic mosaic condition. In germinal mosaicism there is autosomal dominant inheritance. (JA)

MOTES: Motes are the individual microchips or microprocessor units of sensor networks and ‘smart dust’. Spread across a landscape they can monitor almost anything. Current commercially-available smart dust motes range from a findable few square centimeters, down to a couple of millimeters across. As a group they can have ‘swarm intelligence’, or wireless networked programming and communication like a neural system. Motes have a range of sensors, efficient battery power, and potentially may develop cameras, solar power, kinetic power, walking, swimming, snake-motion and even rocket-propulsion. Future progress in nanotechnology or molecular electronics may bring their size down to invisible scales. (See AQUABOT, ASSEMBLER, BUG, MICROBOT, NANOBOT, SMART DUST, SWARM INTELLIGENCE) (MP)


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