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ARTIFICIAL ORGANS: Medical devices used as replacement for body tissues. (See ORGAN TRANSPLANTATION) (DM)



ASEAN: Association of South East Asian Nations.

ASEXUAL REPRODUCTION: Reproduction of organisms by purely vegetative means without the function and interaction of the two sexes. Examples of commonly asexually reproduced plants are roses, peach trees, and lilies. All plants can produce vegetatively, but many normally use sexual reproduction. (DM+IP)

ASHKENAZI JEWS: "Ashkenaz" means Germany in Hebrew and "Sefarad" means Spain. In popular language Ashkenazi Jews are those whose ancestors lived during the exile in Northern Europe, while -- because many Spanish Jews fled eastward after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, Sefaradi Jews are thought of as those from North Africa and the Middle East. But this is a misconception because many Spanish Jews fled to Northern Europe after the expulsion, and many so-called Ashkenazi Jews are descended from them. Also, many North African and Middle Eastern Jews are descended from families who were never in Spain. These include most notably the "Bavlim" (Babylonians) who were in Iraq since Biblical times, the Yemenites, who were in Yemen since Biblical times or shortly thereafter, and Israeli families who have been in Israel continuously since Biblical times. There are also communities who were never either in Europe or the Middle East before they immigrated to Israel. These include the Ethiopian community, and the Kochinim (from Kerala in Southwest India) who were in their exilic homelands at least since the time of the Second Temple.

Ashkenazi Jews are often mentioned in genetic medicine because of a number of genetic diseases -- notably Gaucher, Tau-Sachs and breast cancers -- which occur particularly frequently in this population, and have attracted much research interest. (FL)

ASOCIAL: Asocial behavior refers to withdrawal from society, including inhibition, inconsideration and avoidance of others. It may often be accompanied by anxiety and depression. (See ANTISOCIAL) (MP)

ASPHYXIA: (Greek: a + sphyxis 'without pulse') Severe reduction of oxygen in the blood resulting in loss of consciousness and, if not reversed, death. Causes can be varied; for example, drowning, inhalation of toxic gas or smoke, poisoning and blockage of respiratory tract. The condition is of specific concern in some newborns where it may develop during labor or immediately after delivery due to, for example, prematurity or the effects of anesthetics and analgesics (Greek a + sphyxis without pulse) (See INTRAUTERINE GROWTH RETARDATION and HYPOXIA). (IP)

'without' + sphyxis pulse). Suspension of breathing due to an abnormally low oxygen concentration in the lungs. The condition may be brought about by a) obstruction to the passage of air to and from the lungs as in drowning, presence of foreign bodies/malignant growths in the air passages, b) insufficient oxygen supply in the air, c) poisonous (asphyxiant) chemical substances causing suffocation. Whatever the cause severe hypoxia, if not corrected quickly, leads to hypoxia risking brain damage, irreversible paralysis and ultimately death. (See HYPOXIA). (IP)

ASPIRIN: Acetylsalicylic acid (C9H8O4) probably the most widely used over-the-counter analgesic bought for headache, dental pain and symptomatic relief in flu. It has been the mainstay of pain relief for 100 years but despite this its mechanism of action is not fully understood, however, it seems to reduce pain by acting on blood platelets which are involved in the process of inflammation. For this reason aspirin is also a mainstay in arthritis and is valuable in forestalling heart attacks; however, it does not offer heart-attack protection. Aspirin is the standard against which other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are measured. It is important to take the medication with food to prevent gastrointestinal irritation. (See ANALGESIC, CORTISOL). (IP)

ASSASSINATION: (Assassin from Arabic hashshashin 'hash eaters') The surprise murder of a prominent political or public figure for the purposes of making a statement or otherwise changing the course of human events. Rightly branded as terrorism during times of peace, assassination may become common practice during times of war. National non-assassination policies should be encouraged, especially in Western democracies. International systems of justice and intervention should be empowered to provide just and legal alternative means. (MP)

ASSISTED REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGY (ART): Infertility treatment where "assisted" means "technologically assisted" which include Ovulation Induction, Artificial Insemination (AI), In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and subsequent Embryo Transfer (ET), Gamete IntraFallopian transfer (GIFT), sperm microinjection techniques such as IntraCytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), Fallopian tube transfer of ICSI eggs (FICIT), Cytoplasmic Transfer, frozen preservation and storage (Cryopreservation) of sperm, eggs and embryos and their subsequent thawing and transfer as in Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET), the use of donated sperm, eggs and embryos (Tissue Banking), Surrogacy, and any other form of medical or surgical treatment that may be used to assist in establishing and/or maintaining a pregnancy. Cloning technology is not medically available (see separate entry for each technology). (See Individual entries) (IP)

ASSISTED SUICIDE: Provision of information and/or the means to enable a patient to take his or her own life. (See also EUTHANASIA). (DM)

ASSUMPTION: 1. An axiom or statement, not necessarily true but put forward and taken to be true to enable further analysis of a hypothesis, or for the purposes of investigating what follows in relation to a theory. 2. A presupposition, or the basis of an assertion, required to be true for the assertion to be true. Assumptions are often unstated or even unknown, but implied by the associated theory or argument. Almost all thought processes and knowledge are based upon some assumptions. (See AXIOM, CONJECTURE, HYPOTHESIS, PREMISES, THEORY) (MP)

ASTHMA: Asthma, or a pathological shortness of breath, can be treated by various drugs. MAIMONIDES(q.v.) in his medieval Treatise on Asthma, maintained that it can be treated psychosomatically, by calming the mind. One of the authors of this dictionary has cured himself of an addiction to an asthma inhaltor of over twenty years, by combining breathing from Yoga and from Japanese martial arts. He inhales through the mouth, for a count of seven, drawing the air down to the "tanden", which is the centre point between the naval and the pubic bone, and allowing the air to expand the lower abdomen. Then, without releasing any air, he switches to breathing in through the nose, again for a count of seven, but this time expanding the chest and (imagining the chest to be open at the bottom like an upturned barrel) drawing air up from the tanden into the upper chest. He then holds his breath for a count of seven, and then while counting again to seven, releases it through the nose. He does this excercise while standing and raising his arms higher, and higher, in order to open the chest as much as possible. He also does it while sitting in Japanese "seiza" position, either raising the arms, or simply letting them rest on his lap. This method has not yet undergone controlled clinical trial. (See CORTISOL). (FL)

ASTROBIOLOGY: Astrobiology and exobiology are the study of and search for potential life or biological activity outside the boundaries of the planet’s biosphere; its possible characteristics, location, likelihood and relevance to the origins of life on Earth itself. (See ALIEN LIFE, ORIGIN OF LIFE) (MP)

ASTRONAUT: The astronaut or cosmonaut is an intrepid human visitor outside of the Earth’s atmosphere into space. (See EARTH FROM SPACE, SPACE EXPLORATION) (MP)

ASTROLOGY Art or science of determining the purported influence of the stars and other heavenly bodies on human affairs. (MR)

ASTRONOMICAL UNIT: A unit of distance in space, defined as the mean distance from the center of the Earth to that of the Sun, or about 149.6 million kilometers. (See LIGHT YEAR) (MP)

ASTRONOMY: The science of the stars and space. Astronomy includes the universe as a whole (cosmology), its component matter, energy and interactions (astrophysics) and often the philosophical theory beyond the math (metaphysics). (See ASTROBIOLOGY, ASTROPHYSICS, COSMOLOGY, METAPHYSICS) (MP)

ASTROPHYSICS: The physics, chemistry, mathematics and metaphysics of the stars and the universe. (See ASTRONOMY, COSMOLOGY) (MP)

ASYLUM: 1. a place of sanctuary, a refuse (see WOMEN’S SHELTER) 2. A place used for the detention and treatment of the mentally ill (See INSANITY). (IP)

ATHEIST: Someone who does not believe in the existence of God. (DM)

ATMOSPHERE: The envelope of gases and particles surrounding the Earth, within which are maintained homeostatic conditions for life. Environmental indicators for the atmosphere usually concern air quality or climate. The troposphere is the lower atmosphere up to about 20km, in which minor gases, particles, water vapour and carbon dioxide have a significant effect and where most weather takes place. The stratosphere is from about 20-50km and contains much of the ozone layer. Above that are the mesosphere and thermosphere before the vacuum of space. (See GLOBAL WARMING, GREENHOUSE EFFECT) (MP)


ATOM: The atom is the building block of matter. An atom is composed of positive protons and non-charged neutrons in its nucleus, surrounded by shields of negative electrons. All atoms of an element are different from the atoms of another element. The atomic number of an element is its positive charge - the number of protons in its atoms. The protons and neutrons are composed of different types of quarks. Atoms can emit energy and radiation. (See ATOM BOMB, ELEMENT, QUARK) (MP)

ATOM BOMB: Bomb in which the explosive power, measured in terms of equivalent TNT, is provided by the nuclear fission of material such as 135Uranium or 239Plutonium. The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of this type. The most tragic moment in human history was fifteen minutes past eight on the morning of August 6, 1945 when the first atom bomb ever was dropped on the earth and exploded above Hiroshima city. That one explosion reduced the entire city to ashes and 247,000 lives were instantly wiped out. Gamma rays and neutrons produced by atomic explosions penetrate deeply into animal tissues causing immediate death or delayed effects, known as radiation sickness, observed as internal bleeding, vomiting, diarrhea and skin lesions which may become evident months after exposure. Moreover, the offspring of those exposed to radiation may be affected by harmful mutations that can reappear in future generations. The post-war Japanese constitution completely renounces war and advocates permanent peace for the world something that had never been done before in the history of humankind. The Japanese people accepted the Potsdam Declaration in a spirit of repentance for the destruction and misery inflicted upon a large number of human beings by the militaristic Japan of the war years. (See HYDROGEN BOMB, NEUTRON BOMB, NUCLEAR FISSION, NUCLEAR FUSION, NUCLEAR WINTER, PLUTONIUM). (IP)

ATOMIC POWER: Using the energy that is created when an atom is divided, especially for electricity production. (DM)

ATTENTION-DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER (ADHD): is the latest term designating a chronic disorder that begins early in childhood and is manifested by problems of awareness, difficulty with attention, excessive motor activity (hyperactivity) and poor impulse control (impulsiveness). It is among the most common causes of behavioral disturbances, estimated to affect 3-5% of school-age children with highest risk in boys. Symptoms associated with ADHD (although not called this at the time) were first described in 1902 by British pediatrician George Still. Still, correctly, suggested that behaviors he had observed amongst certain children in his practice were not caused by bad parenting but a subtle unidentified brain injury. Recent evidence points to a brain-based biological disorder where a possible genetic predisposition is activated by stressful environmental factors. Environmental factors such as hypoxia, pre-, peri- and postnatal trauma have been implicated, as has exposure to toxic substances such as alcohol, cocaine, nicotine, marijuana and lead. ADHD individuals have lower than normal levels of selected neurotransmitters, dopamine in particular, which means that the brain will metabolize more slowly. (See BRAIN NEUROTRANSMITTERS, RITALIN HYDROCHLORIDE). (IP)

AUGUSTINE: (354-430, Numidia), also called Saint Augustine of Hippo,  original Latin name was Aurelius Augustinus. Was one of the Latin Fathers of the Catholic Church, one of the Doctors of the Church, and is considered by many as the most significant Christian thinker after St. Paul. Augustine's adaptation of classical thought to Christian teaching created a theological system of great power and lasting influence. His numerous written works, the most important of which are Confessions
and City of God, shaped the practice of biblical exegesis and helped lay the foundation for much of medieval and modern Christian thought. More than five million words of his writings survive. He adapted Platonic tradition to Christian concepts. (DM)


AURA: An aura is a kind of light which seems to surround human beings. It may also surround animals, plants and even inanimate objects. Kirlian photography, invented in Russia, seems to be a method to photograph auras. People may have varying degrees of ability to see auras, or to read their meanings. The halo, seen in Christian and Buddhist religious paintings, seems to have been an aura, representing the strong light which highly spiritual people seem to project. The lehat, or light surrounding the sword which protected the Biblical Garden of Eden (Genesis III, 24) may also have been an aura.

Some methods of spiritual healing are said to word by way of the aura. In Rei-Ki healing, the healer massages the aura more than the body. Sometimes one can get a feeling for the aura with no need to touch the person's body, although it is often necessary to begin by touching the various points on the body, either through clothing or directly, in order to get a feeling for the aura. Special Rei-Ki training is usually needed, to acquire this ability. Some trained Rei-Ki people can feel the aura more strongly than they can see it. (See Haloes) (FL)

AUSCHWITZ: In Polish Oswiecim, also called Auschwitz-Birkenau. Nazi Germany's largest concentration camp included a prison, an extermination camp, and a slave-labour camp. Auschwitz has become the symbolic site of the “final solution,” a virtual synonym for the Holocaust. Newly arrived prisoners at the death camp were divided in a process known as Selektion. The young and the able-bodied were sent to work. Young children and their mothers and the old and infirm were sent directly to the gas chambers. Thousands of prisoners were also selected by the camp doctor, Josef MENGELE, for medical experiments. Auschwitz doctors tested methods of sterilization on the prisoners using massive doses of radiation, uterine injections, and other barbaric procedures. Experiments involving the killing of twins, upon whom autopsies were performed, were meant to provide information that would supposedly lead to the rapid expansion of the “Aryan race.” Subject to harsh conditions—including inadequate shelter and sanitation—given minimal food, and worked to exhaustion, those who could no longer work faced transport back to Birkenau for gassing. German corporations invested heavily in the slave-labour industries adjacent to Auschwitz. Between 1.1 and 1.5 million people died at Auschwitz; 90 percent of them were Jews. Also among the dead were gypsies .Auschwitz was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. (DM)


AUSTRALASIA: The land masses of Oceania in the South Pacific together with Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea and associated islands (Latin australis = southern + Asia). (IP)

AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINAL: The indigenous Australians believe that they have been in Australia since the Dreamtime or Creation. Although their origin is still unsubstantiated scientifically, it is hypothesized that they migrated from the South East Asian region more that 50,000 years ago when the sea was at its lowest levels and more exposed land enabled such a crossing (see GONDWANA).

Among Australia’s indigenous peoples many cultures exist and Aboriginal people identify as both indigenous and, whenever possible, also as a member of their language group; that is, coming from a particular place/country each identifiable by its own creation stories (see Dreamtime and Dreaming). It is estimated that at the time of invasion (Captain Phillips’s landing at Botany Bay, Sydney, in 1788) there was a population of about 3 million Aboriginal people speaking 500-600 distinct indigenous languages which extended to at least 250 different language dialects - each with their own country and culture. These days, over 250 languages are spoken and transmitted through the generations, in addition to numerous complex Aboriginal/English dialects using mostly English words and indigenous language structures; such as the creole, known as Kriol, spoken in Northern Australia. Identity has not always been easy to publicly acknowledge since past governments ensured that being identified as Aboriginal could mean further loss (see Reconciliation). Aboriginal people were forcibly removed onto missions away from their own country and dreaming boundaries, prevented from speaking their language or practicing their culture, and their children were denied an education and often taken away (the stolen generation of children refers to the children who were taken away from their families to be placed in institutions, or brought up by non-Aboriginal families thus denied their language and cultural practices). To those who relinquished their Aboriginality by living a European lifestyle and agreeing not to associate with any Aboriginals, exceptions (referred to as "dog licenses" by Aboriginals) were made. The famous artist Albert Namatjira, an Arrernte Aboriginal, for example, was awarded a certificate of citizenship in 1957 in recognition of his artistic achievement and fame. Because of his cultural obligation, Namatjira broke the law by sharing alcohol with his kin (the supply of alcohol was a criminal offense), was imprisoned and died soon after his release. These policies no longer apply as the referendum in 1967, overwhelmingly supported by the Australian electorate, granted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples full citizenship. Aboriginal identity has evolved, as it has always done, by incorporating the new but it still retains many of the traditional values and assumptions. (IP)

AUSTRALOPITHIECUS: Apaleoanthropological studies have identified many human like fossils and fossil humans.It is a prehuman fossil, also called The Ape Man, was located in south and East Africa, dating back to about 5 million years ago. It exhibits bipedalism, has protruding jaws and a small brain cavity. When compared to the bigger cranial cavity of Modern Homo sapiens. (JA)

AUTHORITARIAN: Demanding total obedience and refusing to allow people freedom to act as they wish. (DM)

AUTISM: (Greek autos "self") a little understood rare (4 in 10,000 live births) mental disorder first named by Leo Kanner, an American psychiatrist, in 1943. The condition is characterized by extreme social withdrawal and inability to communicate verbally or emotionally with people. Impairment of social interactions may be due to an abnormal interest in fantasy engendered by delusions and hallucinations resembling schizophrenic withdrawal in adults. The onset of this pervasive developmental disorder may be in infancy or early childhood and is characterized by internally-stimulated thinking where ideas have a private meaning and abnormal ways of relating to people, objects and situations. Recent findings suggest that organic, rather than psychological, injuries in the limbic system (the brain's emotional center) might explain some elements of autistic behavior. Although far more autistic children have sub-normal levels in IQ than would be expected from the normal continuum of all levels of intelligence, a small number possess superior intelligence and/or certain skills related to their lateral thinking or highly-focused attention on aspects of interest. The best educational approach is thought to be sympathetic but formal instruction. (IP+MP)

AUTOGRAFT: (Greek autos "self" + graphion "stylus") a permanent transplantation of any tissue from one site of the body to another site in the same individual. Autografting is typically used in medical surgery such as the replacement of lost skin in cases of severe burns, or in plastic surgery such as the remodeling of facial features. (See ALLOGRAFT, XENOGRAFT). (IP)

AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE: A disorder in which the immune system fails to recognize self and directs an immune response against its own body tissues. Among human autoimmune diseases in which components of the body are attacked by its own immune system are rheumatic fever, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis and myasthenia gravis (muscle weakness). (IP)

AUTOMATIC WEAPONS: Automatic weapons enable rapid fire by using some of the explosive energy to eject the shell and automatically reload the next bullet into the chamber. An automatic weapon fires in a continuous stream for as long as the trigger is depressed. A semi-automatic weapon fires one bullet for each click of the trigger. Mobile or mounted automatic weapons of varying sizes are also known as machine guns. The smaller sub-machine gun is designed for portability and flexibility, with lightweight frame and short barrel usually firing pistol ammunition. Many non-violent countries restrict or severely regulate civilian ownership of automatic weapons. (See AUTONOMOUS WEAPONS, SMALL ARMS) (MP)

AUTOMATON: (Greek: automatos 'acting of itself') An early term for a mechanical device or simple robot able to self-perform or imitate real-life actions. Sometimes used as derogatory for a person who goes through life with a mechanically predictable and ordinary routine. Descartes argued that animals may also be mere automata, wholly governed by the laws of physics. (See CELLULAR AUTOMATA, ROBOT) (MP)

AUTONOMIC NERVOUS SYSTEM: The motor nerve fibers supplying the glands, organs and smooth muscles of the vertebrate body, including the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems; the elements of the nervous system which automatically manage the functions of internal organs such as pulse and digestion. (See CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM) (MP)

AUTONOMOUS: Ability to operate on one’s own. (See AUTONOMY) (MP)

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