SANSKRIT: Ancient language of northern India. The word Sanskrit (samskrta) means "polished speech", as distinguished from the speech of the common people, which was known as "Prakrit" (prakrta). The earliest form of Sanskrit is found in the Veda. A dialectal variant of Sanskrit known as Pali is the language of the classical Buddhist writings. (AG)
SAPPHO OF LESBOS: (~ 617-612 BC) was the greatest lyric poet of early Greek antiquity who created a circle round herself of female friends and students. Faced with male-dominated society where military masculinity was the supreme virtue, Sappho dared to oppose this with the lyricism of femininity expressed through verse and song. She was slandered for female homosexuality, was married, had a daughter and in the end suicided for the love of a man (see LESBIAN/ISM). (IP)
SAS: Special Air Service (UK/Australia)
SATAN: (from the Hebrew root s.t.n., meaning "to obstruct, to block the way"). The original meaning of this word in Hebrew is an adversary, or one who blocks the way. The word appears in this meaning in several places in the Old Testament. However, in the book of Job, there is reference to "the Satan" who criticizes God's statements and tries to temp Job into sin. It is this Satan figure that is later developed in Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions as the adversary of God, the one who represents rebellion against God's word. Later interpretations look for hints of Satan in this sense in various other places in the Old Testament. For example, the Serpent of the Garden of Eden story in Genesis is often explained as a form of Satan. In the Greek of the New Testament, the word "Satanas" various times as the being which tries to bring about temptation, especially trying to tempt Jesus, and the one whom Jesus will vanquish in a future time. The development of the character of Satan is more pronounced in Christian literature than in Jewish or Muslim literature. For example, in Jewish writings, there is a greater tendency to refer to " Yetser Hara' " (the evil inclination) as a source of temptation than the use of the word Satan. (AG)
SATELLITE: 1. A moon circling a planet, e.g. Jupiter’s satellites include Europa, Io and Ganymede. 2. A technology designed for and deployed into Earth’s orbit, for example communications, research and spy satellites. (See COBE, HUBBLE TELESCOPE, SPACE EXPLORATION, SPUTNIK) (MP)
SAVANNAH: The tropical grassland habitat and community, for example between Africa’s Sahara desert and Congo basin rainforest. Characterized by grasses and shrubs with widely dispersed trees, grazing herbivores and their predators, a long dry season, fire, drought and often inappropriate agricultural practices. Similar tropical and temperate grassland habitats are common, for example the American prairies and semi-arid Australia. (See HABITAT TYPES, SCLEROPHYLL FOREST) (MP)
SBS (SPECIAL BROADCASTING SERVICE): Award-winning Australian free-to-air multicultural broadcaster including multi-language radio service and commercial-limited public television channel presenting an admirably diverse range of otherwise non-commercially viable world movies, cultural oddities and intellectually-based global news. Paradoxically, the premier channel of Australian TV is also the least watched. Entities such as SBS which sustain cultural diversity must be carefully conserved in this era of dumbing-down for the mass media market. (See CULTURE JAMMING, MULTICULTURALISM) (MP)
SCALE: Scale is the size or dimensions of a system. ‘Spatial scale’ is the extent of something in three-dimensional space, measured in meters or light-years. ‘Temporal scale’ refers to extent in the fourth dimension, time, measured from seconds to millions of years for geological time. Standard SI Unit multipliers are as follows: atto-10-18; femto-10-15; pico-10-12; nano-10-9; micro-10-6; milli-10-3; centi-10-2; deci-10-1; deka-101; hecto-102; kilo-13; mega-106; giga-109; tera-1012; peta-1015; exa-1018. Systems are defined by spatial scale, from nano- (atoms), micro- (molecules, cells), through macro-scale (ecosystems, cities) to mega-scale (global environment). Natural and human ecosystems are measured at the genetic, individual, family group, local community, habitat, catchment, bioregion, city, state/province, national, international and global scales. System dynamics are measured in temporal scale from small periods (e.g. feedback) to large periods of time (e.g. astrophysics). Problems and policy must be addressed to the correct scale. Behaviors of larger scale systems may be dependent on changes in smaller scale systems. ‘Spatial and temporal scaling’ is the application of this knowledge across these scales. ‘Scale-and-category grammar’ is a language model based on substance, form and context. A wonderful illustration of the breadth of scale is Kees Boeke’s Cosmic View, which traverses from the scale of a human individual both inwards to subatomic levels, and outwards to the scale of the universe. (See BIOREGION, EARTH FROM SPACE, HIERARCHY, INTEGRATED MANAGEMENT, MEASUREMENT, SPACE, TIME, SYSTEMS THEORY) (MP)
SCHIZOPHRENIA: A psychotic disorder characterized by personality disintegration and distortion in the perception of reality. Overall terms given to several related mental disorders characterized by a disconnection between feelings, thoughts and actions. Word made its first appearance in the English language in 1912 (Greek skhistos split and phren mind) (see HALLUCINATION). (DM,IP)
SCHUMACHER, ERNST:See SUFFICIENCY.
SCIENCE: Intellectual discipline characterised by its investigation of the natural world (biological, chemical and physical) by means of procedures that are, at least in principle, independent of the persons who employ them and are published in sufficient detail for others to repeat them and so check any reported findings. (See SCIENTIFIC METHOD). (MR)
SCIENCE FICTION: Science fiction is imaginative fantasy based on science. There is a distinction between "soft" and "hard" science fiction, the latter adhering as closely as possible to current understanding of physical laws and the limitations of technology. Leading "hard" science fiction authors such as Arthur C. Clark and Isaac Asimov have predicted and guided significant real advances in technology such as satellites and robotics. Science fiction, from the classic tradition to cyberpunk and including the utopian and dystopian literature, is of course a vibrant source of bioethical discussion. The genre entertainingly places human and alien societies in potential future contexts of science, technology and sociopolitical organization. (See CYBERPUNK, DYSTOPIA, FUTUROLOGY, SCIENCE, UTOPIA) (MP)
SCIENTIFIC METHOD: The process by which scientists expand and improve scientific knowledge. Four steps characterize the scientific method: 1. observations that lead to a question or problem; 2. formation of a hypothesis (or hypotheses) that answers the question or solves the problem; 3. making predictions from the hypothesis; and 4. experimental or observational testing of the predictions. If the predictions are true, then the results support the hypothesis; however, the scientific method lacks any way of proving scientific information with absolute certainty. Hypotheses that are repeatedly supported by independent investigators and in multiple tests gain acceptance; those hypothesis that are consistently corroborated become theories or, especially in physics, natural laws. If the predictions are false, then the hypothesis is rejected and must either be discarded as false or modified to accommodate the new observations. The scientific method is also known as the hypothetico-deductive method. A key feature of the scientific method is the fact that every scientific idea must be subject to testing, in other words, falsifiability. The scientific method has been extremely successful in producing and improving a body of knowledge that is demonstrably reliable. (See DEDUCTION, HYPOTHESIS, INDUCTION, SCIENCE). (IP+RW)
SCIENTIFIC MISCONDUCT: Violation of laws, regulations, or professional standards in any scientific research. (DM)
SCIENCE OF CHOICE: The ability to choose between alternative behaviours.
SCIENTIFIC PARADIGM: See PARADIGM.
SCIENTIFIC THINKING: Thought and rationalism based upon principles of questioning, systematic reduction, value-neutral objectivity, parsimony, logical consistency, and usually but not always agreement with existing knowledge. Value is placed on predictive power and explanatory power. Distinction is made between data, assumptions, hypothesis and theory. Knowledge is gained through testability and falsification using experiments, controlled observations, replicability and quantification. Science is better at reductionism than synthesis. Scientific thinking is often based on critical analysis, something best kept contained in social or family situations. Scientific thinking is often mistrustful of that which is not testable, but the limitations of science become apparent when dealing with many subjects either of great philosophical abstraction or of great complexity. (See ANALYSIS, BEST AVAILABLE INFORMATION, DEDUCTION, EXPERIMENT, EXPERT, FALSIFICATION, INDUCTION, KNOWLEDGE, PARSIMONY, REDUCTIONIST, SCIENTIFIC METHOD) (MP)
SCIMAC: An organization "supply chain initiative on modified agricultural crops", composed of a group of industrial body. It represents farmers, the seed traders, plant breeders and biotechnology companies. It aims to provide a support for the safe and effective introduction of GM crops in UK. It provides open information so as to enable proper consumer choice. (JA)
SCLEROPHYLL FOREST: A tall open forest dominated by plants such as eucalyptus, which have sclerophyll leaves. These leaves are stiff and toughened with a reduced surface area to minimize water loss in regions of low or irregular rainfall. In Australia such forests are common on the eastern, Tasmanian and southwestern coasts. Dry sclerophyll forests are typically up to 30 meters in height with medium canopy cover, adapted to low nutrient soils, and resistant to fire. Wet sclerophyll forests are typically taller to 60 meters and occur on more fertile soils in moister regions or sheltered valleys. (See EUCALYPTUS) (MP)
SCNT: Somatic cell nuclear transfer in which the nucleus of a somatic cell is transferred into an enucleated egg. In some way the nucleus of the somatic cell and the cytoplasm of the egg are able to reprogram and interact to initiate embryogenesis. Dolly the Sheep was born using SCNT technology. (JA).
SCOPING: Pre-investigation of the key issues, environmental elements, habitats, stakeholders and boundaries of concern, and the relevance or irrelevance of different factors to the decision-making process involved. (See BASELINE MONITORING, ENVIRONMENTAL INDICATORS, INTEGRATED MANAGEMENT, META-ANALYSIS, PILOT STUDY) (MP)
SEA LEVEL RISE:See GLOBAL WARMING.
SEAGRASS: Seagrasses (e.g. Zostera, Posidonia) are rhizome angiosperm grasses adapted to live underwater in shallow estuaries and sheltered lagoons. Conservation of seagrass beds is important for nutrient productivity and to provide habitat for juvenile fish. Seagrass communities are in serious decline due to human-induced processes like sedimentation and eutrophication, and activities such as trawling. (See ALGAE, BENTHOS, ESTUARY, EUTROPHICATION, MANGROVE FOREST) (MP)
SEASONALLY AFFECTIVE DISORDER: Periodic depression which coincides annually with the winter season, often emerging during the long, cold, dark winters of Northern regions. (See DEPRESSION) (MP)
SECOND WORLD: Term no longer commonly used in international politics, describing Cold War command economies such as in the former Soviet bloc which collapsed 1989-1991. (See DEVELOPING NATIONS, FIRST WORLD, FOURTH WORLD, THIRD WORLD) (MP)
SECRET WOMEN’s BUSINESS:See WOMEN’s BUSINESS.
SECULAR ETHICS: Theories of what is good and bad, or right or wrong, based on criteria other than religious doctrine. (See ETHICS). (DM)
SEDA: See SUSTAINABLE ENERGY DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY - AUSTRALIA.
SEED:A mature ovule, consisting of an embryonic plat together with a store of food, all surrounded by a protective coat. A seed usually develops following the fertilization of an egg cell by a male generative cell from a pollen grain. (DM)
SEED BANKS: - A storage facility where the genetic resources of plants are preserved for future use. These seed and germplasm banks are found mostly in university departments and other research institutes. Multinational companies store genetic materials for the development of new plant varieties. (JA)
SEED TO STOMACH: Includes the primary production- harvesting of food- food processing, manufacture, distribution and retailing and consumption. (JA)
SELECTIVE ABORTION: Abortion of a fetus because it is, or may be, defective. (DM)
SELECTIVE ADVANTAGE: An organism's increased probability of reproduction and producing offspring, conferred by its genetic characteristics. (DM)
SELECTION FOR TREATMENT: The use of criteria either for choosing patients to be treated when resources are limited, or for choosing patients for whom a particular treatment is efficacious. (See TRIAGE). (DM)
SELECTION PRESSURE: The influence of factors extrinsic to an organism (i.e. environmental factors) on its ability to compete with other organisms for reproductive success. (DM)
SELF: An individual’s unique recognition of their own personality, identity and character. The self is identified in metaphysics with the mind or soul, and in psychology with the consciousness or ego. Self-respect and self-determination are essential for a healthy personal identity, and self-discipline, self-sufficiency and selflessness are further admirable characteristics of the self-aware human. (See SELF-DISCIPLINE, SELF-IMPROVEMENT) (MP)
SELF AWARENESS: Self-awareness includes consciousness of: a) Continuity of perception and personality through time; b) Unity of self; c) Embodiment or body image; d) Agency such as free will; e) Awareness of one’s own character, strengths, weaknesses, desires and wellbeing. (See CONSCIOUSNESS, SELF) (MP)
SELF-DISCIPLINE: The ability to restrain your behavior or emotions (self-control), activate yourself (self-motivation) and direct your own pathway through life (self-determination). (See SELF) (MP)
SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY: Expectations coming true, partly related to subconscious activity, selective perception, and the placebo effect; for example feedback between hypochondria and psychosomatic stress creating a negative effect on physiological health. (See HYPOCHONDRIA) (MP)
SELF-IMPROVEMENT: Sensible conscious improvement of one’s status, education, behavior, self-respect or self-confidence. Self-help groups and books have become a popular Western phenomenon, promising the actualization of the self into a wise, able, self-sufficient and compassionate whole person. (See SELF) (MP)
SELF-RESPONSIBILITY less reliance on the system by owning information so that we can make our own decisions (see RESPONSIBLE)
SELF-SUFFICIENT: Having abilities and resources to sustainably provide for oneself without reliance on outside help. (See SELF, SUFFICIENCY) (MP)
SELFISH GENE THEORY: See SOCIOBIOLOGY.
SEMANTICS: The branch of semiotics which investigates the relation of a sign, usually a word or phrase, to the concept which is being signified. In other words, semantics is a study of meaning. The term "a semantic difference" is used as a rebuttal to imply that a difference is only verbal therefore irrelevant, but differences in semantics may technically just as easily be significant changes to meaning. (See SEMIOTICS, SIGN) (MP)
SEMEN: A fluid consisting of secretions from the male's seminal vesicles, prostate, and from the glands adjacent to the urethra. Semen carries sperm and is ejaculated during intercourse. (DM)
SEMI-AUTOMATIC WEAPON: See AUTOMATIC WEAPONS.
SEMIOTICS: (Greek: semeion "sign") Semiotics or semiology refer to the study of signs, or the ways in which we create meaning in communication. Semiology was coined by Ferdinand de Saussure as a method of cultural analysis, and is a study in which meanings are interpretative rather than truly objective. Linguistics, the study of language, is one of the more formalized and precise branches of semiotics. In our internationalized world of advertising and multimedia, there must be broad consideration of cultural conventions, codes, symbols and multimodal methods of communication. Interpretation of such signs is required to assess the ethics, or lack thereof, which feature in the content and spread of local and global cultures. (See MULTIMODAL COMMUNICATION, SEMANTICS, SIGN) (MP)
SENILITY: (Latin senilis 'aged') feebleness and deterioration of the body and mind characteristic of old age, dementia or atrophy. Incapacity to exercise informed consent due to impairment of the intellectual faculties. (See MENTAL INCOMPETENCE). (IP)
SENSES: In order to live in and to be able to adapt to the external environment, all living organisms must be able to communicate with it. Similarly communication is necessary for the stimulation, regulation and co-ordination of activities within the body. In both cases communication involves a cycle of receiving, collating and giving information. The brain receives communication from the outside the body through the five special senses - sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Although the senses are considered different and separate from each other, one sense is rarely used on its own; for example, taste and smell are closely associated with the enjoyment of food. The somatic or common senses originating in the skin are pain, touch, heat and cold. Proprioceptor senses originate in muscles and joints and contribute to the maintenance of balance and posture; that is, pertaining to the sensations of body movements and awareness of posture. Autonomic afferent nerves originate in internal organs and tissues and are associated with reflex regulation activity and visceral pain. Nerve endings are stimulated by phenomena outside the body and the resultant nerve impulses are transmitted to the brain by nerve fibers for 'interpretation' or perception. The brain collates this information obtained from the memory, and the result is coordinated and regulated communication with the outside world (See HEARING, OLFACTION, SOUND, TASTE, TOUCH, VISION). (IP)
SENSITIVITY ANALYSIS: A test of the robustness of a management model, statistical method or other decision-making tool, in which a controlled series of changes are made to the input of the process in order to elucidate their effect on the output and proposed solution. The robust model will be able to optimize a solution which is not sensitive to fluctuations from environmental variability or human subjectivity. (See OPTIMIZATION) (MP)
SENSOR NETWORKS: Wireless sensors such as tracking bugs or sensory microprocessors can be networked together to provide integrated intelligence for data collection. Further miniaturization of these sensors produces the now commercially available ‘smart dust’, which will likely be increasingly used in scientific monitoring and on the battlefield. Sensor networks are already used to monitor product transport, pipelines, bird nests, climate, traffic and troop movements. Trials are being conducted at supermarkets and health care centers for the mentally ill and elderly. The large volume and cheapness of current and potential sensor network bugs raises serious privacy concerns. (See BIG BROTHER, BUG, MOTES, NETWORK, NEURAL NETWORKS, SMART DUST) (MP)
SERE: Any of the plant communities in ecological succession, or the types and stages of succession (e.g. hydrosere in water, prisere on bare ground, plagiosere deflected by biota). (See ECOLOGICAL SUCCESSION) (MP)
SEROTONIN: See BRAIN NEUROTRANSMITTERS.
Serotonin re-uptake inhibitors: a growing family of drugs, including sertraline and paroxetine - are significant because they represent a new generation of "designer" antidepressants, created from a knowledge of how the brain works and of the molecular biology of the neuron. Many older antidepressant drugs, particularly the tricyclic family of which imipramine is representative, are diffuse in the regulatory mechanisms they disrupt, disturbing neurotransmission in the dopaminergic, noradrenergic, serotonergic, and even acetylcholinergic systems. It is because of this broad action, and the resulting unwanted side-effects, that while the tricyclins remain effective and economically attractive agents in the treatment of many depressions, they are considered less friendly than the serotonin re-uptake inhibitors. New designer drugs are now appearing that precisely engage both the serotoninergic and noradrenergic systems but without the troublesome side-effects of the older tricyclic antidepressants (see BRAIN NEUROTRANSMITTERS, LITHIUM, PROZAC). (IP)
SEROSTATUS: Status of infected persons, either sero-positive or sero-negative to tests. (JA)
SETI (SEARCH FOR EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL INTELLIGENCE): An astronomic project in which the skies are meticulously scanned for electromagnetic signals which may indicate the presence of intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy. Pioneered and popularized by Carl Sagan, SETI continues and has expanded to include SETI@home in which special screensavers can utilize unused power from private desktop computers to aid the search for alien broadcasts. (See ALIEN LIFE) (MP)
SEVEN DEADLY SINS: In theology, the sins of anger, pride, lust, envy, covetousness, gluttony and sloth. (See SIN) (MP)
SEVEN LAWS OF NOAH: A basic set of laws which, according to Jewish tradition, were given to Noah and his family after the Flood. One opinion in the Talmud holds that 6 of these laws were earlier given to Adam. Immediately after the Flood, Noah and his family were the only humans on earth, and so, this set of Seven Laws has global implications according to Talmudic theory. This set of laws was mentioned in the Talmud to explain two areas outside of the framework of Jewish observance: a) the framework of the Jewish people before having received the Torah, b) the framework within which the rest of the world functions. Because each of these seven laws finds parallels in the laws of the Torah, the Seven Laws of Noah thus serve as a common ground between the observance of the Jews and that of the rest of the world, according to this theory. (AG)