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William Kremer visited BBC Science to find out the facts behind this science phrase. Listen to the answers and then join in our science discussion on the message boards
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short for nanotechnology - an area of science that deals with creating extremely small tools and machines

something which uses very advanced technology and systems

a system which provides very high quality images in more detail than ordinary images

a prefix for things related to computers, especially the internet (e.g. cybercafe - a place where you can buy drinks and use computers at the same time)

when gas, light, heat etc. are sent out or released (e.g. Cars create emissions which are dangerous for the environment)

a test tube
a small glass tube (open at one end) which scientists use in experiments

a test tube baby
an embryo created in an artificial way. For example, through mixing a woman's egg and a man's sperm in a laboratory and then transferring it into a woman's womb to be fully grown until birth

Bunsen burner
small gas equipment used by scientists to heat the contents of test tubes during experiments

mortar and pestle
small bowl and wooden stick with rounded end used by scientists to crush things into a fine powder (also used by people at home when cooking to crush herbs)

Brave New Worldish
from the science fiction novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Used to describe something that the speaker disapproves or disagrees with because s/he thinks it's interfering too much with the natural world or in the way things usually are. For example, It's all a bit too Brave New Worldish to be able to examine our DNA and know exactly what diseases we'll have when we're older.

'trial and error'
a process of attaining a goal by trying different methods until a successful one is found, e.g. We developed the new software through trial and error.

a placebo
a drug which has no physical effects, used in pharmaceutical tests to distinguish the physical effects of taking a real drug from its psychological effects. The placebo effect is when someone's condition improves because they think they are taking medicine. This word is occasionally used in non-medical contexts.

the control group
In a scientific experiment involving people, the control group is the one given a placebo.

a side effect
an extra, usually bad, occurrence caused by taking a drug. It is also used in non-medical English in a more neutral way.

a 'miracle drug'
a popular name for a drug which can totally cure individuals of a serious illness such as cancer...

the acid test
a way of finding out whether something is as good as people say it is, whether it works, or whether it is true

1) literary - having feelings that change suddenly and without warning
2) literary - quick and clever
3) technical - containing mercury

it's not an exact science
used to say that something involves a lot of guessing and there is not just one right way to do it

to recharge your batteries
informal - to rest or relax in order to get back your energy

to have a short fuse
if someone has a short fuse, they get angry very easily

global warming
an increase in temperature of Earth and its atmosphere that many scientists say is caused by pollution

greenhouse gases
for example, carbon dioxide and methane which trap heat

diurnal time lapse
the reason it is colder in the Northern hemisphere in February even though the shortest day was in December

rain shadow
the reason it rains on one side of the Rocky Mountains, but not on the other

the science of climates

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The following words and phrases are favourites of staff from BBC Science. Listen to the audio and try to answer the questions. You can also let us know about your favourite words and phrases on the message boards.
What is a penguin integral?
Listen to Roland Pease
What is a boojum?
Listen to Roland Pease
What connects up, down, strange, charm, bottom and beauty?
Listen to Roland Pease
Is a barn a unit of measurement or a new type of fuel?
Listen to Roland Pease
Who or what is Smiley?
Listen to Roland Pease
Concatenation and interdigitation
Listen to Tracey Logan
Download (MP3 - 6mb)
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What words and phrases would any self-respecting journalist never use? Listen to these examples from BBC Science. What science words do you think are overused? Join our message boards and tell us.
Listen to Roland Pease
The research is promising ...
Listen to Ania Lichtarowicz
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