This Week In Culture: February 8–14, 2020

Some far-out space stories, a foldable smartphone, and the mystery behind the world's oldest woman all contributed words to this week's list of vocabulary from tech, sports, and entertainment.

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definitions & notes only words
  1. calibrate
    make fine adjustments for optimal measuring
    The problem occurred as Voyager 2 attempted to rotate 360 degrees in order to calibrate one of its instruments.
    ZMEScience (Feb 10, 2020)
    Voyager 2, launched in 1979 and now speeding through interstellar space, shut down recently without warning. NASA believed it was because of a rotation they had it perform, and they successfully rebooted it so it returned to normal function. Why is that news? it's over 40 years old and currently 11.5 billion miles from Earth and still working, that's why!
  2. formulate
    prepare according to instructions
    They were told to " formulate a plan for epidemic prevention to avoid internal infections" and to "implement a daily hygiene management system and strengthen health education to urge employees to protect themselves".
    BBC (Feb 12, 2020)
    The Chinese Grand Prix, scheduled to take place April 19 in Shanghai, has been postponed because of the coronavirus. The FIA, which runs F1 racing, said it would look into rescheduling the race but no date was given and observers say it may not happen this year. Formulate comes from the same Latin root forma as formula, as in Formula One.
  3. gerontology
    the scientific study of aging and the elderly
    In an interview, Valery Novoselov, a geriatrician and the director of the gerontology chapter of the Moscow Society of Naturalists, announced his intention to disprove Calment’s claim to the longevity title.
    New Yorker (Feb 10, 2020)
    Jeanne Calment died in 1997 at the age of 122. Or did she? Some evidence suggests that the woman celebrated at the time as the oldest person who had ever lived was in fact Calment's daughter pretending to be her. If this is true, the deception likely began to avoid paying estate taxes and then took on a (very long) life of its own. But the evidence is not conclusive; her story may have been true.
  4. helm
    take control of
    Joe Johnston, the director of 1989’s Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, will helm the reboot.
    Rolling Stone (Feb 12, 2020)
    After a 23-year hiatus, Rick Moranis will return to movies, starring in Shrunk. The film will be the fourth in a franchise that began in 1989 with Honey, I Shrunk The Kids. Moranis took the long break following his wife's death, choosing to raise his children quietly and out of the spotlight. Helm is a Germanic word, originally meaning "handle," which refers to the tiller of a boat or the whole steering mechanism of a larger ship.
  5. hemorrhage
    the flow of blood from a ruptured blood vessel
    Teams will also wear bands in memory of Stern, who died after complications from a brain hemorrhage suffered in December 2019.
    Sports Illustrated (Feb 12, 2020)
    The NBA All-Star game will feature uniforms that honor Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and the seven other people who died in a helicopter crash on January 26. The West team will wear Kobe's number 24, and the East team will wear Gianna's number 2. Memorial patches will honor all of the crash victims, and black bands will memorialize former NBA commissioner David Stern, who died on New Year's Day.
  6. hyperbolic
    enlarged beyond truth or reasonableness
    It employed a hyperbolic naming convention, skipping from last year’s S10 right over the numbers 11 and 12 and 13 and all the teens to the S20.
    Washington Post (Feb 11, 2020)
    Samsung unveiled its new phones, and they're expensive. Do the new features make them worth the money? One has a super powerful camera, and the other folds up like an old-school flip phone. The Z Flip's screen is made of a new folding OLED material that has almost no visible crease at the hinge when open. The S20's largest model, with a 6.9-inch screen, sells for $1,400. Hyperbole is a Greek word meaning "exaggeration."
  7. paltry
    contemptibly small in amount or size
    Picture the scene: south-east China, in the early 1840s, and botanist and plant hunter Robert Fortune is "much annoyed" at the paltry collection of plants his Chinese servant has gathered.
    BBC (Feb 12, 2020)
    It might not seem like much of an innovation, but a simple fish tank or terrarium is the direct descendant of an invention that changed the world. In the 1840s, botanist Robert Fortune built small glass cases for transporting plant specimens back to Britain alive. Previous attempts had ended up with nearly all the plants dying, since they did not fare well on long ocean voyages. The boxes quickly expanded to become greenhouses and huge botanical gardens, and agriculture was never the same.
  8. periodicity
    the quality of recurring at regular intervals
    "The discovery of a 16.35-day periodicity in a repeating FRB source is an important clue to the nature of this object," the scientists said in the paper.
    USA Today (Feb 12, 2020)
    A repeating signal from outer space has scientists puzzled. Originating from a galaxy around 500 million light years away, the signal is a series of short pulses that repeat every 16.35 days. Theories about its origin center on some spinning celestial body, or something orbiting a larger body where the bigger object blocks the signal some of the time. The energy levels are high enough that experts doubt it's aliens, even though it's obviously aliens.
  9. pundit
    a person with special knowledge who performs skillfully
    Many pundits predicted that Sam Mendes’ “1917” would take home that honor because the Motion Picture Academy membership didn’t seem ready to embrace a subtitled movie outside of the international award category, which director Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” also won.
    Variety (Feb 12, 2020)
    Bong Joon Ho's Parasite won four Oscars, including best picture, a first for a foreign-language film. This feat was likely made possible by the increasingly international makeup of the Academy, since 20 percent of its membership now hail from outside the U.S. Pundit comes from the Sanskrit pandita, meaning "wise person," and is now used to refer to expert commentators.
  10. soiree
    a party of people assembled in the evening
    Lara Jean’s retro fixation reaches its peak when she volunteers at Belleview, a retirement home with fortune tellers, posh soirees and a former Pan Am flight attendant named Stormy (Holland Taylor) lording over the palm-frond fantasia like a screwball grande dame.
    New York Times (Feb 11, 2020)
    To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You premiered on Netflix. The movie is the second in a trilogy based on Jenny Han's books. Starring Lana Condor and Noah Centineo, the film celebrates teen movies of the 1980s, especially those by John Hughes, while telling the story of a pair of high school sweethearts. Soir means "evening" in French, so a soirée is a party or festive event that takes place after dark.
Created on February 12, 2020 (updated February 13, 2020)

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