Today’s Podcast – In science one tries to tell people…

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“In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it’s the exact opposite.

Paul Dirac
20th century physicist and noble laureate.

This is a great idea; that poetry is about what we already know and science is the exact opposite.

Einstein, Aether & Ethernet – a podcast

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Sorry for the late post. Time is no man’s friend.

Today’s word, aether, comes from a great article about Albert Einstein in the Economist. It is a short, 2500 word, article summarizing the Einstein’s theories of relativity and quantum physics as well their impact on modern physics and cosmology. I strongly recommend reading it.

The word aether appears towards the end of the article. It is a noun that is ancient Greece referred to the air breathed by the gods, “the upper air,” as well as the personification of the sky. Over the centuries it evolved to mean the unknown substance that filled all the empty space in the world. Aristotle included it as a fifth element to make his “nature abhorred a vacuum” theory work.

By the end of the 19th century scientists used the term luminiferous aether to describe the invisible substance that carries light and magnetism. This last meaning inspired Robert Metcalfe to name his new networking technology Ethernet. Odds are pretty good this podcast got to you via Ethernet.

Finally there is the ether from Curious George. A flammable compound of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. It is no longer used as an anesthetic.

The Abracadabra Podcast

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Another request. Abracadabra was suggested by Will Simpson of WillSimpson.org. Will is a fellow podcaster and claims not to be a professional photographer but he is clearly talented. Check out his website for some beautiful photos of the western United Sates along with commentary via podcast. Hopefully one day we will be able to have the photos and the commentary podcast right to our photo iPods

At first I wasn’t expecting a very interesting definition for
abracadabra. I always thought it was a made-up nonsense word from some fiction story, but in fact it has a rich etymology.

First the definition. It is a word spoken to summon magical powers or to ward off evil. The magician says abracadabra and then pulls the rabbit out of the hat.


The etymology, although unclear, is the is interesting part. Various reference sources listed its origins as Aramaic, from the words Avrah KaDabra meaning ‘I will create as I speak,’ or from other Aramaic words, abhadda kedhabhra meaning ‘disappear like this word.’ Wikipedia also listed possible derivations from the Arabic Abra Kadabra, meaning ‘let the things be destroyed’ or from a Gnostic word for god, abraxas.

I am not an expert but I would be surprised if all of these etymologies weren’t true. The word abracadabra definitely has a rich history.

The Gnostics used the word abracadabra to ward off disease and sickness. The prescribed treatment was to write the word on eleven lines. One the first line the complete spelling, then on subsequent lines you drop the last letter for eleven lines until you are out of letters. This forms a triangle or cone. As seen below.

A B R A C A D A B R A
A B R A C A D A B R
A B R A C A D A B
A B R A C A D A
A B R A C A D
A B R A C A
A B R A C
A B R A
A B R
A B
A

Then the paper was to be folded in a the shape of a cross and worn around the neck of the sick person.

The Steve Miller Band had a top ten hit with Abracadabra in 1983.



In a podcast nobody knows your a dog

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Today we have a quote. It is phrase I see and hear a lot when people are talking about the anonymity provided by the Internet. The quote is from a 1993 New Yorker cartoon.

In the cartoon a dog is sitting at a computer telling another dog that “On the Internet nobody knows you are a dog.

I like this quote because it is often repeated and paraphrased by all types of writer when writing about the Internet. I noticed Brent Simmons of Inessential.com, writing in 2002 referred to the phrase as an old adage.

marseditIconLarge.png By the way if you are looking for a great news reader or blog client you should check out Brent’s work:

  • NetNewsWire– A news reader for OS X.

  • MarsEdit– A weblog editor for Mac OS X that works with various weblog systems: Blosxom, Conversant, Manila, Movable Type, Radio UserLand, TypePad, WordPress, and others.

Also Brent is really responsive to user questions and comments so his work is always getting better.

I am really impressed Peter Steiner, the cartoonist, understood and clearly articulated a fundamental truth of the Internet way back in 1993.

You can take a look at the cartoon or order a sweatshirt with the cartoon on it at cartoonbank.com. Cartoonbank.com is home to many of the cartoons found in the is the New Yorker. From it you can order posters, t-shirts and other paraphernalia emblazoned with New Yorker cartoons.

Double Feature Movie Words Podcast


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Today we have a double feature- two words suggested by Steve Holden of the Tech Rag Tear Out. He suggested two words from Michael Geoghegan’s Reel Reviews. The words are minutia and bravado. Michael used both of these words when he reviewed “To Kill a Mockingbird” on December 17th.


“One of those bravado statements he [Orson Welles] makes.”

In this case Michael used the word bravado to describe Orson Welles’ tendency to make big bold statements. Bravado is a noun that means a showy disposition to defiance or swaggering expressions of courage. Orson was a singular giant in the world of film so I hope we can forgive him a little bravado.

The bonus word, minutia.

“My goal here is not really to go thoughthe minutia of the story just to point out some of the highlights.”

Minutia is a noun and it means a small or petty detail. It comes from the latin minutia meaning smallness. Minutia is also the root of the word minute, as in hours, minutes and seconds.

How to subscribe to Today’s Podcast or just listen

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TodaysPodcast.com? I thought they stopped doing quotes


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Remember when I used to do quotes?

Well today we have a quote. It is from an interview with Archibald Leach in 1985.

I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be until finally I became that person. Or he became me.

Now if you don’t recognize the name, you are not alone. Archie Leach, by sheer will power, became Cary Grant, one the best actors of all time. According to IMDB.com he starred in 75 films, including two of my favorites The Philadelphia Story & To Catch a Thief.

Podcasting, now that is a Neologism

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Yesterday’s word got me to thinking and reading about word creation and where new words come from. This of course led me to a new new word- neologism. It is a word that has two meanings. The first is a new word or term. It can refer to a meaningful word like podcasting or it can be a nonsense utterance of an insane person. The second meaning for neologism is the act of inventing a new word. For example, the MBA types frequently use the word learnings to describe observations or conclusions since learnings isn’t a dictionary word they are unknowingly engaging in neologism.

Any neologists out there? Send me your new words.

Podcast Commodify not Commoditise

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Today I got an instant message from Shane at theresistancearmy.com. He asked me about the word commoditise. To my surprise commoditise isn’t a real word. Although Google lists almost 20,000 pages with the word, I couldn’t find one dictionary that included it.

I always though the word was legit and that it meant to turn into a commodity. No such luck. The verb that means to turn into a commodity is commodify. I had never heard this word before.

So Shane and I had a brief discussion about what counts as a real word. In the end we concluded that commoditize will make it into the dictionary if enough people use it.

Back to commodify and commodities. A commodity is a undifferentiated product. Like crude oil, pork bellies or gold. It doesn’t matter who you buy your gold from it is still gold. Now no one want’s the products they sell to become commodified. Commodities are much harder to sell at a premium price and therefore, as a seller, you must be much more efficient and that is hard.