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Posts Tagged ‘vacuum’

Why does “vacuum” have two u’s, IN A ROW?  It’s a weird word.  But, looking at another double-u word might help our understanding: “continuum”.  This totally makes me think of the bad guy we love to hate, and his immortal omnipotent (sort of) race in Star Trek, the Q.  Not to be confused with the “collective”, which is Borg.  Anyway.  We actually use a recognizable root of “continuum”, so it is easier to see that the last “um” is a suffix to indicate something about word forms.  To quote Matthew Lancey on Quora.com, “Double U was/is fairly common in Latin because of its complex system of word endings to indicate case, gender and so on.”

So.  “Continue” (back in Latin spelled “continuare“) becomes “continuum” when the verb becomes a noun*, and “vacare” or something like it becomes “vacuus” (adjective?) and “vacuum” (noun?) in Latin.  Etymology Online says that the word is probably a loan-translation from the Greek “kenon” which only slightly resembles “vacare“, “vain”, or “vacuus” – all of which are attested words in the family tree of “vacuum”.  We had the great idea back in the 17th century English speaking world of spelling “vacuus” as “vacuous”, which is clearer on the pronunciation and only slightly less obviously Latin.

A lot of sources online (really reliable ones like Yahoo Answers) say that there are two u’s because how else would you know to pronounce two different vowel sounds there?  But, um, I don’t really think that’s how words work.  These people are either gullible, or bluffing the Internet looking for the gullible.

What I really want to know is why there is only one “c”.  If there are ever seemingly pointless double consonants in words, it tempts me to double other lletterrs also. (“Embarrass”, anyone? There are two doubles, and I spell it wrong the first time, every time.) Just saying.  Though I must say that if the “c” were a “k” like it should be, for some reason I wouldn’t feel the need to double it in the same way.  But then, the vowel’s pronunciation would bother me.  And if we insist on leaving only one “c” in our English transliteration, could we pronounce the “a” as a long “a” like in “bacon”?  Or maybe we could try “bacoon”, “baakon”, “bakun”, “bacconn”?

*In my life, I am much more tempted to turn nouns into verbs.  I imagine this is historically predominant, also.  Therefore, when I am keeping my tone intentionally casual, I say things like “churching”, “small-group-ing”, “dishes-ing”.  Verbs are a lot more fun, if they have a description built into them.  My preschool-teacher-friend also says that kids initially think much more in pictures than in words, so it is good if we can keep our speech so vividly picturey.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Lately I’ve been in a state of mind that can soak up information, and comes up with really good questions – well I think they’re interesting, leading me to more and more questions (and occasionally to comprehension).  One field that’s been appealing this week is physics.  I’m reading a book, Reinventing Gravity, that has me thinking about the basics of physics – and marvelling at how much of our universe we humans don’t understand. 
 
So I would be ok with exhaustive comments answering the following questions, or referrals to books or websites that could help me understand these things.  I took physics in high school, no problem, and have given a great deal of skeptical thought to Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity.  This is because I’m fairly convinced the speed of light is not constant.  So if you mention the speed of light in your answer, I’ll probably enjoy it more.  I understand that I’m missing a few levels of knowledge between high school physics and the edges of theoretical physics I’m trying to reach.  Give me your best shot. 
 
You can also use the comment section to add your own questions.  The compilation of questions is great food for thought and theory. 
 
Some physics questions:
Are forces energy? 
What is light? 
     Does it have a constant velocity? 
     Is its speed constant? 
     If the velocity of light is not constant, what force acts on it? 
          What is the equal and opposite reaction? (Whence is the energy subtracted?)
 
What is electricity? 
What is magnetism?
 
What is heat? 
     Is it motion in and of molecules,
     or that which causes motion in and of molecules,
     or the output of motion in and of molecules?
 
What is gravity? 
How is gravity related to attraction and acceleration (gravitational mass and inertial mass)?     
     What is the significance of the relationship? 
     Does the resistance or escape of an object from gravity take any energy away from the gravity-exerting objects? 
     Does gravity curve space, or is it the effect of curved space? 
 
If gravity is the effect of curved space, what makes space curved? 
     Matter and energy? 
     Is anything else (such as time) curved by these things as well? 
     If spacetime can be curved, what else can be done to it? 
 
Can spacetime be stretched? 
     If spacetime can be stretched, what stretches it? 
     Are opposing forces of gravity like Curling brooms, creating a smooth path for matter and energy? 
 
 
How do permittivity and permeability relate energy, electricity, gravity, and matter? 
     What does density have to do with them? 
     What force causes nature to abhor a vacuum?  
 
 
(To quote The Little Mermaid), What is fire and how does it burn? 
     Must fire produce light? 
     Can light be produced without fire/burning? 
     Must fire produce heat? 
     Are there other ways to convert matter to energy? 
 
Oh my goodness, does time have to come into this? 
     How is time related to the measurement of time? 
          Must there be a direct correlation?
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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