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Le Parole e le Idee. Rivista internazionale di varia culture. Napoli.

PaleoIntensity. A term used in radioisotope (mostly C-14) dating. Until AMS became common, radioisotope fractions were determined from the activity of the material. Thus, it was common to think of the age as being measured by the intensity of radioactivity, rather than by the fraction of a particular isotope remaining undecayed.

Periodontal Insights. An approximately quarterly journal, subtitled ``a newsletter for the dental team,'' that was published by the American Academy of Periodontology. The old PI website is no longer reachable, though various academic libraries have an electronic version of the print publication available via ProQuest for the final five issues: v.5, no.4 (Dec. 1998) to v.6, no.4 (Feb. 2000). (Vol. 1, no. 1, was dated Sept. 1993.)

This is not very interesting, and it'll likely become less interesting over time. It's a lot like political coverage -- in the US, at least. Hours and hours about who's ahead and who's behind, or gaffes, scandals, and whose behind. Occasionally a few seconds about policy positions and related trivia. You know -- the drearily substantive stuff.

Philosophical Investigations. Just the TRUTHs, ma'am. By Wittgenstein.

PhosphatidylInositol. Same as PtdIns.

Physik Instrumente GmbH.

PolyImide. Capacitors take a lot of area but don't need silicon or even any crystalline material. Capacitors are a large fraction of the components in DRAM. In order to increase DRAM memory density, fabrication engineers have taken advantage of the limited requirements of capacitors to build them in odd ways (i.e., as something other than MOS capacitors). The first approach, developed at TI, was trench capacitors: a deep groove was etched into the silicon substrate using anisotropic etchants. This approach was used by TI and others, but for the highest degrees of integration it has not been found workable, and instead capacitors have been oriented perpendicular to the surface but outward instead of inward, using high polyimide walls.

Another reason to use PI is to reduce soft errors (vide SER, RSER) due to radioactive impurities in other packaging materials.

There's an informative polyimide entry in the Macrogalleria.


There's an informative PI entry in the Macrogalleria.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer. As of mid-February 2009, the paper's website could still claim that ``[t]he Seattle Post-Intelligencer is the oldest morning newspaper in the state of Washington and has a following throughout the Northwest. It has been `The Voice of the Northwest since 1863.' '' That text is gone now: ``For hundreds of thousands of people in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, it's not morning without their P-I.'' These are historic times, and part of that history is that 2009 will apparently see a mass die-off of venerable newspapers. The P-I was put up for sale by the Hearst Corporation in early January and given 60 days to find a buyer. The last print edition was distributed on St. Patrick's Day 2009.

They have another webpage entitled ``The P-I's name evokes mystery, if not confusion.'' But Intelligencer is not such an unusual or obsolete name for a periodical publication: there's also the famous Mathematical Intelligencer.

Preussischen Instruktionen. `Prussian instructions.' A system of literature cataloguing rules once widely used.

In this as in many cataloguing conventions, the main entry is usually the title entry. A justification often given for this was that many complex works, or works of diffuse or corporate authorship, have unclear or multiple authorship, but most works have a title. Anglo-American rules (see AACR) normally make the main entry the author, and it is claimed on sparse systematic evidence that users remember authors more accurately than titles. In recent revisions, the AARC has been moving closer to the more common European mode (title main entry), but at the same time technology is nullifying the distinction between main and added entries.

Principal Investigator. Term used in government contracts and grants to designate the person who is responsible for completing the terms of the contract and filing reports, and who has authority to spend monies provided. Cf. SI.

Privacy International.

La donna e mobile, la donna e mobi-- Eeeek! Close the international border!

``Each year, the members and affiliated organizations of Privacy International present the "Big Brother" awards to the government and private sector organizations in their countries which have done the most to threaten personal privacy in their countries.'' As of Spring 2001, ``11 ceremonies have been held in six countries and have given out over 50 awards to some of the most powerful government agencies, individuals and corporations in those countries.''

As the PI page for these awards fails to mention, probably because it is universal knowledge, the name ``Big Brother'' or ``BIG BROTHER'' in the relevant sense was introduced by George Orwell in his dystopic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). ``BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU'' is one of the three slogans of the party, and true. After Winston Smith has been detained, O'Brien tells him ``If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face--forever.'' A boot stamping on a human head is the form of PI's Big Brother award.

Interesting coincidence of initialisms with the next item.

It occurs to me now that a few people (I'm being polite; I really mean just you) might not get the joke at the beginning of the entry. The scenario is of someone singing in the shower; it's instantly recognizable because people tend to sing catchy opera lyrics in the shower, where the echo from the hard walls makes their voices seem larger.

Private Investigator. An investigator (typically of individuals) hired privately. Although a PI does not have any particular legal privileges or powers, a large fraction of PI's have a background in the police (a profession in which retirement may be quite early), and keep up connections with their former colleagues. In the US, there are about half a million police officers (as well as more than a million privately employed guards and other security personnel).

Jack Webb's first big break in radio came playing a traditional (hard-drinking, gam-chasing, rapid-firing) dick; it was not until a few years later that an LA cop's suggestion and offer of technical help led to his creation of the historic ``Dragnet.'' [sound file]

Program Interrupt[ion].

Protease Inhibitor. A kind of AIDS drug.

Protocol Interpreter.

Parallel Interface Adapter.

Printing Industries of America.

(Canadian) Public Interest Advocacy Centre.

Particle In a Box.

Policy Information Base.

PolyIsoButylene (polymer). There's an informative PIB entry in the Macrogalleria.

Potential-Induced Breathing (model). ``Breathing'' here and often in microscopic modeling refers to a monopole-like mode -- oscillation in which deformation is all simultaneously outward or simultaneously inward.

Producto Interno Bruto. Spanish for `GDP.' Less than half as common is the expansion Producto Interior Bruto. I think it may be be a regional-dialect thing. To me, in general, interno means `internal' and interior means `inside, interior.' But without giving it any thought, when I saw PIB, I assumed before checking that it stood for interno. ``PBI'' is also used.

Paired-Ion Chromatography (IC).

Parallel Interference Cancellation. PIC and SIC (sequential) are favored by industry because they are compatible with the current transmission coding. Adaptive linear filters are favored in academic research but require (to keep computational complexity low) short PN sequences not so compatible.

Particle-In-Cell. Computational method; see, e.g., C. K. Birdsall and A. B. Langdon: Plasma Physics via Computer Simulation (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1985), p. 179.

Personal { Information | Intelligent } Communicator.

Photonic Integrated Circuit.

Pictor. Official IAU abbreviation for the constellation.

Pilot In Command.

Plastic-Insulated Cable.

Position-Independent Code. Assembled code whose addresses do not need to be adjusted by the linkage editor.

Power Integrated Circuit.

Primary Independent Carrier.

Prior Informed Consent. Name used by UNEP for an international hazardous chemicals information exchange program.

Priority Interrupt Controller.

Product[s] of Incomplete Combustion.

Program Interrupt Controller.

Microcontrollers made by Chandler, Arizona-based MicroChip Technology. Someone claims they don't have external address or data bus, but are useful for small controller applications.

Portable Image Computation Architectures. A fine-grained message-passing architecture designed to support high-throughput parallel applications.

Posterior Inferior Cerebellar Artery.

Unit of type measure, and a disorder of humans and other mammals -- eating dirt or dust. Frequently occurs in pregnant women and those suffering mineral deficiencies, particularly of iron (Fe) or zinc (Zn).

Palaeoenvironmental records from antarctic ICE cores. A bid to give Greenland some competition in the ice core business. A ``scientific task group'' jointly sponsored by the global changes programs of SCAR (GLOCHANT) and of IGBP.

pico, p
10-12 prefix in SI.

Picolinate is synthesized in the body as a breakdown product of tryptophan. It is a ligand -- i.e., a chelating agent. That is, it is a molecule that forms a weak electrostatic bond to an ion, screening its charge. This is very important in biological systems, because it enables metal ions to be incorporated in cells and tissues that are mostly assemblages of nonpolar or not very polar organic molecules. (For example, globin chelates iron to form hemoglobin, which binds oxygen in blood cells and moves it around the body.)

Some fans of the hypothesis that chromium picolinate is GTF, believe that the body doesn't produce enough picolinate to chelate chromium. Whether or not that detail is correct, picolinate is not toxic at ordinary levels of consumption by the most furious pill-poppers, and the body is able to eliminate the excess easily. A more immediate reason to take picolinate is that chromium has been demonstrated repeatedly to be poorly absorbed in salt form (it is not very bioavailable in this form). Hence, the chromium chloride typically found in multivitamins is worthless. If you believe that you need or could benefit from chromium supplementation (and for this there is substantial evidence), then chromium tripicolinate (the ``picolinate'' form normally sold) is the best known way to get it.

Human milk contains significant amounts of picolinate; cow's milk and baby formula do not.

Platform for Internet Content Selection. A trademark ``specification [that] enables labels (metadata) to be associated with Internet content. It was originally designed to help parents and teachers control what children access on the Internet, but it also facilitates other uses for labels, including code signing and privacy. The PICS platform is one on which other rating services and filtering software have been built.''

Plug-in Inventory Control System.

Protocol Implementation Conformance Statement.

Photo-Induced Current Transient Spectroscopy.

{Particle- | Photo-} Induced Desorption.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. General term for infectious inflammation of the uterus, ovaries or fallopian tubes.

PhotoIon[ization] Detector.

Pre-Implantation Diagnosis. Testing for genetic disease before artificial implantation of a fertilized egg in a uterus.

(Computer) Process IDentifier.

Proportional Integro-Differential.

Protocol Identifier. Governs Connection Type.

Photonics Industry and Technology Development Association. The Taiwanese member of the ICOIA.

Planetary Instrument Definition and Development Program. A program of NASA's Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES).

Process Integration, Devices and Structures.

Department of Primary Industries and Energy of the Australian government. Now renamed AFFA.


The capital of South Dakota (SD). Pronounced as ``peer.''

Pressure-Induced Extra Resonance in Four-wave mixing.

Paid In Full. Squared.

Process Interchange Format. A common translation language that for communication between different process representations.

Problem [is] In Front Of [the] Keyboard. A more precise version of this is PEBCAK.

Australian hunters' term for a pit bull (a/k/a bull terrier). Pigdogs, as you may imagine, are prized for their tenacity and savage courage. They're used to hunt wild boar and feral hogs. There's a lot more (little of it relevant) at the dogger entry.

Pig Latin
A recent achievement has been the translation of the Bible into this language.

Particle-Induced GaMma ion Emission.

Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain. Well, no, as a matter of fact -- it's not a neutral term. A more neutral term, and one in which the first three letters are arranged according to order in which they sought relief from the EU (i.e., from the eurozone, i.e., via the ECB, i.e., from German taxpayers), is GIPS. See also PIIGS.

Plasma Ion Implantation.

Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain. This acronym, as well as PIGS, began to be widely used in 2009 to refer to eurozone countries in financial trouble. The qualifications for admission to this club are not formally defined. As of June 2010, only Greece had come to the brink of default (and been pulled back, temporarily). As of June 2011, all the fat was in the fire. (No, I'm not going to define that technically.)

Plasma-Immersion Ion Implantation. See X. Y. Qian, et al., ``A Plasma Immersion Ion Implantation Reactor for VLSI Fabrication,'' Nucl. Instruments and Methods in Physics Res., Section B-Beam Interactions with Materials and Atoms, 55, No. 1-4, 884-887 (1991).

PIK, Pik, pik, p.i.k.
Payment-In-Kind. Also interpreted as pay-in-kind, paid-in-kind. In general, this refers to barter arrangements.

The word salary stems from the Latin salarium, noun use of (the neuter form of) an adjective meaning `pertaining to salt.' (Salt is sal.) The term salarium was apparently first used in the time of Augustus Caesar, and usually referred to payments in the form of both money (i.e. precious-metal coins) and supplies. Hence, part of the salarium was usually PIK wages. Here sal was evidently understood as a synecdoche for `things required.'

When PIK is used as an adjective modifying bond, instrument, loan, security or (usually) structure, it has a more specific sense. It means that interest is paid in additional securities rather than in cash.

Page Interchange Language.

Pilling-Bedworth Ratio (PBR)
Ratio of oxide volume grown to unoxidized material consumed in oxidation. The ratio is 2.22 for silicon and 2.01 for silicon nitride, theoretically. YMMV a little bit because the density of the oxide is a bit lower in the amorphous oxide than in the crystal, and lower in steam-grown than in dry-oxygen-grown oxide. Abbreviated PBR.

Payment In Lieu Of Taxes.

Hospitals, colleges and universities, and other non-profit organizations are typically exempted by state law from municipal property taxes. PILOT programs of different sorts partially compensate municipalities for the ``lost'' property-tax revenues.

Another kind of PILOT program is essentially a development-incentive tax abatement: a municipality (or state) agrees to accept PILOT payments (AAP alert!) from a commercial enterprise that are less than regular taxes, in return for the business's signed commitment to invest in expansion or development. One version of this is sketched at the IDA entry.

Passive InterModulation distortion.

Patient Interface Module. `Patient' here is an attributive noun. I.e., PIM is not specifically a user-tolerant system. Cf. Sir Francis.

Penalties In [units of] Minutes. Hockey stat sheet abbreviation for penalty minutes accumulated.

Personal Information Manager.

Processing-In-Memory. Memory and logic coupled on a single VLSI chip.

There are a variety of related ideas and terms, including Embedded RAM, Merged Logic in Memory, System on a Chip, Intelligent Memory, and IRAM. It appears to me that the main reason for the multiple terms is pride. Different research projects were started independently, each with its own mix of stated reasons for blurring the memory/processor dichotomy in microelectronics and each with its own mix of methods and emphases. All of these projects are still in the R&D stage as of 2008, afaik.

Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. It's based at the University of Toronto, not in Vatican City, so you're probably wondering how it became ``pontifical,'' and what mechanisms are in place to implement medieval practice in the present day. ``The Institute of Mediaeval Studies, the oldest humanities research institute in Canada, was founded in 1929 under the auspices of St. Michael's College and the Congregation of the Priests of St. Basil (CSB). [Saint Basil is, I believe, the patron saint of condiments. A basilica is a very large spice rack.] The original foundation was principally the work of Etienne Gilson [and a bunch of others].''

``The Institute progressed so well in its first ten years that, in 1939, it was honoured with pontifical status. As the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, it was to be regulated by pontifical Statutes and its governing Council empowered by charter to grant the pontifical Licence in Mediaeval Studies and Doctorate in Mediaeval Studies. ...''

``The Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies has direct relations with the Apostolic See in Rome through its Chancellor and the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, which approves its Statutes. The Institute Chancellor is the Archbishop of Toronto, and its governing Council is composed of Senior Fellows and Junior Fellows (voting), Institute Professors, Fellows Emeriti, and Invitees (non-voting), and Representatives (voting) from the Junior Associates and Alumni. The Chancellor ordinarily presides at convocations and doctoral examinations and takes a personal interest in the life and work of its members.'' (The same paternalism obtains at some other Catholic schools.)

``A Senior Fellow has tenure in the Institute. A Junior Fellow holds an appointment for a duration determined by the Senior Fellows. ... The governing authority and administration within the Institute rests primarily with its Council, whose policies and decisions are executed by its Officials and Committees.''

Personal Identification Number. Common usage: PIN number. (Proof here.)

One of the most heroically addled instances of acronym-assisted aap pleonasm (AAP) occurs in this 1999 memo (an internal educratic document, naturally):

You will be asked for your personal pin identification number (PIN) when you enter this site.

PIN, pin
P-doped, Intrinsic, N-doped. A pn junction interupted by an intrinsic region. A popular structure for lasers, because it can be optimized easily.

PIN, Pin
Postal Index Number. Indian postal code. Also referred to as PINCODE, PIN code, Pin Code, pincode, etc. India Post apparently regards it as good style or decorative or something to use at least two different forms on a page. I swear, this ethnic divisiveness is going to tear India to pincode-size pieces!

Procedure Interrupt Negative.

pinball game
Huh? There's no such thing. Perhaps you're thinking of a pinball machine.

Refers to closing of conduction channel in JFET or MESFET.

Particle Impact Noise Detection. We're talkin' loose bits in an electronics package. Use sensitive acoustic detectors. Method is cousin to shaking a light bulb. Reminds me of how the other day we tried to shake a two-hundred-pound FedEx mailbox to see if there had already been a pickup. For PIND down to 25µm (i.e., 1 mil) diameters, try

Dal Porto, J., Loescher, D., Olson, H., and Plunkett, P.:
``LSI packaging that passes PIND test,'' 31st Elec. Comp. Conf., pp. 218-222 (1981).
[Same authors]:
``SEM/EDAX analysis of PIND test failures,'' 19th Ann. Proc. Rel. Phys. Symp., pp. 163-166 (1981).

Dutch, `peanut butter.' (Literally ``peanut cheese.'') If there are any other words of Dutch that you will need to know, we'll get them in here.

One of the many theories of the origin of the word Yankee is that it evolved from Jan Kaas, `John Cheese,' like John Doe (John Dough?) in New Amsterdam before the British came over. (Remember that the ``J'' is pronounced ``Y'' -- a consonantal I.)

A mail user application (MUA). The name reflects fundamentally the fact that Pine is a common tree in the Pacific NorthWet (sic), just like Elm, which is the acronym for an antecedent MUA.

While the name has remained constant, the acronym expansion has not. It initially stood for ``Pine Is Nearly Elm.''

It never stood for ``Pine Is Not Elm.''

If you want more on the acronym expansion, get it from one horse's own web page.

The University of Washington owns the trademark, and their pusillanimous Pine homepage refuses to acknowledge that the acronym is recursive. Thus is the net overrun with deathly seriousness.

pink fuel
Since 1994, the IRS has required refiners to dye diesel fuel intended for off-road use, which is not taxable, to prevent its being sold, illegally since not taxed, for on-road use. The fuel is colored by the addition of 11 ppm of a red dye, enough to turn the diesel fuel cherry red, but apparently not enough to damage diesel engines.

Many pipelines used to transport diesel fuel are also used to transport jet fuel. Tests run by GE have shown that 0.5 ppm of the dye in jet fuel can begin to gum up fuel nozzles. There are also concerns that the dye could cause uneven heating, hence turbine blade cracking and catastrophic failure of engines.

The fuel left behind after pink diesel flows through a pipeline can easily cause visible contamination of jet fuel: one part per billion of the dye is enough to give a pink tinge to jet fuel, which is normally clear or white-wine colored. In the absence of better information about what levels of the dye are safe, all the major engine manufacturers (GE, PW, RR) have advised airlines not to use fuel that is visibly pink.

Evidently (read carefully above), the levels at which jet fuel is pink are well below the levels that have been demonstrated to be dangerous. The FAA is unconcerned -- unsurprising, given its decades-long record of irresponsibility. The aviation industry has established its own pink fuel committee to investigate the possible hazards.

More in the 1997.04.28 NYTimes, pg. A7.

pink noise
Any noise with a power spectrum that falls as 1/f². Cf. white and brown noise.

Correspondence between circuit terminals and pins on the outside of a semiconductor package.

A Romanization (transliteration to Latin characters) of Chinese, based on the Mandarin pronunciation. This one was adopted by the PRC during the fifties, and became the standard in American journalism shortly after Nixon's ``opening to China,'' most noticeable in the sudden replacement of China's famous old capital city Peking by a previously unknown place called Beijing. Pin-Yin also has wide acceptance in Western academic use.

Unusual features of Pin-Yin include the use of ``x'' for the consonant typically written ``sh'' in English. There is precedent for this usage in various Romance languages of Iberia, especially if you go back a half a millenium or so, and it's still the practice in Catalan and, with some inconsistency, in Galician and Portuguese. More unusual is the use of ``q'' for some instances of the consonant written ``ch'' in English. There is also some precedent for this in one or another European language, I forget which.

The decision to base the new Romanization on Mandarin was natural, since that is by far the most widely used language variety, but it's unfortunate in yielding the least amount of spelling variety: Proto-Chinese was monosyllabic, but the Chinese varieties have been losing phonemes, none more so than Mandarin. Consequently, an estimated 70% percent of words used in ordinary Mandarin speech are now poly- (mostly di-) syllabic. This makes the spoken language less mysterious, while the writing system -- based on logograms -- is about as unambiguous as ever. However, the Romanization is essentially logogram-by-logogram, so because it is based on Mandarin the Romanization yields the least information about the component morphemes.

In the preceding paragraph, I have used the neutral term ``language variety'' in order to force a pun on ``spelling variety,'' but I have an excuse for using this relatively less common term rather than ``language'' or ``dialect.'' It is sometimes convenient to describe as ``language varieties'' two forms of speech that are mutually comprehensible to an intermediate degree (between dialects and distinct languages). That is not the case here, because the languages derived from Proto-Chinese that are widely used in China today clearly include what must be counted by linguists as different languages: speeches that are not at all mutually understood. And in modern linguistics, where spoken languages are concerned, it is the spoken form that is regarded as the basis for comparison, rather than any written form. That usually wouldn't affect the assignment, but the standard written form of the Chinese languages is logographic and makes the written expression of the one Chinese language substantially comprehensible to literate speakers of other Chinese languages. For this reason, the various Chinese languages have traditionally been regarded as ``dialects,'' and are so called even by many linguists.

Parallel Interface Output.

Person of (subcontinent) Indian Origin. More interesting alternatives: Desi and ABCD.

`Pious' in various Romance languages. Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish, at least, all without an accent. It's a regular development from the Latin pius, and in the three mentioned languages, the Latin proper noun Pius, used by a few popes, at least, is Pio.

Nickname of Philip Pirrip, protagonist of Charles Dickens's Great Expectations.

Small seed. Spanish cognate: pepa, `seed.' (A small seed is pepita. A small Pepe is Pepito.)

Back in English, `pip' can stand for anything small.

It's been verbed; at least in the UK, it can have the sense of `edge [out],' as in this quote from a BBC opinion piece (``NEWS: BUSINESS''):

The big question is whether the radical left-wing upstarts of Syriza will pip the established centre-right New Democracy to first place.

Package-In-Package. An approach to three-dimensional microelectronic circuit integration.

PhosphatidylInositol-4-Phosphate. Same as PtdIns 4-P. The bisphosphate is PIP2.

Picture-In-Picture. A primitive windowing system for the old boob-tube technology.

Plot Inconsistencies Project. ``A list of, and explanations for, all of the plot inconsistencies within the Red Dwarf TV series. Also lists production errors.'' Cf. BPIP.

Political Intellectual Property. Cool acronym, huh? I just invented it so I can avoid explicitly using the words political and intellectual in such close and uncomfortable proximity. Besides, it also suggests the usual intellectual magnitude of such IP.

Proximal InterPhalangeal (joint). The second knuckle from the end. That is, the closer (more proximal) of the two joints between phalanx. Cf. DIP.

Piping Industry Progress and Education. ``[A] Labor-Management Cooperation Committee that was formed to improve communications between labor and management, to study and explore new and innovative joint approaches to problems, to work to eliminate potential problems, to improve occupational safety and health and other working conditions within the plumbing and piping industry.''

pipe flow
The kind of flow that occurs in a closed channel (q.v.).

Parallel-In, Parallel-Out.

At various times and for various reasons, they performed independently of Gladys Knight. See the stealth acronym entry for some of their story.

Polymerization-Induced Phase Separation. A method for PDLC fabrication.

Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada. French initialism: IPFPC.

A pejorative term for someone unimposing either physically or socially. A term whose mere existence should have given pause to the coiners of ``PIPSC.''

PhosphatidylInositol-4,5-bisPhosphate. Same as PtdIns 4,5-P. The monophosphate is PIP.

Photon-Induced x-Ray.

Polyisocyanurate (polymer).

Program Information Report.


Prosopographia Imperii Romani (database).

Protein Identification Resources.

Provisional Irish Republican Army. The IRA.

`Pyre' in Spanish and Italian. (Feminine noun.)

A violent, carnivorous little fish with big teeth, found in the Amazon. When these fish attack, the water's surface seems to boil. [Pron. /pi:ranja/.] Affectionate nickname for traditional cleaning mix of sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide. Sulfuric acid works best hot, at a point where one is releasing lots of acid steam. With H2O2, it works well at merely 100°C. Moreover, no external heating is needed because first H2SO4 heat of solution, and then H2O2 heat of dissolution, heat the bath.

Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. PIRE describes itself as ``one of the nation's preeminent independent, nonprofit organizations merging scientific knowledge and proven practice to [blah, blah, and more blah].''

Public-Interest Research Group. An advocacy organization with its own agenda, typically funded by the student-activity dues of students without their own agenda.

Penning (-trap) Ionization Spectroscopy.

Program for International Student Assessment. A triennial embarrassment.

pis-aller, pis aller
French expression meaning `last resort,' borrowed in English with the same sense. Normally hyphenated in French, normally written as two words (without hyphen) in English. Despite the modification, the expression is not yet considered sufficiently naturalized that italics may be dispensed with (by those who haven't altogether dispensed with italicization of unnaturalized loans).

Literally, pis is `worse.' It should be noted, however, that French (like Spanish) has no inflectional distinction between comparative and superlative forms. This is a distinction, of course, that English can indicate by inflection (-er vs. -est). (Sacrebleu!) Superlative in French or Spanish is normally indicated by combining the comparative form (or ``nonabsolute'' form, if you prefer) with a definite article. (In the case of an expression like au pis, of course, the definite article is hidden by contraction into au.) The periphrastic construction of a superlative form does not always lend itself to a graceful idiom, so we should be ready, as in the case of pis-aller, to understand the comparative form as implicitly superlative. Aller is the infinitive of a verb meaning `to go,' but here it functions as a gerund. The gerund of choice in English, for odd historical reasons, is the present participle (`going').


Latin for `fish.'

PoISson and Continuity Equations Solver. Poisson, of course, is fish in French.

Spanish for `fish tank' and `swimming pool.' It sounds like a good pun in English. Now I think of it, in my family (from Argentina) a swimming pool is usually called a pileta or pileta de natación.

In Spanish: v. `I step' or masc. n. `floor.' More usage notes about the noun are at the this SICS entry.

Parallel-In, Serial-Out.

An abrupt depression in a flat surface.

Airport code for Pittsburgh.

Powder-In-Tube. Fabrication process for high-TC superconductors (HTSC).

Pain In The Anatomy. (``Anatomy'' here represents a specific part of the anatomy. Look, just because transparent coyness and polite euphemism have virtually disappeared from public discourse doesn't mean I must also be vulgar.)

Pi Tau Sigma
National Honorary Mechanical Engineering Society. Link from PTS.

Here are only some of the most common meanings of the word, when used as a noun:
  1. The least volatile fraction of tar. A sticky black or dark brown resin that was traditionally obtained by boiling tar. It was traditionally used as a final sealant over the caulked seams of a wooden boat's hull, and generally as a coating to protect wood.
  2. Anything that physically resembles pitch but is not known to be molasses. By physically resembles, I mean that it is viscous and sticky somewhere between room temperature ant the temperature of boiling water, hard at room temperature, and not even sticky at cold temperatures. And dark brown or black.
  3. The act of putting something down. The something is usually inanimate: pennies, drinks (hence pitcher), slop (I mean food), a tent, cricket wickets.
  4. The act of pitching oneself forward. Usually the ``one'' here -- the subject of the verb pitch -- is a vehicle. As in the pitch of a ship. A ship is said to pitch when its prow plunges. If you are drunk or pass out, you may pitch forward, but the act of doing so is not usually called a pitch.
  5. The angle between the direction of the relative wind (the wind velocity in an aircraft's reference frame) and a horizontal plane of the aircraft.
  6. Restricted subsets of the throws that take place within various ball games. For example, in baseball, pitches are only those throws by a baseball pitcher that, when thrown, can result in a strike or ball. (Of course, when any fielder throws very fast and straight, that may also be called a strike metonymically.) When the pitcher throws the ball to the catcher so he can pass it to the umpire for inspection or replacement, that's just a throw, not a pitch. (I'm going on the theory here that practice throws are not pitches.)
  7. A figurative throwing or casting that attempts to achieve some end for the thrower, particularly a sales pitch.
  8. Any thing pitched.
  9. A spot of land marked or occupied for pitching (in any loose sense of the last word), or where something has been pitched (as the wickets in cricket). (Or a spot in a river, for fishing.)
  10. Slope of a surface or of a feature in geology (e.g. vein, coal seam) or architecture (roof, stairs) away from horizontal.
  11. The height of any sloped thing.
  12. The height of any thing.
  13. The height of any thing, figuratively.
  14. The height -- in the sense of highness or lowness -- of audible sound.
  15. The frequency of a mechanical vibration or other periodic oscillation -- an extended sense of musical pitch.
  16. The common spacing between adjacent points, gear-tooth centers, screw threads, parallel scribed lines, etc. You know, the only reason I put this entry in in the first place was that when I first encountered the term pitch in the last sense -- as the spacing between adjacent lines in a pattern of lithographically defined lines on a semiconductor surface, it seemed an odd usage. Now I can see how it all hangs together.

The German word for pitch (the sticky-when-warm substance) is Pech. One of its meanings is `bad luck.'

A mineral consisting of the native oxides of uranium (mostly UO2, some UO3), with oxides of radium, lead, thorium, and rare earths. Marie Curie chemically separated most of the uranium compound from a large mass of pitchblende. What she was left with had a blue glow in the dark: radium oxide.

Pitchblende takes its name from its appearance in the form of deposits with a pitch-like luster (cf. zincblende). The general mineral is called uraninite, and in the rare instances when it is found in crystalline deposits, it is just called that and not pitchblende.

Principal, Interest, Taxes, and Insurance. Pay by the month, build equity.

Spanish noun meaning `whistle.'

Photo-Induced current Transient Spectroscopy. Or else Photo-induced current (I) Transient Spectroscopy. Acronym expansion is subtle work that often involves intellectual heavy lifting, oh yes.

You were looking for Pittsburgh but you can't spell worth a hill of beans! You would be lost if we weren't hear to save you.

Just so you won't feel so bad: there were a couple of decades when a meddling federal-government insisted that the name of Pittsburgh (along with all other US -burghs) be spelled without the h (see Pgh for some detail). As recently as 2001, a study found that Pittsburgh is the ``most misspelled city'' in America (see the misspelled city names entry). According to that study, the most common misspelling of Pittsburgh is Pittsburg.

Though the feds finally granted an exception to Pittsburgh in 1911, I think their action contributed to the misspelling problem. I mean ``contributed'' not just directly but indirectly, through the absence or paucity of -burgh names. In fact, there's even a Pittsburg in California that we mention at our Tempe entry.

Pittsburgh, founded in 1758, was named by General John Forbes in honor of William Pitt.

Apparently Pitt came to like the idea of having things named after himself. The next year, William Pitt's second son was born and he was named William, too. As the younger William Pitt went on to become prime minister of Britain, it is useful to distinguish Pittsburgh's Pitt as William Pitt the Elder. Regarding these two, it is worth noting that the Elder died very picturesquely. On May 11, 1778, he fell backwards into the arms of his son William, as the latter was reading to him the passage in Homer's Iliad on Hector's farewell.

Franz Boas (born in 1858), was the first professor of anthropology at Columbia University and a legend in his discipline. On December 21, 1942, he convened a luncheon at the faculty club in honor of Paul Rivet, a refugee recently arrived in New York from Nazi-occupied France. Sitting beside Boas was Claude Lévi-Strauss, another such refugee only less recently arrived. CLS was then still a future legend of anthropology; born in 1908, he celebrated his hundredth birthday this past November 28. I'm sure it was a wild party. Boas was enveighing against the pseudo-scientific race theories of the Nazis when he collapsed. He died holding the arms of CLS. It was looked back on afterwards as a passing of the torch.

Peak Inverse Voltage. Reverse bias at which diode begins to conduct significantly.

Informal plural of picture.

{ Particle | Proton }-Induced X-ray Emission.

PIXEL, pixel
PICTure ELement. Here are some remarks from whatis.com.

Protocol Implementation eXtra Information for Testing.

pizza "deep dish" +Chicago
This is a sample search string that the Alta Vista search engine used to give, back when it was more important. A lot of people probably cut-and-paste it in and see what they get. As soon as Alta Vista updated its entry on the page with this entry, we expected to see the hit rate really take off. Before then, if you searched with this string you got a lot of pages with search-engine links.

In the event (which occurred in the fall of 1996), the page with this entry (it was P.html at the time) was consistently among the three most-visited pages of this site.

PaJama. Also PyJama. Looks funny written in mixed cases like that, when there's a descender between upper-case characters. I think Ogden Nash wrote it with a wye.

Partido Justicialista. Roughly, `justice party.' Normally translated, or glossed, as the `Peronist Party' (los Peronistas). The most popular local flavor of insanity. From the time of the first government (1945-1955) of Juan Perón until the second (1973-1975), roughly speaking, this was the most popular party in Argentina. A junta brought an end to the second Perón period, conducted the infamous Dirty War, invaded the Falklands, and eventually allowed free elections in 1983. The presidential election was unexpectedly won by Raúl Alfonsín, standard-bearer for the UCR.

Pointer Justification Count.

Pacific Justice Institute. It's ``a non-profit 501(c)(3) legal defense organization specializing in the defense of religious freedom, parental rights, and other civil liberties. Pacific Justice Institute works diligently, without charge, to provide their clients with all the legal support they need.'' For an example of their work, read about Charles and Stephanie Fromm.

(Domain code for) Pakistan. The origin of the name is explained at the Pakistan entry.

The Pakistan News Service (PNS) offers a hypertext faq.

PeaceKeep{ er | ing }. Coincidentally, many UN PK's are from the domain known to computers as .pk

Penalty Kick. Where will you take it?

Potential of the equilibrium constant K: -log[K]. The equilibrium constant is the one appearing the law of mass action for a reaction. Cf. pH.

PreKindergarten. Nursery School.

Press Kit.

Pyruvate Kinase.


Public-Key Infrastructure..

Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan. Kurdish for `Kurdistan Workers' Party.' It has had a couple of name changes, and is now usually referred to by expressions of the form ``Foobar (formerly known as the PKK).''

Passenger KiloMeter[s]. About 0.6 passenger mile[s].

PeaceKeeping Operation. A large susbet of PKO's is UNPKO's.

Polskie Koleje Panstowe. Polish (.pl) national railways. Name may have changed.

PhenylKetonUria. People who have PKU should avoid aspartame (`NutraSweet' is the brand name). If like me, you irrigate yourself internally with a few daily six-packs of diet soda, you may have wondered if you might be a phenylketonuric who should be avoiding this possibly dangerous behavior. You are not. The untreated disorder expresses itself in infancy or early childhood, causes mental retardation, seizures and hyperactivity. Screening of neonates for the disorder is now nearly universal. It's rare, and if you had it you'd either know it or be in such a bad way that you'd neither know it nor care.

PKU is a disorder in metabolism of the amino acid phenylalanine. Specifically, there is a deficiency of the enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase, which converts phenylalanine to tyrosine. As a result, phenylalanine accumulates in the blood, and the increased amounts of the breakdown product phenylpyruvic acid appear in urinary excretion. The treatment is a low-phenylalanine diet with tyrosine supplementation.

Here's a great deal more from NIH.

Phil(lip W.) Katz ZIP. Text compression freeware.

In a 1993 Milwaukee Journal interview, Katz said the concept behind PKZip was launched at his mother's kitchen table in 1986. It started as a hobby and grew into a successful business. On April 14, 2000, Katz was found dead in a motel room, holding one of the six empty liquor bottles in the room.

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