This Week in Words: Current Events Vocab for December 11–December 17, 2021

December 13, 2021
Stories about shooting stars, cats that live in a palace, and speedy dinosaurs all contributed words to this list of vocabulary from the week's news.
Scientists in northern Spain have discovered fossilized footprints that suggest some two-legged dinosaurs were surprisingly agile. Analysis showed that the therapods that left the prints 120 million years ago were moving at about 28 miles per hour. These nimble animals stood as tall as six feet and measured about 13 feet from head to tail. Agile derives from the Latin agilis, "quick," and a root meaning "to move."
On December 15, the New York City Council approved a bill to ban natural gas from all new buildings. The restriction means that only electric power will be permitted for heating and cooking, a major move for the largest U.S. city, and one that’s predicted to influence the way other cities worldwide work to combat climate change. Prohibiting gas-powered appliances is intended to reduce emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.
During testimony before a Senate subcommittee, Instagram's CEO announced that the company will bring back its chronological feed early next year. Responding to questions about the app's negative impact on its youngest users, Adam Mosseri said Instagram will offer an option to see photos in sequential order. Currently, the media feed uses an algorithm which critics say pushes users to content that can damage their mental health. The root of chronological means "time."
Seven exhibition spaces at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York will no longer display the Sackler name. The Sackler family has donated millions of dollars to the Met and other museums over the past 50 years; they also control the drug company Purdue Pharma, the producer of OxyContin, and have been implicated in the opioid crisis. Although the Met stopped accepting donations from the Sacklers in 2019, several galleries still displayed their name until now.
At the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, nearly 50 feline residents are treated like royalty. The cats that freely roam the building's basement are cared for by on-call veterinarians and fed by the museum’s staff. There's even a dedicated kitty press secretary. The museum is the former site of the tsars' official residence, the Winter Palace. While visitors rarely see the feline inhabitants, they often hear distant meowing. The Latin root, felis, means "cat."
A team of scientists is mapping underground fungi for the first time, in an effort to better understand the spore-producing organisms. One biologist described the microscopic networks beneath the soil as "Amazon forests of the underground," composed of species that play a large role in keeping carbon in the soil. Fungi help to extend the root systems of trees, decompose animals and plants, and recycle nutrients into the earth around them — but much remains unknown about them.
On December 13, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had a historic meeting with Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates. It was the first time an Israeli leader had ever made an official visit to the UAE. The momentous encounter, which occurred about a year after the two countries signed a normalization agreement, was widely seen as the result of their shared security concerns about Iran.
As inflation reaches record levels in Europe, many workers are demanding higher pay in order to keep up with surging prices. The cost of living across the European Union has increased nearly five percent in recent months, and people in many industries are seeking wage hikes to keep up. Metalworkers, bank employees, and supermarket workers have all successfully argued for pay raises. The economic meaning of inflation was first used in 19th-century American English.
Ecologists say that about one-fifth of the Great Basin, an area that stretches across parts of California, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, and Utah, is covered with invasive grasses. Plants like cheatgrass dominate more than 45,000 acres of land, spreading rapidly and pushing out native species, including sagebrush and wildflowers. Scientists note that the aggressive, exotic plants are also more flammable, resulting in more frequent wildfires.
Wildlife officials usually frown on feeding wild animals, as it's often harmful to them. Florida's manatee population, however, are an exception. Over the past year, the large marine mammals have become malnourished: the sea grasses they normally eat have died off due to algae blooms caused by humans. Officials have decided to feed the starving manatees cabbage and other leafy greens. Malnourished is from mal-, "bad," and nourish, "feed."
The Geminid meteor shower reached its peak on December 13, sending glowing streaks across the night sky. The shooting stars were most visible around 2 a.m. in places with low cloud cover, and about 50 meteors per hour were produced overnight. The shower is named for the constellation Gemini, from which the incandescent light bands appear to originate, though the meteors are actually chunks of a distant, rocky comet.
Research published this week in Current Biology may explain why nearly all birds that make an annual long-distance flight have something in common: light-colored feathers. The study showed that migratory birds are paler than their non-migrating relatives and suggested that the light color helps them stay cool during their migration. Heat generated during the trip seems to be mitigated by paler feathers, and the farther the birds travel, the paler they tend to be.
After a year of controversy and an announcement by NBC that the network would not broadcast the awards show, the Golden Globes released a list of nominations on December 13. It's still unclear who will participate in the ceremony and where it will be aired, but it's now certain who will be eligible to win an award on January 9. Nominees included the films King Richard and Belfast, as well as the television shows Succession and Hacks.
The creator of a group known as Birds Aren't Real has confirmed that it is a parody, a humorous imitation of a conspiracy theory-fueled social movement. Peter McIndoe, who invented the satirical theory in 2017, had pretended to be a true believer in the idea that birds don't exist but are actually government surveillance drones. Followers, who are in on the joke, have staged protests and spread talking points, subtly commenting on the ridiculousness of many actual conspiracy theories.
In a paper published this week, researcher Chris Maher argued against the scientific validity of using placebos to treat patients with chronic fatigue and other conditions. Although some scientists support prescribing fake medication which patients believe is real, Maher says placebo studies rarely compare results to control groups. Drug trials have shown some benefit from inert pills, but critics caution that treating patients with them without further study may be harmful.
Multiple tornadoes touched down across six states late on December 17, killing at least 88 people. The violently windy twisters uprooted trees, destroyed houses, and tore down power lines. In Kentucky, damage from the storms was particularly severe; one tornado traveled at ground level for nearly 200 miles, flattening buildings as it went. Recovery efforts continued for several days. The Latin root of tornado means "thunder."
On December 13, streets throughout Yemen were filled with revelers celebrating the title win of the country's under-15 boys' soccer team, which defeated Saudi Arabia. Over the past seven years, Yemenis have been violently divided, but even in the midst of an active civil war, the victory of their underdog team briefly united the country. The players faced unusual adversity and challenges in their fight to achieve the title, and the opposing team had been strongly favored to win.
On December 13, eight Hong Kong activists were sentenced to prison time for participating in a vigil commemorating 1989's Tiananmen Square massacre. For the past 31 years, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China has organized a peaceful, silent observance of the anniversary. This summer, the activists held the vigil in defiance of a new ban on unauthorized assembly. Vigil is derived from a Latin word that means "watchful."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a prescription eye drop that can replace reading glasses for some people. The medication improves vision for those who don’t see well at close range, a condition that affects 90 percent of people over age 45. Reading glasses work by magnifying type; Vuity, which became available this week, improves eyesight for several hours, improving the ability to focus by constricting the pupil. Vision stems from a root that means "to see."
NASA launched the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer mission this week, sending the first-ever x-ray telescope into space. Astronomers think they will be better able to measure black holes and supernovas using the device's high-energy electromagnetic radiation. X-rays can pass through objects in a way that allows scientists to view details that can't be seen in visible light, making them a useful tool for understanding hidden parts of the universe.

Rate this wordlist:

Do you have a comment?

Share it with the Visual Thesaurus community.

Your comments:

Sign in to post a comment!

We're sorry, you must be a subscriber to comment.

Click here to subscribe today.

Already a subscriber? Click here to login.

Create a new Word List