Technical Words

Writing a SCP can be hard, we know. It can be hard coming up with a good idea. It can be hard to get the clinical tone down right, especially if you're a new writer or are used to writing in a different, more plot-based style. That being said, there are certain common misuses of technical terminology which drive us nuts. Try to not abuse these words.

Grammar & General Word Usage

you're/your, there/they're/their, to/too/two, its/it's
These are the most commonly abused words online. If they were animals, they'd be starring in an ASPCA commercial specifically designed to make you feel ashamed of being a human being. You can look up their correct usage pretty much anywhere online. MAKE SURE YOU DON'T FUCK THESE UP.
Another commonly abused word pair. Although the two words are related, "affect" is a verb and "effect" is a noun (usually). To "affect" something is to make some sort of change or influence to it. An "effect" is whatever the result of that change or influence is. You affect something to have an effect on it. To make things more complicated, "effect" can also be used as a verb meaning to bring about or cause (e.g. "to effect change"), and "affect" can be used as a noun meaning the observable parts of their emotional state (e.g. "the agent spoke calmly and emotionlessly, with a flat affect.")
On this site, that pretty much means one thing: "intentionally executed or killed as an outcome of a policy process". It's also terribly over-used. Try just saying "killed", or say they were transferred to another project or returned to the D-class workforce or something. See also How To Write An SCP:Creative Writing Tips 'Terminate'
theory vs hypothesis; theorize vs hypothesize
The scientific use of these terms is more strict than in non-scientific parlance. A hypothesis is a specific, testable statement, typically following the lines of "when X occurs, Y will follow," as in "When given candy, SCP-XXX will develop a giggle fit." When observation or experimentation agrees with a hypothesis, that hypothesis is said to be supported (not proven - hypotheses cannot be proven, only disproved). A theory is a general synthesis: it has broad explanatory power because it ties together a suite of observations, well-supported hypotheses, and scientific laws into a unified framework. Thus, Foundation researchers making educated guesses about the nature of an SCP are hypothesizing, not theorizing.

Physical Sciences

Quantities and Units

This is a math-based term which a lot of people seem to think just means "a whole lot". This is not the case. It means that something is changing at an ever faster increasing or decreasing rate (yes, exponential means it can be getting smaller, too) in a manner similar to ekx, where e is the Euler number and k is any constant.(2x and e-2x are both exponential functions, x10 isn't.) Saying something like "it's exponentially hard" is meaningless A) without a standard baseline "hardness" to compare it to and B) unless the "hardness" is actually changing. See how the following is changing faster and faster:
x= 0 (baseline) 1 2 3 4 5
2x= 1 2 4 8 16 32
2-x= 1 0.5 0.25 0.125 0.0625 0.03125
x2= 0 1 4 9 16 25
x1/2= 0 1 1.414 1.732 2 2.236
Unit designations & Prefixes
This covers a variety of the hard sciences, so I'm putting it here rather than in one of the more specific sub-categories. Obviously you need to use the correct unit for whatever your scientific measurement is (and remember that we use metric, not Imperial units), but also note that the capitalization matters. There are only so many letters available to use for unit/prefix abbreviations, and one of the ways that the scientific community tries to stretch them is to use upper and lower case capitalization to indicate different things, and even then there's some unavoidable overlapping. "L" is not the same thing as "l", "M" is not the same thing as "m" (which can actually mean either "meters" or "milli" depending on usage), "G" is not the same thing as "g", etc. It would take too much room to include a complete list of units, but there is a quick guide to unit prefixes:
Prefix Name Prefix Abbreviation Multiplication Factor
tera T 1 000 000 000 000 (1012)
giga G 1 000 000 000 (109)
mega M 1 000 000 (106)
kilo k 1 000 (103)
milli m 0.001 (10-3)
(1/1 000)
micro μ or u 0.000 001 (10-6)
(1/1 000 000)
nano n 0.000 000 001 (10-9)
(1/1 000 000 000)
pico p 0.000 000 000 001 (10-12)
(1/1 000 000 000 000)
Unit naming
By scientific convention, units of measure that are named after people are always written in lower case when the unit name is spelled out in full, but with an upper case initial when abbreviated. So the unit of power is the watt (not Watt), abbreviated W; the unit of energy is the joule (not Joule), abbreviated J; and so on.


ray vs. wave
A ray is a directed, targeted emanation of a substance, such as light or radiation. It can be focused to affect a much tighter (or larger) effect zone, but there will be some spreading at the target, even if it's only very slight. It can travel through a vacuum. A wave is a force effect that has to travel through a medium. Sound is a wave, because it's vibrations (force) in a substance like air or water. A wave can be pointed in a specific direction, but tends to spread out much more than a ray. It cannot travel without something to travel in. Note: Light is a special case, in that it acts both like a particle and like a wave. It can be confusing, so try to read up on what effect you're intending of it before saying one way or the other.
Quantum Physics
The study of physics at the atomic and subatomic scale, where particles react in ways that seem to make very little sense. Since even scientists get headaches thinking about quantum physics, all you really need to know for this site is that you should never use the word "Quantum" to describe anything in an SCP article, unless ESPECIALLY IF you actually know something about quantum physics.
Voltage, or Potential Difference, unit volt (V) or joule/coulomb (J/C), is the measure of energy per unit charge the charge carriers possess in a flow. Example of high voltage , very low current circuit is the shock you get from static electricity when you walk around on dry carpetting. Its water analogy is pressure.
Current, unit ampere (A) or coulomb/second (C/s), is the measure of charge carrier flow in a circuit. An example of large current, low voltage flow would be the current through the tip of a soldering gun. Its water analogy is volumetric flow rate.
Power (electrical)
Power, unit watt (W) or joule/second (J/s), is the measure of rate of change of energy with time. In the case of electric circuit, it is the dot product of voltage and current. (P = V∙I = VI cos k , where k is the phase angle). Its water analogy is still power - this concept exists across all physics.
dielectric breakdown strength
The maximum electric field an insulator can sustain before it breaks down, and starts conducting current. For dry air, this value is about 3kV/mm - that is, a potential difference of 3000 V must exist for each millimetre of an air gap before the gap can support an electric arc. A natural example of dielectric breakdown of air is lightning. Its water analogy would be the pressure sustained by a thickness of barrier before it breaks - think of a bit of balloon skin tied over the end of a water faucet.
Energy can be defined as "the ability a physical system has to do work on other physical systems" (Wikipedia). It can appear in several forms, such as kinetic (movement) energy, electromagnetic radiation, and potential energy. Energy cannot be destroyed or created, but only changed into other forms of energy or matter. There is no such thing as 'pure energy', as energy cannot be impure, though it is sometimes used in reference to the energy of mass, which is released as high-energy photons and low-mass particles such as pions. Also note that 'energy beings' of science fiction are often formed from plasma, which possesses energy but is still a phase of matter. Because energy can come in many forms, it is important to specify what kind of energy the SCP uses/produces/whatever, if that energy usage is critical to the concept. We don't need to know that your computer SCP runs on electricity, but if your SCP "emits a mysterious energy", we need to know if it's kinetic (the sucker vibrates), electromagnetic (it pulsates with light &/or radiation), electrical (electrical sparks cover it at all times), etc.
Mass vs Weight
Mass & weight are two separate properties of matter, but the difference is a subtle one that most people don't think about. The mass of an object, measured in kilograms or pounds (lbm) measures the amount of matter there's in an object. A direct measurement of this would follow from measuring the inertia of the object, then working out the radius of gyration for its geometry, and using the equation. I = mr^2. The weight of an object, measured in Newtons, pound-force (lbf) or kilogram-force, is a measurement of the force by which an object is pulled by gravity. A good example of measuring weight would be a spring balance. If we know the acceleration due to gravity, it is possible to convert between the two properties using the equation (F=mg). Due to the units' definition, most non-scientists don't distinguish between them, and it is fine as long as you are on Earth, or (since we're at the Foundation) nowhere near a gravity-altering anomaly. Once g changes, the usage of especially kilograms can get confusing since eg. on the Moon (which has a gravitational field cca 1/6 of that on earth) an object that has a mass of 6kg has a weight of 1kg. In short, when using kg or pounds, specify whether you are referring to mass or weight.
Force is defined as the application of acceleration on a mass (F=ma). What this means is that the rate of the change in speed (velocity) of an object is what defines the amount of force being applied to it. Imagine it like this: you're in space and throw something. While it's in your hand and you're swinging it forward, the amount of speed is changing from still to maximum speed when you let go, so it's being accelerated and you're exerting a force on it. Once you let it go, though, it just coasts along without changing its direction or speed; there isn't any force acting on it. This is slightly counter-intuitive to some people, because if you did this on Earth, it would drop down towards the ground. That's because we're all constantly being accelerated towards the Earth by gravity. It's also why you feel slightly heavier when an elevator first starts moving upwards: you are slightly heavier, because there was some acceleration right when the elevator started.
Velocity vs Acceleration
Another pair of physics concepts that sometimes get confused. Velocity is, essentially, the rate of travel in a given direction (metres per second), how great a distance something travels in a certain direction within a certain amount of time (v=d/t). Acceleration is a change in velocity (a=v/t), whether it's how fast something is going or what direction it's traveling in (angular velocity and acceleration). The gas pedal in a car is more properly known as the accelerator, because it's used to increase the speed of the vehicle. Gravity is constantly accelerating us towards the Earth, otherwise we'd fly off in a straight line as the world spun away from us.
Though the term 'radiation' is most commonly applied by the public to refer to that produced by nuclear decay, the term 'radiation' itself refers to a process through which particles or waves move through space (or another medium).
Electromagnetic Radiation
A form of energy emitted and absorbed by charged particles, with both electric and magnetic field components (though it itself is not affected by magnets). Electromagnetic radiation acts sometimes like a wave and sometimes like a particle: hence 'wave/particle duality'. Different forms of electromagnetic radiation are determined by their wavelength, which changes in proportion to frequency. Radio waves have the greatest wavelength (microwaves are at the smaller end of the radio spectrum), then infrared, then visible light, then ultraviolet radiation, and then X-rays and gamma radiation. The last two are also ionising radiation.
Ionising Radiation
A person on the street would likely refer to this as 'atomic radiation'. Ionising radiation is radiation with the ability to remove electrons from atoms without needing to raise their temperature. Forms include alpha radiation, formed of two protons and two neutrons without any electrons; beta radiation, which is either a high-energy electron or a high-energy positron (anti-electron); gamma radiation, which is also electromagnetic radiation; and neutrons (though they ionise indirectly). Different forms of ionising radiation have different ionising and penetrative abilities. They can cause Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS) if a human absorbs a short, intense burst of radiation, or Chronic Radiation Syndrome if the irradiation occurs over a longer time. Both of these can be referred to as 'radiation sickness' or 'radiation poisoning'.
Cherenkov Radiation
This type of radiation is caused by radioactive decay particles travelling faster than that of light in a water medium. It is visible as a blue glow.
Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)
Contra most video games, an EMP is not an electronic "stun" that temporarily disables an electronic device. An EMP is a burst of electromagnetic radiation that uses electromagnetic induction to generate a destructively large current in electronics. Loosely speaking, an EMP causes a region of space to suddenly have a lot of magnetism, and then very little. "Amount" of magnetism (the technical term is magnetic flux) is equal to the area of the region times the strength of the magnetic field (technically, magnetic flux density) in it. Now if you have a closed circuit in a magnetic field, a change in the flux density of the field will increase the magnetic flux, which in turn produces a current in the circuit proportional to the rate of change. So if you have the magnetic flux density change by a large amount in a small period of time, which is what happens when you use an EMP, there's going to be a correspondingly large, quick change in magnetic flux, and you're going to have a very big current. And when you have a very big current, your circuit gets very hot, and tends to melt or cause things around it to burn. This is why we have fuses: so that, if there's too much current in the circuit for some reason, the circuit is broken before anything melts or catches fire. The upshot is, electronics exposed to EMPs have their circuits melted and thus permanently destroyed, NOT temporarily deactivated. Also, since magnetic flux is a product of flux density and area, a small circuit such as that in a wristwatch may not be affected by a weaker EMP, unless its electronics are particularly sensitive. It is also possible to "harden" electronics through a variety of means to protect them against weaker EMPs, there's no way to make them completely immune to an arbitrarily strong EMP. As a side note one of the most reliable ways to produce an EMP is with a nuke exploded in the air, because of some funky stuff that happens with the ionosphere. So if your story or SCP involves nukes exploding, you might want to take that into account.


Atoms vs. molecules
Atoms are the building blocks of normal matter. They consist of protons, usually neutrons (hydrogen-1 has none) and electrons. A molecule is a simply two or more atoms that are joined together to form a specific structure, which can be either a solid, liquid, gas or plasma depending on pressure and temperature. When describing something, "atomic" and "molecular" do not mean the same thing.
Isotopes are atoms of the same element that have a variable number of neutrons. Deuterium, for example, is an isotope of hydrogen, with one neutron (as opposed to hydrogen-1’s zero). Convention for writing isotopes is element-(mass number), eg. uranium-235, californium-252.
Ions are atoms that have a net charge, caused by the loss (increasing positive charge) or gain of electrons (increasing negative charge). Atoms can be ionised by transferring electrons to other atoms, extremes of temperature and very extreme pressures, or by being bombarded with ionising radiation (high UV to gamma and the various alpha and beta radiations- neutrons can also indirectly ionise).
pH , or the potency of Hydrogen, is -1 times the decimal logarithm of H+ concentration. (so for example, 0.1 molar concentration of H+ (1 mol/litre) corresponds to a pH of 1.) In neutral water at RTP, due to self-dissociation (H+ OH- and H2O exist in a balance very favouring the second), the concentration of both OH- and H+ is 10^-7, hence the pH of a neutral solution is 7. Rising pH corresponds to lower concentrations of H+ and higher concentrations of OH- (the product of the two is 10^-14 at RTP), hence, basic solutions; lower pH corresponds to higher concentrations of H+ and hence acidic solutions.
RTP - room temperature and pressure - 25 degrees Celsius temperature, 1 atmosphere pressure. STP - standard temperature and pressure - 0 degrees Celsius temperature, 1 atmosphere pressure.
The Bronsted-Lowry definition of an acid states that it is a substance able to donate a proton (H+ ion). Acids are generally divided into strong acids and weak acids. Strong acids (such as HCL, hydrochloric acid) dissociate completely in solution, while weak acids (such as CH3COOH, acetic acid) don't - undissociated acid will remain in solution at equilibrium. Acids tend to react with bases in a reaction known as "neutralization", usually forming H2O as one of the products, the other being called a salt.
The Bronsted-Lowry definition of an base states that it is a substance able to accept a proton. A common base is sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3)1 Once again, a strong base (such as lye, NaOH) dissociates completely, while a weak base, (such as ammonia, NH3) doesn't.
A base that contains releases OH- ions into solution. An example would be lye - NaOH, which dissociates into Na+ and OH- when dissolved in water. An example of a base that isn't an alkali would be CaCO3 , or chalk. Direct alkali exposure can also cause burns, similar to exposure to concentrated acids.
The product of a neutralization - reaction between an acid and an alkali. The most well-known salt is probably "table salt" NaCl, (NaOH + HCl -> NaCl + H2O) but as just an example, most soaps are a salt, made by a reaction of a lye (usually KOH or NaOH) with fatty acids present in animal or plant fats)


minerals vs. rocks
A mineral is a naturally formed chemical composition that has specifically defined characteristics and a molecular structure. All known minerals are solids. Common examples of minerals are quartz, diamond and aragonite. Rocks are basically mineral aggregates. They have no specific composition. Examples include granite and basalt.

Biological Sciences


First of all, we are discussing evolution from a biological standpoint here. Now: evolution is something that refers to changes in a species, not an individual. It's the accumulation of changes to a population that results in a total overall, average drift in the characteristics of the species as a whole that results in the species being better able to survive in its environment. Evolution is neither good nor bad and, in the real world, does not have a goal. Evolution does not think. Saying something is "more evolved" than something else is a meaningless phrase and does not mean "is better/more complex/more powerful". Humans evolved from ancient monkeys, but that doesn't mean that we're "more evolved" than chimpanzees. It just means that we evolved differently than they did.
Basically, these guys are biological catalysts. That is, they speed up the rate of a reaction without changing the equilibrium of said reaction or being changed themselves in the process. Virtually all known enzymes are proteins.
parasitic vs. parasitoid

To quote Wikipedia:
"Parasitism is differentiated from the parasitoid relationship, though not sharply, by the fact that parasitoids generally kill or sterilise their hosts."
If your object usually consumes or is otherwise fatal to the host, use "parasitoid", otherwise use "parasitic". Both types can use parasitic as a page tag.

binomial nomenclature (courtesy of Photosynthetic)

There is a very specific set of rules for formatting organisms' scientific names. Please use them correctly.

Species names are always italicized. They consist of two words: the first word is the genus name and the second is the specific epithet. The genus name is always capitalized, and the specific epithet never is: Homo sapiens, Cymothoa exigua, Hypsibius dujardini. Names of genera may be used alone, to refer to all species in the genus: Homo, Cymothoa, Hypsibus. Names of higher-level taxa — families, orders, classes, phyla, kingdoms — are capitalized, but not italicized: Hominidae, Hymenophyllaceae, Malacostraca, Tardigrada.

To denote a subspecies, just add the second specific epithet: Homo sapiens sapiens, Ursus arctos horribilis. To denote a variety, add "var." (not italicized) before the second specific epithet: Hebe salicifolia var. stricta.

When a species is mentioned several times in the same report, or when two species of the same genus are referred to in quick succession, the genus name can be abbreviated — but only after the first time it is fully spelled out. At that point, you can replace it with its initial: H. sapiens, C. exigua, H. dujardini.

For further details, see Wikipedia's articles on binomial nomenclature and biological classification.

Venom vs poison; venomous vs poisonous
Though both venoms and poisons are toxins, the terms are not interchangeable. Venoms are animal toxins delivered via active injection, generally through fangs, stingers, cnidocysts, or the like. Poisons can be biological in origin or purely chemical. Poison enter the body via inhalation, ingestion, or direct contact, such as with poison ivy, newt skin, and so on. If you were to eat the venom glands of a rattlesnake, you'd be poisoned, not envenomated.

Neurology & Mental

sentient vs. sapient
This pair gets confused to mean the same thing A LOT, so don't feel too bad for using them interchangably. Just learn to not do it. Technically speaking (which is what we're going for here), "sentient" just means that the creature has the ability to sense and react to its environment. Animals are sentient, some plants are sentient, objects can be sentient if they're obviously reacting to environmental cues. "Sapient" means that it can think (it's right in the name of our species: Homo sapiens sapiens). Most animals are not sapient, no regular plants are, but electronic intelligences might be. A short-hand might be to ask whether or not the creature is capable of being aware that it's thinking about something.

IQ (courtesy of Quikngruvn)

The statistic called IQ (Intelligence Quotient) is defined as a normal distribution with mean μ=100 and standard deviation σ=15. The upshot is that you can calculate what percentage of a population should have an IQ above (or below) certain values, especially when Wikipedia provides these values out to 6σ. Anyway, the percentage of population with greater than a given IQ:

100: 50.00%, 1 out of every 2
115: 15.87%, 1 out of every 6
130: 2.275%, 1 out of every 44
145: 0.1350%, 1 out of every 741
160: 0.003167%, 1 out of every 31,574
175: 0.00002867%, 1 out of every 3,488,557
190: 0.00000009865%, 1 out of every 1,013,684,744

So right now, there should be six or seven people in the whole world with an IQ of at least 190. (Conversely, there should also be six or seven people in the world right now with an IQ of less than 10.) How IQ is actually quantified is left as an exercise to the reader (though the method used isn't so important if they all use the same scale).

What about Marilyn vos Savant and her record high IQ? Essentially, her score of 228 came from older testing methodologies (using the ratio of mental age to chronological age) and so she wouldn't score so high on newer tests, in addition to the inherent difficulties in measuring extremes of intelligence. On this scale, she would score at least 185.

(Drewbear's addition) Also note that essentially all mainstream IQ tests in use nowadays rate on several scales which address different functional areas such as working memory, processing speed and verbal comprehension. They do NOT test things such as personality or creativity, as these are much, much harder to quantify. IQ testing is also sensitive to environmental conditions like how the testee is feeling that day, what the weather is like (seriously. It influences mood and performance), and how recently the testee has had a similar test. It's perfectly common to see scores vary a bit, so someone could get a score of 101 one time and 98 another.

Finally, keep in mind that IQ testing is based on average human populations and experiences. It would be very difficult to say a non-human intelligence has an IQ score of X.

memetic vs. cognitohazard
Read this for a more detailed explanation & treatment of memetics.
amnesiacs vs. amnestics
Technically, an amnesiac is someone with amnesia and an amnestic is something that causes amnesia. HOWEVER, on this site they've become essentially interchangeable to mean something that causes amnesia, due to institutional tradition. Feel free to use either as you prefer, but don't insist that an author use "amnestics" if they've stated they prefer to use "amnesiacs". It's treated as a stylistic choice.
schizophrenia and other mental disorders
Too often, schizophrenia is used as a stand-in for a generic or unknown mental disorder or trauma. In actuality, schizophrenia is a specific mental illness marked by a diverse collection of symptoms, not all of which need be present in any one patient. These symptoms include delusions, 'word-salad', catatonia, hallucinations, disjointed thought processes as well as behaviour, and unusual or inappropriate emotional responses, among others. but schizophrenic does not automatically mean violent or dangerous. (It also doesn't mean "split personality"— 'split personality' would be one form dissociative identity disorder might take- if it exists.) Unless you're referring to that particular mental illness (or another specific disorder), you should use a more general term, such as psychosis (a term which covers a broad range of mental disorders, including schizophrenia). Schizophrenia can be treated by 'talk therapy' as well as a huge variety of drugs. In rare cases it may be 'cured', but it is typically regarded as a life-long condition after onset. Given the diversity of symptoms of schizophrenia it is often classified into a wide variety of subtypes and there is considerable debate as to whether it is really just one disease or many. If schizophrenia forms a major part of your article you should at minimum read the whole wikipedia article on it, or the entry in the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders.

Medicine and Diseases

In general, all diseases are mostly different. Symptoms, advancement, and how the virus/bacteria function are not consistent from disease to disease. The point is that you know the details of whatever ailment you are talking about. This can refer to genetic disorders as well.
"Cancer" is not a single kind, strain, genus, etc. Cancer is a mutation of cells that grow exponentially. Cancer is not an organism. There are thousands of kinds of cancers, and Wikipedia as well as other scholarly journals can give you specifics. Both genetic predisposition and environmental conditions contribute to whether or not someone could develop cancer.
A prion is essentially a misfolded protein. The reason they cause diseases such as BSE is that their presence causes similar proteins to misfold in a similar way (the process how isn't known precisely at the moment), resulting in a chain reaction. Misfolded proteins don't quite work as they should, which causes tissue damage (all known prion-induced diseases damage the central nervous system) - for example, the holes and sponge-like structure that give BSE its name. The main problem with them is they are hard to denature - the WHO standard sterillisation procedure involves applying caustic soda solution, then putting it in autoclave. The immune system doesn't recognise them as infectious agents either - as a result, prion infections don't get better, and aren't curable, either.
And well, that's kind of it. Prions aren't alive - they exhibit even less characteristics of living things than viruses do. As such, pencil-thick strands of prion that behave like worms or similar nonsense are a one-way ticket to Stumptown.

Engineering & Technology

Force per unit area of cross-section it's applied at. Usually measured in megapascals (MPa). Related to strain by Young's modulus.
Change in length of an object per unit length, usually in response to stress. No unit.
failure strain
A measure of how far can a material be stretched before it ruptures. Subtly different from tensile strength - while in general, materials rate high (metals) or low (ceramics) on both properties, composites (such as wood or CFRP) are tough (high tensile strength), but their failure strain is low.
tensile strength
Maximum tensile stress a sample can withstand - a measure of how strongly can a material be stretched before it ruptures. Spider silk has a higher tensile strength than steel, and rubber has a higher tensile strength than glass fibers.
Hardness is the measurement of how difficult it is to permanently deform a piece of a given material by the application of force. The usual way to measure it is Vickers Hardness (HV)2 - this is done by forcing a pyramid made of a very hard material into the tested sample's surface with a predefined load, measuring the indent's size, and reading the corresponding hardness off a table. A harder material will normally also be more brittle, as they usually can't deform plastically very well. (rubber is an exception). For example, obsidian is harder than copper, but shatters very easily.
Nanotechnology and "nanobots" are not magic. Let me repeat that: NANOTECHNOLOGY AND "NANOBOTS" ARE NOT MAGIC. First, nanotechnology is already in use today in manufacturing and medicine in order to design and build new materials that are difficult to create on a macroscale. Second, "nanobots" are machines, first and foremost, only on a very tiny scale. And size restrictions mean that they don't have very complicated instructions. Most nanomachines in use today rely on manipulating the natural responses of certain molecular/atomic interactions in order to move around other atoms or molecules. Their "programming" tends to be very simple due to their size and info-storage capacity, and they tend to specialize at a very few activities (although multiple different types of machines would be able to work together). And while having a few million nanomachines working in concert could definitely fuck some shit up hardcore, they ultimately operate fully under the known laws of physics.

Computers, Computing & Software

upload vs download vs transfer
The difference between "upload" and "download" is as subtle as the prefix of each word: upload implies that you are sending information from the source you are working on to another location, while download implies you are taking it from another location to your own. The terms "upload" and "download" are most commonly used in networking situations (such as from a server or the general internet). With attached devices such as external hard drives and "USB keys", the term transfer is more commonly used (as in "the data was transferred to the external hard drive") although this is personal preference. With optical media, such as CDs, DVDs and Blu-Ray, the term "burn" is used for putting data on the disc.
Hardware Terminology
The "CPU" is the Central Processing Unit - it does all the processing/thinking. RAM means "Random Access Memory" and acts as a form of short term storage for running programs - when the PC loses power, the data in RAM is generally lost (it is known as "volatile memory"). The HDD is the "Hard Disk Drive" - it is usually the traditional spinning magnetic platters style (what you would have in most PCs), but can also be used to describe SSDs (or Solid State Drives), which are made using "flash" memory (similar to USB sticks and SD cards, but on a much grander scale). HDDs and SSDs are not volatile, and retain the data stored on them when power is lost. HDDs are extremely susceptible to shock damage, while SSDs are not. The "motherboard" is the large system board, which contains the various ports and bridges. The PSU (or "Power Supply Unit") is essentially an AC to DC converter. USB stands for "Universal Serial Bus" and is used for connecting external drives and peripherals. The term "tower" usually refers to the shape of the stereotypical computer, but can colloquially refer to the whole package. A monitor or screen is the display device - these are generally made from LCD/"Liquid Crystal Display" panels - these, too, are fragile.
Software Terminology
The Operating System is the layer between the raw hardware and your applications. The most common ones are Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. A program is a file containing compiled code that is run on the CPU and interfaces with the OS to do meaningful work (such as read data, process pictures, etc). Encryption is where data is changed to obscure its original state. This is generally done by encryption algorithms such as Blowfish, and should be reversable. Non-reversable "encryption" is better described as a cryptographic hash (which outputs a fixed length string of bytes), commonly used for password storage and file integrity verification.
Things to Avoid
Computers are not magic. Software is not magic. If there is an ancient/otherwise alien computer, it is very unlikely we can instantly decode anything - since not only would we have language barriers and need a sort of Rosetta Stone to understand the information, but we would have to figure out the architecture of the computer and the method that it stores things to get any data off it anyway. Without any readable manuals or instructions, a completely unknown computer system is a very large paperweight. Remember that, like most things that have specialists on the site, making up random junk as part of your computer-based SCP will not fly well, and you will get downvotes for it. If you are at all unsure with terminology or opinions on how plausible something is with technology, please ask people who know these things! (Please see Expert Witnesses for those that do.)

Materials Science

Titanium, Ti
The holy grail of hollywood metallurgy, this metal is often treated as the Superman of materials. In reality it's a lot more like Xander Harris - reliable and useful, but it's not magic, and rarely works well on its own.

Pure titanium has a tensile strength - basically, the maximum pulling force per surface area a specimen can withstand - of about 434 MPa. For comparison, Al-Cu-Mg alloys (dural) typically reach 450 MPa, and medium carbon steels go up to 1200 MPa. As such, designing a containment cell with titanium walls makes about as much sense as importing a Trabant via airlift would make for an American - you aren't getting the value for your money, and the only people it'll impress are those with no idea what you are talking about.

Titanium alloys have far better properties in this respect, matching steels, but with a far lower density.3 As such, it is well suited for aerospace applications, but given that mass is rarely an issue in containment cell design, steel is most likely a better option.

There's a couple of cases where titanium plating on the inside of a containment cell would work well - titanium is resistant to most dilute acids and chemical corrosive agents, and has a high melting point - around 1900 K.4 Therefore, using such designs to contain heat-based entities, or objects that chemically attack their surroundings works well as an alternative to ceramic plating in cases where the latter's mechanical properties (low fracture toughness for one) might pose a problem.


Not every language has a written form or spoken form. Be VERY careful when you write about someone speaking/writing in another language. Just because you slapped an "ancient" on the front does not justify this, as some don't have ancient writing systems. Be sure to look up the basic history of a language before you mention it in your articles. If you are writing about a language in a historical sense, make sure you look up their histories, even if it is just a passing reference. Additionally, there are several thousand languages in use today (wikipedia says between 6000 and 7000), and even more dialects thereof (for instance, English has British, Canadian, Australian and American dialects, among others).
Mandarin and Chinese
Never, never, NEVER say "spoken Chinese" or "written Mandarin". Writing these show that you never learned any Chinese and makes people think you included it because it looks cool. Chinese has around 300 dialects, and while some are mutually intelligible, most are not. Most people refer to Mandarin when they talk about "spoken Chinese". Mandarin is the official language of many Chinese speaking countries, but it is not interchangeable with "Chinese". Other large Chinese dialects include Cantonese, Hokkien, and Shanghainese. Most modern Chinese dialects take the form of two written systems: Simplified and Traditional. Modern Chinese was established around 700 AD until the middle of the 20th century, when the Chinese civil war pushed Chiang Kai-shek and his forces to Taiwan while Chairman Mao started the communist regime. Mao and several Chinese scholars came up with the Simplified Chinese text for the illiterates of China while Chiang and the Taiwanese remained using Traditional Chinese. Currently, both systems are still in use and they are mutually interchangeable. If you wish to write about China before the 1940s, it's always Traditional. Currently, Traditional Chinese is only officially used in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. The rest uses Simplified.


9-13 personnel. This isn't just a random conglomeration of guyz with gunz. Grouped into smaller elements called fire teams, which are composed of four personnel each, plus a squad leader, giving the extra odd man.
Three squads, plus a platoon commander, platoon sergeant, and support personnel.
A cartridge is what goes into a gun to be fired, the complete assembly of the casing (which has a primer at the bottom that is struck by the firing pin to make it go off), propellant inside the casing, which burns and produces hot gas, and the bullet, which is the actual piece that flies out the barrel. Commonly (and equally as appropriately) called rounds. Ammunition for shotguns is similarly constructed, with a few differences, and is commonly referred to as a "shell." As a heads up, the shiny part that flies out of the side or top of the weapon as it's fired, the casing, is also commonly referred to as a "shell," as in "There were shells all over the crime scene." This is also frequently referred to as "brass." It can also be noted that most of the time, shotguns aren't firing "bullets." Most of the ammunition fired from a shotgun disperses a cloud of pellets called "shot," hence the name, instead of a single, solid slug. They can be loaded with what are called "slugs," though, which is a single, large "bullet."
This is what ammunition goes into before it's loaded into a firearm, the blocky, somewhat banana-shaped, hollow piece of metal that you see being shoved into the weapon in video games and movies. Rounds are fed into the weapon from the magazine. Some weapons have what is called a fixed magazine, like most shotguns, where you see them being loaded into a tube that extends below and along the length of the barrel. Clips, a different thing entirely, are a simple strip or block of metal that holds rounds together in some way, and are most commonly used to quickly load a magazine by holding the clip against the top, and shucking the rounds down into the spring-loaded magazine. A few older weapons use clips to load rounds into the weapon directly; these are commonly called "stripper clips," as the rounds are "stripped" off into the weapon's internal magazine.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, and we welcome other people making additions (please double-check with staff first through forums and/or PM!) of egregiously abused words or concepts, but remember to keep it civil. We reserve the right to remove or rewrite sections that are abusive or unhelpful.

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