Oct 22, 2007

Rapid Rhetoric: ALIQUOT

Raphael's depiction of Plato defining the difference between true and false rhetoric This is an irregular feature - both in frequency and oddness - dedicated to a word I came across that I have never previously used.

aliquot (AH-lih-kwaht) n. an integer that is an exact divisor of another quantity; a portion or sample of a measured substance; the measured portion of a sample removed for analysis.

Aliquot comes to us from the Latin words alius ("other") and quot ("how many"). As used in mathematics, aliquot refers to an integer that is any part of its integer proper divisors (3 is an aliquot of 9). Chemists use the term aliquot to mean a portion of the total amount of a solution, while pharmacists use the term to define a method of measuring ingredients below the sensitivity of a scale.

I came across the term in working with a bio-engineering student who was conducting experiments with E. coli. At first I thought that he had misspelled a word, but after consulting the dictionary, I learned a new word this morning. I shall repeat the word "aliquot" over and over until it is hardwired in my brain, a technique akin to treadmills for athletes.

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