P – Pm

P-N junction

Used in diodes and junction transistors, this boundary between n-type semiconductors and p-type semiconductors functions as a rectifier, in which current flows more readily than the other, used to change an alternating current to a direct current.

 

P-type semiconductor

A semiconductor in which electrical current passes through a solid due chiefly to the movement of positive ion (electron) flow “holes” in a crystal.

 

Pac-Man

The brainchild of 27-year-old student Toru Iwatani, who came up with the idea for the video game by looking at a pizza that was missing a few slices, Pac-Man became a video game sensation in the 1980s, spawning several “sequel” games, a Saturday morning cartoon, and even a semi-successful pop song.  At the time, electronic gaming was a business with few success stories.  Games like Asteroids, Space Invaders, Pong, and Break-out were all great games, but at the time, none of them were popular with mainstream society.  A year after the idea was conceived, the game was finally finished and released.  Midway first released the Pacman arcade game in 1980, in both upright and table models.  It took the world by storm and soon became a household name.  Atari produced the first home version in 1981.  A string of sequel games followed, including Ms. Pac-Man (1982), Jr. Pac-Man (1983), Pac-land, Pac-Mania, Pac-Man 2, Pac-Man VR, Pac-In-Time, Pac-Man 3D, and others.  In 1996, Namco released an “updated arrangement” of Pac-Man, as part of the nostalgia series Namco Classics Vol. 2.

 

Page, Larry

Born in East Lansing, Michigan on March 26, 1973 to computer expert parents, Page earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering at the University of Michigan, then went on to study Computer Engineering at Stanford University, where he and Sergey Brin developed a search engine that listed results according to the popularity of the pages, calling it “Google.”  Since its internet launch in 1998, the company has become the world’s most popular search engine, averaging nearly 6 billion searches daily in 2013.  Headquartered in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley, Google held its initial public offering in August 2004, making Page and Brin billionaires.  In September 2013, Page was ranked No. 13 on the “Forbes 400” list of the richest people in America, and the next month, he was ranked No. 17 on Forbes’ 2013 “Most Powerful People” list.  As Google’s CEO, Page shared responsibility for the company’s day-to-day operations with Brin, who served as director of special projects, and Eric Schmidt, the company’s executive chairman.  On August 10, 2015, Page and Brin announced the creation of a new parent company called Alphabet to oversee Google and other subsidiaries.  Page and Brin serve as the new company’s CEO and president, respectively, with Sundar Pichai stepping in as Google’s top executive.

 

Pan

Pan is the Greek god of the wild, woods and pastures, hunting and companion of the nymphs.  Mountain peaks and rocky crests are also his domain.  He was depicted as being half human, with the legs and horns of a goat, just like a faun; his Roman counterpart was called Faunus.  His father may have been Zeus, Dionysus, Hermes or Apollo.  His mother may have been Penelope (who later became the wife of Odysseus), a nymph called Dryope, or the goddess Aphrodite.  It was believed that he often chased nymphs in order to seduce them, but he was always turned down due to his unattractive appearance.  Moreover, Pan’s angry voice was so frightening, that it caused anyone unlucky enough to hear it to “panic” (a word derived from the god’s name).  According to myth, one day he came across a beautiful Arcadian nymph called Syrinx (an imitator of Artemis both in manners and in appearance), who had until then eluded the pursuit of both satyrs and gods.  He tried to seduce her, but she managed to run away.  Followed by the god, she sought refuge among her sisters, who transformed her into a reed.  When the wind started blowing, a melody was produced through Syrinx’s guise.  Not knowing which reed was the transformed Syrinx, Pan took seven or nine of them and joined them side by side in decreasing length, which he would use as a musical instrument that would come to be known as a “Pan flute,” and is also known as a syrinx, named after the nymph.  Pan is also remembered for having competed with that flute against Apollo’s lyre, but the syrinx was judged by Tmolus to be inferior to Apollo’s lyre.  On the occasion, everyone agreed with the judgment except King Midas, who called it unjust.  And it is for this reason that Apollo changed Midas’ ears to the ears of an ass, which Midas tried in vain to conceal under a turban.

In the first century AD, Plutarch recorded in The Obsolescence of Oracles that passengers on a ship passing the Greek island of Paxi heard a voice of someone loudly calling to Thamus, an Egyptian on board.  When Thamus answered, the caller raised his voice and said, “When you come opposite to Palodes, announce that great Pan is dead.”  No one is sure of the meaning of the message, or even if it refers to the god (as gods have rarely died) or a demon with a similar name.  No temples were built to Pan, as he was rather fittingly worshipped in natural settings, such as forests and caves.

 

Parallel universe

See Alternate reality.

 

Parkour

The sport of traversing environmental obstacles along a route (typically in a city), getting around, through or over various obstacles in the most efficient and fastest manner possible.

 

Parr, Jack-Jack

The youngest member of The Incredibles’ Parr family, “Jack-Jack” seemed quite normal throughout most of the film, but at the end and also in the film short “Jack-Jack Attack,” the little tyke saves the day by displaying all manners of superheroic talents.  This cherub’s arsenal includes the ability to set himself on fire, turn himself into lead or a devilish persona, levitate, teleport … and these are just among the powers he’s revealed!  He also has the ability to display his powers simultaneously.

 

Pasiphae

An immortal daughter of the Greek sun god Helios and the Oceanid Perse, Pasiphae was an early Cretan moon-goddess.  She was from the island of Colchis, where her sister Circe the witch also dwelled.  Pasiphae had a deep knowledge of magical herbs and was a skilled practitioner of pharmakeia (witchcraft).  Pasiphae married King Minos of Crete, with whom she had a number of children.  However, among her other children, she also gave birth to Asterion, better known as the minotaur, after she was cursed by Poseidon to lust after the king’s white bull.  The queen enlisted the help of the artisan Daedalus, who built her a wooden cow wrapped in bovine skin.  Hidden inside the contraption, she coupled with the bull and conceived the minotaur, who would later be imprisoned in Daedalus’ labyrinth.  In addition to the minotaur, Pasiphae’s children included Ariadne and Glaucus.

 

Passive topology

The schematic description of topology (the arrangement of a computer network) that includes computers on the network which simply receive a signal, but do not amplify the signal in any way.

 

Pausch, Randy

Born October 23, 1960, Randolf Frederick Pausch (pronounced “powsh”) became an internet viral sensation when his 2007 filmed speech “The Last Lecture” caught the public’s attention. A computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and spent his last lecture (typically offered to retiring professors) inspiring people to follow their dreams.  The creator of the computer programming software “Alice” spoke on how he had achieved all of his boyhood dreams, including becoming a Disney Imagineer, playing football with the Pittsburgh Steelers (who invited him to participate in a practice), and authoring a World Book Encyclopedia entry (on virtual reality).  Beyond his wildest dreams, when J.J. Abrams, director of the 2009 film Star Trek, learned of Pausch’s lecture, and that the professor was a Trekker, Abrams invited him to appear in a one-line cameo.  Pausch passed away at home on July 25, 2008, at the age of 47.

 

PC-DOS

See Disk Operating System (DOS).

 

Peer-to-peer (P2P) network

A group of computers in which each acts as a file-sharing node (doubling as a node and a server) within the group, instead of having a central server to act as a shared drive.

 

Pegasus

When Perseus, a hero in Greek mythology said to be the son of Zeus, is sent to kill the Gorgon Medusa, he is victorious when he beheads her.  From the blood that poured from the creature’s severed neck, the winged horse Pegasus was born.  Perseus mounted Pegasus in the hopes of saving the life of Andromeda, who was to be sacrificed to the sea creature the Kraken.  Athena (or Minerva in Roman mythology) carried the young Pegasus to Mount Helicon, where he was entrusted to the care of the Muses.  When his hoof struck the ground, the spring Hippocrene welled up and began to flow.  This spring became sacred to the nine Muses.  Another hero, Bellerophon, longed to capture Pegasus, but could not fathom how one could tame such a wild and magnificent creature.  A wise man advised Bellerophon to sleep in the temple of Athena.  There, he saw the goddess before him holding a golden bridle in her hand.  When he awoke, he was alone in the temple, but the bridle was there.  He ran forth from the temple and found Pegasus drinking at the Corinthian spring, Pirene.  Once Pegasus spotted the shine of the gold, Bellerophon put the charmed bridle on the steed’s head with little difficulty.  The bridle in place, Pegasus became gentle and tame.  After defeating the Chimera, Bellerophon wanted to ride to the top of Mount Olympus to take his place there with the gods.  Some say that Pegasus was wiser and threw his rider of his own will, and some say that Zeus became displeased and sent an insect to sting Pegasus, who then bucked his rider off.  Pegasus, however, continued toward the peak, where he became the servant of the gods.  There, he was the mount of Eos to help bring the dawn, or was ridden by Apollo to bring the sun.  Pegasus also served Zeus by bringing to him the thunder and lightning needed for the thunderbolts.  For all his noble services, Pegasus was honored by a constellation in the autumn sky.  Fittingly, Pegasus can be seen in the night sky near Andromeda and Perseus.

 

Pendragon, King Arthur

King Arthur Pendragon was a legendary king of Britain.  Little is known about the possible historical source of the King Arthur tales, but it has been suggested that the real-life “Arthur” may have been a warrior/officer of Roman affiliation who led a British military force against incoming Saxon forces during the 5th to 6th centuries A.D.  The 6th century bard Aneirin crafted the Welsh collection of poems The Gododdin, in which a heroic Arthur is spoken of, and the poet Teliesin mentioned a valiant Arthur in his works, but Celtic monk Gildas, who wrote of the Saxon invasion in his work The Ruin and Conquest of Britain, made no mention of a warrior named Arthur.  There have even been suggestions that references to Arthur were actually a way of honoring a Celtic bear deity with a similar name.

Nennius of Wales’ History of the Britons (c. 830 AD) became a core Arthurian text, in that it listed a dozen battles in which the warrior fought (even though it would have been logistically impossible for him to have done so).  Arthur, the son of King Uther Pendragon, is portrayed as a valiant, praiseworthy persona, a characterization that would continue in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s 12th Century work The History of the Kings of Britain.  Geoffrey added now-common elements to the tales of Arthur, including the mystical figure of Merlin and a birth story.

Due chiefly to cultural intermingling in Europe, political influences, writers’ imaginations, and particularly the marriage of Henry II to Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152, the legends of King Arthur began to bloom in the courts of France, taking on romantic and spiritual tones. It was within this context that the mysterious Holy Grail first appears in French court writer Chretien de Troyes’ poem “Perceval, or the Story of the Grail” (1181-90).  Possibly the best-known collection of Arthurian tales, Sir Thomas MaloryLe Morte d’Arthur, was completed in 1469 or 1470 and printed in abridged form in 1485.  The tales of King Arthur became so embedded in the minds of the British people that after taking the throne in 1509, Henry VIII commissioned the Winchester Round Table of Edward III to be repainted, with himself depicted at the top as a latter-day Arthur, a Christian emperor and head of the British Empire. The Arthurian stories eventually developed into a full-fledged complex legend that featured the castle Camelot, the knights of The Round Table and their quest for the Holy Grail, Queen Guinevere, the Lady of the Lake, and the king’s deadly conflict with Mordred, who was portrayed in different texts as his son and his nephew.

 

Pendragon, King Uther

While widely believed to be part of traditional folklore alone, Uther Pendragon (c. 410-495 AD) was a historical king of Britain, as well as father to King Arthur.  First mentioned in print by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his 1136 work Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain), Uther fought with his elder brother Ambrosius for their ancestral rights, after which his brother sat on the throne until his death.  Uther took the crown under the title of “Uther Pendragon” after a dragon-shaped comet appeared in the sky at the time of his brother’s death. Most of his reign was taken up with campaigning against Saxon and Irish invaders in the North of Britain.  Sir Thomas Malory‘s mythical Le Morte d’Arthur relates that, upon returning to London, Uther met Ygerna, wife of Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall, and fell instantly in love with her.  He persuaded Merlin to use his powers to magic him into Ygerna’s bed.  The price for this deception was that Uther’s son Arthur, who was conceived on that night and was destined to grow to become King Arthur Pendragon, had to be given to Merlin to be brought up as he saw fit.  Many years later, an aging and sickly Uther was drawn into a renewed war with the Northern Angles. Enemy forces poisoned the water-supply and Uther, along with many of his men, died in the days that followed.

 

Pennyworth, Alfred

 

Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler and Batman’s faithful servant, Alfred has evolved a bit over the decades since the early 1940s.  During the Golden Age of Comics, Alfred was a large, bumbling amateur detective who made futile and comical efforts to help Batman’s investigations.  (In fact, the original name for Alfred in the Golden Age was Alfred Beagle.  This name was kept as his Earth-Two counterpart, but with the results of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the characters were merged and “Beagle” was forgotten.)  However, in the 1943 Batman theatrical serials, William Austin played Alfred as a thin man, with a moustache and spoke in a dignified English accent, so the writers at Detective Comics wrote a story in which Bruce Wayne sent Alfred to a health spa, where he lost his weight and grew a mustache.  Alfred’s origin was also a bit jumbled, as the Batman that writer/editor Denny O’Neil was creating was very different from the one editor Julius Schwartz was putting out.  Alfred had two origins: One was that he raised Bruce Wayne since his parents were murdered and the second was that he came into Bruce Wayne’s life after the adult Bruce had taken in Dick Grayson.  Alfred lived with the duo for months without knowing they were Batman and Robin.  One night, Alfred heard screaming coming strangely from the grandfather clock.  He opened it to discover the entrance to the Batcave, as well as Dick Grayson dressed as Robin with an injured and unmasked Batman.  Also, during the Silver Age of Comics, it was mentioned that Alfred had been an actor and had fought in World War II.

During the Silver Age, Alfred was killed off (supposedly to minimize the readership’s suspicions that Batman was homosexual) when Alfred pushed Batman and Robin out of the way of a tumbling boulder that was meant to kill them.  The butler was absent from the storyline for some time, replaced (in a way) with Dick Grayson’s Aunt Harriet, who first appeared in the 1960s Batman television show, though Alfred himself was also a regular character in the show.  In the comics, Alfred was later resurrected by Dr. Brandon Crawford’s regeneration machine.  However, Alfred had been transformed into a pasty, rock-patterned being with a desire to kill Batman and Robin, calling himself the Outsider.  He used telekinetic powers on Zatanna, the Grasshopper Gang, and the Batmobile to attack Batman.  Batman and the Outsider later met and fought.  Batman discovered it was Alfred and during their fight, the Outsider got pushed into the same regeneration machine and returned to his original form as Alfred.  Alfred did not remember any of his time as the Outsider, and returned to Wayne Manor as their butler again.

As was the case in many DC Comics characters’ histories, Alfred’s backstory was changed little after the Crisis On Infinite Earths.  Alfred’s birth name was said to be Alfred Beagle, which he changed to Alfred Pennyworth during his days as a British Intelligent agent in WWII.  After leaving the service, he became an actor and a make-up artist.  At his father’s deathbed, Alfred swore that he would quit the stage to continue the family tradition of being a gentleman’s gentleman.  He then left England to serve the Wayne family.

Some time later, Alfred helps to teach young Bruce Wayne to think with his head rather than fists.  After Bruce’s parents are murdered by a mugger, Alfred raises young Bruce Wayne together with Dr. Leslie Tompkins.  Later, when Bruce decides to travel abroad, Alfred stays at Wayne Manor and gets into a little romance with Dr. Tompkins.

A former military surgeon, Alfred has repaired Bruce’s crime-fighting injuries over the years, from broken bones to fractured limbs.  After Batman’s back was broken by Bane in Knightfall, Alfred stabilized Bruce’s condition, and his skills have also extended to helping other members of the Batman family of crime fighters.  Alfred is a well-trained fighter, and still retains those abilities.  In The New Adventures of Batman comic book, it is said that Alfred has been kidnapped 27 times.  Considering his age and lack of superpowers, and also in comparison to the advanced combat training Bruce associates received, Alfred is the only member of the Batman family with Batman’s permission to use firearms when in danger.

On the 1960s television series Batman, Alfred was portrayed by Alan Napier.  On the big screen, he has been played by Michael Gough, Michael Caine and Jeremy Irons.  On the current television program Gotham, Alfred is played by Sean Pertwee.

 

Perfect Tommy

Partial to the .9mm, shotgun and rhythm guitar, the young, stylish and vain Perfect Tommy (as portrayed by Lewis Smith) is a key employee of the Banzai Institute, as well as a bandmate in the Hong Kong Cavaliers, in the 1984 sci fi cult classic film The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension.

 

Periodic Table of Elements

In 1809 alone, at least 47 elements were discovered, and scientists began to see patterns in the characteristics of these elements.  In 1863, English chemist John Newlands divided the 56 discovered elements of his day into 11 groups, based on their common characteristics.  In 1869, Russian chemist Dimitri Mendeleev started the development of the modern Periodic Table, arranging chemical elements by atomic mass.  He predicted the discovery of other elements, and left spaces open in the table for them.  In 1894, Sir William Ramsay and Lord Rayleigh discovered the noble gases, which were added to the Periodic Table as group 0.  With the subsequent discoveries of protons, electrons and neutrons, the Table was adjusted and enhanced.  In 1914, Ernest Rutherford first identified protons in the atomic nucleus.  He also transmutated a nitrogen atom into an oxygen atom for the first time.  English physicist Henry Moseley provided atomic numbers, based on the number of electrons in an atom rather than atomic mass.  In 1932, James Chadwick first discovered neutrons, and isotopes were identified.  This was the complete basis for the periodic table.

 

Personal video recorder (PVR)

See Digital video recorder (DVR).

 

Petrus, Lars

 

Developer of the “Lars Petrus Method,” a strategy to speed-solve the Rubik’s Cube puzzle.  Rather than solving the cube row by row, as most solvers did, Petrus’ solution entailed creating a 2x2x2 corner solution, then expanding that to a 2x2x3.  Twisting the corners and edges of the cube at that point, the solution could be achieved by Petrus in under 25 seconds.

 

Pew, “Blind”

See “Blind” Pew.

 

Pew, Harvey “Blind”

See “Blind” Pew.

 

Phaeton

Greek for “shining” or “radiant,” Phaeton was the son of the mythical sun god Helios.  The most influential version of his story is found in Ovid’s Metamorphosis, Books I–II, which echoes the plot of Euripides’ play Phaethon.  Taunted with illegitimacy, Phaethon appealed to his father, who swore to prove his paternity by giving him whatever he wanted.  Phaethon asked to be allowed to drive the chariot of the sun through the heavens for a single day.  Helios, bound by his oath, had to let him make the attempt.  Phaethon set off, but was entirely unable to control the mighty horses of the sun chariot.  Plummeting too near to the Earth, the sun chariot began to scorch it.  To prevent further damage, Zeus hurled a thunderbolt at Phaethon, who fell to the earth at the mouth of the Eridanus, a river later identified as the Po.

 

Phantom Stranger, The

The Phantom Stranger is a DC Comics character of a different kind.  Though he has particular powers, he is not a superhero.  Though he works for the good of the world, he does not do good deeds.  A spectre of a human who had done something terrible, he must earn forgiveness for his sin by ultimately betraying those he encounters – either for their own good or for the good of the world – even if it horrifies him to do so.  With DC’s “New 52,” it was revealed that the Stranger was a member of the Trinity of Sin, alongside Vic Sage and Pandora.  The man who would become the Phantom Stranger is the only one of the three who openly repents his actions.  While his former true identity is never mentioned, it is heavily implied that in life, he was Judas Iscariot.  In fact, his origin was never even hinted at until a 1987 issue of Secret Origins.  True to the character, there was not one origin given, but four.  Three of these origins were biblical in origin, while the other was more cosmological.  The original backstory was that he was a fallen angel who did not choose a side when Lucifer rebelled against God, so he is condemned to live on Earth alone forever.  In the New 52 continuity, for the first time the origin of the Stranger is told in more detail.  He was brought before the Rock of Eternity at some point to be judged for his sins.  It is unclear what those sins were, only that he had attempted or committed suicide after feeling that he had betrayed a friend.  He is pelted with coins (a possible allusion to Judas’ “thirty pieces of silver”) by his accusers and judges, and he must wear these around his neck until they have all fallen off and then he might find salvation.

The Phantom Stranger originally emerged during a period when horror-based comics were more popular and often appeared in the form of anthologies.  His first appearance was in 1952’s Phantom Stranger #1, created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino.  The series lasted six issues.  However, the Phantom Stranger is better known for his role in helping other heroes like Deadman and Batman as a supernatural assistant.  He also starred in a 1987 mini-series, in which he was portrayed as an agent of the Lords of Order.  He wears a blue fedora and overcoat with either black or white gloves.  His hat usually makes a shadow over his eyes, but when his eyes are visible, they are white with no pupils.  His eyes and hair are white because of an “experience” that happened to him long ago.

In recent years the character is generally used in one of two ways. Either as an overseer for humanity and the actions of its heroes (for instance he and Darkseid watched the proceedings in Legends) or as a mystical based secondary character (he has shown up in many different titles with such a theme, such as the Seven Soldiers of Victory miniseries with Zatanna).  He generally shows little to no emotion, although at times he has been known to show humor, warmth and friendship.  His serious nature however only accentuates his mystery, and on occasion he is scolded for his perceived lack of empathy (most notably by Madame Xanadu).  It was revealed in the Vertigo series that he has appeared many times in Xanadu’s life, from as far back as the time of Camelot up to the 20th Century.  His clothing changes depending on the fashions of the time he was in.  His habit of appearing to warn of dangers but doing little to prevent them brought the resentment of Xanadu for his lack of action, though the Stranger claimed he was not allowed to directly intervene.

The extent of the Stranger’s powers seem to change upon the writer throughout his publication history.  Because of this, he has an enormous amount of powers.  As mysterious as his origins are, so too are his powers and where they come from.  It has been suggested more than once that he cannot be killed, as his presence is either protected by the universe itself, or by his own unique defensive power.  He is one of the few people in the DC Universe that are immortal beings because he is the fallen angel.  The Phantom Stranger has a wide variety of powers and abilities however that have been shown, which include: teleportation over huge distances, manipulation of cosmic power on a huge scale, vast knowledge and nigh omniscience (he knows everything about any character or situation he encounters), time manipulation and travel, spectral sight (where he can perceive entities invisible to others), unarmed combat, mastery over magic on a huge scale, space adaptation, illusion revealing and casting, and flight.

 

Phantom Zone, The

Dimensional plane of existence which officially debuted in DC ComicsAdventure Comics # 283 in April 1961.  It is sometimes portrayed as a prison status (as in the 1978 film Superman: The Movie and as a major plot point in 1980’s Superman II).

 

Pharming

A scamming practice in which malicious code is installed on a personal computer or server, redirecting users to false websites without their knowledge or permission.

 

Phil, the Prince of Insufficient Light

 

This secondary character in Scott Adams‘ Dilbert comic strip is a lightweight version of Lucifer, responsible for punishing minor sins.  With his horned and tailed body suit and giant “pitchspoon,” Phil has the power to “darn you to Heck” for such horrible crimes as eating co-workers’ lunches from the cafeteria fridge.  He has the power to attack you with mildly annoying punishments, such as forcing someone to write “I proactively leverage my synergies” over and over again or having to “endure the stale wit of your co-workers.”  He is also the brother of Dilbert’s Pointy-Haired Boss (who Phil claims was their mother’s favorite).

 

Phonodisc

See Laserdisc.

 

Photobomb

To deliberately ruin a picture by injecting oneself into the frame, often without the subject’s or the photographer’s knowledge.

 

Photon

A particle representing a quantum of light or other electromagnetic radiation. A photon carries energy proportional to the radiation frequency but has zero rest mass.  It is usually considered to be its own antiparticle, with zero rest mass and charge, with a spin of one.

 

Photosynthesis

Vital biological process by which carbon dioxide (CO2, a source of hydrogen such as water (H2O), and certain salts are able to create their own foods converted into carbohydrates by green plants and algae via chlorophyll and radiant energy and light from the sun.

 

Phylactar

Medieval predecessor to the modern comic strip speech balloon, it was a label in the form of a scroll that listed or described characters.

 

Pi

In mathematics, pi (p) is equivalent to a circle’s circumference divided by its diameter, which is roughly 22/7, or the infinite decimal representation that begins 3.14159265358979323846…

 

Picard, Capt. Jean-Luc

Born July 13, 2305 in Labarre, France, Earth, Milky Way Galaxy, Picard is the captain of Starfleet’s flaghip U.S.S. Enterprise.  Portrayed by Sir Patrick Stewart in Star Trek: The Next Generation and the series’ subsequent theatrical films, Picard was promoted via field commission to captain after the death of his U.S.S. Stargazer captain.  In 2363, he was chosen to command the relatively new Galaxy-class U.S.S. Enterprise-D.  The following year, he was offered but declined promotion to admiral and commandant of Starfleet Academy.  In 2366, he was declared missing in action during a Borg invasion, later rescued from assimilation and returned to Enterprise command.  In 2371, he was forced to sacrifice the Enterprise-D at Veridian III while opposing El-Aurian scientist Tolian Soran alongside the former captain of the original Enterprise, James T. Kirk (as shown in the film Star Trek: Generations).  In 2372, Picard was granted command relatively new Sovereign-class U.S.S. Enterprise-E (stardate 49827.5).

An accomplished diplomat and tactician, Picard managed to surpass a 22-year career as first officer and later captain of the U.S.S. Stargazer with an even more impressive record as captain of the fleet’s former flagship U.S.S. Enterprise.  In the latter role, he not only witnessed the major turning points of recent galactic history, but played a major role in them, as well, from surviving as the only human abductee of the Borg invasion in 2366, to becoming the chief contact point with the being known as Q from the Q continuum, to serving as arbiter choosing the current ruler of the Klingon Empire and exposing the Romulans as backers of his chief rivals, later helping a pacifist underground movement to gain a toehold there.

Owing to a single-minded drive since childhood for a Starfleet career, Picard has never been a family man, and was long uncomfortable with the Galaxy-class starship’s civilian family contingent.  His initial reaction to family is also reflected in the friction with his father and later his older brother, over leaving the family winery business.  His outlook was also affected by the chance to experience a traditional family through an encounter in the Nexus in 2371 (as shown in Star Trek: Generations), as recounted later, and after having relived 40 years of a Kataanan native’s life three years earlier (as shown in the episode “The Inner Light”); in the latter case, the decades of experience compressed into 30 minutes from a Kataanan archival probe was overwhelming.

Lingering throughout Picard’s life is a series of unsuccessful romantic relationships, though significant adult romances have included Jenice Manheim in 2342, Capt. Phillipa Louvois in 2356, rogue archaeologist Vash in 2366-68, and Lt. Cmdr. Nella Darren in 2369.  In addition, he also had barely acknowledged feelings for Ens. Marta Batanides following their Starfleet graduation; the Kriosian metamorph Kamala; and the widow of his best friend Lt. Cmdr. Jack Crusher, Beverly — a Starfleet doctor, longtime friend and his chief medical officer on the Enterprise.  Aside from these feelings regarding children, family and women, Picard was even aloof with those he considered his close friends. Nevertheless, he has shown a willingness to stake his career for them — as when defending the inherent sentient’s rights of first Data and then his daughter Lal.  Part of Picard’s private nature includes a difficulty in confronting deep personal issues, which then tend to become suppressed. Philosophically, he sees life and death as more than two choices of eternal or momentary existence; in fact, he believes there is another concept yet beyond human understanding.

Other mission performance highlights of his years on the Enterprises include his second meeting with Sarek, where at great personal risk, he agreed to a mind-meld; the legendary Vulcan had taken an interest in his career, but Picard was still awed by the Vulcan legend.  They met again briefly as Sarek lay dying two years later, just before Picard went on to meet Sarek’s son Spock, leading an underground pro-unification movement with Vulcan on Romulus.  Using Picard as a mental go-between, Spock was able to touch his own father’s mind by melding with Picard’s.  Picard has also participated in first-contact encounters with the Borg, Ferengi, Edo, Aldeans, Tamarians, Jarada, Malcorians, Douwd, Mintakans, Paxans, Cytherians, the Ux-Mal, and Devidians, among others, and served as a negotiator and diplomat on missions including Acamar III, Rutia IV, Angosia III, Bajor, Talarians, Turkana IV, Pentaurus V, Ventax II, Kaelon II, Lenaria, Gemaris V, Dachlyd, and Krios-Valt Minor.

 

Picture element

See Pixel.

 

Piezoelectric effect

See Piezoelectricity.

 

Piezoelectricity

The ability of certain materials to generate an alternating current (AC) voltage positive electric charge on one side of certain nonconducting crystals and negative charge on the opposite side when subjected to mechanical stress or vibration, or conversely, the ability of certain materials to vibrate when subjected to an AC voltage, or both.  When applied to metal plates, an AC signal causes them to vibrate in sync with the voltage, resulting in an acoustic disturbance.  This effect is exploited in a variety of practical devices such as microphones, phonograph pickups, and wave filters in telephone-communications systems.  Quartz, certain ceramics and salts, and some other solids exhibit this effect.  Also known as the piezoelectric effect, piezoelectricity was discovered in 1880 by Pierre and Paul-Jacques Curie.

 

Pikachu

Also known as the “Mouse Pokémon,” this electric species of Pokémon was introduced in the first generation, and is recognizable by its lightning bolt tail and dotted cheeks.  The name “Pikachu” was derived from the Japanese word “pikapika,” which means “sparkle,” and “chuchu,” which represents the sounds small mice make.

 

Pinhead

As portrayed by Doug Bradley in eight films of the Hellraiser series, and by Fred Tatasciore in 2011’s Hellraiser: Revelations, Pinhead was originally a human named Capt. Elliott Spencer (1887-1930), an explorer and a British Army veteran who served in World War I.  His transformation into Pinhead, who is also known as the “Lead Cenobite,” “The Angel of Suffering” and “The Dark Prince of Pain,” came about when he opened the Demonic Lament Configuration puzzle box.  In the Hellraiser comic book series, he is depicted as being the latest incarnation of the Cenobite spirit Xipe Totec, an entity derived from Aztec mythology.  As the leader of the Cenobites, he is well-versed in torture.  Death does not end the suffering of his victims, either, as the victims are brought to Hell (also known as The Labyrinth).  Pinhead is an extremely powerful being with several supernatural abilities.  He is virtually unstoppable and invulnerable in the physical sense, but never engages in physical combat, instead letting hooked chains mutilate his victims, often pulling in several directions to rip them apart.  His magic is also used for creating objects out of thin air, to teleport, creating explosions at distances and deceiving opponents with illusions.  Pinhead is also familiar with the occult and magic, with an ability to read people’s minds.  He is at once charismatic and terrifying, and can often persuade others to perform horrific acts to his favor.  Films in the series include Hellraiser (1987), Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988), Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992), Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996), Hellraiser: Inferno (2000), Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002), Hellraiser: Deader (2005), Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005) and Hellraiser: Revelations (2011).

 

Pixel

The basic elemental unit of a video image display on a computer screen, short for “picture element.”

 

Pixel hunt

The act of searching for a difficult object or hotspot to find, which the player of a computer adventure or hidden object game must find and click on to proceed.  Such objects are typically only a few pixels in size.

 

Planet of the Apes

Pierre Boulle’s classic 1963 science fiction novel (original French title La Planète des Singes) depicts a planet on which simian races are intellectuals capable of coherent speech, while humans exist as mute beasts.  The novel inspired a series of Hollywood films.

 

Pleiades

 

In Greek mythology, the Pleiades were seven sisters named Maia, Electra, Alcyone, Taygete, Asterope, Celaeno and Merope.  They were the daughters of Atlas, a Titan charged with holding up the heavens, and the oceanid Pleione, the protector of sailing.  After a chance meeting with the hunter Orion, the Pleiades and their mother became the object of his pursuit.  Enamored with the young women, he pursued them over the face of the Earth.  In pity for their plight, Zeus changed them into a flock of doves, which he set in the heavens.  Thus the absence of his wife and family was added to Atlas’ original punishment.  In an alternative myth, the Pleiades were the virgin companions of Artemis, to the ancient Greeks, the goddess of hunting and the Moon. Whilst stalking a hind, the great hunter Orion crept into a sunlit glade, disturbing the innocent play of the sisters.  They fled in alarm.  His immoderate passions enflamed by their beauty and grace, he pursued them relentlessly, as was fitting for the greatest mortal hunter.  In frustration, Artemis pleaded with Zeus for his intervention.  With characteristic Olympian sarcasm, he did.  As the hunter closed in on his prey, Zeus transformed the sisters into a flock of doves.  They flew into the heavens, beyond the reach of their pursuer, but also removed from earthly companionship with the goddess.  Artemis, enraged by these twofold masculine affronts, avenged herself on Orion.  Her brother Apollo, having been affronted by the mortal hunter’s prowess, was persuaded to set a monstrous scorpion to attack Orion.  Not to be outdone in this, in another characteristic display of mordant wit, Zeus set the dead hunter in the heavens in a vain pursuit of the Pleiades through the night sky for eternity, with the constellation Scorpio ever chasing after Orion.  Even so, the Olympian had some compassion for his daughter: the path of the Moon in the heavens passes close to the Pleiades, and thus Artemis, the goddess of the Moon, had the solace of their frequent reunions.

In the clear and unpolluted night skies of antiquity, the Pleiades star cluster was an object of wonder and interest.  It was the subject of myth and legend in almost every culture on the planet.  Only six stars are distinctly visible to the naked eye, and the ancient Greeks explained the sudden disappearance of the seventh star in various narratives.  According to one, all the Pleiades were consorts to gods, with the exception of Merope.  She deserted her sisters in shame, having taken a mortal husband, Sisyphus, the King of Corinth.  Another explanation for the “lost” star related to the myth of the Electra, an ancestress of the royal house of Troy.  After the destruction of Troy, the grief-stricken Electra abandoned her sisters and was transformed into a comet, and ever after to be a sign of impending doom.  The Greek legends of the disappearing star are echoed in Jewish, Hindu and Mongolian folklore: their basis in an actual event seems to be corroborated by astronomical evidence that a clearly visible star in the cluster became extinct towards the end of the second millennium BC.  The Pleiades are among the first stars mentioned in literature, appearing in Chinese annals of about 2350 BC.  The earliest European references are somewhat later, in a poem by Hesiod in about 1000 BC and in Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad.  The Bible contains three direct references to the Pleiades in Job 9:9 and 38:31, and Amos 5:8, and a single indirect reference in the New Testament.  This latter passage (Revelation 1:16) describes a vision of the coming of the Messiah, who holds seven stars in His right hand.

 

Plug and Play

Sometimes abbreviated “PnP,” a phrase used to describe devices that work with a computer system as soon as they are connected, without having to manually install drivers for the device or even tell the computer that a new device has been added.  While Plug and Play usually refers to computer peripheral devices, such as keyboards and mice, it can also be used to describe internal hardware.  The only difference is that internal components usually require the computer to be turned off when they are installed, while external devices can typically be installed while the computer is running.

 

Pluto

  1. Roman god of the underworld, the counterpart to the Greek god Hades.
  2. Pluto, once considered the ninth and smallest planet in our solar system, was discovered in 1930 by American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh. In 2003, an astronomer saw a new object beyond Pluto and thought he had found a new planet, since the object he saw was larger than Pluto.  Discovering this object caused other astronomers to discuss what defines a “planet.”  A decision was made that Pluto was not really a planet because of its size and location in space, so Pluto and objects like it are now called “dwarf planets.”  A dwarf planet orbits the sun just like other planets, but it is so small, it cannot clear other objects out of its path.  Pluto is also called a “plutoid,” which is a dwarf planet that is farther out from the sun than the planet Neptune.  The three known plutoids are Pluto, Eris and Makemake (MAH-kee-MAH-kee).  On average, Pluto is more than 3.6 billion miles (5.8 billion kilometers) away from the sun, or about 40 times as far from the sun as Earth.  Pluto orbits the sun in an oval trajectory.  Because of this oval orbit, Pluto is sometimes closer to the sun than at other times.  At its closest point to the sun, Pluto is still billions of miles away.  It is only 1,400 miles (2,300 kilometers) wide, or about half the width of the United States.  Pluto is slightly smaller than Earth’s moon.  It takes Pluto 248 Earth years to go around the sun.  One day on Pluto is about 6-1/2 Earth days long.  Since it is so much farther from the sun, Pluto is very cold compared to Earth.  The temperature on Pluto is in the range of -375 to -400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Pluto is so far away from Earth that scientists know very little about what it is like.  It is believed to be covered with ice.  Pluto has about one-fifteenth the gravity of Earth.  A person who weighs 100 pounds on Earth would weigh only 7 pounds on Pluto.  Pluto has five moons, the largest of which is named Charon (KER-ən), which is about half the size of Pluto.  As Pluto is named for the Roman god of the underworld, Charon is named for the boatman who ferries souls across to Hades.  Pluto’s four other moons are named Kerberos (named for the three-headed dog that guards the gates of the underworld), Styx (one of the rivers in the underworld), Nix (the mother of Charon) and Hydra (the three-headed serpent guardian of the underworld).