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osculate (OS-kyuh-layt) verb tr.

1. To kiss.

2. Mathematics: (For a curve) to touch another curve in such a way that they have same tangent and curvature at the common point.

verb intr.

To touch or to bring together.

[From Latin osculatus, the past participle of osculari, from osculum (kiss; literally, little mouth), diminutive form of os (mouth).]

"So, the next time you do some osculating, remember a kiss is not just a kiss, it's some kind of psychological compulsion. A sigh, however, is just a sigh."
A Kiss is Never Just a Kiss, Morning Edition, National Public Radio, Jan 26, 1993.

"... Julia sets, basins of attraction ..., osculating systems. There is such an amazing amount of creation from just some numbers, some lines, some dots."
Math and Science for Girls, Contemporary Women's Issues Database, Jan 1, 1993.

What do the shape of a sea shell, Mozart's sonatas, arrangement of seeds in a sunflower, and paintings by the masters have in common? It is a little fraction with the value 1.61803..., known as the golden mean. Who said math (or, as many subscribers know it, maths) was only for mathematicians, and who claimed math was dry? This week's selection features five words from the vocabulary of math where numbers can be irrational, transcendental, surreal, imaginary, and every other shade in between.


When I play with my cat, who knows whether I do not make her more sport than she makes me? -Michel de Montaigne, essayist (1533-1592)

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