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Venture into the linguistic unknown

A glossary of terms, technologies, and innovators you'll find reading Experience stories about tech and the outdoors

By Schuyler Velasco

Getting outside has always been good for us — ask Thoreau, or any number of cognitive health experts. But that truism has taken on a new dimension in the COVID-19 era. Unlike us, the virus doesn’t do well outdoors. Many of us are adding hiking, camping, open-air workouts, and long road trips to our routines, as a way of preserving our sanity while keeping safe. And as our stories this summer have shown, new technologies have enhanced our relationship to the natural world — from helping us predict how the waves will be on a certain beach, to making solitary trips in vast, government-protected expanses more possible. They can even help us get some of the benefits of fresh air when we can’t leave our homes. All of that innovation requires a new language to describe it. Click a word below to read an article in which it appears.

1906 Antiquities Act
The first law on the books in the United States that preserves and protects archeological sites on public lands. Signed by Theodore Roosevelt, the act also authorizes the president to protect landmarks and structures of historic and/or scientific interest by designating them as national monuments.

A North Carolina-based company that predicts wave conditions off the southeast coast of the United States.

Ansel Adams
An iconic American landscape photographer, active in the early to mid-20th century. He was especially known for his photography of the American West, and for his conservationism.

A term coined by musician Bernie Krause, meaning “sounds of humans.”

Beaver & Krause
A musical duo who helped introduce the Moog synthesizer to an entire generation of rock musicians tinkering with far-out psychedelic sounds, including The Doors, Peter Gabriel, Van Morrison, and Mick Jagger.

The sounds of organisms

An Afro-Caribbean music style that came out of Trinidad and Tobago in the mid-1800s and achieved the height of its popularity in the 1920s and ‘30s. Characterized by highly rhythmic and harmonic vocals, it is usually sung in French Creole.

Cyber sickness
A feeling of nausea and dizziness caused by using VR. Like traditional motion sickness, it is thought to be caused by a sensory mismatch between the signals the balance system is sending to the brain. 

“Friends-of” organizations 
Nonprofits that take on some of the work maintaining public lands beyond the purview of the National Park Service — organizing things like trail cleanup days, weed-pull events, fund-raisers, and artist-in-residence programs. They also do outreach work, including publishing visitor information, and educating the public. 

Gaia GPS
An app with a tracking program that works in airplane mode — perfect for remote outdoor adventures where cellular service is scarce.

Non-biological sounds occurring in nature, such as wind and waves.

Movement offered by low-speed, lightweight vehicles that run off human or battery power. The term encompasses electric mopeds, e-bikes, skateboards, bicycles, and scooters — any kind of short-range individual conveyance with zero emissions.

Mini Lili 
A character in the popular Cirque du Soleil show “Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities,” played by Antanina Satsura. At 3’2” and 40 pounds, Satsura is one of the world’s smallest people.

Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
A 1,090,000-acre wilderness area within the Superior National Forest, located in the northeastern part of Minnesota. Boasting forests, glacial lakes, and streams, it is one of the most popular hiking destinations in the United States.

Monte Fitz Roy
Patagonia’s most famous mountain landmark, located on the border of Chile and Argentina.

The first commercially available analog synthesizer; invented by its eponymous creator, engineer Robert Moog, in 1964. The Moog is comprised of several modules that contain amplifiers, triggers, mixers, oscillators, and other electronic noise-makers, that can be played using keyboards, joysticks, and pedals.

Muir Woods
A forest and national monument north of the San Francisco Bay Area, known for its old-growth redwood trees

National monuments
Protected areas that can be created by any land owned or controlled by the federal government via presidential proclamation — unlike National Parks, which must be established by an act of Congress. There are 128 national monuments in the U.S., including Devil’s Tower in Wyoming and Bears Ears in Utah.

A company that sells virtual reality software and hardware, including all-in-one headsets, which cost between $400 to $500.

A single-wheel electric skateboard. To use it, the rider straddles a single, giant wheel that rotates through the center of the board. The Onewheel retails for between $950 and $1,800 depending on the model, and its creators hope it can compete with bikes and scooters as an individual transportation option.

Project Remote
A project by Floridians Ryan and Rebecca Means to identify the most remote location — based on how far it is from the nearest road — in each U.S. state.

Roger Ulrich
An architecture professor whose research examines the intersection of health and design. He has been a major influence on the way hospitals and other healthcare centers are built.

Sampling keyboard
An electric keyboard that plays a wide range of pitched, pre-set sounds, from other instruments (like violins) to dog barks.

An acoustic environment as perceived by humans; what human beings hear in a particular sonic environment. It can also refer to an audio recording meant to recreate a particular acoustic environment, like the ocean or a rainforest.

Specterras Productions
A company that creates virtual reality and 360-video excursions. In addition to its VR tourism offerings, the company provides educational materials to partners including public school systems, The National Parks and Wildlife Service, and Boston’s MFA.

A California-based wave prediction company, with the most robust data set in the industry. In addition to the satellite and buoy information that virtually all companies have, Surfline has 1.5 million handwritten reports of surf conditions dating back 30 years and HD cameras pointed from poles and roofs at 700 beaches around the world.

Thomas Moran
A prolific landscape painter and printmaker, best known for his depictions of the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and the Rocky Mountains in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

An AI wildfire modeling and prediction system that was deployed as part of a fire-intelligence pilot program in September 2019 and used to fight all Southern California fires during that season.

A Germany-based company founded by sailors and windsurfers, that maps and predicts wind speed. Windfinder presents weather data for users to monitor weather conditions as they apply to their own outdoor passions, from kitesurfing to fishing.

An app available on multiple platforms that hosts a wide variety of story-based virtual and augmented reality experiences, including nature walks, documentary films, video games, and horror scenes.

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Schuyler Velasco is Experience's Senior Editor.


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