Tuesday, 9 May 2017

β | beta

The Greek letter β (beta) was derived from the ancient Phoenician letter 𐤁 (bet). The word alphabet originates from the Greek ἀλφάβητος (alphabētos), from ἄλφα (“alpha”) + βῆτα (“beta”).

The lower-case letter β has found many uses in maths and sciences, such as:

  • in astronomy: the second brightest star in a constellation. For instance, Rigel is designated as β Orionis
  • in biochemistry: β-sheet, a type of protein secondary structure
  • in biology: β cell, a type of cell found in the pancreatic islets of the pancreas. The primary function of a β cell is to produce insulin.
  • in inorganic chemistry: a symbol for certain allotropes, for example β-tetragonal boron, β-germanium, and β-tin
  • in mathematics: β(s), the Dirichlet beta function
  • in natural product chemistry: a stereodescriptor used in a number of different ways
  • in nuclear physics: beta particle, a high-energy electron (β) or positron (β+) emitted in the radioactive decay; β-decay is a radioactive process in which an atomic nucleus emits an β-particle
  • in organic chemistry: β-carbon, the second carbon atom in a chain when counting from a functional group
  • in pharmacology: β1, β2 and β3, subtypes of adrenergic receptors
  • in phonetics: voiced bilabial fricative (IPA symbol β)
  • in special relativity: a symbol for the speed of an object relative to the speed of light: β = v/c
  • in thermodynamics and fluid mechanics: a symbol for compressibility
  • in zoology: β animals, which often act as second-in-command to the reigning α-males and/or α-females
More photos of letters, numbers and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

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