1. 1st letter in the Greek alphabet. A, a. Pronounced like "a"

2. Used to describe the first pre-tested version of software. These are generally buggy and work horribly.
One of the unsolved problems of physics relates to why the physical constants have the values they have. Did they have to be this way for everything to work out right, or are some of them just random chance?

One specific version of this problem concerns a number called alpha. Alpha is the square of the charge of the electron, divided by the product of the speed of light and Planck's constant. All the units of these terms cancel out, leaving a dimensionless constant with a value slightly more than 137. Why not exactly 137? Why not some other number entirely? Nobody knows.

In most graphics software, "alpha" is the value of opacity for an object or color. If something is 0% alpha, it is totally transparent; if it is 100%, it is totally opaque.

This is usually implemented by creating a special alpha channel-- in other words, thinking of Alpha as the fourth primary color. Most image storage mechanisms already work on the idea of three channels, for red, green, and blue. Each channel is essentially a separate black and white image, and so you have three black and white images, each one storing the amount in each pixel of red, green and blue respectively. An alpha channel is simply adding a fourth black and white picture that stores the opacity level of each individual pixel.. and so each pixel is thought of by the computer as a mixture of red, green, blue, and alpha.

PNG has an 8-bit (256 level) alpha channel, and so it can have parts of the image be partially transparent with different amounts of transparency than other parts of the image. GIF has transparency, but it's 2-bit and isn't really any real usage of the idea of alpha; GIF just selects one specific color to be the "transparent" color, and every pixel of that color is wholly transparent.

The weird robot from Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.

Alpha liked to hang out with Zordon in the Power Chamber, frequently furrowing his robot-brow, waving his arms wildly and shouting "Aye-aye-aye! The Rangers are in trouble!" As far as I could tell, the only reason he was useful was cause Zordon didn't have hands to do things himself.

Alpha Five was the first incarnation we actually saw on the series. At some point (perhaps during Power Rangers Turbo) he was replaced by Alpha Six, who for some reason liked to rap. Such phrases as "Yo yo, wasup, Powa Range's?" were frequently heard coming from his mouth. Of course, there have been about twelve Power Rangers series since then. Zordon (that's the big head in the tube) is long since dead - believe it or not, his death supposedly killed all the bad guys in the galaxy. Apparently that's why they have to go to a new galaxy and change the name of the show every week now. Sounds like bad planning to me. Presumably, with Zordon gone, Alpha committed suicide, or got a real job, or something.

Yes, it is scary that I know this information.

The one true editor for Macs (the mac version of Emacs on longer sucks as much, but it still seems to be clinging to the past). A text editor (as opposed to a word processor) that uses Tcl as it's scripting language. Contains many of the basic Emacs commands and many many of it’s own; There are an insane amount of keyboard shortcuts (about 300, if memory serves). It has 40 different editing modes, including ones for all kinds of programming languages (C++, Python, Perl, Tcl...). Currently at version 7.4.1; The author no longer has enough free time to work on it, so it’s been taken up by the “Alpha Cabal”, who are working on version 8.

The main homepage is at: http://alpha.olm.net
The Alpha Cabal homepage is at: http://www.his.com/~jguyer/Alpha/Alpha8.html

The first letter of the Greek alphabet, written capital Α and lower case α , the HTML codes for which are Α and α . The upper-case letter is the same as a Roman A, and the lower-case one is similar to a handwritten a, but written in a single loop from upper right, clockwise, down to lower right. Non-Greeks (e.g. mathematicians using it as a symbol) often exaggerate the lateral stretching of this, making it look like a fish, or the 'is proportional to' symbol. This should be avoided.

It comes from some Semitic alphabet, traditionally the Phoenician, pronounced something like the Hebrew name aleph, and meaning an ox. It originated as a picture of an ox's head. (Turn it on its side to see a triangular snout.) In Semitic languages it represents the glottal stop sound, but this not occurring in Greek it was used for the vowel A. Of course it gave rise to the Roman letter A (via Etruscan).

In Ancient Greek it had two values, long and short; in Modern Greek it retains the same vowel quality but there is no longer any distinction of length. It is the same sound as the A of most European languages. In English, A usually has a different sound (as in mat or mate), but the A of father is about the Greek long sound. The short sound is that of mutt for most southern British and Australasian speakers. (The American version of mutt is less accurate, but is still probably the closest in that accent to Greek short α.)

The length of the letter alpha was not marked in writing. However, with the introduction of accents by Aristophanes of Byzantium in the later classical period, came some marking, because the circumflex accent can only appear on long vowels. But alpha with acute or grave is ambiguous.

In Attic, the dialect of Athens in the classical period, long α was replaced by η eta in many circumstances. This had a long sound around those of English man or mare. But other dialects kept the A sound. Thus you get doublets such as Athena and Athene. This applied in particular to the feminine singular ending of first declension words. However, in Latin the corresponding ending is short -a, so it was easier to borrow Greek words into Latin with the A form.

There are two exceptions to this change of ending: it did not take place after a vowel (e.g. historia 'research'), or R (e.g. orkhestra). There is an exception to these: you would therefore expect kora for 'girl', the original vowel retained next to the R, but even in Attic this word was κορη korê, because it was originally korwa, and W was lost in pre-classical Greek after the Attic A-shifting rule applied.

It took part in three diphthongs, ai, au, aai. The first two were as in aisle and house. I delay discussion of aai. In Greek after the classical period, ai changed to an E sound (as in met), and au changed to AV, or (finally and before voiceless sounds) AF. These are the Modern Greek values.

These two were borrowed into Latin as the closest Latin sounds ae, au. So Aiskhylos became Aeschylus. Note that this is in no way inaccurate, or less correct than Aiskhylos: it is a transcription into the closest letters of the Roman alphabet (plus a Latin ending). Since classical Roman times, Latin changed, gave rise to French, was borrowed into English, and English changed. The Latin diphthong AE changed to a long E sound, then in the Great Vowel Shift of around 1500 this became the modern English EE sound: giving SEEza and EESkilus for Caesar and Aeschylus. The Latin AU also changed to a long O, and that's roughly what we use today.

Long diphthongs are comparatively rare in languages, though Thai has them in abundance. The ancestor of Greek, Proto-Indo-European, had aai, aau. I'm not sure what happened to aau, I shall have to look up my book for that one, but aai existed in the classical period, written ΑΙ, same as short ai. The iota element disappeared in the later classical period. With the appearance of lower-case letters and accents in the post-classical period, the silent iota came to be written small underneath the letter, and is called iota subscript, except at the beginning of a word, such as Αιδης (Hades), where it was retained in-line or adscript.

Greek letters were used as numerals, with a stroke by them, so α' was 1.

Al"pha (#), n. [L. alpha, Gr. 'a`lfa, from Heb. aleph, name of the first letter in the alphabet, also meaning ox.]

The first letter in the Greek alphabet, answering to A, and hence used to denote the beginning.

In am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Rev. xxii. 13.

Formerly used also denote the chief; as, Plato was the alpha of the wits.

⇒ In cataloguing stars, the brightest star of a constellation in designated by Alpha (α); as, α Lyrae.


© Webster 1913.

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