Archive for the ‘Science History’ Category

Marie Curie Voted ‘Greatest Polish Woman’ Ever

March 7, 2011 Leave a comment
Portrait of Marie Skłodowska-Curie (November 7...

Marie Curie ca. 1898 - Image via Wikipedia

It seems that the Museum of Polish History conducted a poll to find out who was the greatest Polish woman in history.

The winner came out to be physicist Marie Sklodowska-Curie, known for her work in radioactivity.

Curie also was the first female professor at the University of Paris, as well as the first person ever to be awarded two Nobel Prizes; one in physics and the other in chemistry.

She past away in 1934 due to complications from radiation poisoning, but she did get a physical constant named after her: the Curie (Ci) which is 3.7 x 1010 decays per second, which is about the radioactivity of 1 gram of Radium-226.

Happy (Geeky) Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Admittedly it is a bit late to purchase these valentines in time for, well, tonight. But damn it if they aren’t awesome.

These are for sale on Etsy and are done by Stephanie Burrows Fox. Great stuff Stephanie!

Science Valentines

The Science Hall of Fame

January 13, 2011 Leave a comment

There is one for pretty much every sport, a Walk of Fame for Hollywood stars, and one for Rock and Roll stars.

But there has never been a Science Hall of Fame, even though scientists have had a larger impact on our world than all the people in them other Halls of Fame put together!

Until now.

A few weeks ago, a paper was published online (and appears in print this week) in Science entitled “Quantitative Analysis of Culture using Millions of Digitized Books”. What these researchers did was use Google’s effort to digitize books (Google Books) which has currently digitized about 15 million books, roughly 12% of all books ever printed.

They used a subset of these already digitized books, 5.2 million, and were able to create a corpus of data wherein you could search for a particular word or group of words (i.e. “slavery” or “The Great War”) and see how often those words appeared in print as a function of the year. The years available are between 1800 and 2000.

This ability to study how often certain names and subjects appear in print allow researchers to study human history and culture in a new quantitative fashion. The authors of the study call it “culturomics”.

The authors  found some pretty interesting results, including finding that the English language has grown by 70% in the last 50 years; they were able to see the decline in use of certain words (who says “chide” anymore?) and found that the average age of peak prominence for a celebrity is 75.

After this study was published, John Bohannon, writer for Science, and an author of the culturomics paper Adrian Veres, teamed up to find which scientists were most popular in literature, and create this Science Hall of Fame. It is highly quantitative in nature, which is quite poetic for a science hall of fame if you think about it.

Scientific fame is measured in units of milliDarwins, one-thousandth of the average annual frequency that Charles Darwin’s name appears in English-language books from the year he was 30 years old (1839) until 2000. Here are the top 25:

You can go to the site and look up your favourite scientists, or you can also play with the raw data yourself and do your own studies, which has already caused me to be very unproductive at work today.

I’d also like to point out that the first 3 Nobel Prize Winners on that list are all physicists. Just sayin…

Whats Better Than a Wine Cellar? 180 Feet of Baltic Sea

July 19, 2010 Leave a comment

I like wine. I drink it often.

Can’t say I’ve ever had a very old wine though. Mostly I just buy whatevers on sale at the Co-Op.

But something really cool happened to a case of champagne that may have belonged to King Louis XVI.

A team of Swedish divers found, in an abandoned shipwreck in the Baltic Sea, a case of 30 bottles of Veuve Clicquot, a very fancy brand of champagne. The pitch darkness and lack of oxygen preserved the champagne perfectly. Sweet.

That makes it roughly 230 years old. By far the oldest bottle of (drinkable) champagne in the world.

230 year old bottle of Veuve Clicquot

Evidently, if the bottles truly did belong to King Louis XVI, they could each be worth a few million dollars at auction.

The location of the wreck is being held secret, and only one bottle has been brought to the surface. As for how it tastes, “There’s a lot of tobacco, but also grape and white fruits, oak and mead,”

I dunno about you, but I can never taste anything that the label says the wine is supposed to taste like. Think I need a wine tasting lesson.

Leave Galileo’s Remains Alone

June 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Hasn’t he suffered enough?

After fighting the Catholic Church (and losing), only to die in 1642 and have Catholic authorities refuse him the right to be buried on consecrated ground (i.e. in a Basilica), our poor friend Galileo Galilei now has two of his fingers and one tooth ON DISPLAY at a museum in the Italy.

In 1737, after 95 years of his body being in a storage room, Galileo was (finally!) moved to the Basilica of Florence’s Santa Croce.

But it would seem his followers decided it would be a great idea to remove two of the fingers from his right hand (how did they decide which?) and one of his teeth before finally laying him to rest in the Basilica. I’m not sure I would want to keep a piece of one of my dead friends, but that’s just me.

These remains were passed down to family members until 1905, when all traces of them were lost.

But last year, an unaware collector purchased a wooden case at a museum auction which had a bust of Galileo on it. Imagine this lover of antiquity’s surprise when he opened the case and found a glass vase with two fingers and a tooth inside!

The remains were later identified to be those of none other than Galileo Galilei.

These remains are currently on display at the newly re-named Galileo Museum in Florence, Italy.

I say: leave Galileo alone! Putting his remains on display is macabre and in poor taste. This pioneering scientist deserves a respectful and honorable resting place and burial, not to have his fingers and teeth put under glass as some sort of science exhibit.

I feel that this is wholly different from viewing other remains such as mummies. We have much to learn from mummified remains about the culture, practices, and religion of ancient Egypt. Conversely, we have written records and many other means of learning about the 1600-1700s without placing Galileo’s remains on display. They’re presence in the museum serves absolutely no purpose.