Science History

Everyone has heard of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a stand-off over missiles off the shores of America. It's considered a highwater mark during a Cold War culture that was concerned about mutual assured destruction.

Outside testing, nuclear weapons have not been detonated since 1945 but there have been ‘disturbing near misses in which nuclear weapons were nearly used inadvertently’ owing to miscalculation, error or sloppy practices. 

Not once, but nearly 13 times since 1962 - and the risk of nuclear weapons being detonated today is higher than people know.
Harvard Divinity School Professor Karen L. King believes that an ancient Coptic fragment, the first-known explicit reference to a married Jesus Christ, is authentic, and supports the argument with an article in Harvard Theological Review.

The fragment, announced at the International Coptic Congress in Rome in 2012, contains a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples in which Jesus speaks of “my wife” and so it was informally given the title The Gospel of Jesus's Wife.

Here is the translation:

In 2011, Rice Religious Studies graduate student Grant Adamson was doing a summer internship at Brigham Young University and tackled something that no one had been able to do in a hundred years - he deciphered 1,800-year-old letter from an Egyptian solider serving in a Roman legion in Europe.

While young people always think their situation is exceptional and previous generations just don't understand, the letter shows the Roman soldier had many feelings similar to what some soldiers feel today.

We all know the story of Albert Einstein’s “cosmological constant,” or lambda, which he invented, then retracted in shame ("Then away with the cosmological constant!"), and then in 1998, with the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe, it came back with a vengeance as the mathematical representation of 'dark matter'.&n

Alchemy, which most people have at least heard of, along the lines of 'the quest to turn lead into gold', is getting rehabilitated. In one paper, anyway.

Alchemy, like chemistry, had 'chem' at its core. Chem derives from Khem ('black land'), which was the name for what we call Egypt, due to the dark alluvial soil provided by the flooding Nile each year. Egypt was well known to Greeks and Romans but it wasn't until the 8th century that Arab Muslims, having conquered it in the previous century, re-introduced the science from their new state to Europe, a state which they called Al-Khem. This science believed that metals were composed of sulfur and mercury. Gold was the perfect metal and a Philosopher's Stone could transmute baser metals into it.
A forensic team has tackled a famous case from 1930 - the ‘Blazing Car Murder’ , which sounds like it came right out of the plot of a Sherlock Holmes novel.

On November 6th, 1930, a man was murdered in a car fire in in Hardingstone, Northamptonshire. Alfred Rouse was convicted of the crime and hanged at Bedford Gaol in March 1931. Home Office-appointed pathologist Bernard Spilsbury and another local pathologist, limited by the science and technology of their day, were unable to identify the victim due to the burns, but they reported that lavender colored material and light brown hair were found at the scene and they wrote that the victim’s jawbone was removed to assist with possible identification and tissue samples taken for microscopical examination.

The Battle of Raphia occurred in 217 BC near modern Rafah during the Syrian Wars. It was documented by Polybius and the orders of battles listed tens of thousands of foot soldiers, thousands of cavalry and elephants on both sides, making it the only known battle between Asian and African elephants. 

In 1855, a specimen of the brain of mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss was taken and preserved. But the over 150-year-old slice of his brain, which scientists had long been examining in the belief that it was Gauss's brain, turns out to not be his brain at all.

Instead, the preserved specimens of the brains of Gauss and Göttingen physician Conrad Heinrich Fuchs, a medical scholar and founder of the University of Göttingen's anatomical pathology collection, were switched, probably soon after the death of both men in 1855, says  Renate Schweizer, a neuroscientist at Biomedizinische NMR Forschungs GmbH at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry.

Technology may not seem like more of a woman's world than science, but in some ways it is - Ada Lovelace is revered by computer programmers and is well-known in popular culture, while Laura Bassi, the first women to forge a professional scientific career, is basically unknown outside physics.

Laura Bassi was born in Bologna in 1711 and rose to celebrity status across the globe, gaining a reputation as being the best physics teacher of her generation and helping to develop the discipline of experimental physics.She was the "woman who understood Newton", even more of a fascination then because so few men in science understood Newton.

A few days ago, I was watching an episode of the Antiques Roadshow.  People were bringing their treasured objects for expert examination to the grounds of a stately house in St Ives, Cambridgeshire.  The items included an early pocket calculator by Sinclair (made locally), and a traction engine arrived in full steam.  But my ears really pricked up when a valuable jug bought for a fiver (in today’s money, perhaps $50) was identified as a Bellarmine Jug