Science History

The eruption of 1815 Tambora volcanic eruption is famous for its impact on climate worldwide. As a result, the year 1816 was given memorable names such as 'Eighteen-Hundred-and-Froze-to-Death', the 'Year of the Beggar' and the 'Year Without a Summer' because of cold weather and unseasonable frosts, crop failure and famine across Europe and North America.

Some even claim the conditions inspired literary works such as Byron's 'Darkness' and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.



Or abandon hope? Credit: chrisdorney

By Tim Crook, Goldsmiths, University of London

The Old Bailey’s Central Criminal Court is an Edwardian building that bears the inscription “Defend the children of the poor and Punish the wrongdoer.”

An Italian visitor more than 100 years ago suggested it should be replaced with an aphorism from Dante’s Inferno: “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter here.”

By Mark Beeson, Murdoch University

Like him or loathe him, the late Samuel Huntington was one of the towering figures in political science and international relations. Even those who disagreed with his ideas were forced to engage with them. He helped shape a number of key debates about areas as diverse as civil-military relations, political order, institutional development and the spread of democracy.

But if there is one ‘big idea’ for which he is likely to be remembered more than any other it is the now infamous claim that the future was going to be defined by a looming ‘clash of civilizations’.

By Tom McLeish, Durham University; Giles Gasper, Durham University, and Hannah Smithson, University of Oxford

A 13th century bishop’s theory about the formation of the universe has intriguing parallels with the theory of multiple universes. This was uncovered by the the Ordered Universe project at Durham University, which has brought together researchers from humanities and the sciences in a radically collaborative way.

While James Watson and Francis Crick are rightfully celebrated for discovery of the double-helical structure of DNA, recognition of others has been inconsistent. Rosalind Franklin has practically been beatified, even though she never pieced together what she was looking at. 
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