Science History

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

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.