Science History

Even though Halley's Comet has a regular orbit it's not an easy task to map its appearances throughout history - and it may be that one of those appearances matches an ancient Greek testimony and has only now been realized, write Daniel W. Graham and Eric Hintz in the Journal of Cosmology, which would make it the first scientific claim about the famous extraterrestrial event.

In 1705, Edmond Halley used Newtonian theory and predicted the return of a comet seen in 1682.  It did return as predicted, in 1758, putting Halley on the stellar map and driving a stake into the evil hearts of competing theories to Newton.  

It may surprise those who know of my Ulster Protestant background that I am something of a fan of Flannery O’Connor.  As yet, I have not delved into her novels, but I have read all her stories, and also Mystery and Manners : Occasional Prose, from which I take the following

The Rise Of The Time Machines

Do you own a time machine?  The chances are that if you are reading this, then you own a time machine.  They are fairly cheap nowadays.  Like so many things, the first time machine was built for the military and cost a lot of money.

What do you think happened to the first person to claim to be able to predict the future using a machine built on scientific principles?  You may think he was treated with scorn, treated as a crank.  In fact he was given lots of money.

His invention was funded, not because the government of the day went to school with him, but because he was able to validate his method.  Scientists using the same method were able to predict future events with great accuracy.
The 4th of July is a holiday in the United States because it's the day a group of British citizens decided to throw off the shackles of tyranny and go out on their own, and they inspired a nation to join them.   Or, if you are one of those self-loathing cynical Americans who don't realize how lucky you are to be born in a wealthy western country, it is a day when a bunch of rich guys decided they didn't want to pay their taxes(1).

But the 4th of July is not just history, it's also apple pie, motherhood and ... chemistry.   
Search For Franklin - A Free Resource

Much of what was known about the Arctic before the 20th century came from the sheer guts and determination of men who didn't know how to quit.

The quest for a North West Passage was promoted by commercial and military considerations.  After the loss of the Franklin Expedition with two entire ships' crews, a 'no expense spared' approach was taken to finding the lost expedition.

Many of the ships engaged in the search had to be abandoned due to the terrible conditions.  Eventually, all hope of finding any member of the Franklin crews alive was abandoned.
A science historian at The University of Manchester says he has cracked 'The Plato Code', secret messages purported to be hidden in the writings of history's most famous philosopher.

Plato likely needs no introduction here but, in brief, he was one of the most influential authors in history; philosopher, mathematician and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the West, which laid the foundations of both Western philosophy and science.
Getting Steamed Up About Nostalgia

The term nostalgia describes a yearning for the past.

As a child, I would travel to school on a steam train.  I have always loved the power and the beauty of the steam engine.  The steam trains are mostly gone now, except for a few historic  lines run by and for enthusiasts.

One of my many hobbies is to examine satellite photographs and rediscover old railroad routes using the visual skills of the aerial archaeologist.  When the 19th and early 20th century engineers called their routes 'permanent way' they certainly knew what they were talking about.
Arctic Heroes #1 - Alfred Wegener

The history of Arctic and Antarctic exploration and discovery is filled with the names of heroes.  Many of those names get repeated over and over in popular writings on polar exploration.  Other names tend to get forgotten.  Here, in no particular order, I hope to write of some of these heroes, both remembered and forgotten.

Alfred_Wegener is most famous for his Theory of the Drift of the Continents.  He is less widely known for his enthusiastic contributions to climatology and meteorology, which led to his death on the Greenland ice sheet in 1930 under the most heroic circumstances.
This month a long time friend graduated with a PhD in science after 7 years of rather difficult studies beyond his master's degree. It was a big relief to him ending a period of weekend laboratories and late night study sessions. He passed the oral exams two months ago, and was left with only a few loose ends to tie up. Two pages of his dissertation had top margins that were a quarter inch too wide.

Remembering my own 23 years of college and some similar experiences along the way, I sent congratulations and included a copy of Albert Einstein's Ph.D. dissertation, with the hope that it would help to get the margins right.

In 1457 B.C. at Megiddo, named in the Bible Derekh Hayam (Hebrew: דרך הים), was fought the first battle remembered by military history.