Science History

With the first decade of the millennium coming to a close, it is time to take stock. What have 'The Noughties' brought us in terms of scientific advances?
No more sifting through unsanitary goat knuckles, searching for abstractions in tealeaves, shaking the Mattel magic eight ball, listening to Yellow Submarine backwards, or trudging India’s highlands in search of infamously reclusive gurus—instead, look no further for answers than Les Propheties, the 1555 work of Michel de Nostradame.
The coolest science conference of the 20th century was, hands down, the 1927 Solvay conference. Occurring during one of the most intense periods in the development of quantum mechanics, and attended by some of the most famous scientists in history, this meeting is especially well known for the sparring between Einstein and Bohr.
A friend on a newsgroup went recently to see the "Creation" fim / movie.  He'd like to know what the folks on Scientific Blogging think of it (I presume it's being shown across the pond, also.)  He writes:

Dear All,
Went to see the film the other night. Not quite what I expected and to some extent disappointed as it was very much an interpretation of Darwin (and Huxley), which didn't always fit in with the biographies of Darwin I've read.

Specific points:
Huxley had a walk on part and the actor who played him made him look like a dwarf and a stooge to Hooker.

With what words he did say, I'm not sure whether many people would be able to differentiate between his anti-clericalism and an anti God stance.

I’ve been putting the case for some months now, that evolutionary biology is in a deplorable state due to an uncritical acceptance of the unrealistic assumptions that lie at the heart of selfish gene theory, by those who are directing current research. (See also Gerhard Adam’s articles on Hamilton’s Rule, Selfish Gene Theory, and Biology.) Contributing biologists have responded by telling me that my fears are groundless, that biology has moved on, that the influence of selfish gene theory has waned, that I should concentrate on the current literature and not dwell on the past. So I went to the trouble of checking out the Oxford University Zoology Department’s very good selection of papers available online, that deal with current research in this area.

Today an archaeologist revealed that even in ancient Israel they were making outstanding likenesses of Alexander the Great.   Israel was a far cry from his usual stomping grounds but he had passed through on his way to Egypt and they had become so enamored with him - and his thousands of troops, we can assume - that they capitulated.

More interestingly, outstanding Hellenistic artists created likenesses of him, so the great ones were not limited solely to places like Alexandria.

Alexander was the first 'cult of personality' as his images attest:
The Voynich Manuscript Part 9 : An Amateur's Work?

We had this question posed to us in one of my classes. Here is my answer:

Did the existence of nuclear weapons cause a dramatic change in the conduct of foreign policy or the options available to nuclear states? Why or why not?


To answer this I'll off with a quote from Mao Tse-Tung: Weapons are an important factor in war, but not the decisive one; it is man and not materials that counts. To get to the crux of issue whether nuclear weapons caused a dramatic change an examination of linking the military and weapons to the policy creating branch of the government.

I have just read a letter in Chemistry World (September 2009, p40) by A J Dijkstra, who has just translated the first ever book on lipid chemistry from French into English. This book is Recherches chimiques sur les corps gras d'origine animale, Paris, 1823, by Michel Eugène Chevreul. His long life (1786 – 1889) took him from before the French Revolution to the inauguration of the Eiffel Tower. Chevreul had a long and varied scientific career, as his Wikipedia biography relates. 

Scientific happenings, big and small, on this day in history…

But first, today’s quiz:
What favorite American snack food was invented on this day by chef George “Speck” Crum in response to a picky customer that complained that the chef’s french fries were too thick? Chances are, most of you reading this have enjoyed a serving or two of these sometime this past week. Not sure? Check out the answer at the end of the article.

On to other historic happenings…


79 AD
Mount Vesuvius Eruption