Science History

Can anyone ever truly take credit for a discovery? Every researcher stands 'on the shoulders of giants', as Sir Isaac Newton said. Scientists talk to each other and argue and hone their thoughts based on the criticisms and reactions they get. No one lives in a bubble and great things happen when a lot of smart people know each other and debate as often as possible.

But when the debates are well-known, it's difficult to assign credit and far too easy to take it away. In modern times, tearing down statues of giants and standing on the rubble happens more often than standing on their shoulders and reaching new heights. And everyone wants to stand on the rubble of Albert Einstein.

A greeting card appropriate to Silchester, about 1500 years ago.

The English is from a little bit later, more likely King Alfred’s time.  However, for the Britons still living there, although surrounded by Saxons, I have to use Modern Welsh, since only a few Ogham inscriptions from that time survive.

How did Tycho Brahe die?

It's been a mystery for over 400 years.  11 days after he took ill, he passed away on October 24th, 1601 and in that wake arose a host of speculations, myths, conspiracies and hypotheses.

One persistent theory, that involved both misadventure and claims of murder, was mercury; that he had self-experimented/self-medicated the mercury, or that he was poisoned.

In 2010, Brahe was exhumed from his grave in Prague and a Danish-Czech team of researchers has been working to determine the cause of his death. The results of this intensive work now make it possible to rule out mercury poisoning as a cause of death.
 

An advocate for gene-centrism recently wrote that the concept is a reductive mechanism for the understanding of evolution.
The first part of that statement is correct; it is reductive, and is therefore lacking those qualities that are necessary for properly understanding a “big-picture” process such as evolution.

The second part of the statement is not correct. Gene-centrism did not develop as an explanation of evolution; it began as, and has remained a political movement within evolutionary biology, the goal of which is to destroy group selection as a credible evolutionary process.
If you've been in science media for any length of time, there are two arguments you will hear invoked to support almost any questionable position; that Einstein did his best work while he was a patent clerk and that Galileo was oppressed by the Catholic Church.

One of those is wrong; Galileo was not actually oppressed by a Church, he was really oppressed by fellow scientists(1) , the Pope was actually quite supportive of Galileo but fellow scientists were looking for ways to torpedo him. Yet colloquially, Galileo is held up as this sort of 'religion against science' example in a way that shows many people believe it was some sort of unscientific Dark Age prior to his arrival.  Not true at all.
 
The first man to walk on the moon passed away today, a few weeks after heart surgery. He was 82. 
Prior to World War II and dating back to the 1890s, the phrases “social technology” and “social engineering” carried strong connotations of central planning. This became particularly true in the Soviet Union, where the terms appeared in various tracts.
For about a day I had been trying to read Real Clear Science, particularly the article linked Evolution Debate: Blame Atheists.  Alas, every time I visited the site I got a message:
This site is temporarily down and we are working on restoring service. Sorry for the inconvenience.
It’s now back up, but in the interim I have taken the opportunity, since I run on OScar from Sesame Street Systems, to have a Grouch.  Fear not, North Americans, it is directed at my fellow Brits.
Bill Bryson edited a very good book in 2010 titled, “SEEING FURTHER – The Story of Science and the Royal Society”.



This is interesting, on the BBC website: