Galileo Galilei

Galileo was born in Pisa, but later moved with his family to Florence. In 1581, he enrolled in the University of Pisa to study medicine, then switched to mathematics and natural philosophy. He investigated many areas of science, and is perhaps most famous for his discovery of the four largest moons of Jupiter (still called the Galilean moons). Galileo’s observations led him to support the Sun-centered model of the solar system, which at the time was in opposition to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1633, he was tried and made to recant this and other ideas. He was sentenced to house arrest, which lasted the rest of his life. During his confinement, he wrote a book summarizing his work on kinematics (the science of movement).

Key works:

1623 The Assayer

1632 Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems

1638 Discourses and Mathematical Demonstrations Relating to Two New Sciences

First Pregnant Egyptian Mummy Discovered

The first known case of a pregnant Ancient Egyptian mummy has been revealed by researchers from the Warsaw Mummy Project.

The mummy, which is housed in the National Museum in Warsaw was previously thought to be the remains of the priest Hor-Djehuti, until it was discovered in 2016 to be an embalmed woman who lived in Thebes around the 1st century BC.

Dr. Marzena Ożarek-Szilke from the University of Warsaw said in an interview to PAP: “We were about to summarise the project and submit the publication to print. For the last time my husband Stanisław Szilkec looked at the x-ray images, and we saw in the deceased woman’s belly a sight familiar to the parents of three children … a little foot.”

A closer examination using tomographic imaging revealed that the woman was between 20-30 years old when she died and was in her 26th to 30th week of her pregnancy.

Wojciech Ejsmond from the Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures of the Polish Academy of Sciences said: “For unknown reasons, the fetus was not removed from the abdomen of the deceased during mummification.” This has led the research team to speculate as to whether the fetus was to difficult for the embalmers to remove, that there might have been an attempt to camouflage an unwanted pregnancy, or possibly in connection to the ritual beliefs of rebirth and the afterlife.

Scientists will now try to unravel the mystery of the cause of the woman’s death. “It’s no secret that the mortality rate during pregnancy and childbirth was also high at that time. Therefore, we believe that the pregnancy could have somehow contributed to the death of the young woman ”- noted Dr. Ejsmond.

Source: HeritageDaily

Stone Tools Used By Homo Erectus Discovered

Archaeologists have discovered hundreds of stone tools in a goldmine where Homo erectus would have inhabited 700,000 years ago in the eastern part of the Sahara Desert, 70 km east of the modern city of Atbara in Sudan.

Homo erectus (meaning “upright man”) is an extinct species of archaic human from the Pleistocene, with its earliest occurrence about 2 million years ago. Studies of surviving fossils suggest that the species had a humanlike gait and body proportions, and was the first human species to have exhibited a flat face, prominent nose, and possibly sparse body hair coverage.

A gold rush in the eastern Sahara Desert has led to many open-cast mines being excavated in search of the valuable ore. The mining activity has allowed archaeologists to study exposed layers containing large tools with a transverse cutting edge, and almond-shaped cleaver tools with chamfered edges on both sides, which form a pointed tip at the junction.

Archaeologists believe that the site was a workshop for the manufacturing of stone tools, evident by the discovery of associated flakes formed during their production.

Layers of earth and sand lying just above the tools have been analysed using optically stimulated luminescence (OSL), which dates the earthen-sand layer to around 390 thousand years ago.

Professor Mirosław Masojć from the Institute of Archaeology of the University of Wrocław said: “This means that the layers below are certainly older. Based on the style of workmanship of the tools, I believe that they may be over 700,000 years old, and perhaps even a million years old – similar to their counterparts in South Africa”.

The researchers suggest that the site is the oldest known example of tool manufacturing within the areas of Egypt and the Sudan that has a well-confirmed chronology, in which Masojć adds: “Yes, ancient tools are found in deserts, but never before have they come from layers that we can safely determine their age”.

Source: HeritageDaily

Leonardo da Vinci

The original Renaissance man died 502 years ago (1452–1519), but the nature of his genius continues to fascinate us:

Leonardo’s science was grounded in the Aristotelian world as shaped by 18 centuries of interpreters. He developed a system of what he called the four powers of nature: movement, weight, force and percussion. Although he struggled to define these concepts, and many of the ideas are archaic, it is telling that he developed a coherent model for all natural phenomena ranging from the macrocosm (e.g., geological forces that lead to the formation of rivers and oceans) to the microcosm (e.g., human anatomy).

Clémence-Auguste Royer

On this date in 1830, Clémence-Auguste Royer was born in Nantes, France. Her parents were Catholic royalists, and Royer’s early education took place in a convent school. Royer became a republican following the Revolution of 1848, and began to question other common views at that time. Royer obtained a teaching certificate and taught at girls schools in Wales, where she mastered English, and in France. She read widely on science in these school libraries. In 1855, as a result of her inquiries, she rejected Catholicism thoroughly, and devoted herself to science. She began to offer lectures on science and logic for women in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1858. Royer translated Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species into French in 1863. She famously wrote a preface to the work which used Darwin’s mechanism for evolution as part of an anti-religious argument which Darwin himself did not make — by this time, the book was in its third English edition and contained several strong references to a creator. Royer had been an evolutionist before reading Darwin, having been strongly influenced by the writings of Jean Baptiste LaMarck. French scientists, especially atheists and anthropologists, were strongly influenced by evolution and natural selection as framed by Royer, who also discussed the implications of evolutionary theory for human beings and society in her introduction (it would be almost ten years before Darwin himself grappled with these issues in The Descent of Man). Royer continued as Darwin’s official French translator until the third French edition of Origin was published in 1870.

Royer, despite not being a research scientist, remained a popular interpreter of science as well as a philosopher of science throughout her life. As a woman, she was denied access to many learned societies, as well as university teaching positions. It has been argued by Jennifer Michael Hecht, among others, that Royer opened doors to women within the freethinking movement. Royer was a feminist who argued passionately for the rights of women, married and unmarried, to child custody, property, education and equality with men. In 1866, she had a son by her lover and life partner, Pascal Duprat, a married man, which sharpened her concern about the major legal obstacles then present to unwed mothers and their children. She published many books and articles throughout her life, and considered the pinnacle to be 1900’s Natura rerum, her theory of nature. In 1900, Royer was named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor for her contributions as “a woman of letters and a scientific writer.” D. 1902

“Yes, I believe in revelation, but a permanent revelation of man to himself and by himself, a rational revelation that is nothing but the result of the progress of science and of the contemporary conscience, a revelation that is always only partial and relative and that is effectuated by the acquisition of new truths and even more by the elimination of ancient errors. We must also attest that the progress of truth gives us as much to forget as to learn, and we learn to negate and to doubt as often as to affirm.”
~ Clémence Royer, preface to Charles Darwin, L’origine des espèces, in Jennifer Michael Hecht, The End of the Soul

John Muir

John Muir was born April 21, 1838 also known as “John of the Mountains”, was an American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher, glaciologist and early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books describing his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada, have been read by millions. His activism has helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and many other wilderness areas. The Sierra Club, which he founded, is a prominent American conservation organization. The 211-mile (340 km) John Muir Trail, a hiking trail in the Sierra Nevada, was named in his honor. Other such places include Muir Woods National Monument, Muir Beach, John Muir College, Mount Muir, Camp Muir and Muir Glacier. In Scotland, the John Muir Way, a 130-mile-long route, was named in honor of him.

In his later life, Muir devoted most of his time to the preservation of the Western forests. He petitioned the U.S. Congress for the National Park bill that was passed in 1890, establishing Yosemite National Park. The spiritual quality and enthusiasm toward nature expressed in his writings has inspired readers, including presidents and congressmen, to take action to help preserve large nature areas. Today Muir is referred to as the “Father of the National Parks” and the National Park Service has produced a short documentary about his life.

John Muir has been considered “an inspiration to both Scots and Americans”. Muir’s biographer, Steven J. Holmes, believes that Muir has become “one of the patron saints of twentieth-century American environmental activity,” both political and recreational. As a result, his writings are commonly discussed in books and journals, and he is often quoted by nature photographers such as Ansel Adams. “Muir has profoundly shaped the very categories through which Americans understand and envision their relationships with the natural world,” writes Holmes. Muir was noted for being an ecological thinker, political spokesman, and religious prophet, whose writings became a personal guide into nature for countless individuals, making his name “almost ubiquitous” in the modern environmental consciousness. According to author William Anderson, Muir exemplified “the archetype of our oneness with the earth”, while biographer Donald Worster says he believed his mission was “…saving the American soul from total surrender to materialism.” On April 21, 2013, the first ever John Muir Day was celebrated in Scotland, which marked the 175th anniversary of his birth, paying homage to the conservationist.

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”
~ John Muir

Lawrence Krauss on the Universe

“… the fact that the universe itself may have no purpose doesn’t affect our purpose, in fact it’s the incredible height of solipsism to assume that without us the universe doesn’t matter, and that if the universe is purposeless we don’t matter. We make our own purpose, and it seems to me life is more precious because it’s temporary and accidental, and we should take advantage of that. And we have evolved brains and that allows us to ask questions not just about how the universe works but how we should behave.”

~ Lawrence Krauss, (born May 27, 1954) is an American-Canadian theoretical physicist and cosmologist who is Foundation Professor of the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, and director of its Origins Project.

#FavoriteQuotes #LawrenceKrauss #Science

David John Chalmers

On this date in 1966, philosopher David John Chalmers was born in Australia. Chalmers earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and computer science from the University of Adelaide in 1986. He was briefly a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, but transferred to Indiana University at Bloomington, where he obtained a Ph.D. in 1993 in philosophy and cognitive science. He worked at Washington University in St. Louis from 1993 to 1995, and at the University of California – Santa Cruz from 1995 to 1998. He worked in the Department of Philosophy and the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona from 1999 to 2004. Since 2004, Chalmers is professor of philosophy and director of the Centre for Consciousness at Australian National University. As of 2009, he is also a part-time professor of philosophy at New York University. His 1996 book, The Conscious Mind, is considered a seminal work on consciousness. His numerous papers and books have had great influence in the realms of cognitive science, philosophy of the mind and philosophy of language.

“Now I have to say I’m a complete atheist. I have no religious views myself and no spiritual views, except very watered down humanistic spiritual views. And consciousness is just a fact of life. It’s a natural fact of life.”
~ David Chalmers in an interview on “Encounter” with Margaret Coffey for Australian ABC National Radio, April 10, 2011

Bicycle Day

Happy Bicycle Day, which doesn’t celebrate bicycles but the effects of LSD:

On April 19, 1943, Albert Hofmann, a researcher at Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, Switzerland, purposely ingested .25 milligrams (250 micrograms) of LSD at his lab. He thought this would be the threshold dose—the lowest amount taken where there are still effects—when in reality the threshold dose for LSD is only 20 micrograms. But what does a bicycle have to do with the day?

Within an hour, Hofmann began to notice changes in his perception and senses. He decided that he should go home, so he hopped on his bicycle and began riding. Because the drug was already greatly affecting him, he had his laboratory assistant help guide him to his house. At times during his bicycle ride, he thought he was going insane, thought his neighbor was a witch and thought the LSD had poisoned him.

He later wrote in LSD: My Problem Child, “On the way home, my condition began to assume threatening forms. Everything in my field of vision wavered and was distorted as if seen in a curved mirror. I also had the sensation of being unable to move from the spot. Nevertheless, my assistant later told me that we had traveled very rapidly.”

Needless to say, his bicycle ride was quite a trip.

Charles Darwin’s Death

Famed British biologist Charles Darwin died 139 years ago on April 19. Often dubbed as the “Father of Evolution,” Darwin provided the world with explanations on the origin and evolution of living things on Earth.

Darwin was born on Feb. 12, 1809, in Shrewsbury, England, and was homeschooled with his sister Caroline until the age of 8. He was sent to a boarding school after spending a year at a day school. His father enrolled him to the University of Edinburgh to study medicine. There, he began collecting, hunting, and naturalizing rather than studying medicine, according to Charles Darwin Online.

After graduating in 1831, Darwin accepted a job on the HMS Beagle, a vessel that mapped South America’s coast over a span of two or three years. During the job, he took notes and sent samples and specimens to botanist John Henslow in England. After returning to England after five years on the vessel, Darwin found that his specimen collection amazed Henslow and geologists, zoologists, and botanists.

Darwin’s research during his job on HMS Beagle contributed to the development of theory of evolution and natural selection. He, however, took over 20 years to publish the revolutionary theory — in 1858. He was apparently concerned about the acceptance of his idea. However, the theory turned out to be groundbreaking and was eventually widely accepted in mainstream science.

A few quotes:

“The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an agnostic.”

“We can allow satellites, planets, suns, universe, nay whole systems of universes, to be governed by laws, but the smallest insect, we wish to be created at once by special act.”

“False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often endure long; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, for every one takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness.”

“At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace the savage races throughout the world.”

“A man who dares to waste one hour of his life has not discovered the value of life.”

“The highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognize that we ought to control our thoughts.”

“It is a cursed evil to any man to become as absorbed in any subject as I am in mine.”

“A man’s friendships are one of the best measures of his worth.”

“A scientific man ought to have no wishes, no affections, – a mere heart of stone.”

“False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often endure long; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, for every one takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness.”

#CharlesDarwin #EvolutionByNaturalSelection #FatherOfEvolution