Monday, November 23, 2009

Good News: They Found Galileo's Fingers, Tooth!

Photo: Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza di Firenze via MSNBC
Just the news you were waiting to hear, right? What's that? You didn't know they were even missing? You're in for a treat that's been pickling for close to 300 years! It's true, three of Galileo's fingers and a tooth from his jaw were removed after his death and kept in a jar. Turns out two of the fingers and the tooth ran off together around 1905.

Oh sure, it sounds kind of sick now, but back then this was standard practice for preserving saints. That's right--this heretic of the church was believed by his, er, mutilators, to be a saint of science!

From CNN:

They were purchased recently at an auction by a person who brought them to the Museum of the History of Science in Florence, suspecting what they were, museum director Paolo Galluzzi said.

Three fingers were cut from Galileo's hand in March 1737, when his body was moved from a temporary monument to its final resting place in Florence, Italy.

Seems like an odd way to honor the dead, "HEY! Let's take a PIECE OF HIM!". Poor G.

The museum has had the other finger since the 1920s and is hoping to set up a reunion (of sorts). Interesting tid-bit, the fingers that were removed were the same ones he'd have used to hold a pen. Must have been some magic in those crusty old fingers!

Read more about the gruesome find. MSNBC has an article as well.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Witch Bottle Wards Off Evil, Hygiene

Photo: National Geographic
File this one under: strange and slightly gross. How do witches and warlocks fight evil spirits? By concocting their own magic talismans in form of enchanted bottles of course! The practice was bigger in the 16th century, but fell out of favor sometime during the Age of Reason. Why? Because it was the Age of Reason. It's rare for a witch bottle to be found intact, but that's exactly what's happened. From Nat Geo:
In the 17th and 18th centuries in Britain, the supposedly cursed often put their toenails and fingernails, urine, and hair into the witch bottles.

These jugs, usually buried near a house or building, were meant to keep evildoers at bay.
Can you imagine finding 300-year-old pee and fingernails? “magic” wouldn't exactly be the first word that comes to my mind. An X-ray confirms nothing nasty in this bottle. (Thankfully!) But that didn’t keep it from being charged with powerful magic:
Despite their name, witch bottles were more often intended as all-purpose lucky charms against bad luck, Norton said—"a modern equivalent of hanging a horseshoe on your door."

The superstitious also stuck children's shoes inside walls or buried horse skulls by doors—animals were believed to be able to see spirits, he said.
Ah, so it imbues one with the power to see plot points in M. Night Shyamalan films? Now that IS magical!

Read more...

Friday, November 13, 2009

NASA: WATER ON THE MOON!

Photo: NASA!
That's right junior moon explorers! There's water in them thar craters! LOTS OF IT! From MSNBC:
NASA's LCROSS probe discovered beds of water ice at the lunar south pole when it impacted the moon last month, mission scientists announced Friday. The findings confirm suspicions reported previously, and in a big way.

"Indeed, yes, we found water. And we didn't find just a little bit, we found a significant amount," said Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist and principal investigator from NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif.

Water could of course be converted into fuel for rockets, making it the perfect spot for a pit stop between here and the other planetary bodies of our solar system. Water, I'm also told, can be used to make your favorite astro-beverage.

Read up on all the liquid lunar goodness...

The BBC also has more...

Or get the full story from NASA...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

FOUND: Persian Army Lost in Sandstorm 2,500 Years Ago

Photo credit: Alfredo and Angelo Castiglioni via Discovery Networks

Italian researches claim to have found the remains of an ancient Persian army that disappeared in the sands of Egypt some 2,500 years ago.

From MSNBC:

Bronze weapons, a silver bracelet, an earring and hundreds of human bones found in the vast desolate wilderness of the Sahara desert have raised hopes of finally finding the lost army of Persian King Cambyses II. The 50,000 warriors were said to be buried by a cataclysmic sandstorm in 525 B.C.

"We have found the first archaeological evidence of a story reported by the Greek historian Herodotus," Dario Del Bufalo, a member of the expedition from the University of Lecce, told Discovery News.

Herodotus' tale recounts how the Persian army of more than 50,000 became lost on the way to siege Siwa Oasis. The army at the time was commanded by Cambyses II, son of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian Empire. The army was ordered to destroy the oracle at the Temple of Amun but never arrived. They were swallowed by the sands and the temple stood to eventually proclaim Alexander of Macedonia "Master of the Universe" (I'm not making this up) much to the chagrin of ol' Camby. Alex went on to become "the Great" and Camby, uh, died mysteriously in what was thought to be a coup d'├ętat. Bummer!

By this time the legend of the army's disappearance passed into myth until it was recently discovered only to be recounted in the great historian's telling:

"A wind arose from the south, strong and deadly, bringing with it vast columns of whirling sand, which entirely covered up the troops and caused them wholly to disappear."

The story is utterly fascinating, you should check out the full article...

Or you could just watch the YouTube version from Discovery Networks.