" Be lowly wise:
Think only what concerns thee and thy being.
John Milton

Back in the day


Jeremiah Horrocks Makes First Observation of Transit of Venus

A transit of Venus occurs when the planet passes between the Sun and Earth, obscuring a small portion of the Sun's disk. In 1639, English astronomer Jeremiah Horrocks made the first observation of such a transit by using a telescope to focus the Sun's image onto a white screen and watching as Venus's shadow, appearing as a small black disk, passed across it. These observations allowed him to estimate the distance from Earth to the Sun more accurately than ever before. How close was his estimate?




Ice-nine is a fictional material conceived by author Kurt Vonnegut in his novel Cat's Cradle. Described as an alternate solid form of water that is more stable than common ice, it is said to melt at 114.4° Fahrenheit (45.8° Celsius) rather than at 32° Fahrenheit (0° Celsius). When ice-nine comes into contact with liquid water, it causes the entire body of water to crystallize as ice-nine—with obvious far-reaching consequences. How did Vonnegut supposedly get the idea for the substance?

Born on a day like today


Benedict de Spinoza

Spinoza was a Dutch Jewish philosopher whose early interest in new scientific and philosophical ideas led to his expulsion from the synagogue in 1656. His philosophy represents a development of and reaction to the thought of René Descartes, and many of his most striking doctrines are solutions to difficulties created by Cartesianism. In his masterpiece, Ethics, he constructed a monistic system of metaphysics modeled on Euclid's Elements. How did Spinoza earn a living?

Last updated on Wednesday, 24th November 2010

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