Thursday, November 20, 2008

Copernicus' grave identified

The news reports that the remains of Nicolaus Copernicus have been identified. The AP story contains additional details, but the BBC has the best picture of the computer reconstruction made as part of the study of the remains found a few years ago. Compare it to the portraits included in the Wiki article about him.

It looks like we could almost trust the artists back then as much as we trust the DNA evidence today.

I'm particularly entertained by the detail that it was the DNA in some hairs found in an old book of his that was used to confirm the identity of the body. So something good can come from losing your hair!

By the way, this will be quite timely if Copernicus happens to be near the top of Matt's list of the top ten greatest physicists, but I'm not optimistic because Matt didn't even recognize Galileo's work as "physics" just because it was called "natural philosophy" back then. (Will he also ditch Newton because his greatest work was about the mathematical principles of natural philosophy? Time will tell.) Besides, he still has not used Einstein or Newton, and there are only two places left.

Sad, really, because Copernicus' work was easily the most revolutionary advancement in physics in history. Significant enough that it was the title of his book, "De revolutionibus orbium coelestium", that gave new meaning to a word that had just meant "going around in a circle" up until that time. His work set the standard for the sort of radical paradigm shift that will put Newton and Einstein at the top of Matt's list along with Maxwell. (Odd, however, that Weinberg and Salaam don't get an honorable mention up there with Maxwell's unification work.)

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