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For thirteen years, element 112 has been unnamed.  Now, a few weeks after it was added to the periodic table, the element has a name: Copernicum (Cp).

Statue of Copernicus in Torun, Poland, where he studied.

Statue of Copernicus in Torun, Poland, where he studied.

Obviously, the element is named after the Polish astronomer, Copernicus, who was the first to deduce that Earth and the planets revolve around the sun, not vice versa.  

The element was discovered in 1996 as a result of fusion experiments completed by scientists of the Center for Heavy Ion Research in Germany. 

In case you wanted to know, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry has rules that prevent a new element from being named after a living person.  After a name is proposed, a group of scientists from the IUPAC delegate whether or not the name is appropriate.  This name has not yet been approved, but no problems are foreseen. 

The Cosmic Perspective

Few events in the timeline of scientific discoveries have altered the way we view the universe as Copernicus’ bold proposition that the earth and the planets revolved around the sun.  We were uprooted from the center of the universe very abruptly.  When this idea was first proposed, by Copenicus and later Galileo, it was very controversial.  It went against everything many people were taught.  It could not be observed (Does not the sun come up in the morning and down in the evening.  And why do we not feel the motion of us revolving?) and very strange.  Today, over 500 years later, scientific ideas which have their basis in fact are rejected by many because it does not fit into their world view.  It is important to be open to new ideas: not necessarily blindly accepting everything science throws at us, but open to the possibility that things are not actually as they seem.   Perhaps some day, they may be fundamental truths that nobody in their right mind will argue.

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New School:

Werner Heisenberg 

Heisenberg

Heisenberg

Heisenberg was a German theoretical physicist who made foundational contributions to quantum mechanics.  He is most famous for his uncertainty principle, which in its simplest form states that that certain quantum quantities, like the position and momentum of electrons, cannot both have precise values at the same time.  The more precise one value is, the less precise the other is.   Heisnberg also made important contributions to nuclear physics, quantum field theory, and particle physics.  He also developed matrix formulation of quantum mechanics, for which he won a Nobel Prize.   

Erwin Schrodinger

Schrodinger

Schrodinger

Schrodinger was an Austrian theoretical physicist who achieved fame for his contributions to quantum mechanics.  He is best known for two things: the Schrodinger equation and the cat thought experiment.   The Schrodinger equation is absolutely integral to quantum mechanics, as it allows the observer to calculate the momentum and position of subatomic particles.  He won a Nobel Prize for this work.  The Schrodinger cat thought experiment was coined as follows:

A cat is penned up in a steel chamber, along with the following device (which must be secured against direct interference by the cat): in a Geiger counter there is a tiny bit of radioactive substance, so small, that perhaps in the course of the hour one of the atoms decays, but also, with equal probability, perhaps none; if it happens, the counter tube discharges and through a relay releases a hammer which shatters a small flask of hydrocyanic acid. If one has left this entire system to itself for an hour, one would say that the cat still lives if meanwhile no atom has decayed. The psi-function of the entire system would express this by having in it the living and dead cat (pardon the expression) mixed or smeared out in equal parts.

So essentially, the cat is both in living and dead states at the same time. 

George Washington Carver

Carver

Carver

Carver was an American scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor whose research turned agriculture on its head.   Since Southern American agriculture was largely a cotton monoculture before and after the war, the soil was greatly depleted of many nutrients.  He was first impressed with the task of finding and promoting crops that would grow well in soil depleted by cotton.  Carver also did much research with peanuts.  He developed food recipes, cosmetics, dyes, paints, fuels, and even nitroglicerine from peanuts.  Carver is also hailed for his accomplishments in mentoring children and improving race relations. 

E.O. Wilson

Wilson

Wilson

Wilson is an American biologist.  He is best known for his research regarding evolution, particularly in insects.  He pioneered the fields of sociobiology and consilience.   Most of his work deals with ants, and was one of the first to realize that ants use different pheromones to direct others.  He also coined the term biophilia, the love and connectedness of  all living things.  He is currently a leader in the environmental movement. 

Old School

Rene Descartes

Descartes

Descartes

Descartes was a French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist.  His work is still applicable and is used extensively to this day.   Most of  Western philosophy is a response to his writings.  His best known philosophic work is his argument of being, “Cognito ergo sum” ( I think, therefore I am).  He also developed the Cartesian coordinate system which allowed geometric shapes to be expressed using algebraic functions.  He was also integral (no pun intended) in developing modern geometry.

Louis Pasteur

Pasteur

Pasteur

Pasteur was a French chemist and microbiologist.  He made great leaps in the field of disease and its prevention.  His experiments essentially proved the germ theory of disease beyond a doubt.  He also created the vaccine for rabies.  He is best known for developing pasteurization, a way to largely prevent milk and wine from carrying harmful diseases.  He is often credited as the father of microbiology.

Marie Curie

Curie

Curie

Curie was a physicist and chemist of Polish birth and, later in life, French citizenship.  She was at the forefront of studying the field of radioactivity.   In fact, she created the theory of radioactivity as well as basic techniques of how to isolate radioactive isotopes for use in the treatment of cancers.  She also discovered two new elements, named polonium and radium.  For her work, she was the first person to ever be graced with two Nobel Prizes. 

Euclid

Euclid

Euclid

Euclid was a Greek mathematician who was one of the founders of Geometry, as he pioneered the field of Euclidean geometry,  where statements are proved using intuitive and deduced facts known as axioms and theorems.  His book entitled Elements is the most published in all of mathematics.  His other works include writings on perspective, conic sections, number theory and spherical geometry.

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Sorry about the delay, but my internet was down, so I could not write.   Time for a rant. 

THE POLES ARE OUT OF UEFA EURO 2008!  ARRGH!!!

A Saddened Polish Fan

Coach Leo Beenhakker completely revitalized this team and what…they can’t even win a single game in their group.

They get a solid chance to beat Germany for the first time, but they mess that up.  Alright.  I wasn’t really expecting to win that one.

Then they play Austria, the worst team in the group.  First, they let in like 4 breakaways which were defended brilliantly by Artur Boruc.  If not for him, they would be out of the game.  Then they score a great goal and defend well.  Then the stupid English referee calls a penalty kick for a tiny tug of the shirt!  What!?  There is no way the ref should decide the final outcome of the game like that.  That was no penalty.  Every team has been doing stuff like that and you decide to call it now, just when the Poles are about to win!    

Finally, they need to beat Croatia to have any chance of going through.  And what do they do?  Nothing!  Boruc plays amazingly again, but there is no offense!  If you can’t tell already, I’m a bit peeved by the whole thing. 

I suppose there will always be next time.

 

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wawel.jpg 

The Wawel Castle and Golden Roofed Chapel

Krakow is the ancient capital of Poland and the residence or kings for centuries.  Because Hitler loved the city so much, it was the only major city in the country to come through World War II essentially undamaged.  As a result of this reprieve, its collection of monuments, without rival in Poland, is listed by UNESCO as one of the world’s twelve most significant historic sites.

800px-krakow_rynek_01.jpg

The Rynek Glowny and Sukkienice

The city is indeed a visual treat, with the Wawel Castle being one of the most beautiful royal homes in Europe, and the old inner town a mass of flamboyant monuments.   Until the war, the city revolved around its Jagiellonian University.  Founded back in the fourteenth century, the university is one of the oldest in the world.   

wieliczka.jpg

The Wieliczka Salt Mine (All of the artwork is made entirely by the miners in salt)

Some of the other important monuments, buildings and sites are: the Sukkienice (Cloth Hall), Rynek Glowny (Main Square), Brama Florianska (Gate of Florian), Barbakan (gatehouse), Kosciol Mariacki (St. Mary’s Cathedral), Wieliczka Salt Mine (one of the oldest and most amazing in the world), and Smok Wawelski (Wawel Dragon).  This is one of the greatest cities in all of Europe!  I have been there twice and can definitely vouch for this one myself.

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