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Space Science

Search for Copernicus Over 188

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the lost-and-found dept.
blamanj writes "Nikolaus Kopernik, aka Copernicus, father of modern heliocentric theory, was buried in Frombork Cathedral (Poland) after he died in 1543. However, the cathedral's tombs were a mess, and it was unclear exactly where he was. Archaeologists now believe they've found his remains, and are planning to do DNA testing to verify. The search began in 2004."
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Search for Copernicus Over

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    and auction them off on Ebay?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 04, 2005 @04:29AM (#13948561)
    Do you get the impression that old Kopernick was the sort of chap that would run down the street screaming pretty much anything, and maybe he got the heliocentric theory thing right just by coincidence?

    "Apples will set your house on fire!"

    "Birds and dogs mate and give birth to lizards!"

    "By rubbing together two sticks, I created cheese!"

    "The Earth revolves around the sun!"

    "Bannanas are SATAN!!! SATAN!!!"

    "Abolish underwear!!!"
    • by Vo0k (760020) on Friday November 04, 2005 @04:56AM (#13948612) Journal
      Nope. He did a lot of research in order to present the theory. Being a priest, he wasn't in such deep shit as Galileo or Giordano Bruno, but still he was smart enough to have his finding published after he died :)
      • by cbv (221379)
        He did a lot of research in order to present the theory.

        That is only half of the truth. He actually was kind of a copy cat, citing from Sphaera mundi (among others) written by Johannes de Sacrobosco, and presenting the ideas as his own.

        One of the effects of his theft-of-thoughts is the unfortunately still common opinion that people during the so-called Dark Ages believed that Earth was flat -- they did not (the notable exception being Kosmas Indikopleustes, Laktantius and Severianus of Gabala).
        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 04, 2005 @07:17AM (#13948925)
          Umm. Not quite.

          You should not apply current views of knowledge to earlier times when the entire paradigm wa different. Nowadays we prize independent and inovative thinking - as the Greeks did around 500 BC. During the Middle Ages and up to the Renaissance, however, this was not the case. All human knowledge was believed to have already been revealed, either in the Bible or the 'wisdom of ancients', and the job of an intellectual was to extract this knowledge.

          So prior authority was not only important - it was critical. You HAD to cite such authority for your ideas, otherwise they could not be accepted. Producing your own ideas with no authoritative backing was seen as a sin similar to fabricating your base data nowadays. Intellectual giants like Roger Bacon fought against this approach in favour of the experimental method, but it was not really overcome until the 1700s. This is why all writings of this period cite earlier authority.

          School histories of Galileo and others are always done in complete ignorance of the mediaeval mindset, and end up portraying all his opponents as a set of unthinking morons - they were most decidedly not. However, I suppose simple ideas make better television!
          • Yes, but there IS a difference between citing (and indicating that you DO cite) and selling the idea (of someone else) as your own. Kopernikus did the latter.
          • Fucking hell, would you PLEASE log in and collect your karma... this is one seriously good comment.

          • The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were the transition from the pre-scientific concept that "nature fits mathematic patterns" to "mathematics describes nature". The difference is crucial. People back to Pythogarous and Plato (and further back to Babylonians and Egyptians) ascribed to the concept that there perfect mathematical patterns that nature must fit. This sometimes forced people to force observation to fit a preconceived model (e.g. circular orbits) rather than choose the best mathematics to f
      • by Digz (90264) on Friday November 04, 2005 @09:27AM (#13949272)
        Actually, Copernicus was encouraged by the Church. Galileo's fault was that he insisted on calling those people who didn't accept his theory (purported to be fact, even though he could not prove it) morons - including the Pope. During his trial, it was repeatedly stated that the charges would be dropped if he could provide proof for his theory - but he could not. The Church also offered a middle ground - accepting heliocentrism as a hypothesis - even superior to the geocentric one - until more proof was forthcoming.

        http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/apologet ics/ap0138.html [catholiceducation.org]
        http://www.catholic.net/rcc/Periodicals/Issues/Gal ileoAffair.html [catholic.net]

        Can we let this myth die?
        • Not that I want to be skeptical, or claim to know the real story, but do you have any non-catholic sources for that information?
          • by dylan_- (1661)

            Not that I want to be skeptical, or claim to know the real story, but do you have any non-catholic sources for that information?

            There's one here [nelsonbay.com] though I think it's a bit harsh on Galileo....the Catholic ones are kinder! It's a much more interesting story than the simplistic myth, I think. With all the factions that had a stake in the matter, it would make a fascinating documentary.

            • Strange that no-one stands up against with name against these religious liars!
              In 9th of July 1595 Johannes Kepler inscribed a geometric solid construction of universe.
              Within a few months of the publication of Kepler's discovery, grounded on Copernicus work published on his death-bed, Galileo turned his telescope to the heavens, discovering 4 moons of Jupiter and the phases of Venus similar to the Moons. This was the very first optical evidence of the rightess of the heliocentric view.
              Copernicus, Kepler and
              • > Stating it did not happen is just a simple lie.
                Did you read the linked article? They aren't saying it didn't happen. They're saying that the modern interpretation of its significance is wrong. They say that, far from resisting scientific inquiry, the church provided unprecedented support for scientific study in Europe across hundreds of years, and that the issue with Galileo was one of a few isolated incidents that arose due to politics and academic squabbles, not because of some intrinsic opposition
                • "They aren't saying it didn't happen. They're saying that the modern interpretation of its significance is wrong. The he church provided unprecedented support for scientific study"
                  Well, burnig Giordano Bruno alive on the Flower Market in Rome on February 17 1600 was quite a signal just shut up when the inquisition want to chat with you. Of course, Galileo Galilei just shut up because he preferred to live. In secret he still continued his work under the surveilance of the Inquisition. Next statement will be
          • There are enough facts to support this story:

            - Galileo Galilei got the right for research into planetary motion from the Pope himself in 1623 and was allowed to publish his results even if they contradicted with the geocentric world view, provided he called his theses theories and not fact (anyone familiar with that phrase? ;) )

            - The trial papers together with the invitation to the court were sent to Galileo Galilei in October 1641, but he didn't come to the court until May 1642. During that time no one att
        • by Anonymous Coward
          No. Rewriting history and falsifying facts to make the church's past positions somehow seem more tenable is par for the course a la Vatican (and they sure ain't the only ones). This is not a myth. What you are stating as fact is the myth. Pretending that Galileo was at fault for his punishment by the Church is about the biggest fraud you can perpetrate. Getting rated up on Slashdot for perpetrating this fraud demonstrates that too many would like to falsely believe in the infallibility of a higher auth
      • Actually, Yep (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Zevon 2000 (593515)
        Having read both Ptolemy's Almagest (the name given to his work by future Arabic scholars, meaning "The Greatest" IIRC) and Copernicus's work, I have a LOT more respect for Ptolemy. Ptolemy built up a system of practical geometry that explained the data available. His system got very complex, but it was consistent, and he addressed far more than Coperincus did. Everything from the shape of the Earth (Sphere? Ellipsoid? Cylinder?) to the movements of the planets, to how far Alexandria was from Rome.

        Copern
      • Nope. He did a lot of research in order to present the theory. Being a priest, he wasn't in such deep shit as Galileo or Giordano Bruno, but still he was smart enough to have his finding published after he died :) Actually, Galileo was very popular with the church too.
    • Come on people, the parent is one of the funniest posts in this discussion and you moderate it TROLL?? Bananas are SATAN!!!
    • It's a computerized portrait by the Police, what do you expect; they turned the father of the enlightenment into a bum.
  • 1543 is prime.
  • by teewurstmann (755953) on Friday November 04, 2005 @04:34AM (#13948572) Homepage
    ... James Cromwell [imdb.com], the actor from the movie "Babe" [imdb.com], you know, the one with the talking pig... I bet Copernicus couldn't understand or train pigs, but he sure understood that the earth isn't the center of the universe.
  • by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Friday November 04, 2005 @04:35AM (#13948575) Homepage Journal
    The world doesn't revolve around Copernicus, you know...
  • DNA Testing... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrFlannel (762587) on Friday November 04, 2005 @04:38AM (#13948582)
    Yes, well, we've got these bones. And we're going to test them to make sure they match with the known DNA sequence of Copernicus.

    Alright, so, they track down known relatives... problem is, 500 years? Thats what... 25 generations?
    "Yes, this man is Copernicus's Great-great-great-....-great-grandson. We can see they both have green eyes. This woman is his great-great-...-great-granddaughter, twice removed. We can see by this DNA that they're both left handed. So, of course, these must be is bones!"

    Not to mention he didn't have any kids of his own. Which just quarters the probabiliy of similarities.

    Or did I miss something? Anyone know how accurate this will actually be?
    • Re:DNA Testing... (Score:3, Informative)

      by gxv (577982)
      They want to compare Copernicus DNA with the DNA of his uncle Lukasz Watzenrode, bishop of Warmia. But first they have to find his grave. There is a catch though. They dont know where is his grave yet...
    • Re:DNA Testing... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MichaelSmith (789609) on Friday November 04, 2005 @04:51AM (#13948602) Homepage Journal
      Anyone know how accurate this will actually be?

      Seeing that they claim to be able to extract DNA from these bones, I imagine they could raid the burial sites of his known relatives of the day, and their descendants, right up to the present day.

      That way you would get a trail of DNA from the past to the present, which would make matching easier.

    • Re:DNA Testing... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Oxen (879661) on Friday November 04, 2005 @05:10AM (#13948658)
      I haven't read the article, nor am I at all informed as to the specifics of this case. However, they may be able to find a relative with the same mitochondrial DNA or the same Y-chromosome as Copernicus. Both of these pass unchanged from generation to generation.

      A person only inherits mitochondrial DNA from his mother. Using this principle, if we know someone who has descended entirely maternally from a common female ancestor of both him and Copernicus, we can check to see if it is Copernicus.

      The same thing goes for Y-chromosomes and men. This is done surprisingly frequently with historical figures. It was done with the Thomas Jefferson/Slave [pbs.org] thing and also with Anastasia Romanov. There is a caveat, however. You cannot distinguish between relatives, so even if it tests positive, it could be Copernicus's brother or another relative in the same genetic umbrella.

      -Mark
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Copernicus' brother/decendants wouldn't be buried in this cathedral's crypts.
      • What if there is no living relative? I can't have children, so if I ever did something famous (highly doubtful, but you never know) and 500 years later they wanted to prove some DNA strand was really me, it would be almost impossible. Unless it's possible to do it through the decendants of my siblings, which would trace us all back to our parents. But even then, who is to say that those children won't be wiped out in some accident (heaven forbid), but you never know.

        A family tree can die out and ours
        • They can match the Y chromosome of a brother (by the same father), or the son of his brother (by the same father). As long as you follow the male line, it works. Likewise, if Copernicus had a sister with daughters, they could follow the female line for the mitochondrial DNA. The point is that they are not looking for phenotype, but for particular parts of the genome (and for the mitochondrial genome) that do not change (beyond point mutation and other forms of genetic drift) so long as they can see a same-s
    • Re:DNA Testing... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Max Nugget (581772) on Friday November 04, 2005 @05:13AM (#13948664)
      >> Yes, well, we've got these bones. And we're going to test them to make sure they match with the known DNA sequence of Copernicus.

      From TFA:

      "The grave was in bad condition and not all remains were found, Gassowski said, adding that his team will try to find relatives of Copernicus to do more accurate DNA identification."

      I imagine they're talking about finding the graves of his dead relatives, not living descendants. If you find a skeleton that you have independent reasons to believe is some particular relative of his, and the DNA from that skeleton happens to corroborate that relationship when compared to the "Copernicus" DNA, you've increased the accuracy of the Copernicus skull substantially, because the chances of the relative being misidentified AND happening to have the correct DNA relationship with the suspected Copernicus DNA is miniscule, so long as the evidence leading you to the relative's remains was unrelated to the evidence that pointed you to Copernicus' remains, and provided the remains aren't buried, for example, right next to his (if they are then you've got nothing because any group of people buried together are likely to be related).

      And, not from TFA (from me):

      They may also be able to examine the DNA for certain genetic features that match up with aesthetic and non-aesthetic traits that are historically known about him.

      I was about to say they could also compare the DNA attributes with the aesthetic attributes of the skull, but then I slapped myself in the head for not realizing it would be self-referential since that's where the DNA came from. =)
    • i was also wondering how this was going to be accomplished
    • Not to mention he didn't have any kids of his own.

      At least ones anyone else than their mother and -possibly- him would know of.
      He was a catholic priest. Celibacy, that kind of stuff.
    • "Yes, this man is Copernicus's Great-great-great-....-great-grandson. We can see they both have green eyes. This woman is his great-great-...-great-granddaughter, twice removed. We can see by this DNA that they're both left handed. So, of course, these must be is bones!"

      This will be very hard. Being a priest, Copernicus didn't have any childern of his own.

      Nyh
    • Of course this only works if it *ISN'T* the OJ Simpson Trial jury doing the analysis. A perfect match - odds are one in a zillion - nope, I still don't believe it's him. What else ya got?
      • Did you actually watch the OJ trial

        The PCR tests yeilded a 1 in 5200 probabilty ... while a single blood drop was tested using the more accurate RFLP test yeilding a 1 in 170,000,000 probability. However the DNA analyst for the LAPD could have contaminated the blood drops found at the scene while preparing them for DNA analysis , after getting blood from Simpson's sample on his gloves.
  • by GodOfCode (878337) on Friday November 04, 2005 @04:39AM (#13948584)
    This shows us how important it is to properly comment and document the code we write!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    did they use copernic search?
  • by stirz (839003) on Friday November 04, 2005 @04:41AM (#13948589)
    I've seen two photos of the reconstructed head over at German "Spiegel online [spiegel.de]" and I the first thing that came to my mind was: "That's James Cromwell". Just compare some photos [google.com] on your own. The similarity is really amazing:-)

    Regards,
    Stirz
  • Finally! (Score:5, Funny)

    by nihilogos (87025) on Friday November 04, 2005 @04:52AM (#13948605)
    I'm sure we'll all sleep better tonight.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I didn't even know he was missing?
  • by aussie_a (778472) on Friday November 04, 2005 @05:08AM (#13948648) Journal
    the search for people who care has now begun.
    • "the search for people who care has now begun."

      I really don't see a reason for digging this guy up. I wonder how many graves were desecrated to fullfill someones desire to look at his bones and say "yup, that's him". They are going to need DNA of close relatives, they're gonna get dug up too.

      Death is a very private experience, one that is between a person and their god(s) (or lack thereof for that matter), and in my humble opinion, there really should be a compelling reason to go digging up someones grave
      • Death is anything but private. Some people in our culture may percieve funeral rites to be private, but death itself is public. What happens when you croak in your car, or on a path? In the woods or in the bath? Your smell alone gives your location away. All sorts of people will gather to cart you away. Your picture or story goes into the paper. And if you're lucky, in a thousand years, you'll teach kids looking at your bones what it was like to live with MP3 players, and mortality. Death is reintro
  • ... so maybe they can clone him. And set him up ... in orbit around something.

    But seriously - how do they test his DNA? "Yup. It's DNA alright!". Do they compare it to a vial of authentic Copernican spit they acquired on 5th avenue? Do they round up his offspring and run a poll? (or should I just RTFA and shuddup?)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This man has been accused of corrupting the youth by claiming the Sun is at the centre of the Universe and by instigating revolutions. Considered extremely dangerous. If you've seen this man, please call your local law enforcement or scientist.
    • If you agree with heliocentrism, you have to agree to Kepler's law, and to explain them you have to approve the THEORY of gravitation, which is bullshit. Everyone knows the one true model is Intelligent Falling.
    • This man has been accused of corrupting the youth by claiming the Sun is at the centre of the Universe and by instigating revolutions. Considered extremely dangerous. If you've seen this man, please call your local law enforcement or scientist.


      I thought they would have disconnected Internet access to Kansas by now!

  • by Vo0k (760020) on Friday November 04, 2005 @05:18AM (#13948676) Journal
    I'm Pole, and obviously we had more focus on Copernicus in our schools than the US kids (not to mention our schools serve about thrice the amount of knowledge...)
    So we were taught the life and findings of Copernicus, and as for his death, we were informed that his corpse lies in the Frombork Cathedral.
    Now I wonder if any kid on a visit to Frombork asked the teacher to see Copernicus' tomb, what would they do? "ups... well, we KNOW he is in the cathedral... somewhere..."
  • by bugg (65930) * on Friday November 04, 2005 @05:35AM (#13948714) Homepage
    One more crippling bombshell hit the already beleaguered astronomy community when slashdot confirmed that Copernicus, in fact, is dead.

    You don't have to be a Galileo to predict astronomy's future. The hand writing is on the wall: Astronomy faces a bleak future. In fact there won't be any future at all for astronomy because Astronomy is Dying.

    Astronomers are the most endangered of them all, with over 90% of all great astronomers dead. There can no longer be any doubt: Astronomy is Dying.

    Let's keep to the facts and look at the numbers.

    • One more crippling bombshell hit the already beleaguered astronomy community when slashdot confirmed that Copernicus, in fact, is dead.

      You don't have to be a Galileo to predict astronomy's future. The hand writing is on the wall: Astronomy faces a bleak future. In fact there won't be any future at all for astronomy because Astronomy is Dying.

      Astronomers are the most endangered of them all, with over 90% of all great astronomers dead. There can no longer be any doubt: Astronomy is Dying.

      Let's keep to t

  • by Flying pig (925874) on Friday November 04, 2005 @06:08AM (#13948779)
    (Apologies for spelling errors this is from memory)

    Der Himmel nicht die Erde umgeht
    Wie die Gelehrten meynen

    Muss jeden Mann sein Wurm gewiss
    Kopernikus des seinen

    (roughly The heavens do not go round the Earth as the learned held. Every man will get eaten by worms, even Copernicus)

  • Father of modern heliocentric theory? BLASPHEMER!!! BURN HIM!! (Cremation will do)
  • ...and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch
    grew up on Copernicus Street in Lvov,
    which I think was part of Austria-Hungary at the time.

    We have a 6-m wide paraboloid for space comms right atop the condo here.

    Time to plan a street party.

    Who do I write to if I want to borrow a relic for the occasion?

    A phalanx or a pair of teeth would do fine.
  • He's dead jim, but not as we know it. not as we know it. not as we know it. He's dead jim, but not as we know it. not as we know it, cap'n.

    (cue refrain)
  • Plus ca change (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FishandChips (695645) on Friday November 04, 2005 @08:21AM (#13949032) Journal
    These days they mess up old bones in old cathedrals in order to put somewhere on the map and provide an attraction for thousands of credulous visitors from all over the world.

    In the Middle Ages they messed up old bones in old cathedrals in order to put somewhere on the map and provide an attraction for thousands of credulous vistors from all over the world.

    Let the old guy rest in peace. Why should he want a thousand cheap busts and other trinkets knocked out in his name in the local tourist shops? Modern scientists: the religious relic traders of yesterday had nothing on them.
  • by base_chakra (230686) on Friday November 04, 2005 @08:31AM (#13949064)
    ... the cathedral's tombs were a mess

    I can vouch for this. Dirt everywhere! It was appalling.
  • by Ph33r th3 g(O)at (592622) on Friday November 04, 2005 @08:53AM (#13949131)
    I just heard some sad news on talk radio today. Famed astronomer and scientist Copernicus was found dead in his cathedral tomb today. There weren't any more details. I'm sure everyone in the Slashdot community will miss him - even if you didn't enjoy his work, there's no denying his contributions to popular culture. Truly an heliocentric icon.
  • Copernicus [yimg.com] ...looks strikingly similar to... Dr. Zefram Cochrane. [absolutenow.com]

  • Wow, does anyone else find Copernicus's reconstruction to look a lot like Zefram Cochrane?

    Copernicus [yahoo.com] looks a little too much like Dr. Cochrane... [planetspace.de]
  • Scar (Score:2, Funny)

    by flatass (866368)
    Gassowski said police forensic experts used the skull to reconstruct a face that closely resembled the features -- including a broken nose and scar above the left eye
     
    In the computer generated image, the scar is actually above his right eye.
  • by digitaldc (879047) on Friday November 04, 2005 @09:46AM (#13949370)
    http://www.nndb.com/people/144/000024072/james-cro mwell.jpg [nndb.com]
    http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/40982000/jpg /_40982156_portrait_afp203.jpg [bbc.co.uk]
    Separated at birth? You decide....
    In any case it is interesting that Copernicus or Kopernik continued his studies of astronomy as a hobby and not as a profession.
    Good Copernicus quotes:

    For I am not so enamoured of my own opinions that I disregard what others may think of them.
    I shall now recall to mind that the motion of the heavenly bodies is circular, since the motion appropriate to a sphere is rotation in a circle.
    Moreover, since the sun remains stationary, whatever appears as a motion of the sun is really due rather to the motion of the earth.
    The earth also is spherical, since it presses upon its center from every direction.
    The massive bulk of the earth does indeed shrink to insignificance in comparison with the size of the heavens.
    We regard it as a certainty that the earth, enclosed between poles, is bounded by a spherical surface.
    and finally....
    To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.

    BRILLIANT!
  • A good thing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Starker_Kull (896770)
    There are an awful lot of important (meaning, we wouldn't have computers, satellites, electric power, engines, medicines, etc. without them) scientists whose graves are lost and whose names are fast fading from common memory, whilst we have untold roads, bridges, cathedrals, buildings, etc. named after fairly useless politicans, generals and actors. So, if this gives us an excuse to call attention to the man who inaugurated modern astronomy by creating a viable, heliocentric calculational system to compete
  • by MrNiceguy_KS (800771) on Friday November 04, 2005 @11:00AM (#13949887)
    ...Thanks to the announcement of Google Graveyard Search (beta)
  • Centrist (Score:3, Funny)

    by drwho (4190) on Friday November 04, 2005 @11:39AM (#13950244) Homepage Journal
    Let me guess...did they look in the exact center of the Cathedral for is remains?
  • ...that requires us to use his bones or something? Some kind of voodoo that allows us to predict the locations of planets? Otherwise I really can't see why anyone would be interested in identifying his old bones.
  • If they already have his DNA, why not just clone him and kill the clone? That way, they'd know they have the body of the man in question.

    Seriously people, stop overcomplicating the issue here :)
  • "I found Copernicus - He Was Behind That Stone the Whole Time!"

  • Nikolaus Kopernik?

    It's Nicolaus Copernicus or Mikolaj Kopernik! Where did that misspelling come from?

    Czesc

    Michal

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