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Earth Space Science

Search For the Tomb of Copernicus Reaches an End 243

Posted by timothy
from the always-the-last-place-you-look dept.
duh P3rf3ss3r writes "The Associated Press reports that after 200 years of speculation and investigation, the tomb of Nicolaus Copernicus has been found. Although the heliocentric concept had been suggested earlier, Copernicus is widely thought of as the father of the scientific theory of the heliocentric solar system. The positive identification was made by comparing the DNA from a skeleton's teeth with that from hairs in a book known to have belonged to Copernicus. A computer-generated facial reconstruction is said to also bear a resemblance to contemporary portraits of the scientist."
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Search For the Tomb of Copernicus Reaches an End

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  • by ed.han (444783) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @05:09PM (#25837577) Journal

    i'll take "indiana jones 4 movies i would actually have liked" for $2000, alex.

    ed

    • by SoupGuru (723634)

      I'm trying to repress any memories of seeing that movie. Thanks for sending me back to square one. Jerk.

    • by Repton (60818)

      Hmm, maybe the Nazis are looking for the skull of Copernicus which they can use in a ritual to undo physics, causing the sun to start revolving around the earth. But they'll vary the ritual, putting the sun into an eliptic orbit that will slingshot closely around the earth. This will have two effects: firstly, the proximity of the sun will burn America to a cinder. Secondly, slingshotting the sun around the earth will catapult the earth back in time to before the end of the second world war. With Americ

  • by fredrated (639554) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @05:11PM (#25837609) Journal

    Now they can properly burn him at the stake for his heresy.

    • by Shin-LaC (1333529) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @05:32PM (#25837945)
      Copernicus was a Catholic cleric. He was buried inside a cathedral. The church didn't take objection to his work until six decades after his death, under a changing political and cultural climate.
      • by mog007 (677810) <Mog007 AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday November 20, 2008 @06:18PM (#25838591)

        They didn't take objection to HIS work because his work was published posthumously. The unfortunate bastard who came after Copernicus, Galileo, was the one who received the ire of the church. Not just because he was contradicting church doctrine, but because he was also using evidence to support his claims.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by smoker2 (750216)
        That's right, they thought his stuff was great. It meant they could work out exactly when easter was which made life much easier for them. Previously, easter kept migrating through the year because their calculations were based on the moon (or something like that). It was the greater issue of people using his work to fight the churches control of ideas that caused the crackdown.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MagusSlurpy (592575)

      Now they can properly burn him at the stake for his heresy.

      Oh, god, that's disgusting. Haven't you ever smelled burning jerky before?!

  • OUCH! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jfengel (409917) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @05:12PM (#25837619) Homepage Journal

    From TFA:

    the skull bears a cut mark above the left eye that corresponds with a scar shown in the painting.

    Scars are one thing, but a wound that leaves a mark all the way down to the skull... that's gotta sting.

    TFA also says that the reconstruction shows a broken nose. Is it even possible to have evidence of a broken nose on the skull? "Broken nose" as shown in the painting is cartilage damage, which would probably all be gone by now.

    I'm sure you can add in a broken nose to the reconstruction, but in context, it was being cited as evidence. Just bad journalism, or dubious research?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Scars are one thing, but a wound that leaves a mark all the way down to the skull... that's gotta sting.

      No kidding, but on the fact it isn't as if there is much more than skin to cut through, even the muscles there are pretty thin.

      TFA also says that the reconstruction shows a broken nose. Is it even possible to have evidence of a broken nose on the skull? "Broken nose" as shown in the painting is cartilage damage, which would probably all be gone by now.

      I'm sure you can add in a broken nose to the reconstruction, but in context, it was being cited as evidence. Just bad journalism, or dubious research?

      Given that he seems quite the badass, what with scars that go all the way to his bone, I wouldn't be surprised if the broken nose was actually a true broken nose and had fractures on the bone that the cartilage connects to.

  • the price of fame (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bugs2squash (1132591)
    Can they not leave the man in peace. What possible value is there is disturbing him.
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @05:15PM (#25837691)

    Or do they have to wait around for another Bob Dylan track and more surprise skinjob revelations?

  • by fm6 (162816) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @05:19PM (#25837743) Homepage Journal

    Although the heliocentric concept had been suggested earlier, Copernicus is widely thought of as the father of the scientific theory of the heliocentric solar system.

    Please. All these qualifications are unnecessary.
    Copernicus is not considered a great scientist because he woke up one day and said, "Gee, maybe the earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around!" His greatness came from all the insight, creativity, and mind-boggling hard work he put in to make this idea objectively sound.

    Being the first to have an idea doesn't give you precedence. It's inventing the scientific structure that allows people to validate (and, more importantly, invalidate) your ideas that matters. That's what separates real science from mere speculation.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by 3waygeek (58990)

      You've overlooked Nick's greatest contribution to humanity [google.com].

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by fm6 (162816)

        Cute story, not very plausible. Both bread and butter have been around for thousands of years. Do you really think that before 1519, nobody thought to spread one on the other?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by $tring (981456)

      Please. All these qualifications are unnecessary.

      While those qualifications are not necessary, they certainly are worth to be mentioned. Let me elaborate:

      Copernicus is not considered a great scientist because he woke up one day and said, "Gee, maybe the earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around!"

      This would imply that earlier heliocentric models where just that, i.e. wild speculations. It doesn't seem to me that the advances of astronomy in the hellenistic period [wikipedia.org] can be described and explained that way. There is however a ...wild speculation in the historiography of science, which goes like this:

      In the 3rd century BCE, Aristarchus of Samos proposed an alternate cosmology (arrangement of the universe): a heliocentric model of the solar system, placing the Sun, not the Earth, at the center of the known universe (hence he is sometimes known as the "Greek Copernicus"). His astronomical ideas were not well-received, however, and only a few brief references to them are preserved. We know the name of one follower of Aristarchus: Seleucus of Seleucia.

      The argument that we can estimate the reception of the heliocentric model from the references known to

      • by fm6 (162816)

        This would imply that earlier heliocentric models where just that, i.e. wild speculations. It doesn't seem to me that the advances of astronomy in the hellenistic period can be described and explained that way.

        You're right, they can't. But you're imposing a false dichotomy here. I see at least 3 levels of reasoning.

        1. Somebody who doesn't really know what he's talking about posits that the Earth revolves around the sun.
        2. An intelligent natural philospher assembles observation, conjecture, and deduction to argue that the Earth revolves around the sun.
        3. A scientist posits a theory that involves the earth revolving around the sun, and shows how other scientists can perform objective observations that confirm or deny this
  • by franois-do (547649) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @05:31PM (#25837937) Homepage

    ... can give, from a skull, any hint about the size of the nose and the shape of the ear, both of which are made of just cartilage.

    Any hint ?

    • by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @05:41PM (#25838087)

      ... can give, from a skull, any hint about the size of the nose and the shape of the ear, both of which are made of just cartilage.

      Any hint ?

      It's a bit of an art, but even artists use models.

      In this case, with facial recontstruction you have a lot of data to work from. We have been cataloging human anatomy for a long time, as such we have a lot of evidence for what certain bones look like. We have also are able to combine those bones with pictures of the actual person, or at least compare to facial features of that person's ethnic background.

      Bones give a lot of clues to the soft tissue that used to surround them. Ligaments will leave 'scars' on the bones which indicate a whole slew of factors. Did that person use the muscle a lot, was it ever torn. By measuring the size and condition of the 'scar' you can extrapolate what the muscle that connected to it would have been like. The same way you can tell the joint of a 50yr old that ran a lot from a 30 yr old that was just a scribe.

      Now the face is a bit different, but for the most part, you know what muscles go where, and they don't vary much. As for noses and ears, look at where the cartilage was attached and you will see similar effects as due to the ligaments. Combine that shape with what you have measured on 1000s of skulls before, and you select the shape of the nose or ear that corresponds to those markings.

      And pictures help too ;)

      • As for noses and ears, look at where the cartilage was attached and you will see similar effects as due to the ligaments.

        Basic Anatomy Failure.

        The ears are mobile and aren't connected to the skull. The shape of the ear won't alter at all the surface of the skull (well except for elephant-sized ears. Those would require proper musculature which in turn will leave a mark on the skull).

        The cartilage giving a shape to the nose is very distant for the bone structure. Bone marks won't give a lot of details about shape of nose. (Except for some obvious exceptions like broken nose, etc.) Ethnic origin may somewhat help to restrict to

      • by mdielmann (514750)

        There was a fiction novel, Gorky Park [wikipedia.org], in which facial reconstruction was a key element of the novel. Some interesting reading on the technique.

    • by eclectro (227083)

      ... can give, from a skull, any hint about the size of the nose and the shape of the ear, both of which are made of just cartilage.

      Any hint ?

      Derived from what a grumpy math/physics professor looks like. Heck, he probably even wore a ratty old sweater too.

    • by glwtta (532858)
      That's nothing, judging by that picture they can also reconstruct hair styles and generic period costumes!
  • Is it ironic that the scientists of today chose to revolve the DNA evidence around him (his hair), instead of the son (his heir)?
    :)

    (AFAIK he had no children - jokes don't need to be accurate.)

  • I'm usually up for most kinds of humane scientific inquiry without question and I'm not squeamish about desecrating graves but this seems sort of pointless.

    Did they expect to find something special about his remains?
    Where burial rites of astronomers of his time a mystery?
    Was he buried with an antique text that could shed light on his discoveries?
    Were gold doubloons involved?
    Was this part of a wacky bet or some bizarre clause in an eccentric rich person's will?
    Could "I found Copernicus' tomb" be a ne
    • by jd (1658)
      Well, if they're going to do DNA analysis, there's various indexes of famous dead people's DNA that you can compare yourself to. On the historic side, it adds credibility to contemporary accounts. (You thought they were more honest than today's newspapers?) On the tourism side, local authorities always love being able to nail signs up saying "so-and-so is buried here" (helps them to increase taxes) and local thieves can sell Copernicus-themed junk to gullible visitors. On the science side, it is probably wo
    • by tekrat (242117)

      You left out "Reality TV Show".

    • I think they had to find Copernicus' tomb to look for the next clue to find the Holy Grail or the Illuminati or something like that.
  • Unless they can prove the hair in the book belonged to Copernicus , they merely proved that they found the remains of someone who may have had contact with the book. For all we know Copernicus had a Gay lover, or took a piece of hair from a stranger and planted it in his book :-)

    [The second option brought to you by the TinFoilHatSociety ].
  • by davidbrit2 (775091) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @06:24PM (#25838687) Homepage
    ...his grave would be spinning about him.
  • A computer-generated facial reconstruction is said to also bear a resemblance to contemporary portraits of the scientist."

    Oh, really? Generated by an actual computer? Well then, that's good enough for me.

  • s/bear a resemblance/resemble/

  • Einstein has been cloned from a skidmark in a pair of his underpants kept by his family.

    A skull-bong found in an MIT dormitary has been DNA identified as belonging to Isaac Newton. The DNA came from fingerprints on the bong, confirming rumors of Newton being a pothead.

    A frozen turd found in Craig Venter's kitchen fridge, formally believed to have come from a pygmy marmoset, has been identified and carbon dated as the last movement of Wolfgang Armadeus Mozart.

    OK, so I lied. Mozart wasn't a scientist.

  • So what kind of beverages was he buried with? The liquid probably has evaporated by now, so get to work doing chemical analysis on the residue left inside some of the pots he's got with him.
  • 1: In the beginning God created the Heaven and the Universe.
    2: And the Universe was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the vacuum.
    3: And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
    4: And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the energy.
    5: And God called the light Radiation, and the energy he called Matter.
    6: And God said, Let there be galaxies in the midst of the vacuum, and let it divide
  • by LifesRoadie (1342921) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @09:17PM (#25840641) Homepage
    It bugs me that people say, "the first in the world to do this, or the first ever to do that", when in reality they're merely among the first in Europe. Other cultures (eg Indian & Chinese) didn't have the political blinkers forced on them, and explored these idea hundreds of years before Europeans. http://www.crystalinks.com/indiastronomy.html [crystalinks.com]
  • That's a nice vest. Scientific proof that geek fashion has been in decline for the past several hundred years.

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