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Articles on History of science

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El Castillo pyramid illuminated at night under a starry sky in Chichen Itza, Mexico, one of the largest Maya cities. Matteo Colombo/DigitalVision via Getty Images

For the Maya, solar eclipses were a sign of heavenly clashes − and their astronomers kept sophisticated records to predict them

The skies and the gods were inseparable in Maya culture. Astronomers kept careful track of events like eclipses in order to perform the renewal ceremonies to continue the world’s cycles of rebirth.
The search for the room-temperature superconductor continues. Charles O'Rear/Corbis Documentary via Getty Images

Scientists have been researching superconductors for over a century, but they have yet to find one that works at room temperature − 3 essential reads

Claims about the discovery of a coveted room-temperature superconductor peppered the news in 2023. We pulled three stories from our archives on what superconductivity is and why scientists study it.
George De Hevesy working in his lab at Stockholm University in 1944. Keystone Features/Hulton Archive via Getty Images

How a disgruntled scientist looking to prove his food wasn’t fresh discovered radioactive tracers and won a Nobel Prize 80 years ago

Some Nobel Prize-winning ideas originate in strange places, but still go on to revolutionize the scientific field. George de Hevesy’s research on radioactive tracers is one such example.
Photograph of the first Solvay Conference in 1911 at the Hotel Metropole. Heike Kamerlingh Onnes is standing third from the right. Benjamin Couprie/Wikimedia Commons

Superconductivity at room temperature remains elusive a century after a Nobel went to the scientist who demonstrated it below -450 degrees Fahrenheit

Superconductivity may sound like science fiction, but the first experiments to achieve it were conducted over a century ago. Heike Kamerlingh Onnes, credited with the discovery, won a Nobel Prize in 1913.
The course of nanotechnology, like the carbon nanotubes in this laboratory, has been guided by many stakeholders. VCG/VCG via Getty Images

Navigating the risks and benefits of AI: Lessons from nanotechnology on ensuring emerging technologies are safe as well as successful

Two decades ago, the nanotechnology revolution avoided stumbling by bringing a wide range of people to the table to chart its development. The window is closing fast on AI following suit.
The Herschel Museum in Bath, England, has a new display of a handwritten draft of Caroline Herschel’s memoirs. Internet Archive Book Images via Wikimedia Commons

Caroline Herschel was England’s first female professional astronomer, but still lacks name recognition two centuries later

Astronomer Caroline Herschel’s work discovering and cataloging astronomical objects in the 18th century is still used in the field today, but she didn’t always get her due credit.
ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, A. Martel

Why is the sky dark at night? The 200-year history of a question that transformed our understanding of the Universe

The darkness of the night sky seems so obvious as to need no explanation – yet it has intrigued and baffled scientists for centuries.
Your zodiac sign – like Sagittarius, the archer – might be in the stars, but your future isn’t. scaliger/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Why is astronomy a science but astrology is not?

Astrology and astronomy were once practiced side by side by scientists like Galileo and Kepler. And they’re more similar than you might think.
Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, was more than just another mathematician. Watercolor portrait of Ada King, Countess of Lovelace by Alfred Edward Chalon via Wikimedia

Ada Lovelace’s skills with language, music and needlepoint contributed to her pioneering work in computing

Lovelace was a prodigious math talent who learned from the giants of her time, but her linguistic and creative abilities were also important in her invention of computer programming.
Rocca Calascio is a mountaintop fortress in the province of L'Aquila in Italy. It bears witness to the long relationship between humanity and mountains, and how natural landscapes are also culture ones. UNESCO

Earth’s cathedrals: Europe’s mountains are cultural heritage, not just natural heritage

Often thought of as eternal, mountains are vulnerable to climate change and tourism. To protect them, they should be recognised for their cultural values, not just their natural characteristics.
Marcel Proust on a French postage stamp. Shutterstock

When Marcel Proust talks physics

From electricity to X-rays, the Doppler Effect and even quantum theory, Proust’s writing is littered with physics references.
While resurrecting dinosaurs may not be on the docket just yet, gene drives have the power to alter entire species. Hiroshi Watanabe/DigitalVision via Getty Images

‘Jurassic World’ scientists still haven’t learned that just because you can doesn’t mean you should – real-world genetic engineers can learn from the cautionary tale

As genetic engineering and DNA manipulation tools like CRISPR continue to advance, the distinction between what science ‘could’ and ‘should’ do becomes murkier.

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