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Madame Mathematics

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With all the beer and sports around here (just 10 more hours left to enter our contest!), it's getting a little testosterone-y. So I thought I'd draw your attention to this wonderful piece in the Guardian about Emilie du Châtelet, intellectual femme fatale of the 18th century:

In her late 20s, after an affair with the individual who inspired the character Valmont in Les Liaisons Dangereuses (she was the only partner he had who ever willingly dumped him), she met the poet and writer Voltaire, then in his 40s. ...

This is where the great problem with her subsequent reputation began, for Voltaire wasn't much of a scientist, but Du Châtelet was a skilled theoretician. Once, working secretly at night at the chateau over just one intense summer month, hushing servants to not spoil the surprise for Voltaire, she came up with insights on the nature of light that set the stage for the future discovery of photography, as well as of infrared radiation. It was a humiliating contrast for Voltaire, and especially grating when she began to probe into the still recent mathematical physics of Sir Isaac Newton.

Voltaire could not follow any of the maths, but on political grounds he wanted to believe that Newton was perfect in all respects. Du Châtelet, however, began a research programme that went beyond Newton and led to her glimpsing notions that would lead later researchers to the idea of conservation of energy fundamental to all subsequent physics.

voltaire.jpgdu Châtelet and Voltaire (at left, that's not an unflattering portrait of du Châtelet) eventually broke up, but he returned at her deathbed and later gave her a supremely backhanded compliment, calling her "a great man whose only fault was being a woman." There's lots more on du Châtelet, and how her work eventually led to the formation of e=mc2, here. (For more on her numerous affairs, stick with the Guardian piece.)

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Space
Can’t See the Eclipse in Person? Watch NASA’s 360° Live Stream
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Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

Depending on where you live, the historic eclipse on August 21 might not look all that impressive from your vantage point. You may be far away from the path of totality, or stuck with heartbreakingly cloudy weather. Maybe you forgot to get your eclipse glasses before they sold out, or can't get away from your desk in the middle of the day.

But fear not. NASA has you covered. The space agency is live streaming a spectacular 4K-resolution 360° live video of the celestial phenomenon on Facebook. The livestream started at 12 p.m. Eastern Time and includes commentary from NASA experts based in South Carolina. It will run until about 4:15 ET.

You can watch it below, on NASA's Facebook page, or on the Facebook video app.

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Art
Cephalopod Fossil Sketch in Australia Can Be Seen From Space

Australia is home to some of the most singular creatures alive today, but a new piece of outdoor art pays homage to an organism that last inhabited the continent 65 million years ago. As the Townsville Bulletin reports, an etching of a prehistoric ammonite has appeared in a barren field in Queensland.

Ammonites are the ancestors of the cephalopods that currently populate the world’s oceans. They had sharp beaks, dexterous tentacles, and spiraling shells that could grow more than 3 feet in diameter. The inland sea where the ammonites once thrived has since dried up, leaving only fossils as evidence of their existence. The newly plowed dirt mural acts as a larger-than-life reminder of the ancient animals.

To make a drawing big enough to be seen from space, mathematician David Kennedy plotted the image into a path consisting of more than 600 “way points.” Then, using a former War World II airfield as his canvas, the property’s owner Rob Ievers plowed the massive 1230-foot-by-820-foot artwork into the ground with his tractor.

The project was funded by Soil Science Australia, an organization that uses soil art to raise awareness of the importance of farming. The sketch doubles as a paleotourist attraction for the local area, which is home to Australia's "dinosaur trail" of museums and other fossil-related attractions. But to see the craftsmanship in all its glory, visitors will need to find a way to view it from above.

[h/t Townsville Bulletin]

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