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Jean Nicot: one smokin' dude

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I love it when reporters do our job here at the _floss. By that I mean, I like when they jam a whole bunch of interesting factoids into an article so I don't have to bother culling them from five different places (okay, maybe not five, but still"¦). Well, that was almost the case last week when an article published in The New York Times on a parliamentary committee in France that approved a proposal to ban smoking in public areas dropped the following fact:

  • France's history with tobacco goes back more than four centuries. Nicotine, after all, is named after Jean Nicot, a 16th century ambassador to Portugal who took tobacco leaves imported from America to Catherine de Medici as a cure for her migraines

Sadly, that's where the juicy factoids ended and the story on smoking in France continued. If you want to read about that, click on that link up there. But if you'd like to know more about old Jean Nicot, what I consider to be the more interesting story here, read on, read on...

  • Born in Nîmes, in the south of France, he was French ambassador in Lisbon, Portugal from 1559 to 1561.
  • At the age of 29, he was sent from France to Portugal to negotiate the marriage of six-year-old Princess Marguerite de Valois to five-year-old King Sebastian of Portugal.
  • He introduced snuff to the French court.
  • The plant was also an instant success with the Father Superior of Malta, who shared tobacco with all of his monks.
  • More and more of the fashionable people of Paris began to use the plant, making Nicot a celebrity.
  • At first, the plant was called Nicotina. But nicotine later came to refer only to the active ingredient of the plant.
  • And my personal fav: Jean Nicot also compiled one of the first French dictionaries (published in 1606). If you read French, you can check that out here.

(Factoids courtesy of this site, this site, and, of course, Wiki)

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Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images
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.

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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