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A genius who had plenty of sex

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One thing I've learned in the short time I've been blogging is that you can learn things almost anywhere -- for instance, on the packaging for Stila eyeshadow. Not only is the "java" shade favored by Reese Witherspoon, its box bears the quote "Genius has no sex!"

Yes, the sentence would be phrased better as "genius has no gender," which is not only alliterative but also doesn't function as a double-entendre joke about the inability of nerds to get some. Nonetheless, it's a commendable sentiment, and it allowed me to crack wise in the headline above. Plus, it got me interested in the woman who said it, one Anne-Louise-Germaine Necker, Baroness de Stael-Holstein. (The short version is Germaine de Stael.) Turns out there's a lot to be interested in:

[She was a] French-Swiss writer, woman of letters, [and] early champion of women's rights who was considered among Napoléon's major opponents and spent much of her life in exile. However, Mme de Staël did not only gain fame with her books or her salon for leading intellectuals, but with her numerous affairs. Her lovers included Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand, who was bishop of Autun, Count Louis de Narbonne (1788-93), with whom she had two sons, Benjamin Constant, a writer and influential politician, and Count Adolphe-Louis Ribbing, who masterminded the assassination of Gustavus III, the king of Sweden-Finland.

Any of this sound familiar? There's even a link to Voltaire:

After the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, she became involved with power struggles, and supported the moderate liberal policies of her father. Both revolutionary Jacobins and aristocratic émigrés viewed her with suspicion. Perhaps this prompted her to state: "In monarchies, women have ridicule to fear; in republic, hatred." Mme de Staël believed in progress - like Voltaire in his own way - and claimed that liberty and religious tolerance were essential preconditions for bringing literature to new heights. She also warned about the too enthusiastic military spirit which started to spread. The view did not gain much response among Napoleon's supporters.

Mme. de Stael was no beauty (despite her showing up on my eyeshadow box, and despite the flattering portrait above), but she doesn't seem to have had any trouble attracting great men to her side. Heck, to Voltaire, she probably would have been a great man: yet another figure of that era, it seems, whose chief fault was being born a woman.

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FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images
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Animals
Fisherman Catches Rare Blue Lobster, Donates It to Science
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FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

Live lobsters caught off the New England coast are typically brown, olive-green, or gray—which is why one New Hampshire fisherman was stunned when he snagged a blue one in mid-July.

As The Independent reports, Greg Ward, from Rye, New Hampshire, discovered the unusual lobster while examining his catch near the New Hampshire-Maine border. Ward initially thought the pale crustacean was an albino lobster, which some experts estimate to be a one-in-100-million discovery. However, a closer inspection revealed that the lobster's hard shell was blue and cream.

"This one was not all the way white and not all the way blue," Ward told The Portsmouth Herald. "I've never seen anything like it."

While not as rare as an albino lobster, blue lobsters are still a famously elusive catch: It's said that the odds of their occurrence are an estimated one in two million, although nobody knows the exact numbers.

Instead of eating the blue lobster, Ward decided to donate it to the Seacoast Science Center in Rye. There, it will be studied and displayed in a lobster tank with other unusually colored critters, including a second blue lobster, a bright orange lobster, and a calico-spotted lobster.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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Courtesy Murdoch University
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Animals
Australian Scientists Discover First New Species of Sunfish in 125 Years
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Courtesy Murdoch University

Scientists have pinpointed a whole new species of the largest bony fish in the world, the massive sunfish, as we learned from Smithsonian magazine. It's the first new species of sunfish proposed in more than 125 years.

As the researchers report in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, the genetic differences between the newly named hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta) and its other sunfish brethren was confirmed by data on 27 different samples of the species collected over the course of three years. Since sunfish are so massive—the biggest can weigh as much as 5000 pounds—they pose a challenge to preserve and store, even for museums with large research collections. Lead author Marianne Nyegaard of Murdoch University in Australia traveled thousands of miles to find and collected genetic data on sunfish stranded on beaches. At one point, she was asked if she would be bringing her own crane to collect one.

Nyegaard also went back through scientific literature dating back to the 1500s, sorting through descriptions of sea monsters and mermen to see if any of the documentation sounded like observations of the hoodwinker. "We retraced the steps of early naturalists and taxonomists to understand how such a large fish could have evaded discovery all this time," she said in a press statement. "Overall, we felt science had been repeatedly tricked by this cheeky species, which is why we named it the 'hoodwinker.'"

Japanese researchers first detected genetic differences between previously known sunfish and a new, unknown species 10 years ago, and this confirms the existence of a whole different type from species like the Mola mola or Mola ramsayi.

Mola tecta looks a little different from other sunfish, with a more slender body. As it grows, it doesn't develop the protruding snout or bumps that other sunfish exhibit. Similarly to the others, though, it can reach a length of 8 feet or more. 

Based on the stomach contents of some of the specimens studied, the hoodwinker likely feeds on salps, a jellyfish-like creature that it probably chomps on (yes, sunfish have teeth) during deep dives. The species has been found near New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and southern Chile.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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