On this date in 413 BC, an Athenian force commanded by Nicias, the son of Niceratus, was poised to withdraw from a botched siege of the fortified city of Syracuse in Sicily, when they were startled and unnerved by a lunar eclipse. They should have known better; Greek astronomers had been studied eclipses extensively, and knew that they were a benign phenomenon. The Greek astronomer Aristachus of Samos (310-230 BC) had even figured out how to use eclipses to measure the moon’s distance. As Patrick Moore recounts in his book The Wandering Astronomer, Nicias consulted his astrologers, who told him: “Stay where you are for thrice nine days.” It turned out to be supremely bad advice. By the time Nicias was set to depart in his ships, the Athenians’ bitter enemies, the Spartans, were in position to assist the Syracuseans and block his escape. The Athenian ships tried to break out of the harbor, but were defeated in a naval battle. Nicias’ army had no hope at this point, but they played one last desperate card, and marched toward Catalana, to the North. But they were intercepted and had no choice but to surrender. The Athenian soldiers were enslaved, except for Nicias and his fellow general Demosthenes, who were executed by their captors. We’re guessing that Nicias went to his death wishing that he would have paid more attention in science class. And with that, here are the science stories of the day.