MySci Daily Round-Up, August 11: Now, There Was A Renaissance Man

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Today is the 546th anniversary of the death of Nicholas of Cusa, a Roman Catholic Cardinal, philosopher,and inventor who was perhaps the most eclectic intellectual of all time, a genius fluent in four languages who made Leonardo da Vinci seem like a one-trick pony. 50 years before Copernicus, Nicholas proposed the notion that the Earth was a near-sphere that turned on an axis and revolved around the Sun. He also envisioned that stars were distant versions of our Sun that extrasolar planets orbited them, and that the universe was infinite in size. He also dreamed up something similar to the 17th-18th century philosopher Gottfried Leibniz’s metaphysical concept of monads—that is, that the building blocks of the universe are particles of pure matter, eternal, inalterable and subject to their own laws. When he wasn’t dabbling in cosmology, he invented the concave eyeglass lens to compensate for nearsightedness, and wrote a canon law brief arguing that church councils had more authority than the Pope, which didn’t make him particularly popular in the Vatican. The way we see it, Nicholas was at least as worthy as Leonardo of being the subject of a Dan Brown conspiracy theory thriller. While you’re meditating on that, here are the science stories of the day.

Russian heat wave, Asian floods may be linked. Scientists say the same meteorological dynamic may have created both extreme weather events, which in turn may also be related to global warming.

Optical fiber input device enables users to create images by stroking its fake fur. The Fusa2, which debuted at a computer graphics and animation conference in LA, sure sounds like a chindogu, one of those ingeniously useless Japanese joke inventions. But it actually has several practical applications. Honest.

10,500-year-old house found in UK. The ruins date back to the end of the last Ice Age.

Plastic packaging, toys are killing ocean life. Warning—this story is disturbing in a Rachel Carson-type of way.

Will Saudi regime get to spy on BlackBerry users? Unnamed source within RIM tells TechCrunch that a deal has been cut to allow surveillance of Saudi BB users, though the company denies it. The Saudi government praises “positive developments” in the eavesdropping impasse, which sounds ominous.

Shrimp on Prozac get a little too upbeat for their own good. Scientists say the antidepressant, which is polluting water, causes shrimp to swim toward the light, making them vulnerable to predators. And you thought that Prozac Nation was disturbing.