Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Latest Bulletin from the Desecration Newsroom!

Well, sports fans, the latest episode in our Science Won't be Slowed Department, or in this case, the Desecration Newsroom is that the famous astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) will be disinterred.  The reason is the urgent, pressing 'need' for us to know whether the poor guy died because his bladder exploded or whether it was mercury poisoning.  (Note the fake nose.  That's not a scratch on the etching, but a prosthesis because Brahe had his shortie amputated in a duel; hence the frown)

Whether or not next of kin  (or perhaps Inspector Lestrade) were consulted for permission to dig into this story, we can't say.  But this seems to be turning into a habit, because the Honorable Dr Brahe has been dug up before!  That also seems to have been on another slow news day way back in 1901  when a hot medical bulletin was needed to fill the pages (the investigators at the time, being interested in sustainability of this disinterment project, only took a mustache snippet).

Here a distinguished team of 'scientists' somehow have funds and permission to go digging (is this what skull-duggery refers to?) for something to justify their promotions or tenure, or to show how deeply insightful they are.

Whether finding (or not) whatever they are looking for will tell whether Tycho's untimely death was due to his dabbling in the metallics of alchemy, or was assassinated by the King of Denmark, or was murdered by his rival Johannes Kepler is not clear. Given what they can find in clothing or bones, there seems to be no bones about the inevitably murky results.  Even the authors agree:
Professor Jens Vellev, from Aarhus University, is leading the team of scientists and archaeologists which opened the tomb in Tyn Church on Monday.
He says he hopes to get better samples of hair and bones than were taken in 1901.
The use of the latest technology to test the samples may also help shed more light on the mystery of the astronomer's death, although Professor Vellev is not promising anything.
"Perhaps, we will be able to come close to an answer, but I don't think we will get a final answer to that question," he said.

We're certainly relieved that the latest technology will be used, as well as to see that the Sustainability spirit is being maintained (i.e., 'we won't find a final answer, so we can justify another grant to dig the poor star-gazer up again next time we need a publication'). Apparently, grave-digging is OK by the Catholic Church, which we guess can find a way to rationalize anything attention-getting (pass the plate!), since a special mass is being held in 'honor' of the event  (Man helping God to understand why Brahe passed to wherever he went.  If it turns out it was just a burst bladder after all, is that a ticket to heaven, since it rules out alchemy?).

We thought MT readers would want to know about this hot new bulletin from the Your Research Dollars at Honorable Work, that is, science doing its duty to the society that pays it.

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