The great earthquake of Lisbon

The great earthquake of Lisbon

March 11 this year an earthquake of such great magnitude (9.0 on the moment scale) struck the country Japan that much of its infrastructure was reduced to mere rubble. As if this was not harm enough, the aftermath proved to be yet another fatal incursion by nature. The incident is now referred to as “The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami” with the later proving to be one of its most lethal kinds, submerging those entombed by rubble and drowning the aidless.

The phenomenon of earthquakes is not a novel occurrence to mankind, especially not to such an earthquake ridden area as the archipelago of Japan, still she has not been able to provide a haven for herself. So, evidently earthquakes have been a force to be reckoned with throughout the entire history of mankind and the age of enlightenment was no exception.  The earthquake of Lisbon (also 9.0 on the moment scale) which occurred in 1755 is a good example of this.

The earthquake struck the city of Lisbon in the morning of November 1. It was the holiday of all saints day and most of the 250,000 population were praying in one of the many cathedrals when the catastrophe hit. The cities buildings started to ominously sway back and forth. And as the buildings started to collapse into the narrow streets, where congregants had gathered to search for sanctuary, the city had, in a matter of seconds, completely transformed from a secure religious holiday celebrating community into a menacing deathtrap. Nature was just getting started though.

Many of those who had survived and managed to escape the streets fled to the docks to seek refuge. They never found it. They were met by death in the shape of three huge tsunami waves. The tsunami just added to the destruction created by the quake and all the ships in the harbor of Lisbon where destroyed.

Still, it was not over. The two previous catastrophes lead to a third. Among the chaos created, fire had ignited on numerous places and was, encouraged by the northeast wind, rapidly spreading taking advantage of the buildings, which were so closely located to each other. This resulted in further turmoil in which several hundreds of patients in the hospitals were forgotten. Immobile and forsaken, they were left for the flames.

All this sudden havoc provoked worries in the rationally thinking enlightened Europe. That one of the wealthiest and most populated cities of the “civilized world” could be laid to waste within two hours was an, thus far, furtive menace. This occupied the minds of the great European enlightenment thinkers as they tried to find a scientific explanation for the earthquake because they refused the religious motives. This was the start of the science of seismology. Thus the earthquake could be considered a landmark in the understanding of how earthquakes work and why they occur.

Another thing which we shall not leave unmentioned is the deft leadership of the minister of the kingdom of Portugal, Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, subsequent to the catastrophe. He emphasized ” the punishment of thieves and other criminals, the installation of tents and other facilities for the homeless, the fixation of prices for essential goods and the redirection of fleeing citizens to the city”. Also, everything was done to avoid the outbreak of a plague, people tried to get rid of the corpses as soon and possible and restore the drainage system.

In conclusion, the earthquake of Lisbon could be considered to be the first “modern” earthquake as it was the first which was followed up by serious scientific research. Thus the earthquake of Lisbon is the first antecedent of the most recent quake in Japan. I do wonder about one thing, though. How come we, who live in a globalized world where scientists all over the world work together, after more than 250 years of research, still find ourselves so exposed and vulnerable to earthquakes? How come science and architecture have not yet been able to provide the haven mentioned above? Is it impossible to overcome nature in some aspects? After all, we do it every day. We do it when we cook food, wear clothes and ride the bus. So, what do you think? Will we ever be able to subjugate and be safe from nature’s outbursts in form of earthquakes?


//Baloo Peinkofer






The Microscope

The Microscope

During the period of the renaissance, tons of inventions were created. But I would like to discuss about what in my opinion, is one of the greatest inventions created during that age; the microscope. Today, we should be grateful that such a meaningful invention was created, about 400 years ago! We often forget that it is because of the microscope we know very much about bacteria, atoms, and those very very small objects we can’t see with our bare eyes. It might also be because of the microscope you can be cured from allergy, disease, or something else.

The important thing is that we know that the microscope has saved lives, and will keep doing that. We know that it is because of the microscope, we know very much about ourselves. The optical microscope was the most common in the earlier years but since we today have electricity, we do have microscopes which are using electricity. This is a splendid example of how we today not only are creating new inventions, but also are expanding the existing ones.

I like the microscope, and I like it because it’s a tool helping us too see what we in fact can’t. Without the microscope, I believe the world wouldn’t be like it is today. Probably not even close.

So that’s why we should be grateful that it exists! It’s clearly one of the most important inventions ever created. What do you think? Are there any other inventions you think have been more important to us than the microscope? Give me your thoughts!


//Erik B.

The Celsius temperature scale



During the Enlightenment, Sweden was finally able to catch up with the rest of Europe when it comes to technology, science etc. Anders Celsius was one of those who helped to turn the tide.


When Anders Celsius was a young student, there were a large variety of thermometers with different scales. Some were respectable and easy to use and some were less respectable and harder to use. Considering this, Celsius realised the necessity of an international scale that could be adopted by all countries. After years of hard work, he came up with predecessor to the scale that today is recognised as the Celsius temperature scale. Although he was the one that came up with this scale, Carl Linnaeus and other famous individuals were the ones that helped with its worldwide recognition.


His version of the Celsius scale differed a bit from the one we use today. It was reverse of today’s scale, with the boiling point of water being zero and the freezing point being one hundred degrees.


So what is it that is unique with the Celsius scale?


The Celsius scale is quite simple to apply and to understand. It is ideal to use whenever water is present, since its fixed points are the freezing and boiling points of water. And in our daily schedule, water is always present. Our body consists of water, we use water for food preparation and water is everywhere, no matter where we go. Water is the key to survival.


To be honest, I do not consider it as an intellectual achievement to construct it. The intellectual achievement was something else. Nowadays, the Kelvin scale is the SI base unit for temperature and one of the seven units that all other SI units derive from. However, the Celsius scale is bound to the Kelvin scale, their degrees have the same magnitude and are exactly equal to each other. This is what makes the Celsius scale such an intellectual achievement.


Today, the Celsius scale is commonly used throughout the world for basically all purposes, with exception for the United States and a few other countries. These countries do still use the Fahrenheit scale. Some specialist fields (astrophysics etc.) do instead use the closely related Kelvin scale. In some countries, e.g. the UK, the Celsius scale is simply referred to as the Centigrade (Latin: “hundred steps”).


At the age of forty-two, Anders Celsius died of tuberculosis, a terrible disease that was very common during these days. He left behind many theses and long writings within astronomy and I think that if Anders Celsius had continued to live, he might have been known for more than “just” the Celsius scale. Or what do you think?


For more information concerning Anders Celsius and his well-known temperature scale, please visit these links:


The Piano


The piano was invented around year 1698 by Bartolomeo Cristofori from Italy. The description of the new invention was "harpsichord (cembalo) that plays both softly and loudly". The piano was a result of many centuries of work with the harpsichord. From Cristofori's piano has much happened. Many improvements have been added by people during centuries. Many great writers of classical music used the piano when they created works which we hear even today, like Bach and Mozart. Today we hear the result of Cristofori's device everyday when we listen on the radio, our iPod or to Spotify.


According to me is music creativity, but as you can see: music requires lots of science. Bach and Mozart could never have written their songs if nobody had invented the piano for them. It is the same way if you want to do a scientific investigation, well not the same way but the other way around. To be able to come up with ideas of how to investigate something you have to use your creativity. So creativity and science have a very close relation! Therefore is it good that we all are good at different things because we all help each other by inspiring to do something creative or give ideas to do some science.


Can you call a person creative OR scientific or are we all a mix of these qualities?


/ Hanna Walander

The Ice Palace

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The ice palace.

One cold winter year 1739 in Russia the empress Anna Ivanovna gave an order that she wanted to build a palace total made of ice in St. Petersburg. They took ice from leaks and rivers and glued it together with water. In the castle there were furniture made of ice and the backyard was made of ice. In the backyard there were trees, birds and one big elephant made out of ice. I think this idea was great. One empress that was bored made other people build her an ice palace that she could use.

The enlightenment was all about founding new ways do things.

Today we want to make new things and it is having to perfect and we now how we want it and when we want it. We always try to do perfect things and maybe we try to hard. Maybe the key to progress is to keep the old things and improve it with new things.


/ Unni

Galileo Galilei

Galileo Galilei was born February 15 1564, in Pisa, Italy.

His area was mathematics, astronomy and physics.

I think that the most important work he did was the improvement of the telescope.

The telescope was an invention of Hans Lippershey but it was Galileo who improved it.

His first telescope had a capacity of 3x zoom but within a year he succeeded making a stronger telescope with over 30x magnification.

This was an important invention for our understanding in astronomy.

He realized that there was an uncountable number of stars in the universe.

He saw the different phases of the planets and the moon. Maybe most famous for the discover of the moons of Jupiter, also called the Galilean moons.

This observation made him consider if the catholic teach really was right, he did not believe that the earth was the centrum of the universe.

1590 Galileo read the book of Copernicus and with his own observations he started to believe in heliocentric, that means that all the planets circuits around the sun.

It was 1632 Galileo gave out his book, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. This made chaos.

That is understandable because for ages people have believed that earth was the centre of the universe. Now someone told them that what they knew was wrong.

The catholic church wasn’t happy with this, they wanted people to believe their theory and 1633 accused for teaching the false doctrine.

With support from the pope Urban VIII and his age reduced the judgment.

He could now never leave his house but that did not stop him from writing new books.

Why I chose to write about the telescope is because he went against the church, telling people that what they knew about earth and the solar system was wrong. He made people think independently, not believe every thing the church told them. Also other people could now study the sky with help from his telescope. This must have lead to a bunch of new discovers.

If you want to read more about Galileo Galilei check out this article.



Imagine that you live during the 18th and you  have a migraine.

Where did you go and what did you do in order so fix this painful problem?  Well, lucky for you there is a solution, it is called trepanning!


Trepanning is very ancient, so ancient in fact that it is considered the most ancient form of surgery know to man. The word Trepanning comes from the Greek language (trupanon) and it means Borer, which means drill. The simple explanation for trepanning is, basically, that the surgeon drills or scrapes open a hole in your skull in order to get access to the brain.

The art of trepanning was practiced as early as 10.000 B.C in Europe, South America and in some regions of North America. Many different kinds of sculls have been found over the course of time mostly in Roman, Greek, Eastern, Chinese, Egyptian and African cultures and in Africa today tribes are still using this kind of surgery in the belief that it will cure headaches, migraines, let out evil spirits and cure insanity just as they did in the ancient times and without anesthesia, meaning that the patient is wide awake! Scientist even have evidence that approximately 70% survived the operation and had repeated sessions!


Trepanning is still carried out in our modern society, mainly Africa and South America. Usually used to treat cases of head injury, as it can relieve pressure from the brain such as fluid or blood build- up. It also allows the insertions of monitoring devices, but the bone is often replaced instead of letting it grow back as the doctors of old did. The doctors of old also kept pieces of their patients skull as lucky charms, which is quite gruesome!

In skulls that have been trepanned what happened to the bone?

The bone eventually started to grow back, forming new bone so the patient survived (most of times) and these surgeries were done without anesthesia, such as narcosis which is used in our hospitals, so the (un)lucky patient was wide awake during the surgery.

Well into the 18th century trepanning was a very common practice, since medicine and surgery were evolving as the church decreased in power. The body was considered a temple and was not allowed to be desecrated until then.

An example of how many times trepanning can be performed on a single person is Prince Philip of Orange (1554-1618), who was the son of a key figured during the Dutch revolution, He was trepanned seventeen times, that has to be a record!


My personal view is that trepanning seems quite disturbing. Drilling a hole in a persons skull to get access to the brain, which is most precious of all, but it have and is being used over decades so that is quite the proof of it being a good way to, for example relieve pressure from he brain. The people that did die, died from infection after the actual surgery and the cleanliness in hospitals was very bad until the 18th century when the doctors very forced to wash their hands after touching a patient. What do you think and feel? Is trepanning a good thing or should we find something new? Please comment if you feel like it, a discussion is always nice.


The Sun King’s Physicians

When people think of physicians, they think of people who save lives every day. Well, during the Enlightenment this was not true. During the Enlightenment, physicians existed to help the rich people with their physical problems, for example to ease their headaches. Only the very rich could afford a physician, though at this time you may have been healthier without a physician “helping you”.

Louie XIV’s (also known as the Sun King) physicians probably did a lot more harm than they helped. Getting bled with leeches was a common treatment to, well, pretty much anything during that time. Though since you need the antibodies in the white blood cells to fight disease, draining the body of blood doesn’t really make sense to me. They didn’t have this knowledge in the Sun King’s time, and it must somehow have made a lot of sense then.

The Sun King’s physicians helped, or tried to help, even the smallest of the King’s discomforts, such as a minor headache or acid mouth. However, I suspect that a lot of the King’s discomforts were in fact caused by his physicians’ strange treatments.

The most radical thing done to the Sun King by his physicians was the removing of his teeth. His physician at the time had recently learned that the teeth were the largest risk of getting an infection in the body. Therefore, he figured that he’d remove the Sun King’s teeth while they were still strong and healthy. Makes sense, right?

Unfortunately his physician accidentally cracked his lower jaw and removed a bit of his palate. This led to the king only being able to eat fluids, and the food often got stuck in the mouth where the piece of the palate was missing, which led to the King getting acid mouth and a horribly bad breath since the food could stay there for weeks. But since he was the king of France, he did the fashionable thing in France at the time and drowned himself in perfume; creating an awful odour (actually washing yourself in water was only for the poor who couldn’t afford perfume).

Having a physician for yourself is not something I’d say no to. Imagine having a doctor around 24/7, attending your slightest discomforts at all times. Doesn’t that seem wonderful? Then imagine having a doctor around 24/7 who would remove your teeth, crack your lower jaw and drain you of blood as often as he could. Doesn’t seem as appealing anymore, does it?

Most people are deathly afraid to go the dentist’s today, imagine how scary it would be if they would remove all of your teeth while you were still “young and healthy”. I, for one, would never dare go to the dentist if this was the case, especially not if they were as clumsy and obviously untrained as the Sun King’s physician.

Getting bled with leeches would not be something I’d look forward to when going to the doctor. I’ve got this crazy idea that my blood is to more use to me in my veins than in some leeches. If anyone disagrees, please give me a reason to change my mind about this.

However appealing it does sound to have a physician of your own, I do prefer the life-saving kind of physicians instead of the headache/acid mouth-curing physicians.

Louie XIV did in some miraculous way manage to become 77 years old, despite his physicians’ unintended attempts to kill him by their “treatments”. Or maybe because of these treatments, though that doesn’t seem likely to me. But who knows, maybe we should all get rid of our teeth while we still can and get leeches in some safe place at home so we can drain ourselves of blood whenever we get sick?

For more information on the medical care of Louie XIV (1638-1715), please go to:


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