Louis XVI's Blood... Isn't
The finding fit in nicely with popular history: After Louis XVI's public beheading in 1793, citizens of the newly formed French Republic supposedly rushed forward to dab their handkerchiefs in the quickly pooling blood.
That macabre, chaotic collection of timeless souvenirs could very well have happened, but a new study published in Nature's Scientific Reports disputes the earlier report from 2013. The blood in that gourd almost certainly doesn't belong to Louis XVI.
After sequencing the genome of the DNA contained within that blood, a team of geneticists turned up a great many reasons to doubt its royal authenticity. For starters, an examination of alleles determining height and eye color show that the blood's former owner was only slightly taller than an average European male in the 18th century -- roughly 5'8" -- and had brown eyes. This is incompatible with the widely circulated description of Louis XVI: around 6'3" tall and blue-eyed. Moreover, an examination of the blood's ancestry found it to be most related to individuals from Northern Italy. Considering that Louis XVI's heritage is predominantly rooted to present-day Germany and Poland, it is highly unlikely that the blood belongs to the king.
Laypersons may recall Louis XVI as the final king in the thousand-year French monarchy, and the only French king to ever be executed. He was married to the illustrious Marie Antoinette, who's widely credited with uttering the infamous phrase, "Let them eat cake." In fact, there's no evidence that she ever said that.
Source: Olalde, I. et al. Genomic analysis of the blood attributed to Louis XVI (1754–1793), king of France. Sci. Rep. 4, 4666; DOI:10.1038/srep04666 (2014).
(Images: Davide Pettener, Wikimedia Commons)
Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.
- There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
- CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
- Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
- Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.
Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.