Science! Right Now! Great Victories in Science: Shen Kuo!

Due to the Great Success of Science Now!’s series Great Successes in Science!, the Science Now! team brings you Great Victories in Science: Shen Kuo!

Shen Kuo is pictured above just shortly after he invented the monkey.

The great Shen Kuo was born in Qiantang in the year 1031 C.E. Shen is most well known for the invention of the compass. Although most historians fail to mention that Shen’s first compass weighed over 6,000 pounds and could only be powered by harnessed elephants:

Shen’s list of occupations include mathematician, astronomer, meteorologist, geologist, zoologist, botanist, pharmacologist, agronomist, archaeologist, ethnographer, cartographer, encyclopedist, general, diplomat, hydraulic engineer, inventor, academy chancellor, finance minister, governmental state inspector, poet, and musician. He was the head official for the Bureau of Astronomy in the Song court, as well as an Assistant Minister of Imperial Hospitality. None of which is of particular interest to the Science Now! editors. Except, perhaps, for his term as Assistant Minister of Imperial Hospitality. During his illustrious time at the court he introduced, among other things, the anti-bacterial Cheongsam for Imperial Guests.

We have used our science investigation team to uncover the true advance Shen Kuo! made in alien ethnography, as evidenced by this field report:

In a passage of the Dream Pool Essays called “Strange Happenings”, Shen provided a peculiar account of an unidentified flying object that Professor Zhang Longqiao of the Chinese Department of Peking Teachers College states is “a clue that a flying craft from some other planet once landed somewhere near Yangzhou in China.” […] Shen wrote that, during the reign of Emperor Renzong (1022–1063), an object as bright as a pearl occasionally hovered over the city of Yangzhou at night, but described first by local inhabitants of eastern Anhui and then in Jiangsu. Shen wrote that a man near Xingkai Lake observed this curious object; allegedly it:

…opened its door and a flood of intense light like sunbeams darted out of it, then the outer shell opened up, appearing as large as a bed with a big pearl the size of a fist illuminating the interior in silvery white. The intense silver-white light, shot from the interior, was too strong for human eyes to behold; it cast shadows of every tree within a radius of ten miles. The spectacle was like the rising sun, lighting up the distant sky and woods in red. Then all of a sudden, the object took off at a tremendous speed and descended upon the lake like the sun setting.

The next time you experience a mysterious and alien fist-sized pearl of light and part of you wants to resist its will, let the Science of Shen Kuo relax you. Shen’s lifetime of exploration and inquiry into bed-sized aliens and magical floating pearls led, ultimately, to the (correct) conclusion that aliens have our best interest at heart. Thanks Shen for your Victory in Science!

Stay tuned for our next victorious scientist: Jesus!


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