Wikipedia:Today's featured article/October 2004

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October 1
A Coast Guard-manned LCVP disembarks troops at Omaha Beach

The Battle of Normandy in 1944, codenamed Operation Overlord, was the invasion of Nazi-occupied Western Europe by the Allies. The Normandy invasion began with overnight paratrooper and glider landings, massive air and naval bombardments, and an early-morning amphibious assault. It continued over more than two months, with campaigns to establish, expand, and eventually break out of the Allied beachheads. It concluded with the surrender of Paris and the fall of the Chambois pocket. Normandy is, to this day, one of the best-known battles of World War II. In common language, the expression "D-Day" is still used to refer to June 6, the starting date of the invasion and the opening day of the battle (more...)

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October 2
Shakers near Lebanon, New York

The Shakers are an offshoot of the Religious Society of Friends (or "Quakers") that originated in the city of Manchester in England the early 18th century. Strict believers in celibacy, they maintained their numbers through conversion and adoption. Once boasting thousands of adherents, today the only remaining Shakers are a handful of people living in Maine. One of the major skills of the Shakers was building. Shakers were known for an exquisite style of furniture that was plain, durable, and functional. By the middle of the 20th century, as the Shaker communities themselves were disappearing, some American collectors whose visual tastes were formed by the stark aspects of the modernist movement, found themselves drawn to the spare artifacts of Shaker culture. (more...)

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October 3
Greenlandic polar bear hunter in kayak

The History of Greenland, the world's largest island, is the history of life under extreme Arctic conditions; an ice-cap covers about 84 percent of the island, largely restricting human activity to the coasts. Greenland was unknown to Europeans until the 10th century, when it was discovered by Icelandic Vikings. Before this discovery, it had been inhabited for a long time by Arctic peoples, although the direct ancestors of the modern Inuit did not arrive until around 1200 CE. The Inuit were the only people to inhabit the island for several hundred years, but in remembrance of the Viking settlement, Denmark nonetheless claimed the territory, and colonized it in the 18th century. During World War II, Greenland became effectively detached from Denmark, and more connected to the United States and Canada. Eventually the colonial status was lifted, and although Greenland is still a part of the Kingdom of Denmark, it has enjoyed home rule since 1979. (more...)

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October 4
The Emacs splash screen

Emacs is a text editor with a comprehensive set of features that is particularly popular with programmers and other technical computer users. The original Emacs was written in 1976 by Richard Stallman, as a set of Editor MACroS for the TECO editor. It has evolved from its dumb terminal origins into something resembling a full blown word processor sporting a complete graphical user interface. A large number of extensions are available which can turn Emacs into anything from a web browser to a tool for writing and compiling computer programs. (more...)

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October 5
The coding region in a segment of eukaryotic DNA.

Genes are material entities that parents pass to offspring during reproduction. These entities encode information essential for the construction and regulation of polypeptides, proteins and other molecules that determines the growth and functioning of the organism. The word "gene" is shared by many disciplines, including classical genetics, molecular genetics, evolutionary biology and population genetics. Because each discipline models the biology of life differently, the material entity that supports the gene in one discipline is not the same as in the other. Following the discovery that DNA is the genetic material, and with the growth of biotechnology and the project to sequence the human genome, the common usage of the word "gene" has increasingly reflected its meaning in molecular biology. In the molecular-biological sense, genes are the segments of DNA which cells transcribe into RNAs and translate, at least in part, into proteins. (more...)

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October 6

Donkey Kong arcade machine

The Golden Age of Arcade Games was a peak era of arcade game popularity and innovation. Some opinions place this period's beginning in late 1979 or 1980 when the first color arcade games appeared and arcades began to become prevalent, and its ending in the mid-1980s. More generous definitions place its start at the 1978 release of Space Invaders and its end in the mid-1990s with the release of home gaming systems which were more powerful than typical arcade hardware. Despite claims to the contrary, the video game crash of 1983 had little impact on the arcade game industry. In fact, it may have boosted it since people played more games in arcades since little was available for the home market. (more...)

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October 7

Coronation Street is Britain's longest-running television soap opera. It was created by Tony Warren and first broadcast on December 9, 1960. The working title of the show was Florizel Street, but Agnes, a tea lady at Granada Television (where Coronation Street was produced) remarked that "Florizel" sounded too much like a disinfectant. Coronation Street is set in a fictional street in the fictional industrial town of Weatherfield which is based on Salford, now part of Greater Manchester. It is the central television programme on the ITV network. Its principal rival soap opera is the BBC's EastEnders. (more...)

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October 8
James Joyce in 1918

James Joyce was an expatriate Irish writer and poet, and is widely considered one of the most significant writers of the 20th century. He is best known for his short story collection Dubliners, and for his novels A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. Together with Virginia Woolf and Dorothy Richardson, he is credited with the development of the stream of consciousness technique in which the same weight is given to both the internal world of the mind and the external world of events and circumstances as factors shaping the actions and views of fictional characters. His fictional universe is firmly rooted in Dublin and reflects his family life and the events and friends (and enemies) from his school and college days. In this, he became both one of the most cosmopolitan and one of the most local of all the great English language modernists. (more...)

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October 9
Io, taken by Nasa's Galileo probe on September 7, 1996

Io is the innermost of the four Galilean moons of Jupiter. It is named after the Greek mythological figure Io. Although the name "Io" was suggested by Simon Marius soon after its discovery, this name and the names of the other Galilean satellites fell into disfavor for a considerable time, and were not revived in common use until the mid-20th century. In much of the earlier astronomical literature, Io is simply referred to by its Roman numeral designation as "Jupiter I," or simply as "the first satellite of Jupiter." (more...)

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October 10
The first ten Amendments to the U.S. Constitution comprise the Bill of Rights

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is a part of the Bill of Rights. It was conceived to prevent Congress and the federal government from infringing on five rights. These guarantees were that the government would not endorse any religion or establish a state religion, prohibit the free exercise of religion, infringe upon freedom of speech, infringe the freedom of the press, limit the right to assemble peaceably, or limit the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. The First Amendment, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights, was proposed by Congress in 1789, to be ratified by the requisite number of states in 1791. It was passed in order to answer protestations that the newly created Constitution did not include sufficient guarantees of civil liberties. The First Amendment only explicitly disallows any of the rights from being abridged by Congress. Over time, however, the courts held that this extends to the executive and judicial branches. The Fourteenth Amendment went further, making abridging First Amendment rights unconstitutional for state, county, and local governments. (more...)

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October 11
This figure reminds Jews of the palm branches to be brought to the synagogue

The Hebrew calendar is the annual calendar used in Judaism. It is a lunisolar calendar, based upon both lunar months and a solar cycle (which defines its years). This is in contrast to the Gregorian calendar, which is based solely upon a solar cycle, or the Islamic calendar, which is purely lunar. Jews use this calendar to determine when the new Hebrew months start; this calendar determines the Jewish holidays, which Torah portions to read, and which set of Psalms should be read each day. Jews have been using a lunisolar calendar since Biblical times, but originally referred to the months by number rather than name. The epoch of the modern Hebrew calendar is Monday, October 7, 3761 BCE, corresponding to 1 Tishri AM 1 (AM meaning Anno Mundi, "in the year of the world"). This date is about one year before the traditional Jewish date of Creation on 25 Elul AM 1. (more...)

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October 12
Political graffiti, in Vulgar Latin, found at Pompeii

"Vulgar Latin" is a blanket term covering the vernacular dialects of the Latin language spoken mostly in the western provinces of the Roman Empire, starting from the second and third century AD, until its direct merging with the early Romance languages in the ninth century. This spoken Latin differed from the literary language of classical Latin in its pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar. Some features of Vulgar Latin did not appear until the late Empire. Other features are likely to have been in place in spoken Latin, in at least its basilectal forms, much earlier. Our knowledge of Vulgar Latin comes from three chief sources. First, the comparative method can reconstruct the underlying forms from the attested Romance languages, and note where they differ from classical Latin. Second, various prescriptive grammar texts from the late Latin period condemn linguistic errors that Latin users were likely to commit, providing insight into how Latin speakers used their language. Finally, the solecisms and non-Classical usages that occasionally are found in late Latin texts also shed light on the spoken language of the writer. (more...)

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October 13
An Enigma machine

In the history of cryptography, the Enigma machine was a portable cipher machine used to encrypt and decrypt secret messages. More precisely, Enigma was a family of related electro-mechanical rotor machines — there are a variety of different models.The Enigma was used commercially from the early 1920s on, and was also adopted by military and governmental services of a number of nations — most famously, by Nazi Germany before and during World War II. The German military model, the Wehrmacht Enigma, is the version most commonly discussed. Allied codebreakers were, in many cases, able to decrypt messages protected by the machine (see cryptanalysis of the Enigma). The intelligence gained through this source — codenamed ULTRA — was a significant aid to the Allied war effort. Some historians have suggested that the end of the European war was hastened by up to a year or more because of the decryption of German ciphers. (more...)

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October 14
A path in a U-valley, Rondane National Park

Rondane National Park was the first national park in Norway, established on December 21, 1962. The park contains a number of peaks, with the highest being Rondslottet. It is an important habitat for herds of wild reindeer. The park was extended in 2003, in Oppland and Hedmark. Rondane lies just to the east of Gudbrandsdal and two other mountain areas, Dovre and Jotunheimen are nearby. As well as being known for its beauty, Rondane is the setting for Henrik Ibsen's play Peer Gynt. (more...)

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October 15
A Humpback Whale underwater

The Humpback Whale is a mammal which belongs to the baleen whale suborder. It is a large whale: an adult usually ranges between 12–16 m long and weighs approximately 36 tonnes. It is well known for its breaching (leaping out of the water) and its complex whale song. Humpback Whales live in oceans and seas around the world, and are regularly sought out by whale-watchers. Humpback Whales are easy to identify. It has a stocky body with an obvious hump and black upperparts. The head and lower jaw are covered with knobs called tubercles, which are actually hair follicles that are characteristic of the species. The tail flukes, which are lifted high in the dive sequence, have wavy rear edges. (more...)

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October 16
George III

George III was King of Great Britain and King of Ireland from 25 October 1760 until 1 January 1801, and thereafter King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death. During George III's reign, Great Britain lost many of its colonies in North America; the rebellious colonies later formed the United States. Also during his reign, the realms of Great Britain and Ireland united to form the United Kingdom. George III suffered from a mental disease, now thought to be porphyria. After a final relapse in 1811, George's eldest son, The Prince George, Prince of Wales reigned as Prince Regent. Upon George III's death, the Prince of Wales succeeded his father to become George IV. (more...)

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October 17
An object which comes within the Roche limits is pulled apart

The Roche limit is the distance within which an object (typically a satellite in orbit) near a celestial body (typically a moon, planet or star) and held together only by its own gravity will start to disintegrate due to tidal forces exceeding the satellite's gravitational self-attraction. Within the Roche limit the net forces experienced by opposite ends of the satellite, gravity acting more strongly on the side closest to the body orbited and less strongly on the far side, are stronger than the force holding the satellite together, the satellite's own gravitational attraction. The term is named after Édouard Roche, the French astronomer who first discovered this theoretical limit in 1848. (more...)

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October 18
The aftermath of Cyclone Tracy

Cyclone Tracy was a tropical cyclone that devastated Darwin, Australia, on 24 December–25 December 1974. It was recorded by The Age as being a "disaster of the first magnitude... and without parallel in Australia's history". It killed 65 people and destroyed over 70 per cent of Darwin's buildings, leaving over 20,000 people homeless. Most of Darwin's population was evacuated to Adelaide, Whyalla, Alice Springs and Sydney and many never returned to Darwin. The town was subsequently rebuilt with newer materials and techniques. Cyclone Tracy, due to its severity, has entered into Australian popular culture in a way that no other meteorological event had before, or has since. (more...)

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October 19
The top graph depicts probability densities that the "true" percentage is in a particular region; the bottom shows the margin of error

The margin of error is an expression of the extent to which a poll's reported percentages would vary if the same poll were taken multiple times. The larger the margin of error, the less confidence one has that the poll's reported percentages are close to the "true" percentages, i.e. the percentages in the whole population. The margin of error can be calculated directly from the sample size (the number of poll respondents) and may be reported at different levels of confidence – the 99 percent level is more conservative, while the 95 percent level is more common. (more...)

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October 20
A sketch of Attila the Hun, depicting him as European

Attila the Hun was the last and most powerful king of the European Huns. He reigned from 434 until his death over what was then Europe's largest empire, which stretched from Central Europe to the Black Sea and from the Danube River to the Baltic. During his rule he was among the direst enemies of the Eastern and Western Roman Empires: he invaded the Balkans twice, encircling Constantinople in the second invasion; he marched through France as far as Orleans before being turned back at Chalons; and he drove the western emperor Valentinian III from his capital at Ravenna in 452. Though his empire died with him and he left no remarkable legacy, he has become a legendary figure in the history of Europe: he is remembered as the epitome of cruelty and rapacity in much of Western Europe, while he is lionized as a great king in the national history of Hungary. (more...)

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October 21
The King & Carter Jazzing Orchestra, 1921.

Jazz is a musical art form, commonly characterized by blue notes, syncopation, swing, call and response, polyrhythms and improvisation. It has been called the first original art form to develop in the United States of America. Jazz is rooted in West African cultural and musical expression and in African American music traditions, in folk blues and ragtime. Originating in African American communities near the beginning of the 20th century, by the 1920s it had gained international popularity. Since then, jazz has had a profoundly pervasive influence on other musical styles worldwide. The word jazz itself is rooted in American slang, but is of unknown origin, despite many theories about its source. Rather than being a single, narrowly definable style, in the early 21st century jazz is an ever-growing family of musical styles, many of which continue to develop. (more...)

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October 22
A breastfeeding infant

Breastfeeding is the practice of a mother feeding a baby (and sometimes a toddler or a young child) with milk produced from her mammary glands, usually directly from the nipples. Babies have a sucking instinct allowing them to extract the milk. While many mothers choose to breastfeed their child there are some who do not, either for personal or medical reasons. Breast milk has been shown to be very beneficial for a child, though, as with other bodily fluid transfers, some conditions can be passed from the mother to the infant. Breastfeeding is also beneficial to the future health of the mother. As an alternative the baby may be fed infant formula until the time that the child may move on to baby food.

Breastfeeding is not confined to humans. Many species of animals also nourish their young this way (see mammals). (more...)

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October 23
Sherlock Holmes confers with his colleague Dr. Watson

Crime fiction is a genre of fiction that deals with crimes, their detection, criminals and their motives. As such, it is usually distinguished from mainstream fiction and other genres such as science fiction or historical fiction. It should be noted, however, that boundaries can be, and indeed are, blurred. It has several sub-genres, including detective fiction, mystery fiction, legal thriller, courtroom drama, and hard-boiled fiction. Crime fiction began to be considered as a serious genre only as late as 1900. The earliest inspiration for books and novels from this genre came from earlier dark works of Edgar Allan Poe. The evolution of locked room mysteries was one of the landmarks in the history of crime fiction, as it helped involve the reader to a major extent. Sherlock Holmes mysteries are said to have been singularly responsible for the huge popularity in this genre. Later a set of stereotypic formulae began to appear to cater to various tastes. (more...)

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October 24

Casablanca is a 1942 movie set during World War II in the Vichy-controlled Moroccan city of Casablanca. The film was directed by Michael Curtiz, and stars Humphrey Bogart as Rick and Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa. It focuses on Rick's conflict between, in the words of one character, love and virtue: he must choose between his love for Ilsa and his need to do the right thing by helping her husband—Resistance hero Victor Laszlo—to escape from Casablanca and continue his fight against the Nazis. The film was an immediate hit, and it has remained consistently popular ever since. Critics have praised the charismatic performances of Bogart and Bergman, the chemistry between the two leads, the depth of characterisation, the taut direction, the witty screenplay and the emotional impact of the work as a whole. (more...)

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October 25
Karl Dönitz

Karl Dönitz was a naval leader in Nazi Germany during World War II. Despite never joining the Nazi Party, Dönitz attained the high rank of Grand Admiral and served as Commander in Chief of Submarines, and later Commander in Chief of the German War Navy. Under his command, the U-boat fleet fought the Battle of the Atlantic, attempting to starve the United Kingdom of vital supply shipments. He also briefly served as President of Germany following the death of Adolf Hitler. Following the war, Dönitz went on trial as a war criminal in the Nuremberg Trials, charged with conspiracy to commit crimes against peace and planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression. Dönitz produced an affidavit from Admiral Chester Nimitz who testified that the United States had used unrestricted warfare as a tactic in the Pacific and that American submarines did not rescue survivors in situations where their own safety was in question. Ultimately, the tribunal found Dönitz guilty of both charges. He served ten years in Spandau Prison, West Berlin. Later, numerous Allied officers sent letters to Dönitz expressing their dismay over the verdict of his trial. (more...)

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October 26

The term race is used in a wide variety of contexts, with related but often distinct meanings. Its use is often controversial, largely because of the political and sociological implications of different definitions, but also because of disagreements over such issues as whether humans can be meaningfully divided into multiple races. In biology, some use race to mean a division within a species, synonymous with subspecies or variety. Race serves to group members of a species that have, for a period of time, become geographically or genetically isolated from other members of that species, and as a result have diverged genetically and developed certain shared characteristics that differentiate them from the others. Some biologists feel that in this usage we may justifiably speak of dividing Homo sapiens into races. Others, however, assert that in humans there is in fact insufficient categorical variation to justify the classification of humans into multiple races in a strictly biological sense. Many social scientists therefore view race as a social construct, and have sought to understand it as such. (more...)

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October 27

Potuguese language dialects

Portuguese is a Romance language predominantly spoken in Portugal, Brazil, Angola, Mozambique and East Timor. With more than 200 million native speakers, Portuguese is one of the few languages spoken all over the world. In terms of speakers, Portuguese is the fifth or sixth mother tongue language in the world. The language was spread worldwide in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries as Portugal created the first and the longest lived modern-world colonial and commercial empire (1415–1975), spanning from Brazil in the Americas to Macau in China and Japan. As a result, Portuguese is now the official language of several independent countries and is widely spoken or studied as a second language in many others. There are still more than 20 Portuguese Creole languages. It is an important minority language in Andorra, Luxembourg, Goa and Namibia. Large Portuguese-speaking immigrant communities exist in many cities around the world, including Paris in France and Boston, New Bedford, and Newark in the United States. (more...)

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October 28
Buddha, standing

Greco-Buddhism is the cultural syncretism between the culture of Classical Greece and Buddhism, which developed over a period of close to 800 years in Central Asia in the area corresponding to modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan, between the 4th century BCE and the 5th century CE. Greco-Buddhism influenced the artistic (and, possibly, conceptual) development of Buddhism, and in particular Mahayana Buddhism, before it was adopted by Central and Northeastern Asia from the 1st century CE, ultimately spreading to China, Korea and Japan. Numerous Greco-Buddhist works of art display the intermixing of Greek and Buddhist influences, around such creation centers as Gandhara. The subject matter of Gandharan art was definitely Buddhist, while most motifs were of Western Asiatic or Hellenistic origin. The interaction between Hellenistic Greece and Buddhism started when Alexander the Great conquered Asia Minor and Central Asia in 334 BCE, going as far as the Indus, thus establishing direct contact with India, the birthplace of Buddhism. (more...)

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October 29

Diagram of a light cone

The speed of light in a vacuum is exactly equal to 299,792,458 metres per second (approximately 186,282 miles per second). This exact speed is a definition, not a measurement, as the metre is defined in terms of the speed of light and not vice versa. According to standard modern physical theory, all electromagnetic radiation, including visible light, propagates (or moves) at a constant speed in vacuo, known as the speed of light, which is a physical constant denoted as c. According to the theory of special relativity, all observers will measure the speed of light as being the same, regardless of the reference frame of the observer or the velocity of the object emitting the light. (more...)

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October 30
Louis XIV, by Hyacinthe Rigaud (1701)

Louis XIV reigned as King of France and King of Navarre from 14 May 1643 until his death. He was a minor when he inherited the Crown; he did not actually assume personal control of the government until the death of his chief minister, Jules Cardinal Mazarin, in 1661. Louis, who is known as "The Sun King" and as "Louis the Great", ruled France for seventy-two years—a longer reign than any other French or other major European monarch. Louis attempted to increase the power of France in Europe, fighting four major wars—the War of Devolution, the Franco-Dutch War, the War of the Grand Alliance and the War of the Spanish Succession. He worked successfully to create an absolutist and centralised state; he is often cited as an example of an enlightened despot. He is supposed to have once remarked L'état, c'est moi ! ("I am the state!"), but this quotation is most likely apocryphal. (more...)

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October 31
A monkey at a typewriter

The "infinite monkey theorem" is a popular misnomer for an idea from Émile Borel's book on probability, published in 1909. The book introduced the concept of "dactylographic monkeys" seated in front of typewriter keyboards and hitting keys at random. Borel exemplified a proposition in the theory of probability called Kolmogorov's zero-one law by saying that the probability is one that such a monkey will eventually type every book in France's Bibliothèque nationale (national library). There need not be infinitely many monkeys; a single monkey who executes infinitely many keystrokes suffices. Subsequent restatements by other people have replaced the National Library not only with the British Museum but also with the Library of Congress; the most popular retelling says that the monkeys would eventually type out the collected works of William Shakespeare. (more...)

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