Wikipedia:Today's featured article/December 2005
Today's featured article archive
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- December 1
Rosa Parks was an African American civil rights activist and seamstress whom the United States Congress dubbed the "Mother of the Modern-Day Civil Rights Movement". Parks is famous for her refusal in 1955 to obey a bus driver's demand that she give up her bus seat to a white passenger. Her subsequent arrest and trial for this act of civil disobedience ignited the Montgomery Bus Boycott, one of the largest and most successful mass movements against racial segregation in history, and launched Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the organizers of the boycott, to the forefront of the civil rights movement. Her role in American history earned her an iconic status in American culture, and her actions have left an enduring legacy for worldwide civil rights movements.
- December 2
Acetic acid is an organic chemical compound best recognized for giving vinegar its sour taste and pungent smell. Pure water-free acetic acid is a colourless hygroscopic liquid that freezes below 16.7 °C to a colourless crystalline solid. Acetic acid is corrosive, and its vapour is irritating to eyes and nose, although it is a rather weak acid based on its ability to dissociate in aqueous solutions. Acetic acid is one of the simplest carboxylic acids. It is an important chemical reagent and industrial chemical that is used in the production of polyethylene terephthalate mainly in soft drink bottles; cellulose acetate, mainly for photographic film; and polyvinyl acetate for wood glue, as well as many synthetic fibres and fabrics. In households dilute acetic acid is often used in descaling agents. In the food industry acetic acid is used under the food additive code E260 as an acidity regulator. The global demand of acetic acid is around 6.5 million tonnes per year (Mt/a), of which approximately 1.5 Mt/a is met by recycling; the remainder is manufactured from petrochemical feedstocks.
- December 3
Black pepper is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. Black pepper is native to southern India and is extensively cultivated there and elsewhere in tropical regions. The fruit is a small drupe five millimetres in diameter, dark red when fully mature, containing a single seed. Dried and ground pepper is one of the most common spices in European cuisine and its descendants, having been known and prized since antiquity for both its flavour and its use as a medicine. The spiciness of black pepper is due to the chemical piperine. Ground black peppercorn, usually referred to simply as "pepper", may be found on nearly every dinner table in some parts of the world, often alongside its frequent companion, table salt.
- December 4
Pneumonia is an illness in which the small, air-filled sacs in the lungs responsible for absorbing oxygen from the atmosphere become inflamed and flooded with fluid. Pneumonia can result from a variety of causes, including infection with bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites. Pneumonia may also result from chemical or physical irritation of the lungs or as the result of another medical illness, such as lung cancer or alcohol abuse. Symptoms associated with pneumonia include cough, chest pain, fever, and difficulty breathing. Diagnostic tools include x-rays and examination of the sputum. Treatment depends on the cause of pneumonia; bacterial pneumonia is treated with antibiotics. Pneumonia is a common illness, occurs in all age groups, and is a leading cause of death among the elderly and people who are chronically ill. Vaccines to prevent certain types of pneumonia are available. The prognosis for an individual depends on the type of pneumonia, the appropriate treatment, any complications, and the person's underlying health.
- December 5
Arrested Development is a character-driven comedy television series about a formerly wealthy, habitually dysfunctional family. The show is presented like a documentary, complete with narration, archival photos, and historical footage. Although set in Newport Beach and Balboa Island, California, it is primarily filmed on location around Culver City and Marina Del Rey. Created by Mitchell Hurwitz, since debuting on November 2 2003, the series has received six Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award. However, despite critical acclaim, Arrested Development has never climbed in the ratings. As a result, the episode orders for the second and third seasons were cut. This has left many critics and fans believing that the show will be cancelled, although Fox is not expected to make an official announcement until next fall's schedule is released in the spring.
- December 6
Roy Orbison was one of the most influential American singer-songwriters and a pioneer of rock and roll whose recording career spanned more than four decades. By the mid-1960s, he was internationally recognized for his ballads of lost love, rhythmically advanced melodies, three octave vocal range, and characteristic dark sunglasses. Notable hits written and recorded by Orbison on Rolling Stone's list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time include "Only The Lonely", "Oh, Pretty Woman", "In Dreams" and "Crying". He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Orbison suffered a heart attack and died just before midnight on 1988 December 6 at the age of 52. In 1989, Roy Orbison was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
- December 7
Michel Foucault was a French philosopher and held a chair at the Collège de France, a chair to which he gave the title "The History of Systems of Thought". His writings have had an enormous impact on other scholarly work: Foucault's influence extends across the humanities and social sciences, and across many applied and professional areas of study. Foucault is well known for his critiques of various social institutions, most notably psychiatry, medicine and the prison system, and also for his ideas on the history of sexuality. His general theories concerning power and the relation between power and knowledge, as well as his ideas concerning "discourse" in relation to the history of Western thought have been widely discussed and applied. Foucault was also opposed to all social constructs that implied an identity, which included everything from the identity of male/female and homosexuality, to that of criminals and political activists. A philosophical example of Foucault's theories on identity was an observation of the history of homosexual identity, which progressed over the years from an implied act to an implied identity.
- December 8
Waterfall Gully is a small suburb in the South Australian city of Adelaide. It is located in the foothills of the Mount Lofty Ranges around five kilometres east of Adelaide's central business district (CBD). For the most part, the suburb encompasses one long gully with First Creek at its centre and Waterfall Gully Road adjacent to the creek. At one end of the gully is the waterfall for which the suburb was named. Part of the Burnside Council, it is bounded to the north by the suburb of Burnside, to the north-east by Greenhill, to the south-east by Cleland Conservation Park, to the south-west by Leawood Gardens and to the north-west by Mount Osmond. Waterfall Gully is rich in history and has been a popular attraction since Adelaide's early colonists discovered the area in the nineteenth century. Home to a number of residents and increasingly frequented by tourists, Waterfall Gully has undergone extensive developments in recent years.
- December 9
The Mandan are a Native American tribe that historically lived along the banks of the Missouri River and its tributaries, the Heart and Knife rivers in present-day North and South Dakota. Unlike many neighboring tribes in the Great Plains region, the Mandan established agriculture and permanent villages. These villages were composed of round earthen lodges surrounding a central plaza. In addition to farming, the Mandan gathered wild plants and berries and hunted buffalo. By the turn of the 19th century, because of attacks by neighboring tribes and epidemics of smallpox and whooping cough, the numbers of the Mandan had diminished dramatically. With such meager numbers, the Mandan banded together with two neighboring tribes, the Arikara and Hidatsa. With the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act, the Mandan officially merged with the Hidatsa and the Arikara into the "Three Affiliated Tribes," known as the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation. About half of the Mandan still reside in the area of the reservation, the rest residing around the United States and in Canada.
- December 10
Hugo Chávez is the current President of Venezuela, known for his democratic socialist governance, his anti-imperialism, and his radical criticism of neoliberal globalization and United States foreign policy. A career military officer, Chávez gained popularity following a failed 1992 coup d'état and was elected President in 1998 on promises of aiding Venezuela's poor majority. As President, Chávez has inaugurated massive Bolivarian Missions to combat disease, illiteracy, malnutrition, poverty and other social ills. Abroad, Chávez has acted against the Washington Consensus by advocating alternative models of economic development and fostering cooperation amongst the world's poor nations, especially those of Latin America. However, Venezuela's middle and upper classes have severely criticized Chávez, accusing him of repression and electoral fraud, and he has survived both a 2002 coup and a 2004 recall referendum. Chávez remains one of the most complex, controversial and high-profile figures in modern politics.
- December 11
The history of the Jews in Poland reaches back over a millennium, encompassing both a long period of tolerance and prosperity for its Jewish population and the nearly complete genocidal destruction of the community by Nazi Germany in the 20th century. From the founding of the Kingdom of Poland in the 10th century through the creation of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569, Poland was one of the most tolerant countries in Europe, becoming home to one of the world's largest and most vibrant Jewish communities. Though religious tolerance for the Jews in Poland declined following the partitions of Poland in 1795, prior to World War II the country still had the world's second largest Jewish community, despite growing anti-Semitism. Over 90% of the Jews in Poland were killed by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust, though, with a few tragic exceptions, Poles did not cooperate in the genocide and many protected their Jewish neighbors. In the postwar period, many of the 180,000–240,000 survivors chose to emigrate from the communist People's Republic of Poland to the nascent State of Israel, and most of the Jews remaining were forced out by a state-sponsored anti-Jewish campaign in the 1960s. After the fall of the communist regime in Poland in 1989, the situation of Polish Jews has normalized. The contemporary Polish Jewish community is generally estimated to have approximately 8,000 to 12,000 members, though the actual number of Jews may be several times larger.
- December 12
Yuan is a common Chinese surname, ranked 33rd in China by population. It originated from a noble family of the ancient state of Chen, in what is now eastern Henan province. From the Han Dynasty onwards, the name has been associated with two aristocratic clans, that of Ru'nan and Chen. Historically, the name has been fast growing among Han Chinese, and has also been taken up by a number of non-Chinese ethnic groups. The surname is now held by more than 6.5 million people worldwide. Although growth has tapered off in the past six centuries, the Yuan name is still relatively widespread throughout China, as well as among overseas Chinese, with heaviest per capita concentrations in the Yangtze Delta region of central coastal China. Because that area has historically exhibited high clan consciousness, there exist a large number of Yuan genealogies, most of which are now held in public institutions. Renewed interest in ancestry among Yuan clansmen has largely been encouraged by the PRC government.
- December 13
Isaac Newton was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, inventor, philosopher and alchemist. A man of profound genius, he is widely regarded as one of the most influential scientists in history. He is associated with the scientific revolution and the advancement of heliocentrism. Among his scientific accomplishments, Newton wrote the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, wherein he described universal gravitation and, via his laws of motion, laid the groundwork for classical mechanics. With Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz he shares credit for the development of differential calculus. Newton was the first to promulgate a set of natural laws that could govern both terrestrial motion and celestial motion, and is credited with providing mathematical substantiation for Kepler's laws of planetary motion, which he expanded by arguing that orbits (such as those of comets) could include all conic sections (such as the ellipse, hyperbola, and parabola).
- December 14
KaDee Strickland is an American actress. After displaying interest in acting at a young age, Strickland commenced her studies, while working in minor roles in motion pictures by filmmakers such as M. Night Shyamalan and James Mangold. She gradually gained prominence and critical acclaim from 2003 onwards after significant parts in several successful mainstream films, among them The Grudge (2004) and Fever Pitch (2005). Media sources in 2004 such as Todd Gilchrist, Mike Altamura, Matt Soergel and Clint Morris acknowledged Strickland as one of Hollywood's rising stars, while Ray Colbert considered her a "major player in the industry". Strickland is a self-described "method actor", and has cited Jessica Lange, Holly Hunter, Diane Keaton and Jane Fonda as her influences.
- December 15
Shoe polish is a consumer product chiefly used to shine, waterproof, and restore the appearance of leather shoes, thereby extending the garment's life. It is usually a waxy paste or a cream. Various substances have been used as shoe polish for many hundreds of years, starting with natural substances such as wax and tallow. The first modern shoe polish, Kiwi, was invented in 1906 and is still the most widely used today. Since World War II, shoe polish usage has increased significantly. Today, shoe polish is usually made from a mix of natural and synthetic materials, including naphtha, turpentine, dyes, and gum arabic, using fairly straightforward chemical engineering processes. If misused, shoe polish can be toxic.
- December 16
The Canadian House of Commons is a component of the Parliament of Canada, which also includes the Sovereign (represented by the Governor General) and the Senate. Members of the Canadian House of Commons are elected for limited terms, holding office until Parliament is dissolved. Each member is elected by, and represents, an electoral district. The House of Commons was established in 1867, when the British North America Act 1867 created the Dominion of Canada. In practice, the House of Commons (the lower house) holds far more power than the Senate (the upper house), and is by far the dominant House of Parliament. Although the approval of both Houses is necessary for legislation, the Senate very rarely rejects bills passed by the Commons. Moreover, the Government of Canada is responsible solely to the House of Commons; the Prime Minister stays in office only as long as he or she retains the support of the Lower House.
- December 17
Java is an object-oriented programming language developed initially by James Gosling and colleagues at Sun Microsystems. It was intended to replace C++, although the feature set better resembles that of Objective-C. Sun Microsystems currently maintains and updates Java regularly. Specifications of the Java language, the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) and the Java API are community-maintained through the Sun-managed Java Community Process. Java was developed in 1991 by Gosling and other Sun engineers, as part of the Green Project. After first being made public in 1994, it achieved prominence following the announcement at 1995's SunWorld that Netscape would be including support for it in their Navigator browser.
- December 18
Herbig-Haro objects are small patches of nebulosity associated with newly-born stars, and are formed when gas ejected by young stars collides with clouds of gas and dust nearby at speeds of several hundred kilometres per second. Herbig-Haro objects are ubiquitous in star-forming regions, and several are often seen around a single star, aligned along its rotational axis. HH objects are transient phenomena, lasting only a few thousand years at most. They can evolve visibly over quite short timescales as they move rapidly away from their parent star into the gas clouds in interstellar space. Hubble Space Telescope observations reveal complex evolution of HH objects over a few years, as parts of them fade while others brighten as they collide with clumpy material in the interstellar medium. The objects were first observed in the late 19th century by Sherburne Wesley Burnham, but were not recognised as being a distinct type of emission nebula until the 1940s. The first astronomers to study them in detail were George Herbig and Guillermo Haro, after whom they have been named.
- December 19
Yoweri Museveni has been the President of Uganda since January 29, 1986. Museveni was involved in the war which toppled Idi Amin's rule, and the rebellion which subsequently led to the demise of Milton Obote's regime. With the notable exception of the northern parts of the country, Museveni has brought relative stability and economic growth to a country which has endured decades of government mismanagement, rebel activity and civil war. His tenure has also witnessed one of the most effective national responses to HIV/AIDS in Africa. In the mid to late 1990s, Museveni was fêted by the West as part of a new generation of African leaders. His presidency has been marred, however, by involvement in civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo and other Great Lakes region conflicts. Rebellion in the north continues to perpetuate one of the world's worst humanitarian emergencies. Moves to scrap constitutional limits on presidential terms have attracted recent concern from domestic commentators and the international community.
- December 20
The U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program is a program within the United States Navy that studies and trains marine mammals — principally bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions — for military activities, such as ship protection, mine clearance, and equipment recovery. The program is based in San Diego, California, where animals are kept and trained. NMMP animal teams have been deployed in armed conflicts, including in the Vietnam War and Iraq War. The program has been dogged by controversy over its treatment of the animals, and by speculation on the nature of its mission and training; this has been due at least in part to the secrecy of the program, which was declassified in the early 1990s. The Navy cites external oversight, including ongoing monitoring, to defend its standard of animal care. However, there is ongoing opposition to the concept of using marine mammals for military purposes.
- December 21
Chennai, also known as Madras, is the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu and is India's fourth largest metropolitan city. It is located on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal. With an estimated population of 6.90 million, the 367-year-old city is the 31st largest metropolitan area in the world. The city is a large commercial and industrial centre, and is known for its cultural heritage and temple architecture. The city is the automobile capital of India, with around forty percent of the automobile industry having a base there. The 12 kilometre long Marina Beach forms the city's east coast and is one of the longest beaches in the world. The city is also known for its sport venues and hosts India's only ATP tennis event, the Chennai Open.
- December 22
Captain Marvel was the most popular superhero of the 1940s, with his Captain Marvel Adventures series selling more copies than Superman and other competing superhero books. He was also the first superhero to be adapted into film in 1941 (The Adventures of Captain Marvel). Because of a decline in the popularity of superheroes and a copyright infringement suit from DC Comics alleging similarities between Captain Marvel and Superman, Fawcett ceased publishing Captain Marvel and Marvel Family comics in 1953. They later licensed the Marvel Family characters to DC in 1972 and ceded the rights to them outright in 1980. Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family have been integrated into the "DC Universe", and DC has attempted a few revivals. However, Captain Marvel has not found widespread appeal with new generations, although a 1970s Shazam! live action television series featuring the character was very popular. Due to the fact that Marvel Comics trademarked their Captain Marvel comic book during the interim between the original Captain Marvel's Fawcett years and DC years, DC Comics has to promote and market their Captain Marvel/Marvel Family properties under the title Shazam!.
- December 23
The early life of Joseph Smith, Jr. covers the period from his birth to the end of 1827, when Smith claimed to have located a set of Golden Plates engraved with ancient Christian scriptures, buried in a hill near his home in Manchester, New York. Joseph Smith, Jr. was the principal founder and leader of the Latter Day Saint movement, which includes such denominations as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Community of Christ. This early period of Smith's life is significant within Mormonism because it represents the time when Smith first claimed to act as a prophet, and when he claimed to obtain the Golden Plates, purportedly the source material for the Book of Mormon. During this period, Smith was influenced by numerous religious and cultural trends in early United States history. Chief among these trends, the nation at the time was undergoing a cultural reaction against the secularism of the Age of Enlightenment, called the Second Great Awakening.
- December 24
Sicilian Baroque is the distinctive form of Baroque architecture that took hold on the large island of Sicily off the southern Italian coast in the 17th and 18th centuries. The style is recognisable not just by its typical Baroque curves and flourishes, but by its grinning masks and putti and a particular flamboyance that has given Sicily a unique architectural identity. The Sicilian Baroque style came to fruition during a major surge of rebuilding following a massive earthquake in 1693. Previously, the Baroque style had been used on the island in a naive and parochial manner, having evolved from hybrid native architecture rather than being derived from the great Baroque architects of Rome. After the earthquake, local architects, many of them trained in Rome, were given plentiful opportunities to recreate the more sophisticated Baroque architecture that had become popular in mainland Italy. Around 1730, Sicilian architects had developed a confidence in their use of the Baroque style. Their particular interpretation of this style led to its evolving further into a personalised and highly localised art form on the island. From the 1780s onwards, the style was gradually replaced by the newly-fashionable neoclassicism.
- December 25
Ido is a constructed language, purposely created to be easier to learn than any other natural language, and ideally to become a universal second language that would be used by all when conversing with people from a different linguistic background. This is much in the same way that English is often used as a lingua franca at present in various international gatherings, but Ido was made to be grammatically regular, phonetic, and as the first language of none, to favour no one who might otherwise have an advantage in expression with his or her native language. Ido was developed in the early 1900s, and retains a small following today, primarily in Europe. It is largely based on Esperanto, created by L. L. Zamenhof. Ido first appeared in 1907 as a result of a desire to reform perceived flaws in Esperanto that its supporters believed to be a hindrance in its propagation as an easy-to-learn second language. Ido uses the twenty-six Latin letters used in the English alphabet with no diacritics. While still being completely grammatically regular, Ido resembles Romance languages in appearance and is sometimes mistaken for Italian or Spanish at first glance.
- December 26
Richard O'Connor was a British Army general who commanded the Western Desert Force (WDF) in the early years of World War II. O'Connor was the field commander for Operation Compass, in which he and the WDF completely destroyed a much larger Italian army. This victory nearly drove the Axis from Africa entirely, and led Adolf Hitler to send the Deutsches Afrikakorps under Erwin Rommel, to try and reverse the situation. O'Connor was later captured and spent over two years in an Italian prisoner of war camp for senior officers. He made a number of escape attempts with General Sir Philip Neame and Lieutenant General Sir Adrian Carton De Wiart, and was eventually successful. O'Connor commanded VIII Corps in Normandy in 1944 and later during Operation Market Garden. In 1945 he was general officer in command, Eastern Command in India, and then headed the North West Army in the closing days of British rule in the subcontinent. He held the highest level of knighthood in four different orders of chivalry.
- December 27
The fauna of Australia comprises a huge variety of unique animals; some 83% of mammals, 89% of reptiles, 90% of fish and insects and 93% of amphibians that inhabit the continent are endemic. This high level of endemism can be attributed to the continent's long geological isolation, tectonic stability, and the effects of an unusual pattern of climate change on the soil and flora over geological time. A unique feature of Australia's fauna is the relative scarcity of native placental mammals. Consequently the marsupials, a group of mammals that raise their young in a pouch including the macropods, possums and dasyuromorphs, mostly fill the ecological niches that are occupied by placental mammals elsewhere in the world. Australia is home to two of the five extant egg-laying monotremes, and has numerous venomous species, which include the Platypus, spiders, scorpions, octopuses, jellyfish, molluscs, stonefish, stingrays. Uniquely, Australia has more venomous than non-venomous species of snakes.
- December 28
Sealand is a micronation (a self-declared, unrecognised state-like entity) that claims as its territory Roughs Tower as well as territorial waters in a twelve nautical mile radius. Roughs Tower is a former Maunsell Sea Fort located in the North Sea six miles (10 km) off the coast of Suffolk, United Kingdom. Sealand is occupied by the family and associates of Paddy Roy Bates. The population of the facility rarely exceeds five, and its inhabitable area is 550 m². Sealand is possibly the world's best-known micronation, and although its claims to sovereignty and legitimacy are not recognized by any traditional States, it is nevertheless sometimes cited in debates as an interesting case study of how various principles of international law can be applied to a disputed territory.
- December 29
The blues is a vocal and instrumental form of music based on a pentatonic scale as well as a characteristic twelve-bar chord progression. The form evolved in the United States in the communities of former African slaves from spirituals, praise songs, field hollers, shouts, and chants. The use of blue notes and the prominence of call-and-response patterns in the music and lyrics are indicative of the blues' West African pedigree. The blues has been a major influence on later American and Western popular music, finding expression in ragtime, jazz, big band, rhythm and blues, rock and roll and country music, as well as conventional pop songs and even modern classical music. The phrase the blues is a synonym for having a fit of the blue devils, meaning low spirits, depression and sadness.
- December 30
Imagism was a movement in early 20th-century Anglo-American poetry that favoured precision of imagery, and clear, sharp language. The Imagists rejected the sentiment and artifice typical of much Romantic and Victorian poetry. This was in contrast to their contemporaries, the Georgian poets, who were by and large content to work within that tradition. Group publication of work under the Imagist name in magazines and in four anthologies appearing between 1914 and 1917 featured writing by many of the most significant figures in Modernist poetry in English, as well as a number of other Modernist figures who were to be prominent in fields other than poetry. Based in London, the Imagists were drawn from Britain, Ireland and the United States and, somewhat unusually for the time, featured a number of women writers amongst their major figures. Historically, Imagism is also significant because it was the first organised Modernist English-language literary movement or group. At the time Imagism emerged Longfellow and Tennyson were considered the paragons for poetry, and the public valued the sometimes moralising tone of their writings. In contrast to this, Imagism called for a return to what were seen as more classical values, such as directness of presentation and economy of language, as well as a willingness to experiment with non-traditional verse forms.
- December 31
Four Iowa class battleships were built in the early 1940s in the United States. Two others were laid down but were scrapped prior to completion. Built with cost as no object, the Iowas are arguably the finest battleships ever built. The Iowa-class was preceded by the South Dakota class, and would have been succeeded by the Montana class if the Montanas had not been cancelled prior to construction. The design of the Iowa class was based upon that of the South Dakota class but with more powerful engines, larger guns and an additional 200 feet (60 m) of length for improved seakeeping. The Iowa class was the last battleship line built by the United States, as naval power had shifted to being primarily aircraft carrier based. These ships were launched during the Second World War, and all of them saw action throughout the 20th century. All four of the completed ships were recommissioned in the 1980s, only to be decommissioned in the 1990s after the Cold War ended.