Wikipedia:Today's featured article/December 2006

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December 1

Cyclone Florence in the north Atlantic

Extratropical cyclones are one part of the broader family of cyclones. They are defined as synoptic scale low pressure weather systems that occur in the middle latitudes of the Earth, having neither tropical nor polar characteristics, and are connected with fronts and horizontal gradients in temperature and dew point otherwise known as "baroclinic zones". Extratropical cyclones are the everyday phenomena which, along with anticyclones, drive the weather over much of the Earth, producing weather ranging from cloudiness and mild showers, to heavy gales and thunderstorms. Extratropical cyclones form anywhere within the extratropical regions of the Earth (usually between 30° and 60° latitude from the equator) in one of two ways; either through cyclogenesis or extratropical transition. (more...)

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December 2

Napoléon at the Battle of Austerlitz, by François Pascal Simon

The Battle of Austerlitz was a major engagement in the Napoleonic Wars during the War of the Third Coalition. It was fought on December 2, 1805 about four miles (6.4 km) east of the modern Czech town of Brno, then part of the Austrian Empire. The conflict involved forces of the recently formed First French Empire against the armies of the Russian Empire and the Austrian Empire. After nearly nine hours of fighting, the French troops, commanded by Emperor Napoleon I, managed to score a decisive victory over the Russo-Austrian army, commanded by Czar Alexander I. Despite difficult fighting in many sectors, the battle is often regarded as a tactical masterpiece. Austerlitz effectively brought the Third Coalition to an end. (more...)

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December 3

Bust of the Greek orator Demosthenes

Demosthenes was a prominent Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens. His orations constitute the last significant expression of Athenian intellectual prowess and provide a thorough insight into the politics and culture of ancient Greece during the 4th century BC. Demosthenes learned Rhetoric by studying the speeches of previous great orators. He would go on to devote the most productive years of his life to opposing Macedon's expansion. He idealized his city and strove throughout his life to restore Athens' supremacy and motivate his compatriots against Philip II of Macedon. After Philip's death, Demosthenes played a leading part in his city's uprising against the new King of Macedon, Alexander the Great. However, his efforts failed and the revolt was met with a harsh Macedonian reaction. To prevent a similar revolt against his own rule, Alexander's successor, Antipater, sent his men to track Demosthenes down. Demosthenes took his own life, in order to avoid being arrested by Archias, Antipater's confidant. The Alexandrian Canon compiled by Aristophanes of Byzantium and Aristarchus of Samothrace recognized Demosthenes as one of the 10 greatest Attic orators and logographers. (more...)

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December 4

"Weird Al" Yankovic

"Weird Al" Yankovic is an American musician, satirist, parodist, accordionist, and television producer. Yankovic is known in particular for his humorous songs that make light of popular culture and that parody specific songs by contemporary musical acts. Since receiving his first accordion lesson a day before his seventh birthday, he has recorded more than 150 parody and original songs and sold more comedy albums than any other artist. His works have earned him three Grammy Awards amongst nine nominations, three gold and five platinum records in the United States. Yankovic's first Top 10 Billboard album and single were both released in 2006, nearly three decades into his career. In addition to recording his albums, Yankovic has written and starred in his own movie and television show, directed music videos for himself and other artists including Ben Folds and Hanson, and had guest appearances in television shows such as The Simpsons and Behind the Music. (more...)

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December 5

A child with Down syndrome

Down syndrome is a genetic disorder resulting from the presence of all or part of an extra 21st chromosome. Down syndrome is characterized by a combination of major and minor abnormalities of body structure and function. Among features present in nearly all cases are impairment of learning and physical growth, and a recognizable facial appearance usually identified at birth. Individuals with Down syndrome have lower than average cognitive ability, normally ranging from mild to moderate retardation. Some individuals may have low intelligence overall, but will generally have some amount of developmental disability, such as a tendency toward concrete thinking or naïveté. The incidence of Down syndrome is estimated at 1 per 800 to 1 per 1000 births. The common physical features of Down syndrome also appear in people with a standard set of chromosomes. They include a single transverse palmar crease, almond shaped eyes, shorter limbs, speech impairment, and protruding tongue. Early childhood intervention, screening for common problems, medical treatment where indicated, a conducive family environment, and vocational training can improve the overall development of children with Down syndrome. While some of the genetic limitations of Down Syndrome cannot be overcome, education and proper care, initiated at any time, can improve quality of life. (more...)

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December 6

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore is a United States presidential memorial that represents the first 150 years of the history of the United States of America with the 60-foot (18 m) sculptures of former U.S. Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. The entire memorial covers 1,278 acres (5.17 km²), and is 5,725 feet (1,745 m) above sea level. It is managed by the National Park Service, a bureau of the United States Department of the Interior. The memorial attracts around 2 million people annually. The mountain, known to the Lakota Sioux as Six Grandfathers, was renamed in 1885 after Charles E. Rushmore, a prominent New York lawyer. The project of carving Mount Rushmore originally started with the purpose of increasing tourism in the Black Hills region of South Dakota. After long negotiations involving a Congressional delegation and President Calvin Coolidge, the project received Congressional approval. Under the direction of sculptor Gutzon Borglum, the carving started in 1927 and ended in 1941. (more...)

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December 7

Artist's impression of the planet HD 69830 d

An extrasolar planet is a planet beyond the Solar System. As of 11 November, 2006, 209 extrasolar planets have been discovered. Known exoplanets are members of planetary systems that orbit a star. For centuries, extrasolar planets were a subject of speculation. Astronomers generally supposed that some existed, but it was a mystery how common they were and how similar they were to the planets of the Solar System. The first confirmed detections were finally made in the 1990s. Since 2002, more than twenty have been discovered every year. It is now estimated that at least 10% of sunlike stars have planets, and the true proportion may be much higher. The discovery of extrasolar planets raises the question of whether some might support extraterrestrial life. (more...)

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December 8

Map showing different regions that can be referred to as Macedonia

The definition of Macedonia is a major source of confusion due to the overlapping use of the term to describe geographical, political and historical areas, languages and peoples. Ethnic groups inhabiting the area use different terminology for the same entity, or the same terminology for different entities. Geographically, no single definition of its borders or the names of its subdivisions is accepted by all scholars and ethnic groups. Demographically, it is mainly inhabited by four ethnic groups, three of which self-identify as Macedonians: One Slavic group does so at a national level, while another, Bulgarians, as well as a Greek one do so at a regional level. Linguistically, the names and origins of the languages and dialects spoken in the region are a source of controversy. Politically, the use of the name Macedonia has led to a diplomatic dispute between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia. Despite intervention from the United Nations, the dispute is still pending full resolution. (more...)

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December 9

Ina Garten at a San Francisco book signing.

Ina Garten is an American chef, former caterer, cookbook author, columnist, and hostess of the Food Network program Barefoot Contessa. Known for demystifying fine cuisine with an emphasis on quality ingredients and timesaving tips, she has been championed by the likes of Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey, and Patricia Wells as a top authority on cooking and home entertaining. Garten had no formal training, and instead taught herself culinary techniques with the aid of French and New England cookbooks. Later, she relied on intuition and feedback from customers and friends to refine her recipes. She was mentored chiefly by Eli Zabar, of Eli's Manhattan and Eli's Breads fame, and domestic maven Stewart. Among her hallmark dishes are cœur à la crème, celery root remoulade, pear clafouti, and a simplified version of bœuf bourguignon. Her culinary fame began with her gourmet food store, Barefoot Contessa; Garten parlayed this success into a string of best-selling cookbooks, magazine columns, self-branded convenience foods, and a popular Food Network television show. (more...)

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December 10

Portrait of a Persian woman pouring wine

The Iranian peoples are a collection of ethnic groups defined by their usage of Iranian languages and discernable descent from ancient Iranian peoples. The Iranian peoples live chiefly in the Middle East, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and parts of South Asia, though speakers of Iranian languages were once found throughout Eurasia, from the Balkans to western China. The Iranian peoples have played an important role throughout history: the Achaemenid Persians established the world's first multi-national state, and the Scythian-Sarmatian nomads dominated the vast expanses of Russia and western Siberia for centuries with a group of Sarmatian warrior women possibly being the inspiration for the Greek legend of the Amazons. In addition, the various religions of the Iranian peoples, including Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism, were important early philosophical influences on Judeo-Christianity. Early Iranian tribes were the precursors to many diverse modern peoples, including the Persians, the Kurds, the Pashtuns, and many other, smaller groups. (more...)

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December 11

A Green and Golden Bell Frog

The Green and Golden Bell Frog is a ground-dwelling tree frog native to eastern Australia. Measuring 11 centimetres (4.3 in) in length, the Green and Golden Bell Frog is one of the largest Australian frogs. Many populations, particularly in the Sydney region, are in areas of frequent disturbance, including golf courses, disused industrial land, brick pits and landfill areas. Once one of the most common frogs in south-east Australia, the Green and Golden Bell Frog has undergone major population declines, leading to its current classification as globally vulnerable. Population numbers have continued to decline and major threats include habitat loss and degradation, pollution, introduced species, and parasites and pathogens, such as the amphibian chytrid fungus. (more...)

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December 12

The Preamble of the Constitution of India

The Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles and Fundamental Duties of India are sections of the Constitution of India that prescribe the fundamental obligations of the State to the citizens, and the duties of the citizens with respect to the State. These sections comprise a constitutional bill of rights, guidelines for government policy-making, and the behaviour and conduct of citizens. These sections are considered vital elements of the constitution, which was developed between 1947 and 1949 by the Constituent Assembly of India. The Fundamental Rights are defined as the basic human rights of all citizens. The Directive Principles of State Policy are guidelines for the framing of laws by the government. The Fundamental Duties are defined as the moral obligations of all citizens to help to promote a spirit of patriotism and to uphold the unity of India. Like the Directive Principles, they are not legally enforceable. (more...)

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December 13

Drawing for a game board from patent application by Lizzie J. Magie

The history of the board game Monopoly can be traced back to the early 1900s. Elizabeth Magie invented in 1903 a version of The Landlord's Game which was a real estate trading game in which players got rich by monopolizing sets of properties. This game, usually called "monopoly", was played extensively from 1904 through 1931 when it showed up in Atlantic City, New Jersey. There a group of Quaker teachers changed it to a version which was copied by Charles Darrow. The copy was then commercialized by Parker Brothers which claimed that Darrow had invented the game and turned Darrow into a rags to riches embodiment of the American dream. In the 1970s, Professor Ralph Anspach, while defending himself against a trademark infringement suit filed by Parker Brothers and its then parent company, General Mills, against his Anti-Monopoly game, uncovered the true history of the game. Because of the lengthy court process, and appeals, the legal status of Parker Brothers' trademarks on the game was not settled until 1985. The game's name remains a registered trademark of Parker Brothers, as does its specific design elements. International tournaments, first held in the early 1970s, continue to the present day, with the next world championship scheduled for 2008. (more...)

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December 14

Pioneers crossing Platte River

The Mormon handcart pioneers were participants in the migration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Salt Lake City, Utah who used handcarts to transport their belongings. The Mormon handcart movement began in 1856 and lasted until 1860. Motivated to join their fellow Church members but lacking funds for full ox or horse teams, nearly 3,000 Mormon pioneers from England, Wales, and Scandinavia made the journey to Utah in 10 handcart companies. Although fewer than ten percent of the 1847–68 Latter-day Saint emigrants made the journey west using handcarts, the handcart pioneers have become an important symbol in LDS culture, representing the faithfulness and sacrifice of the pioneer generation. The handcart pioneers continue to be recognized and honored in events such as Pioneer Day, Church pageants, and similar commemorations. The handcart treks were a familiar theme in 19th century Mormon folk music and have been a theme in LDS fiction, such as Gerald Lund's historical novel, Fire of the Covenant, and Orson Scott Card's science-fiction short story, "West." (more...)

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December 15

HIV protease in a complex with the protease inhibitor ritonavir

Enzyme inhibitors are molecules that bind to enzymes and decrease their activity. Since blocking an enzyme's activity can kill a pathogen or correct a metabolic imbalance, many drugs are enzyme inhibitors. Inhibitor binding is either reversible or irreversible. Irreversible inhibitors usually react with the enzyme and change it chemically. These inhibitors modify key amino acid residues needed for enzymatic activity. In contrast, reversible inhibitors bind non-covalently and different types of inhibition are produced depending on whether these inhibitors bind the enzyme, the enzyme-substrate complex, or both. Their discovery and improvement is an active area of research in biochemistry and pharmacology. A medicinal enzyme inhibitor is often judged by its specificity (its lack of binding to other proteins) and its potency (its dissociation constant, which indicates the concentration needed to inhibit the enzyme). A high specificity and potency ensure that a drug will have few side effects and thus low toxicity. Enzyme inhibitors also occur naturally and are involved in the regulation of metabolism. (more...)

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December 16

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Zarqawi took responsibility, on several audiotapes, for numerous acts of terrorism in Iraq and Jordan. These acts include suicide bombings, and the killing of soldiers, police officers, and civilians. As an Islamist identified with the Salafi movement, Zarqawi opposed the presence of United States and Western military forces in the Islamic world and opposed the West's support for and the existence of Israel. In September 2005, he reportedly declared "all-out war" on Shia Muslims in Iraq and is believed responsible for dispatching numerous Al-Qaeda suicide bombers throughout Iraq, especially to areas with large concentrations of Shia civilians. As the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq he is suspected of responsibility for thousands of deaths. Zarqawi was killed in a US airstrike in June 2006. (more...)

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December 17

1902 poster advertising Gaumont's sound films

A sound film is a motion picture with synchronized sound, as opposed to a silent film. The first known public exhibition of projected sound films took place in Paris in 1900, but it would be decades before reliable synchronization was achieved in a commercially practical way. The first commercial screening of movies with fully synchronized sound took place in the United States in April 1923. In the early years after the introduction of sound, films incorporating synchronized dialogue were known as "talkies." The first feature-length movie originally presented as a talkie was The Jazz Singer, released in October 1927. By the early 1930s, the talkies were a global phenomenon. In the United States, they helped secure Hollywood's position as one of the world's most powerful cultural/commercial systems. (more...)

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December 18

Manila MRT Train approaching Ayala Station

The Manila Metro Rail Transit System is part of the main metropolitan rail system serving the Metro Manila area in the Philippines. Only one line exists within this network, and that is MRT-3, called the Blue Line. Although the network has characteristics of light rail, such as the type of rolling stock used, the system is more akin to a rapid transit system. The MRT forms part of Metro Manila's rail transport infrastructure, the Strong Republic Transit System. Although one of the original purposes of the system was to decongest Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, one of Metro Manila's main thoroughfares and home to the MRT, many commuters who ride the MRT also take various forms of road-based public transport to reach the intended destination from an MRT station. While this forms a comprehensive transportation system serving many parts of Metro Manila, the system has only been partially successful in decongesting the very busy thoroughfare. The expansion of the system to cover the entire stretch of EDSA is expected to contribute to current attempts to decongest the thoroughfare and to cut travel times on one of the Philippines' busiest roadways. The system is operated by the Metro Rail Transit Corporation, a private company operating in partnership with the Department of Transportation and Communications under a Build-Operate-Transfer agreement. (more...)

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December 19

Muhammad Iqbal

Muhammad Iqbal was an Indian Muslim poet, philosopher and politician, whose poetry in Persian and Urdu is regarded as among the greatest in modern times. Also famous for his work on religious and political philosophy in Islam, he is credited with first proposing the idea of an independent state for Indian Muslims, which would inspire the creation of Pakistan. He is best known for his poetic works, which include the Tarana-e-Hind, Asrar-e-Khudi, Rumuz-i-Bekhudi, and the Bang-i-Dara. He is officially recognised as the "national poet" in Pakistan. The anniversary of his birth on November 9 is a holiday in Pakistan. Iqbal was a strong proponent of the political and spiritual revival of Islamic civilisation across the world, but specifically in India; a series of famous lectures he delivered to this effect were published as The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam. One of the most prominent leaders of the All India Muslim League, Iqbal would encourage the creation of a "state in northwestern India for Indian Muslims" in his 1930 presidential address. (more...)

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December 20

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn giving a re-enactment of life in a gulag

The Kengir uprising was a prisoner uprising that took place in the Soviet prison labor camp Kengir in the spring of 1954. It was distinct from other Gulag uprisings in the same period in its duration and intensity. After the murder of some of their fellow prisoners by guards, Kengir inmates launched a rebellion and proceeded to seize the entire camp compound, holding it for weeks and creating a period of freedom for themselves unique in the history of the Gulag. This situation lasted for an unprecedented length of time and gave rise to a panoply of colourful and novel activity, including the democratic formation of a provisional government by the prisoners, prisoner marriages, the creation of indigenous religious ceremonies, a brief flowering of art and culture, and the waging of a large, relatively complex propaganda campaign against the erstwhile authorities. After 40 days of freedom within the camp walls, intermittent negotiation, and mutual preparation for violent conflict, the uprising was brutally suppressed by Soviet armed forces. The story of the uprising was first committed to history in The Gulag Archipelago, a nonfiction work by former-prisoner and Nobel Prize-winning Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. (more...)

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December 21

Selena was a Mexican-American singer who has been called "the queen of Tejano music". She took the award for Female Vocalist of the Year in 1987 at the Tejano Music Awards and landed a recording contract with EMI a few years later. Her fame continued to grow throughout the early nineties, especially in Spanish-speaking countries. Her album Selena Live! won a Grammy Award for Best Mexican-American album at the 36th Grammy Awards and her 1994 album Amor Prohibido was nominated for another Grammy and produced four number one Spanish hits. Selena attained further notability in the United States and Mexico after Yolanda Saldívar, the president of her fan club, murdered her at the age of 23. Warner Brothers made a film based on her life starring Jennifer Lopez in 1997. As of June 2006, Selena was commemorated with a museum and a bronze life-sized statue (Mirador de la Flor in Corpus Christi, Texas). (more...)

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December 22

Dancers at the Notting Hill Carnival

The British African-Caribbean community are residents of the United Kingdom who are of West Indian background, and whose ancestors were indigenous to Africa. As immigration to the UK from Africa increased in the 1990s, the term has been used to include UK residents solely of African origin, or as a term to define all Black British residents, though this is usually denoted by "African and Caribbean". The largest proportion of the African-Caribbean population in the UK are of Jamaican origin; others trace origins to smaller nations including Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Barbados, Saint Lucia, Grenada, Montserrat, Dominica, Antigua and Guyana, which though located on the South American mainland, has close cultural ties to the Caribbean, and was historically considered to be part of the British West Indies. African-Caribbean communities exist throughout the United Kingdom, though by far the largest concentrations are in London, Birmingham and the broader West Midlands conurbation. (more...)

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December 23

Torchic are one of the 493 fictional species of Pokémon creatures from the Pokémon media franchise. Torchic are famous for being one of the three species of Pokémon that players can choose from at the beginning of their adventure in the Pokémon Ruby, Pokémon Sapphire, and Pokémon Emerald versions of the series. The purpose of Torchic in the games, anime and manga, as with all other Pokémon, is to battle both wild Pokémon, untamed creatures encountered while the player passes through various environments, and tamed Pokémon owned by Pokémon trainers. The name Torchic is a portmanteau of the words torch, a flame or light used to see in darkness, and chick, a common name for infant chickens. Torchic are described as small, clumsy chickens, with yellowish feathers and orange bodies. They are often seen hopping randomly behind their trainers, or characters in the Pokémon world who collect and battle Pokémon. Although their appearance gives an innocent and harmless impression, Torchic are noted to fight by spitting flames from the pits of their stomachs. (more...)

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December 24

The shrubby form of Banksia brownii

Banksia brownii is a species of shrub that occurs in southwest Western Australia. An attractive plant with fine feathery leaves and large red-brown flower spikes, it usually grows as an upright bush around two metres (7 ft) high, but can also occur as a small tree or a low spreading shrub. First collected in 1829 and published the following year, it is placed in Banksia subg. Banksia, section Oncostylis, series Spicigerae. It occurs naturally only in two population clusters, between Albany and the Stirling Range. In the Stirling Range it occurs among heath on rocky mountain slopes; further south it occurs among Jarrah woodland in shallow nutrient-poor sand. It is rare and endangered in its natural habitat, with all known populations currently threatened by Phytophthora cinnamomi dieback, a disease to which the species is highly susceptible. Other threats include loss of habitat, commercial exploitation and changes to the fire regime. B. brownii is highly valued by Australia's horticultural and cut flower industries. (more...)

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December 25

Depiction of Bishop Clement of Dunblane

Clement of Dunblane was a 13th-century Dominican friar who was the first member of the Dominican Order in the British Isles to become a bishop. In 1233, he was selected to lead the ailing diocese of Dunblane, and faced a struggle to bring the bishopric of Dunblane to financial viability. While not achieving all of his aims, Clement succeeded in saving the bishopric from relocation to Inchaffray Abbey. He also regained enough revenue to begin work on the new Dunblane Cathedral. He faced a similar challenge with the impoverished bishopric of Argyll in the 1240s. Clement was with the king during his campaign in Argyll in 1249 and was at his side when he died during this campaign. By 1250 he had established a reputation as one of the most active Dominican reformers in Britain. Clement helped to elevate Edmund of Abingdon and Queen Margaret to sainthood. After his death, he received veneration as a saint himself, although he was never formally canonised. (more...)

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December 26

Mount Tambora is an active stratovolcano on Sumbawa island, Indonesia. Sumbawa is flanked both to the north and south by oceanic crust and Tambora was formed by the active subduction zones beneath it. This process raised Mount Tambora as high as 4,300 m (14,000 ft), making it one of the tallest peaks in the Indonesian archipelago, and drained off a large magma chamber inside the mountain. In 1815, Tambora erupted with a rating of seven on the Volcanic Explosivity Index; the largest eruption since the Lake Taupo eruption in AD 181. The death toll was at least 71,000 people, of which 11,000–12,000 were killed directly by the eruption. The eruption created global climate anomalies in the following years. 1816 became known as the Year Without a Summer because of the impact on North American and European weather. During an excavation in 2004, a team of archaeologists discovered a civilization obliterated by the 1815 eruption, known as the Pompeii of the East. (more...)

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December 27

Photo of Sylvanus G. Morley, circa 1912

Sylvanus Morley was an American archaeologist, epigrapher and Mayanist scholar who made significant contributions towards the study of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization in the early 20th century. He is particularly noted for his extensive excavations of the Maya site of Chichen Itza. He also published several large compilations and treatises on Maya hieroglyphic writing, and wrote popular accounts on the Maya for a general audience. To his contemporaries he was one of the leading Mesoamerican archaeologists of his day; although more recent developments in the field have resulted in a re-evaluation of his theories and works, his publications (particularly on calendric inscriptions) are still cited. Overall, his commitment and enthusiasm for Maya studies would generate the interest and win the necessary sponsorship and backing to finance projects which would ultimately reveal much about the Maya of former times. His involvement in clandestine espionage activities at the behest of the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence was another, surprising, aspect of his career, which came to light only well after his death. (more...)

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December 28

A modern salsa band lineup

Salsa music is a diverse and predominantly Spanish Caribbean genre that is popular across Latin America and among Latinos abroad. Salsa incorporates multiple styles and variations, such as chachachá and mambo. Most specifically, however, salsa refers to a particular style developed in the 1960s and '70s by Cuban and Puerto Rican immigrants to the New York City area, and stylistic descendants like 1980s salsa romantica. Salsa's closest relatives are Cuban mambo and the son orchestras of the early twentieth century, as well as Latin jazz. Salsa is essentially Cuban in stylistic origin, though it is also a hybrid of Puerto Rican and other Latin styles mixed with pop, jazz, rock, and R&B. Salsa is the primary music played at Latin dance clubs and is the "essential pulse of Latin music", according to author Ed Morales. Modern salsa remains a dance-oriented genre and is closely associated with a style of salsa dancing. (more...)

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December 29

The redshift of spectral lines in the optical spectrum of distant galaxies

Redshift occurs when the visible light from an object is shifted towards the red end of the spectrum. This increase in wavelength corresponds to a decrease in the frequency of the electromagnetic radiation. A redshift can occur when a light source moves away from an observer, corresponding to the Doppler shift that changes the frequency of sound waves. Although observing such redshifts has several terrestrial applications (e.g. Doppler radar and radar guns), spectroscopic astrophysics uses Doppler redshifts to determine the movement of distant astronomical objects. This Doppler redshift phenomenon was first predicted and observed in the nineteenth century as scientists began to consider the dynamical implications of the wave-nature of light. Another redshift mechanism accounts for the famous observation that the spectral redshifts of distant galaxies, quasars, and intergalactic gas clouds are observed to increase proportionally with their distance to the observer. This relation is accounted for by models that predict the universe is expanding, seen in, for example, the Big Bang model. Yet a third type of redshift, the gravitational redshift also known as the Einstein effect, results from the time dilation that occurs in general relativity near massive objects. (more...)

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December 30

Kroger Babb was an American film and television producer. His marketing techniques were similar to a travelling salesman's, with roots in the medicine-show tradition. Self-described as "America's Fearless Young Showman," he is best known for his presentation of the 1945 exploitation film Mom and Dad, which was added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 2005. Babb was involved in the production and marketing of many films and television shows, promoting each according to his favorite marketing motto: "You gotta tell 'em to sell 'em." His films ranged from sex education–style dramas to "documentaries" on foreign cultures intended to titillate audiences rather than to educate them, maximizing profits via marketing gimmicks. (more...)

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December 31

A packet of Maraba Coffee

Maraba Coffee is a Fairtrade coffee produced in the Maraba area of southern Rwanda. About 2,000 smallholder farmers grow the coffee plants under the Abahuzamugambi cooperative, founded in 1999. Since 2000, the cooperative has been supported by the National University of Rwanda and the Partnership for Enhancing Agriculture in Rwanda through Linkages. The cooperative, which includes many growers who lost family members in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, has improved coffee quality and penetrated the specialty market. Farmers' revenues have increased, allowing for livestock investments, affordable medical insurance, and improved education. Maraba's coffee plants are the Bourbon variety of the Coffea arabica species and are grown on fertile volcanic soils on high-altitude hills. The fruit is handpicked, mostly during the rainy season between March and May, and brought to a washing station in Maraba where the coffee beans are extracted and dried. At several stages, the beans are sorted according to quality. The beans are sold to various roasting companies, with the highest quality beans going to Union Coffee Roasters of the United Kingdom and Community Coffee of the United States. (more...)

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