Wikipedia:Today's featured article/July 2010

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
01 02 03
04 05 06 07 08 09 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

July 1

John Diefenbaker (1895–1979) led Canada as its 13th Prime Minister, serving from June 21, 1957 to April 22, 1963. He was the only Progressive Conservative party leader between 1930 and 1979 to lead it to an election victory, doing so three times, although only once with a majority of the seats in the Canadian House of Commons. Diefenbaker was born in southwestern Ontario in 1895. In 1903, his family migrated west to the portion of the Northwest Territories which would shortly thereafter become the province of Saskatchewan. Diefenbaker contested elections through the 1920s and 1930s with little success until he was finally elected to the House of Commons in 1940. In the House of Commons, he was repeatedly a candidate for the party leadership. He was finally successful in 1956, and led his party for eleven years. In 1957, he led the party to its first electoral victory in 27 years and a year later called a snap election and led it to one of its greatest triumphs. Diefenbaker appointed the first woman minister to his Cabinet and the first aboriginal member of the Senate. During his six years as Prime Minister, his government obtained the passage of the Canadian Bill of Rights (which he introduced on July 1, 1960) and granted the vote to members of the First Nations and Inuit peoples. (more...)

Recently featured: Maryland Route 36Mariano RiveraLeopold Report


July 2
The image of Sirius A and Sirius B taken by Hubble Space Telescope

Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky with a visual apparent magnitude of −1.46, almost twice as bright as Canopus, the next brightest star. The star has the Bayer designation Alpha Canis Majoris. What the naked eye perceives as a single star is actually a binary star system, consisting of a white main sequence star termed Sirius A, and a faint white dwarf companion called Sirius B. At a distance of 2.6 parsecs (8.6 light years), the Sirius system is one of our near neighbors. Sirius A is about twice as massive as the Sun and has an absolute visual magnitude of 1.42. It is 25 times more luminous than the Sun but has a significantly lower luminosity than other bright stars such as Canopus or Rigel. The system is between 200 and 300 million years old. It was originally composed of two bright bluish stars. The more massive of these, Sirius B, consumed its resources and became a red giant before shedding its outer layers and collapsing into its current state as a white dwarf around 120 million years ago. Sirius is also known colloquially as the "Dog Star", reflecting its prominence in its constellation, Canis Major. The heliacal rising of Sirius marked the flooding of the Nile in Ancient Egypt and the 'Dog Days' of summer for the Ancient Greeks, while to the Polynesians it marked winter and was an important star for navigation around the Pacific Ocean. (more...)

Recently featured: John DiefenbakerMaryland Route 36Mariano Rivera


July 3
An Andean Condor at Colchester Zoo, England

The Andean Condor is a species of South American bird in the New World vulture family Cathartidae and is the only member of the genus Vultur. Found in the Andes mountains and adjacent Pacific coasts of western South America, it is the largest flying land bird in the Western Hemisphere. It is a large black vulture with a ruff of white feathers surrounding the base of the neck and, especially in the male, large white patches on the wings. The head and neck are nearly featherless, and are a dull red color, which may flush and therefore change color in response to the bird's emotional state. In the male, there is a wattle on the neck and a large, dark red comb or caruncle on the crown of the head. Unlike most birds of prey, the male is larger than the female. The condor is primarily a scavenger, feeding on carrion. It prefers large carcasses, such as those of deer or cattle. It reaches sexual maturity at five or six years of age and roosts at elevations of 3,000 to 5,000 m (9,800 to 16,400 ft), generally on inaccessible rock ledges. One or two eggs are usually laid. It is one of the world’s longest-living birds, with a lifespan of up to 50 years. The Andean Condor is a national symbol of Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, and Ecuador, and plays an important role in the folklore and mythology of the South American Andean regions. The Andean Condor is considered near threatened by the IUCN. Captive breeding programs have been instituted in several countries. (more...)

Recently featured: SiriusJohn DiefenbakerMaryland Route 36


July 4
"Foot of Toroweap Looking East" by William H. Holmes

The known history of the Grand Canyon area stretches back 10,500 years when the first evidence for human presence in the area started. Native Americans have been living at the Grand Canyon and in the area now covered by Grand Canyon National Park for at least the last 4,000 of those years. Drought in the late 13th century was the likely cause for these cultures to move on. Under direction by conquistador Francisco Vasquez de Coronado to find the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola, Captain Garcia Lopez de Cardenas led a party of Spanish soldiers with Hopi guides to the Grand Canyon in September of 1540. Not finding what they were looking for, they left. Over 200 years passed before two Spanish priests became the second party of non-Native Americans to see the canyon. In 1869, U.S. Army Major John Wesley Powell led the Powell Geographic Expedition through the canyon on the Colorado River. This and later study by geologists uncovered the geology of the Grand Canyon area and helped to advance that science. In the late 19th century there was interest in the region because of its promise of mineral resources—mainly copper and asbestos. Although first afforded Federal protection in 1893 as a forest reserve and later as a U.S. National Monument, Grand Canyon did not achieve U.S. National Park status until 1919, three years after the creation of the National Park Service. Today, Grand Canyon National Park receives about five million visitors each year. (more...)

Recently featured: Andean CondorSiriusJohn Diefenbaker


July 5

The July 2009 Ürümqi riots were a series of violent riots over several days that broke out on 5 July 2009 in Ürümqi, the capital city of Xinjiang, China. Protests calling for a full investigation into the Shaoguan incident, a brawl in southern China several days earlier in which two Uyghurs had been killed, escalated into violence. During the first day's rioting mainly Han ("ethnic Chinese") were targeted; two days later hundreds of Han people gathered and clashed with both police and Uyghurs. Chinese officials said that a total of 197 people died, with 1,721 others injured and considerable damage to property; Uyghur groups say the death toll is higher than officially disclosed. Human Rights Watch documented numerous cases of arrests and disappearances in the wake of the riots. Rioting began when the police confronted the march, but observers disagree on what caused the protests to become violent. The Chinese central government alleges that the riots themselves were planned from abroad by the World Uyghur Congress and its leader Rebiya Kadeer, while Kadeer denies fomenting the violence in her struggle for her people's right to self-determination. Uyghur groups claim that the escalation was caused by the police's use of excessive force. Chinese media coverage of the Ürümqi riots was extensive. (more...)

Recently featured: History of the Grand Canyon areaAndean CondorSirius


July 6
Gary Gygax in 2007

Expedition to the Barrier Peaks is an adventure module written by Gary Gygax (pictured) for the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. While Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) is typically a fantasy game, the adventure includes science fiction elements and thus belongs to the science fantasy genre. It takes place on a downed spaceship; the ship's crew has died of an unspecified disease, but functioning robots and strange creatures still inhabit the ship. The player characters fight monsters and robots, and gather the futuristic weapons and colored access cards that are necessary for advancing the story. The adventure was first played at the 1976 Origins II convention, where it was used to introduce D&D players to the science fiction game Metamorphosis Alpha. TSR published the adventure in 1980, updated for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. The adventure is a favorite of many fans, including Stephen Colbert. It was ranked the fifth-best D&D adventure of all time by Dungeon magazine in 2004, and received positive reviews from White Dwarf and The Space Gamer magazines. (more...)

Recently featured: July 2009 Ürümqi riotsHistory of the Grand Canyon areaAndean Condor


July 7
Gustav Mahler in 1907

Gustav Mahler (1860–1911) was an Austrian late-Romantic composer, and one of the leading conductors of his generation. After graduating from the Vienna Conservatory in 1878, he held a succession of conducting posts of rising importance in the opera houses of Europe, culminating in his appointment in 1897 as director of the Vienna Court Opera (Hofoper). During his ten years in Vienna, Mahler's innovative productions and insistence on the highest performance standards ensured his reputation as one of the greatest of opera conductors, particularly as an interpreter of the stage works of Wagner and Mozart. The compositions of Mahler's maturity are confined to the genres of symphony and song. His symphonies were often controversial when first performed, and were slow to receive critical and popular approval; an exception was the triumphant premiere of his Eighth Symphony in 1910. After 1945 the music was rediscovered and championed by a new generation of listeners; Mahler then became one of the most frequently performed and recorded of all composers, a situation that continues into the 21st century. (more...)

Recently featured: Expedition to the Barrier PeaksJuly 2009 Ürümqi riotsHistory of the Grand Canyon area


July 8
An aerial view drawing of the Rogers Locomotive Works plant on March 28, 1906

Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works was a 19th-century manufacturer of railroad steam locomotives based in Paterson, New Jersey in the United States. They built more than 6,000 steam locomotives for railroads around the world. Most railroads in 19th-century United States rostered at least one Rogers-built locomotive. The company's most famous product was a locomotive named The General, built in December 1855, which was one of the principals of the Great Locomotive Chase of the American Civil War. Rogers was the second-most popular American locomotive manufacturer of the 19th century behind the Baldwin Locomotive Works amongst almost a hundred manufacturers. The company was founded by Thomas Rogers in an 1832 partnership with Morris Ketchum and Jasper Grosvenor as Rogers, Ketchum and Grosvenor. Rogers remained president until his death in 1856 when his son, Jacob S. Rogers, took the position and reorganized the company as Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works. The younger Rogers led the company until he retired in 1893. Robert S. Hughes then became president and reorganized the company as Rogers Locomotive Company, which he led until his death in 1900. (more...)

Recently featured: Gustav MahlerExpedition to the Barrier PeaksJuly 2009 Ürümqi riots


July 9
Extent of Badami Chalukya Empire, 636 CE, 740 CE

The Chalukya dynasty was an Indian royal dynasty that ruled large parts of southern and central India between the 6th and the 12th centuries. During this period, they ruled as three related, but individual dynasties. The earliest dynasty, known as the "Badami Chalukyas", ruled from their capital Vatapi (modern Badami) from the middle of the 6th century. The Badami Chalukyas began to assert their independence at the decline of the Kadamba kingdom of Banavasi and rapidly rose to prominence during the reign of Pulakesi II. After the death of Pulakesi II, the Eastern Chalukyas became an independent kingdom in the eastern Deccan. They ruled from their capital Vengi until about the 11th century. In the western Deccan, the rise of the Rashtrakutas in the middle of 8th century eclipsed the Chalukyas of Badami before being revived by their descendants, the Western Chalukyas, in late 10th century. These Western Chalukyas ruled from Kalyani (modern Basavakalyan) till the end of the 12th century. The rule of the Chalukyas marks an important milestone in the history of South India and a golden age in the history of Karnataka. (more...)

Recently featured: Rogers Locomotive and Machine WorksGustav MahlerExpedition to the Barrier Peaks


July 10
The Royal Gold Cup

The Royal Gold Cup is a solid gold-covered cup lavishly decorated with enamel and pearls. It was made for the French royal family at the end of the 14th century, and later belonged to several English monarchs, before spending nearly 300 years in Spain. Since 1892 it has been in the British Museum, and is generally agreed to be the outstanding survival of late medieval French plate. The cup has a cover that lifts off, and once stood on a triangular stand, now lost. The stem of the cup has twice been extended by the addition of cylindrical bands, so that it was originally a good deal shorter, giving the overall shape "a typically robust and stocky elegance." The gold surfaces are decorated with scenes in basse-taille enamel with translucent colours that reflect light from the gold beneath; many areas of gold both underneath the enamel and in the background have engraved and pointillé decoration worked in the gold. Scenes from the life of Saint Agnes run round the top of the cover and the sloping underside of the main body. The symbols of the Four Evangelists run round the foot of the cup, and there are enamel medallions at the centre of the inside of both the cup and the cover. The lower of the two added bands contains enamel Tudor roses on a diapered pointillé background; this was apparently added under Henry VIII. (more...)

Recently featured: Chalukya dynastyRogers Locomotive and Machine WorksGustav Mahler


July 11
Official poster of the 1930 Football World Cup

The 1930 FIFA World Cup was the inaugural world championship for international association football teams – the FIFA World Cup. It was played in Uruguay from 13 July to 30 July. Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) selected Uruguay as host nation as the country would be celebrating the centenary of its independence, and the Uruguay national football team had successfully retained their football title at the 1928 Summer Olympics. All matches were played in the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo, the majority at the Estadio Centenario, which was built for the tournament. Thirteen teams, seven from South America, four from Europe and two from North America entered the tournament. The teams were divided into four groups, with the winner of each group progressing to the semi-finals. Lucien Laurent of France scored the first goal in World Cup history. Argentina, Uruguay, the United States and Yugoslavia each won their respective groups to qualify for the semi-finals. In the final, hosts and pre-tournament favourites Uruguay defeated Argentina 4–2 in front of a crowd of 93,000 people, and became the first nation to win a World Cup. (more...)

Recently featured: Royal Gold CupChalukya dynastyRogers Locomotive and Machine Works


July 12
West Front end of St. Michael's Cathedral, Qingdao

St. Michael's Cathedral is a Catholic church in Qingdao (formerly Tsingtao), Shandong Province, People's Republic of China; it is also the seat of the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Qingdao. It is located in the oldest part of Qingdao, in Shinan District. It is the largest example of Romanesque Revival architecture in the province. St. Michael's Cathedral is the product of a strong German presence in Shandong Province in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the mid-19th century the European powers forcibly opened China to foreign trade. The Divine Word Missionaries built a church in the Jiaozhou Bay concession in Shandong in 1902, and in 1934 erected the cathedral, which remained nominally under their administration until 1964. In 1942 it came under the control of the Japanese Army, returning to Chinese control when the Japanese left Qingdao in 1945. In the early 1950s, all foreign missionaries, including the Bishop of Qingdao, were either imprisoned or expelled from China, and during the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) the cathedral was defaced and abandoned. In 1981, it was repaired and reopened for services, and in 1992 it was listed as a Provincial Historic Building by the government. (more...)

Recently featured: 1930 FIFA World CupRoyal Gold CupChalukya dynasty


July 13
Ray Charles singing

"What'd I Say" is a song by American rhythm and blues (R&B) musician Ray Charles (pictured), released in 1959 as a single divided into two parts. It was improvised one evening late in 1958 when Charles, his orchestra, and backup singers had played their entire set list at a show and still had time left; the response from many audiences was so enthusiastic that Charles announced to his producer that he was going to record it. After his run of R&B hits, this song finally broke Charles into mainstream pop music and itself sparked a new sub-genre of R&B titled soul, finally putting together all the elements that Charles had been creating since he recorded "I Got a Woman" in 1954. The gospel influences combined with the sexual innuendo in the song made it not only widely popular but very controversial to both white and black audiences. It earned Ray Charles his first gold record and has been one of the most influential songs in R&B and rock and roll history. For the rest of his career, Charles closed every concert with the song. It was added to the National Recording Registry in 2002 and ranked at number 10 in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2004. (more...)

Recently featured: St. Michael's Cathedral, Qingdao1930 FIFA World CupRoyal Gold Cup


July 14

William Hanna (1910–2001) was an American animator, director, producer, and cartoonist, whose movie and television cartoon characters entertained millions worldwide for much of the twentieth century. Hanna joined the Harman and Ising animation studio in 1930 and steadily gained skill and prominence while working on cartoons such as Captain and the Kids. In 1937, while working at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Hanna met Joseph Barbera. The two men began a collaboration that was at first best known for producing Tom and Jerry and live action films. In 1957, they co-founded Hanna-Barbera, which became the most successful television animation studio in the business, producing programs such as The Flintstones, The Huckleberry Hound Show, The Jetsons, Scooby-Doo, The Smurfs, and Yogi Bear. In 1967, Hanna-Barbera was sold to Taft Broadcasting for $12 million, but Hanna and Barbera remained heads of the company until 1991. At that time the studio was sold to Turner Broadcasting System, which in turn was merged with Time Warner, owners of Warner Bros., in 1996; Hanna and Barbera stayed on as advisors. Hanna and Barbera won seven Academy Awards and eight Emmy Awards. Their cartoons have become cultural icons, and Hanna-Barbera's shows have a global audience of over 300 million people. (more...)

Recently featured: "What'd I Say" – St. Michael's Cathedral, Qingdao1930 FIFA World Cup


July 15
Ann Bannon in 1983

Ann Bannon (born 1932) is an American author who wrote six lesbian pulp fiction novels from 1957 to 1962 known as The Beebo Brinker Chronicles. The books' enduring popularity and impact on lesbian identity has earned her the title "Queen of Lesbian Pulp Fiction". Bannon was a young housewife trying to address her own issues of sexuality when she was inspired to write her first novel. Her subsequent books featured four characters who reappeared throughout the series, including her eponymous heroine, Beebo Brinker, who came to embody the archetype of a butch lesbian. Despite her traditional upbringing and role in married life, her novels defied conventions for romance stories and depictions of lesbians, by addressing complex homosexual relationships positively during the 1950s and 1960s. Bannon's books shaped lesbian identity for lesbians and heterosexuals alike, but she was mostly unaware of their impact until they were republished in the 1980s. Since then, her books have been adapted into an Off-Broadway play and have been taught within Women's and LGBT studies. (more...)

Recently featured: William Hanna – "What'd I Say" – St. Michael's Cathedral, Qingdao


July 16
Some members of the season eight cast

Degrassi: The Next Generation is a Canadian teen drama television series set in the Degrassi universe, which was created by Linda Schuyler and Kit Hood in 1979. Like its predecessors, Degrassi: The Next Generation follows a group of students at Degrassi Community School who face many challenges, like poor self image, peer pressure, child abuse, sexual identity, gang violence, self-injury, teenage pregnancy, and drug abuse. The series was created by Linda Schuyler and Yan Moore, and is produced by Epitome Pictures in association with the CTV Television Network. The series is filmed at Epitome's studios in Toronto, Ontario, rather than on the real De Grassi Street from which the franchise takes its name. A critical success, Degrassi: The Next Generation has often received favourable reviews from Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times, and AfterElton.com. In its initial years, it was frequently the most watched domestic drama series in Canada, and one of the highest-rated shows on The N in the United States. The series premiered on CTV on 14 October 2001, and the ninth season will finish on 16 July 2010 with the made-for-TV film "Degrassi Takes Manhattan" on Canada's MuchMusic. (more...)

Recently featured: Ann BannonWilliam Hanna – "What'd I Say"


July 17
A bandpass filter in microstrip using edge-coupled halfwave resonators

A distributed element filter is an electronic filter in which capacitance, inductance and resistance are not localised in discrete capacitors, inductors and resistors as they would be in a conventional filter. Its purpose is to allow a range of signal frequencies to pass, but to block others. Conventional filters are constructed from inductors and capacitors, and the circuits so built are described by the lumped element model, which considers each element to be "lumped together" at one place. That model is conceptually simple, but it becomes increasingly unreliable as the frequency of the signal increases, or as the wavelength decreases. The distributed element model applies at all frequencies, and is used in transmission line theory; many distributed element components are made of short lengths of transmission line. There is no precise frequency above which distributed element filters must be used but they are especially associated with the microwave band. Distributed element filters are used in many of the same applications as lumped element filters, such as selectivity of a radio channel, bandlimiting of noise and multiplexing of many signals into one channel. The technology can be found in several mass-produced consumer items, such as the converters used with satellite television dishes. (more...)

Recently featured: Degrassi: The Next GenerationAnn BannonWilliam Hanna


July 18
A Noronha skink on Fernando de Noronha island, Brazil

The Noronha skink is a species of skink from the island of Fernando de Noronha off northeastern Brazil. Perhaps seen by Amerigo Vespucci in 1503, it was first formally described in 1839. Its subsequent taxonomic history has been complex, riddled with confusion with Trachylepis maculata and other species, homonyms, and other problems. The species is classified in the otherwise mostly African genus Trachylepis and is thought to have reached its island from Africa by rafting. The enigmatic Trachylepis tschudii, supposedly from Peru, may be the same species as the Noronha skink. The Noronha skink is covered with dark and light spots on the upperparts and is usually about 7 to 10 cm (3 to 4 in) in length. The tail is long and muscular, but breaks off easily. Very common throughout Fernando de Noronha, it is an opportunistic feeder, eating both insects and plant material, including nectar from the Erythrina velutina tree, as well as other material ranging from cookie crumbs to eggs of its own species. Introduced predators such as cats prey on it and several parasitic worms infect it. (more...)

Recently featured: Distributed element filterDegrassi: The Next GenerationAnn Bannon


July 19
The Mary Rose in Portsmouth Dry Dock

The Mary Rose was a warship of the English Tudor navy of King Henry VIII in the first half of the 16th century. During four decades of service in wars against France, Scotland and Brittany, she was one of the largest ships in the English navy and one of the earliest ships specially built for warfare. The Mary Rose is well-known today due to the fact that she sank intact on 19 July 1545 in the battle of the Solent north of the Isle of Wight, while leading an attack on French galleys. The wreck of the Mary Rose was rediscovered in 1971 and salvaged in October 1982 by the Mary Rose Trust in one of the most complex and expensive projects in the history of maritime archaeology. Though much of the ship has deteriorated, the surviving section of the hull, with thousands of artefacts, is of immeasurable value as a time capsule of the Tudor period. The excavation and salvage of the Mary Rose has since become a milestone in the field of maritime archaeology, comparable only to the raising of the Swedish 17th-century warship Vasa in 1961. The finds include weapons, sailing equipment, naval supplies and a wide array of objects used by the crew, providing detailed knowledge of the era in which the ship was built, in peacetime as in war. Many of the artefacts are unique to the Mary Rose and have provided insights into topics ranging from naval warfare to the history of musical instruments. While undergoing conservation, the remains of the hull and many of its related artefacts have been on display since the mid-1980s in the Mary Rose Museum in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. (more...)

Recently featured: Noronha skinkDistributed element filterDegrassi: The Next Generation


July 20
Portrait of Clements Markham from "Albert Markham: Life of Sir Clements R Markham" by John Murray, 1917

Clements Markham (1830–1916) was a British geographer, explorer and writer. He was secretary of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) between 1863 and 1888, and later served as the Society's president for a further 12 years. In the latter capacity he was mainly responsible for organising the National Antarctic Expedition of 1901–04, and for launching the polar career of Robert Falcon Scott. The main achievement of Markham's RGS presidency was the revival at the end of the 19th century of British interest in Antarctic exploration, after a 50-year interval. All his life Markham was a constant traveller and a prolific writer, his works including histories, travel accounts and biographies. He authored many papers and reports for the RGS, and did much editing and translation work for the Hakluyt Society, of which he also became president. He received public and academic honours, and was recognised as a major influence on the discipline of geography, although it was acknowledged that much of his work was based on enthusiasm rather than scholarship. Among the geographical features bearing his name is Antarctica's Mount Markham, named for him by Scott in 1902. (more...)

Recently featured: Mary RoseNoronha skinkDistributed element filter


July 21
General Philip Kearny's fatal charge in front of the 21st Regiment Massachusetts at the Battle of Chantilly

The 21st Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was an infantry regiment in the Union Army during the American Civil War. It was organized in Worcester, Massachusetts, and mustered into service on August 23, 1861. After fighting in the Battle of Roanoke Island and the Battle of New Bern, the 21st Massachusetts was attached to the Army of the Potomac and participated in several of the largest battles of the Civil War, including the Second Battle of Bull Run, the Battle of Antietam and the Battle of Fredericksburg. The most devastating engagement of the war for the 21st was the Battle of Chantilly, fought on September 1, 1862, during which the unit suffered 35 percent casualties. From March 1863 to January 1864, the 21st served with Burnside in the Department of the Ohio, seeing action in Kentucky and eastern Tennessee. In May 1864, the regiment rejoined the Army of the Potomac, participating in Lt. Gen. Ulysses Grant's Overland Campaign and the Siege of Petersburg. The regiment was a favorite of Clara Barton, the famed battlefield nurse, who was also from Worcester County, Massachusetts. By the end of its three years of service, the 21st Massachusetts had been reduced from 1,000 men to fewer than 100. Those of the 21st who chose to re-enlist at the end of their initial three-year commitment were eventually consolidated with the 36th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry on October 21, 1864. (more...)

Recently featured: Clements MarkhamMary RoseNoronha skink


July 22
Frontispiece of 1901 Avil Publishing Company edition of Cousin Bette

La Cousine Bette is an 1846 novel by French author Honoré de Balzac. Set in mid-19th century Paris, it tells the story of Bette, an unmarried middle-aged woman who plots the destruction of her extended family. Bette works with Valérie Marneffe, an unhappily married young lady, to seduce and torment a series of men. The book is part of the Scènes de la vie parisienne section of Balzac's novel sequence La Comédie humaine. In the 1840s, a serial format known as the roman-feuilleton was highly popular in France, and Balzac wanted to prove himself the most capable feuilleton author in France. Writing quickly and with intense focus, Balzac produced La Cousine Bette, one of his longest novels, in two months. It was published in Le Constitutionnel at the end of 1846, then collected with a companion work, Le Cousin Pons, the following year. The story explores themes of vice and virtue, as well as the influence of money on French society. Bette's relationship with Valérie is also seen as an important exploration of homoerotic themes. La Cousine Bette is considered Balzac's last great work. His trademark use of realist detail combines with a panorama of characters returning from earlier novels. Several critics have hailed it as a turning point in the author's career, and others have called it a prototypical naturalist text. (more...)

Recently featured: 21st Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer InfantryClements MarkhamMary Rose


July 23

Confirmation bias is a tendency for people to favor information that confirms their preconceptions, independently of whether they are true. As a result, people gather new evidence and recall information from memory selectively, and interpret it in a biased way. The biases appear in particular for emotionally significant issues and for established beliefs. Biased search, interpretation and/or recall have been invoked to explain attitude polarization (when a disagreement becomes more extreme even though the different parties are exposed to the same evidence), belief perseverance (when beliefs persist after the evidence for them is shown to be false), the irrational primacy effect (a stronger weighting for data encountered early in an arbitrary series) and illusory correlation (in which people falsely perceive an association between two events or situations). Explanations for the observed biases include wishful thinking and the limited human capacity to process information. Confirmation biases contribute to overconfidence in personal beliefs and can maintain or strengthen beliefs in the face of contrary evidence. Hence they can lead to disastrous decisions, especially in organizational, military and political contexts. (more...)

Recently featured: La Cousine Bette21st Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer InfantryClements Markham


July 24
Photograph of Bedřich Smetana

Bedřich Smetana (1824–1884) was a Czech composer who pioneered the development of a musical style which became closely identified with his country's aspirations to independent statehood. Internationally he is known for his opera The Bartered Bride, and for the symphonic cycle Má vlast ("My Fatherland") which portrays the history, legends and landscape of the composer's native land. A gifted pianist, Smetana studied music under Josef Proksch in Prague. In 1866 his first two operas, The Brandenburgers in Bohemia and The Bartered Bride, were premiered at Prague's Provisional Theatre, the latter achieving great popularity. Factions within the city's musical establishment interfered with his creative work, and may have hastened his health breakdown. By 1874, Smetana had become completely deaf but, freed from his theatre duties and the related controversies, he began a period of sustained composition. His contributions to Czech music were increasingly recognised and honoured, but a mental collapse in 1884 led to his incarceration in an asylum, and his subsequent death. Smetana's reputation as the father of Czech music has endured in his homeland, where advocates have raised his status above that of his contemporaries and successors. (more...)

Recently featured: Confirmation biasLa Cousine Bette21st Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry


July 25

Crackdown is an open world, third-person shooter video game for the Xbox 360. Released in 2007, Crackdown was developed by Realtime Worlds, and distributed by Microsoft Game Studios. It was conceived by Realtime Worlds' founder, David Jones, who also created Grand Theft Auto and Lemmings. Set in the fictional Pacific City, the player controls a cybernetically enhanced Agent, whose abilities improve by defeating the crime lords and their organized crime syndicates, as well as by completing optional activities, such as street races and scavenger hunts. The gameplay is nonlinear: instead of following a rigid mission sequence, players are free to select the approach to completing their missions and activities. The game features a two-player cooperative play mode via Xbox Live. Crackdown, initially planned for release on the original Xbox console, was envisioned as a vast world in which players could experiment and explore freely. Microsoft Game Studios bundled Crackdown with an access code to the multiplayer test version of the much-anticipated Halo 3 Beta. The game sold 1.5 million copies in its first six months of release. Crackdown received positive reviews and has garnered several awards for its innovative gameplay. (more...)

Recently featured: Bedřich SmetanaConfirmation biasLa Cousine Bette


July 26
Douglas Jardine in 1932

Douglas Jardine (1900–1958) was an English cricketer and captain of the England cricket team from 1931 to 1933–34. A right-handed batsman, he played 22 Test matches for England, captaining the side in 15 of those matches, winning nine, losing one and drawing five. Jardine is best known for captaining the English team during the 1932–33 Ashes tour of Australia, in which his team employed Bodyline tactics against Donald Bradman and other opposing Australian batsmen. A controversial figure among cricketers, Jardine was well known for his dislike of Australian players and crowds and was unpopular in Australia, particularly for his manner and especially so after the Bodyline tour. He retired from all first-class cricket in 1934 following a tour to India. Jardine was a qualified solicitor but did not work much in law, working in banking and, later on, journalism. He joined the Territorial Army in the Second World War, most of which he spent in India. After the war, he worked as a secretary to a paper manufacturer and returned to journalism. While on a business trip in 1957, he became ill with what proved to be lung cancer and died aged 57 in 1958. (more...)

Recently featured: CrackdownBedřich SmetanaConfirmation bias


July 27
Flag of Belarus

Belarus is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno (Hrodna), Gomel (Homiel), Mogilev (Mahilyow) and Vitebsk (Viciebsk). Forty percent of its 207,600 km2 (80,200 sq mi) is forested, and its strongest economic sectors are agriculture and manufacturing. Until the 20th century, the lands of modern day Belarus belonged to several countries. The parliament of the republic declared the sovereignty of Belarus on 27 July 1990, and following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Belarus declared independence on 25 August 1991. Alexander Lukashenko has been the country's president since 1994. Under his lead and despite objections from Western governments, Soviet-era policies, such as state ownership of the economy, have been implemented. Most of Belarus's population of 9.85 million reside in the urban areas surrounding Minsk and other voblast (regional) capitals. More than 80% of the population are ethnic Belarusians, with sizable minorities of Russians, Poles and Ukrainians. Since a controversial 1995 referendum, Russian has been an official language alongside Belarusian. (more...)

Recently featured: Douglas JardineCrackdownBedřich Smetana


July 28
Picture of Edward Drinker Cope

Edward Drinker Cope (1840–1897) was an American paleontologist and comparative anatomist, as well as a noted herpetologist and ichthyologist. Born to a wealthy Quaker family, Cope distinguished himself as a child prodigy interested in science; he published his first scientific paper at the age of nineteen. Cope had little formal scientific training, and eschewed a teaching position for field work. He made regular trips to the American West prospecting in the 1870s and 1880s, often as part of United States Geological Survey teams. A personal feud between Cope and paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh led to a period of intense fossil-finding competition now known as the Bone Wars. Cope's scientific pursuits nearly bankrupted him, but his contributions helped define the field of American paleontology. He was a prodigious writer, with 1,400 papers published over his lifetime, although his rivals would debate the accuracy of his rapidly published works. Cope discovered, described, and named more than 1,000 vertebrate species, including hundreds of fishes and dozens of dinosaurs. His theories on the origin of mammalian molars and "Cope's Law", on the gradual enlargement of mammalian species, are among his theoretical contributions. (more...)

Recently featured: BelarusDouglas JardineCrackdown


July 29
U2 guitarist The Edge and vocalist Bono

No Line on the Horizon is the twelfth studio album by the rock band U2. Released on 27 February 2009, it was the group's first album since How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004), marking the longest gap between studio albums of U2's career. Work on the record began in 2006 with producer Rick Rubin, but most of the material from those sessions was shelved. From June 2007 to December 2008, the band collaborated with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, who produced and co-wrote many of the songs. Writing and recording took place in the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland and Morocco. Prior to the album's release, U2 indicated that Eno's and Lanois's involvement, as well as the band's time in Fez, Morocco, had resulted in a more experimental record than their previous two albums. No Line on the Horizon received generally favourable reviews, although it was not as commercially successful as anticipated and many critics noted that it was not as experimental as previously suggested. U2 are supporting the album with the U2 360° Tour. (more...)

Recently featured: Edward Drinker CopeBelarusDouglas Jardine


July 30
A postcard for the Central London Railway depicting a railcar and passengers

The Central London Railway was a railway company established in 1889 to construct a deep-level underground "tube" railway in London. Funding for construction was obtained in 1895 through a syndicate of financiers and construction work took place from 1896 to 1900. When opened in 1900, the railway served 13 stations and ran completely underground in a pair of tunnels between its western terminus at Shepherd's Bush and its eastern terminus at the Bank of England. After a rejected proposal to turn the line into a loop, it was extended at the western end to Wood Lane in 1908 and at the eastern end to Liverpool Street station in 1912. In 1920, it was extended along a Great Western Railway line to Ealing. After initially making good returns for investors, the railway suffered a decline in passenger numbers due to increased competition from other underground railway lines and new motorised buses. In 1913, it was taken over by the Underground Electric Railways Company of London, operator of the majority of London's underground railways. In 1933 the two companies were taken into public ownership and, today, the railway's tunnels and stations form the central section of the London Underground's Central line. (more...)

Recently featured: No Line on the HorizonEdward Drinker CopeBelarus


July 31
Hurricane Grace near Bermuda on October 28, 1991

Hurricane Grace was a short-lived Category 2 hurricane that contributed to the formation of the powerful 1991 "Perfect Storm". Forming on October 26, Grace initially had subtropical origins, meaning it was partially tropical and partially extratropical in nature. It became a tropical cyclone on October 27, and ultimately peaked with winds of 100 mph (155 km/h). The storm had minor effects on the island of Bermuda as it passed to the south. A developing extratropical storm to the north turned Grace eastward; the hurricane was eventually absorbed into the large circulation of the larger low pressure system. Fed by the contrast between cold air to the northwest and warm air from the remnants of Hurricane Grace, this storm became a large and powerful nor'easter that caused extremely high waves and resulted in severe coastal damage along the U.S. East Coast. (more...)

Recently featured: Central London RailwayNo Line on the HorizonEdward Drinker Cope