Wikipedia:Today's featured article/February 2009

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February 1

Woodes Rogers is presented with plans for the port of Nassau

Woodes Rogers (c. 1679 – 1732) was an English sea captain, privateer and later the first Royal Governor of the Bahamas. He is known as the captain of the vessel that rescued the marooned Alexander Selkirk, who was fictionalized by Daniel Defoe as Robinson Crusoe. Rogers came from an affluent seafaring family, grew up in Poole and Bristol, and served a marine apprenticeship to a Bristol sea captain. His father, who held shares in many ships, died when Rogers was in his mid-twenties, leaving Rogers in control of the family shipping business. In 1707, Rogers was approached by Captain William Dampier, who sought support for a privateering voyage against the Spanish, with whom the British were at war. Rogers led the expedition, which consisted of two well-armed ships, the Duke and the Duchess, and was the captain of the Duke. In three years, Rogers and his men went around the world, capturing several ships in the Pacific Ocean. En route, the expedition rescued Selkirk, finding him on Juan Fernandez Island on 1 February 1709. (more...)

Recently featured: Samuel JohnsonMusic of Athens, GeorgiaScout Moor Wind Farm

February 2

Nine Inch Nails perform live in Munich

Year Zero is the fifth studio album by American Industrial rock act Nine Inch Nails, released on April 16, 2007, by Interscope Records. Frontman Trent Reznor wrote the album's music and lyrics while touring in support of the group's previous release, With Teeth (2005). In contrast to the introverted style of songwriting Reznor used on previous records, Year Zero is a concept album that criticizes contemporary policies of the United States government by presenting a dystopian vision of the year 2022. The album is part of a larger Year Zero project which includes a remix album, an alternate reality game, and a potential television or film project. The Year Zero alternate reality game expanded upon the album's fictional storyline by using media such as websites, pre-recorded phone messages, and murals. Year Zero received very positive reviews, many of which were favorable toward the accompanying alternate reality game. The album produced two singles, "Survivalism" and "Capital G", the latter released as a promotional single. Disputes arose between Reznor and Universal Music Group, parent company of Interscope Records, over the overseas pricing of the album. (more...)

Recently featured: Woodes RogersSamuel JohnsonMusic of Athens, Georgia

February 3

Marsh's 1896 illustration of the bones of Stegosaurus

The Bone Wars is the name given to a period of intense fossil speculation and discovery during the Gilded Age of American history, marked by a heated rivalry between Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh. Each of the two paleontologists used underhanded methods to out-compete the other in the field, resorting to bribery, theft, and destruction of bones. The scientists also attacked each other in scientific publications, attempting to ruin the other's credibility and cut off his funding. Originally colleagues who were civil to each other, Cope and Marsh became bitter enemies after several personal slights between them. Their pursuit of bones led them west to rich bone beds in Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming. From 1877 to 1892, both paleontologists used their wealth and influence to finance their own expeditions and to procure services and fossils from dinosaur hunters. By the end of the Bone Wars, both men exhausted their funds in fueling their intense rivalry. Cope and Marsh were financially and socially ruined by their efforts to disgrace each other, but their contributions to science and the field of paleontology were massive; the scientists left behind tons of unopened boxes of fossils on their deaths. The feud between the two men led to over 142 new species of dinosaurs being discovered and described. (more...)

Recently featured: Year Zero (album)Woodes RogersSamuel Johnson

February 4

Makemake as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope

Makemake is the third-largest known dwarf planet in the Solar System and one of the two largest Kuiper belt objects (KBO) in the classical KBO population. Its diameter is roughly three-quarters that of Pluto. Makemake has no known satellites, which makes it unique among the largest KBOs. Its extremely low average temperature (about 30 K) means its surface is covered with methane, ethane and possibly nitrogen ices. Initially known as 2005 FY9 (and later given the minor planet number 136472), it was discovered on March 31, 2005, by a team led by Michael Brown, and announced on July 29, 2005. On June 11, 2008, the IAU included Makemake in its list of potential candidates to be given "plutoid" status, a term for dwarf planets beyond the orbit of Neptune that would place the object alongside Pluto and Eris. Makemake was formally classified as a plutoid in July 2008. (more...)

Recently featured: Bone WarsYear Zero (album)Woodes Rogers

February 5

Tim Duncan

Tim Duncan (born 1976) is a Virgin Islander American professional basketball player for the San Antonio Spurs of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The 6'11" (2.11 m), 260-pound (118 kg) power forward/center is a four-time NBA champion, a three-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, and the current captain of the Spurs. He has also won the NBA Most Valuable Player Award twice, and has been voted into 11 NBA All-Star Games, 11 All-NBA Teams, and 11 All-Defensive Teams. Duncan graduated from college before entering the 1997 NBA Draft as the number one pick, and his list of accomplishments and leadership in the Spurs' NBA title runs in 1999, 2003, 2005, and 2007 have led basketball experts to consider him to be one of the greatest power forwards in NBA history. Off the court, Duncan is known for his quiet and unassuming ways, as well as his active philanthropy. He holds an honors degree in psychology and created the Tim Duncan Foundation to raise general health awareness and fund education and youth sports in various parts of the United States. (more...)

Recently featured: MakemakeBone WarsYear Zero (album)

February 6

View of the wreck of the French ship Le Droits D' Homme

The Action of 13 January 1797 was a small naval battle fought between a French ship of the line and two British frigates off the coast of Brittany during the French Revolutionary Wars. The action is notable for its outcome: the frigates successfully outmanoeuvred the much larger French vessel and drove it on shore in heavy seas, resulting in the death of over 900 of the 1,300 persons aboard. One of the British frigates was also lost in the engagement, running onto a sandbank after failing to escape a lee shore. The French ship Droits de l'Homme had been part of the Expédition d'Irlande, a disastrous attempt by a French expeditionary force to invade Ireland. During the operation, the French fleet was beset by poor co-ordination and extremely violent weather, eventually being compelled to return to France without landing a single soldier ashore. Two British frigates, HMS Indefatigable and HMS Amazon, had been ordered to patrol the seas off Ushant in an attempt to intercept the returning French force and sighted Droits de l'Homme on the afternoon of 13 January. The damage the more nimble British vessels inflicted on the French ship was so severe that as the winds increased, the French crew lost control and Droits de l'Homme was swept onto a sandbar and destroyed. (more...)

Recently featured: Tim DuncanMakemakeBone Wars

February 7

Isaac Shelby

Isaac Shelby (1750–1826) was the first and fifth Governor of Kentucky and served in the state legislatures of Virginia and North Carolina. He was also a soldier in Lord Dunmore's War, the Revolutionary War, and the War of 1812. While governor, he personally led the Kentucky militia in the Battle of the Thames, an action that was rewarded with a Congressional Gold Medal. Counties in nine states, and several cities and military bases, have been named in his honor. His fondness for John Dickinson's The Liberty Song is believed to be the reason Kentucky adopted the state motto "United we stand, divided we fall". At the end of his gubernatorial term, Shelby retired from public life, but he was called back into politics by the impending War of 1812. Kentuckians urged Shelby to run for governor again and lead them through the inevitable conflict. He was elected easily, and at the request of General William Henry Harrison, commanded troops from Kentucky at the Battle of the Thames. At the conclusion of the war, he declined President James Monroe's offer to become Secretary of War. In his last act of public service, he and Andrew Jackson acted as commissioners to negotiate the Jackson Purchase from the Chickasaw. (more...)

Recently featured: Action of 13 January 1797Tim DuncanMakemake

February 8

Dan Castellaneta voices the Robot Devil

"Hell Is Other Robots" is the ninth episode of season one of Futurama. It originally aired in North America on May 18, 1999, as the season finale of the first season. The episode was written by Eric Kaplan and directed by Rich Moore. Guest stars in this episode include The Beastie Boys as themselves and Dan Castellaneta voicing the Robot Devil. The episode is one of the first to focus heavily on Bender as he develops an addiction to electricity. When this addiction becomes problematic, Bender joins the Temple of Robotology; however, after Fry and Leela successfully tempt Bender with alcohol and prostitutes, he quits the Temple of Robotology, but receives a visit from the Robot Devil for sinning. When Fry and Leela come to rescue him, the three escape safely. The episode introduces the Robot Devil, Reverend Lionel Preacherbot and the religion of the Temple of Robotology, a Futurama spoof on the Church of Scientology. The episode received positive reviews, and was one of four featured on the DVD boxed set of Matt Groening's favorite episodes: Monster Robot Maniac Fun Collection. (more...)

Recently featured: Isaac ShelbyAction of 13 January 1797Tim Duncan

February 9

Coat of arms of the Gediminids dynasty

The House of Gediminas were the siblings, children, and grandchildren of Gediminas, Grand Duke of Lithuania (ca. 1275–1341). The Gediminid dynasty ruled the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from ca. 1285 or 1316 to 1572, eventually extending its territories from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. Gediminas' origins are unclear, but recent research suggests that Skalmantas, an otherwise unknown historical figure, was Gediminas' grandfather or father, and could be considered the dynasty's founder. Because none of his brothers or sisters had known heirs, Gediminas, who sired at least twelve children, had the advantage in establishing sovereignty over his siblings. Known for his diplomatic skills, Gediminas arranged his children's marriages to suit the goals of his foreign policy: his sons consolidated Lithuanian power within the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, while his daughters established or strengthened alliances with the rulers of areas in modern-day Russia, Ukraine, and Poland. Gediminas' many grandchildren and their descendants engaged in power struggles that continued well into the 15th century. Gediminas' grandchildren converted Lithuania to Christianity and inaugurated the first personal union with Poland. The dynasty came to an end in 1572, when Sigismund II Augustus died without producing a male heir. (more...)

Recently featured: "Hell Is Other Robots" – Isaac ShelbyAction of 13 January 1797

February 10

A photo taken alongside Toa Payoh Lorong 7, Singapore: Block 12, where the murders took place, is smaller block on the right. The flat itself is highlighted in red.

The Toa Payoh ritual murders took place in Singapore in 1981. On 25 January the body of a nine-year-old girl was found dumped next to the lift of a block of flats in the Toa Payoh district and, two weeks later, a ten-year-old boy was found dead nearby. The children had been killed as blood sacrifices to the Hindu goddess, Kali. The murders were masterminded by Adrian Lim, a self-styled medium, who had tricked scores of women into believing he had supernatural powers. His victims offered their money and bodies in exchange for cures, beauty, and good fortune. Two of the women became his loyal assistants; Tan Mui Choo married him, and Hoe Kah Hong became one of his "holy wives". When the police investigated a rape charge filed by one of Lim's targets, he became furious and decided to kill children to derail the investigations. On each occasion, Hoe lured a child to Lim's flat where he or she was drugged and killed by the trio. The trio were arrested after the police found a trail of blood that led to their flat. The 41-day trial was the second longest to have been held in the courts of Singapore at the time. None of the defendants denied their guilt. Their appointed counsels tried to spare their clients the death sentence by pleading diminished responsibilities, arguing that the accused were mentally ill and could not be entirely held responsible for the killings. The prosecution's expert, however, refuted these testimonies and argued that they were in full control of their mental faculties when they planned and carried out the murders. (more...)

Recently featured: House of Gediminas – "Hell Is Other Robots" – Isaac Shelby

February 11

St. Mary Redcliffe from the north west

The buildings and architecture of Bristol are an eclectic combination of styles, ranging from the medieval to 20th century brutalism and beyond. During the mid-19th century, Bristol Byzantine, an architectural style unique to the city was developed, of which several examples have survived. Buildings from most of the architectural periods of the United Kingdom can be seen throughout Bristol. Parts of the fortified city and castle date back to the medieval era, as do some churches dating from the 12th century onwards. As the city grew, it merged with its surrounding villages, each with its own character and centre, often clustered around a parish church. The construction of the city's floating harbour, taking in the wharves on the Avon and Frome rivers, provided a focus for industrial development and the growth of the local transport infrastructure, including the Clifton Suspension Bridge and Temple Meads railway station. The 20th century saw further expansion of the city, the growth of the University of Bristol, and the arrival of the aircraft industry. During World War II, the city centre suffered from extensive bombing during the Bristol Blitz. The redevelopment of shopping centres, office buildings, and the harbourside continues to this day. (more...)

Recently featured: Toa Payoh ritual murdersHouse of Gediminas – "Hell Is Other Robots"

February 12

A silhouette of human evolution

The history of evolutionary thought has roots in antiquity. However, until the 18th century, Western biological thinking was dominated by essentialism, the belief that every species has essential characteristics that are fixed and unalterable. During the Enlightenment, naturalists began to focus on the variability of species; the emergence of paleontology with the concept of extinction further undermined the static view of nature. In the early 19th century, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck proposed his theory of the transmutation of species, the first fully-formed scientific theory of evolution. In 1858, Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace published a new evolutionary theory, which was explained in detail in Darwin's On the Origin of Species. The theory was based on the idea of natural selection. The synthesis of natural selection with Mendelian genetics during the 1920s and 1930s founded the new discipline of population genetics. The gene-centered view of evolution rose to prominence in the 1960s, followed by the neutral theory of molecular evolution, sparking debates over adaptationism, the units of selection, and the relative importance of genetic drift versus natural selection. In the late 20th century, DNA sequencing led to molecular phylogenetics and the reorganization of the tree of life into the three-domain system. (more...)

Recently featured: Buildings and architecture of BristolToa Payoh ritual murdersHouse of Gediminas

February 13

300 is a 2007 film adaptation of the graphic novel of the same name by Frank Miller, and is a fictionalized retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae. The film is directed by Zack Snyder while Miller served as executive producer and consultant. The film was shot mostly with a super-imposition chroma key technique, to help replicate the imagery of the original comic book. Spartan King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and 300 Spartans fight to the last man against Persian 'God-King' Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his army of more than one million soldiers. As the battle rages, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) attempts to rally support in Sparta for her husband. The story is framed by a voice-over narrative by the Spartan soldier Dilios (David Wenham). Through this narrative technique, various fantastical creatures are introduced, placing 300 within the genre of historical fantasy. 300 was released in both conventional and IMAX theaters in the United States on March 9, 2007, and on DVD, Blu-ray and HD DVD on July 31, 2007. The film broke box office records, although critics were divided over its look and style. Some acclaimed it as an original achievement, while others criticized it for favoring visuals over characterization and its controversial depiction of the ancient Persians. (more...)

Recently featured: History of evolutionary thoughtBuildings and architecture of BristolToa Payoh ritual murders

February 14

Romeo and Juliet on the balcony by Ford Madox Brown

Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written early in the career of playwright William Shakespeare about two teenage "star-cross'd lovers" whose untimely deaths ultimately unite their feuding families. It was among Shakespeare's most popular plays during his lifetime and, along with Hamlet, is one of his most frequently performed plays. Its plot is based on an Italian tale, translated into verse as The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet by Arthur Brooke in 1562, and retold in prose in Palace of Pleasure by William Painter in 1582. Shakespeare borrowed heavily from both, but developed supporting characters, particularly Mercutio and Paris, in order to expand the plot. Believed to be written between 1591 and 1595, the play was first published in a quarto version in 1597. The play ascribes different poetic forms to different characters, sometimes changing the form as the character develops. John Gielgud's 1935 version kept very close to Shakespeare's text, and used Elizabethan costumes and staging to enhance the drama. In the 20th century the play has been adapted in versions as diverse as MGM's comparatively faithful 1936 film, the 1950s stage musical West Side Story, and 1996's MTV-inspired Romeo + Juliet. (more...)

Recently featured: 300 (film)History of evolutionary thoughtBuildings and architecture of Bristol

February 15

A typical experimental setup for an aldol reaction

The aldol reaction is an important carbon-carbon bond formation reaction in organic chemistry. In its usual form, it involves the nucleophilic addition of a ketone enolate to an aldehyde to form an aldol (β-hydroxy ketone), a structural unit found in many naturally occurring molecules and pharmaceuticals. Sometimes, the aldol addition product loses a molecule of water during the reaction to form an α,β-unsaturated ketone. This is called an aldol condensation. The aldol reaction was discovered independently by Charles-Adolphe Wurtz and by Alexander Porfyrevich Borodin in 1872. Borodin observed the aldol dimerization of 3-hydroxybutanal from acetaldehyde under acidic conditions. The aldol reaction is used widely in the large-scale production of commodity chemicals such as pentaerythritol. The aldol structural motif is especially common in polyketides, a class of natural products from which many pharmaceuticals are derived, including the potent immunosuppressant FK506, the tetracycline antibiotics, and the antifungal agent amphotericin B. Extensive research on the aldol reaction has produced highly efficient methods which enable the otherwise challenging synthesis of many polyketides in the laboratory. (more...)

Recently featured: Romeo and Juliet300 (film)History of evolutionary thought

February 16

Thomas Cranmer

Thomas Cranmer (1489–1556) was a leader of the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI. Along with Thomas Cromwell, he supported the principle of royal supremacy in which the king was considered sovereign over the Church within his realm. He was responsible for establishing the first doctrinal and liturgical structures of the Church of England, and succeeded in publishing the first officially authorised vernacular service, the Exhortation and Litany. When Edward came to power, Cranmer was able to promote major reforms. He wrote and compiled the first two editions of the Book of Common Prayer, a complete liturgy for the English Church. He developed new doctrinal standards in areas such as the eucharist, clerical celibacy, the role of images in places of worship, and the veneration of saints. Cranmer was tried for treason and heresy when Mary I came to the throne. Imprisoned for over two years and under pressure from the Church authorities, he made several recantations and reconciled himself with the Catholic faith. However, on the day of his execution, he dramatically withdrew his recantations and died as a Protestant martyr. His legacy lives on within the Church of England through the Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-Nine Articles, an Anglican statement of faith derived from his work. (more...)

Recently featured: Aldol reactionRomeo and Juliet300 (film)

February 17

Theramenes was an Athenian statesman, prominent in the final decade of the Peloponnesian War. He was particularly active during the two periods of oligarchic government at Athens, as well as in the trial of the generals who had commanded at Arginusae in 406 BC. A moderate oligarch, he often found himself caught between the democrats on the one hand and the extreme oligarchs on the other. Successful in replacing a narrow oligarchy with a broader one in 411 BC, he failed to achieve the same end in 404 BC, and was executed by the extremists whose policies he had opposed. Theramenes remained a controversial figure after his death; Lysias vigorously denounced him while prosecuting several of his former political allies, but others defended his actions. Modern historical assessments have shifted over time; in the 19th century, Theramenes was almost universally condemned, but recent scholarship has produced more positive assessments. Some historians have found in Theramenes a selfish opportunist, others a principled moderate. The details of his actions, his motivations, and the nature of his character continue to be debated down to the present day. (more...)

Recently featured: Thomas CranmerAldol reactionRomeo and Juliet

February 18

Insignia of a Knight of the Order of the Thistle

The Order of the Thistle is an order of chivalry associated with Scotland. While its original date of foundation is unknown, James VII instituted the modern Order in 1687. The Order consists of the Sovereign and sixteen Knights and Ladies, as well as certain "extra" knights (members of the British Royal Family and foreign monarchs). The Sovereign alone grants membership of the Order; he or she is not advised by the Government, as occurs with most other Orders. The sixteen members are required to be Scottish-born, though not the "extra" knights and ladies. The Order's primary emblem is the thistle, the national flower of Scotland. The motto is Nemo me impune lacessit (Latin for "No one provokes me with impunity"). The patron saint of the Order is St Andrew. Most British orders of chivalry cover the entire kingdom, but the three most exalted ones each pertain to one constituent country only. The Order of the Thistle, which pertains to Scotland, is the second-most senior in precedence. (more...)

Recently featured: TheramenesThomas CranmerAldol reaction

February 19

Two German infantrymen in Russia, 1941

The Third Battle of Kharkov was a series of offensive operations undertaken by the German Army Group South against the Red Army around the city of Kharkov in 1943. As the German Sixth Army was encircled in Stalingrad, the Red Army undertook a series of wider offensives against the rest of Army Group South. These culminated on 2 January 1943, when the Soviets launched Operation Star, which between January and early February broke German defenses and led to the Soviet recapture of Kharkov, Belgorod and Kursk. Despite the success of the Soviet offensive, it also resulted in participating Soviet units over-extending themselves. Freed on 2 February by the surrender of the German Sixth Army, the Red Army's Central Front turned its attention west and on 25 February expanded its offensive against both Army Group South and Army Group Center. However, months of continuous operations had taken a heavy toll on the Soviets and some divisions were reduced to 1,000–1,500 combat effectives. On 19 February, Field Marshal Erich von Manstein took the opportunity to launch his counterstroke, using the fresh SS Panzer Corps and two panzer armies. Although the Germans were also understrength, the Wehrmacht successfully flanked, encircled and defeated the Red Army's armored spearheads south of Kharkov. (more...)

Recently featured: Order of the ThistleTheramenesThomas Cranmer

February 20

Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None is a 2005 point-and-click adventure game developed by AWE Productions and published by The Adventure Company for the PC. The game is the first in The Adventure Company's Agatha Christie series. The story is focused on a man's journey to the fictional Shipwreck Island, off the coast of Devon, with ten others, and the events that unfold there. And Then There Were None retains the plot elements of Agatha Christie's novel of the same name, with the sole difference being the conclusion. In order to further the connection between the game and its source material, Christie's novel is included in the North American release of the game. Several reviewers of And Then There Were None have harshly criticized its character designs and graphics as being archaic and outdated, whereas others have praised aspects of the game such as character dialogue and an immersive story. Reactions to the game were mixed, with many reviewers polarized in their opinions of the game, calling it either a good adaptation of the novel, or an extremely poor adventure game. (more...)

Recently featured: Third Battle of KharkovOrder of the ThistleTheramenes

February 21

The University entrance

The University of California, Riverside is a public research university and one of the 10 general campuses of the University of California system. The main campus is in Riverside, California, with a branch campus in Palm Desert. Founded in 1907 as the UC Citrus Experiment Station, UCR's undergraduate College of Letters and Science opened in 1954. The Regents of the University of California declared UCR a general campus of the system in 1959, and graduate students were admitted in 1961. To accommodate an enrollment of 21,000 students by 2015, more than $730 million has been invested in new construction projects since 1999. Plans are underway to open a medical school—California's newest one in 40 years—by 2012. The Washington Monthly ranked UCR 15th in the United States in terms of social mobility, research achievement and community service, while US News and World Report ranked UCR's undergraduate program 89th in the nation based on peer assessment, student selectivity, financial resources, and other factors. UCR's extensive outreach and retention programs have contributed to its reputation as a "campus of choice" for minority students, including LGBT students. UCR's sports teams are known as the Highlanders and play in the Big West Conference of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division I. (more...)

Recently featured: Agatha Christie: And Then There Were NoneThird Battle of KharkovOrder of the Thistle

February 22

USS Connecticut underway

USS Connecticut was the lead ship of the six Connecticut-class battleships. Due to the Royal Navy's commissioning of HMS Dreadnought seven months earlier, Connecticut was obsolete before she was commissioned; thus, she was the last lead ship of any class of pre-dreadnought battleship commissioned by the United States Navy. Connecticut served as a flagship for the Jamestown Exposition, which commemorated the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Jamestown colony. She later sailed with the Great White Fleet on a circumnavigation of the Earth to showcase the United States Navy's growing fleet of blue-water-capable ships. After the Great White Fleet returned to the U.S. on 22 February 1909, Connecticut participated in several flag-waving exercises intended to protect American citizens abroad until she was pressed into service as a troop transport at the end of World War I to expedite the return of American Expeditionary Forces from France. For the remainder of her career, Connecticut sailed to various places in both the Atlantic and Pacific while training newer recruits to the Navy. However, the provisions of the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty stipulated that many of the older battleships, Connecticut among them, would have to be disposed of, so she was decommissioned on 1 March 1922 and sold for scrap on 1 November 1923. (more...)

Recently featured: University of California, RiversideAgatha Christie: And Then There Were NoneThird Battle of Kharkov

February 23

Button of plutonium metal above a calcium chloride salt cake

Plutonium is a rare transuranic radioactive element. It is a radiological poison that accumulates in bone marrow, although its overall toxicity is sometimes overstated. The most important isotope of plutonium is plutonium-239, which is fissile, meaning Pu-239 atoms inside a critical mass of the isotope can break apart relatively easily and release a great deal of energy and more neutrons to sustain a nuclear chain reaction. This property makes it useful in nuclear weapons and in some nuclear reactors. The discovery of plutonium by a team led by Glenn T. Seaborg in 1940 became a classified part of the Manhattan Project to build an atomic bomb during World War II. The first nuclear test, "Trinity" (July 1945) and the atomic bomb used to destroy Nagasaki, Japan in August 1945, "Fat Man", both had cores of Pu-239. Disposal of plutonium waste from nuclear power plants and dismantled nuclear weapons built during the Cold War is a major concern. Most plutonium in the environment is from the fallout from above-ground nuclear tests and from several nuclear accidents. (more...)

Recently featured: USS ConnecticutUniversity of California, RiversideAgatha Christie: And Then There Were None

February 24

Meshuggah, in concert

Meshuggah is a Swedish five-piece experimental metal band formed in 1987. Its line-up has primarily consisted of founding members vocalist Jens Kidman and guitarist Fredrik Thordendal, drummer Tomas Haake, who joined in 1990, and rhythm guitarist Mårten Hagström, who joined in 1994. The band has gone through several bassists, but the spot has been held by Dick Lövgren since 2004. Meshuggah first attracted international attention with the 1995 release Destroy Erase Improve for its fusion of fast-tempo death metal, thrash metal and progressive metal. Since their 2002 album Nothing, it uses eight-string guitars and downtuned, groovy riffs. Meshuggah has become known for its complex, innovative and precise songwriting and musicianship, and polyrhythmic song structures. It has been labeled as one of the ten most important hard and heavy bands by Rolling Stone and as the most important band in metal by Alternative Press. Meshuggah has found little mainstream success but is a significant act in extreme underground music. In 2006, the band was nominated for a Swedish Grammy Award. Meshuggah's most commercially successful album, 2008's obZen, peaked at No. 59 and sold 11,400 copies in the first week and 50,000 copies six months after its release. (more...)

Recently featured: PlutoniumUSS ConnecticutUniversity of California, Riverside

February 25

Yes Minister is a multi-award winning satirical British sitcom written by Sir Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn that was first transmitted by BBC television and radio between 1980 and 1984, split over three seven-episode series. The sequel, Yes, Prime Minister, ran from 1986 to 1988. In total this made 38 episodes, all but one of which lasts for half an hour. Set principally in the private office of a British government cabinet minister in the Department for Administrative Affairs in Whitehall (and, in the sequel, in 10 Downing Street), the series follows the senior ministerial career of The Rt Hon. Jim Hacker MP, played by Paul Eddington. His various struggles to formulate and enact legislation or effect departmental changes are opposed by the will of the British Civil Service, in particular his Permanent Secretary (head of each government department's bureaucrats), Sir Humphrey Appleby, played by Nigel Hawthorne. His Principal Private Secretary Bernard Woolley, played by Derek Fowlds, is usually caught between the two. Almost every programme ends with the line "Yes, Minister" (or "Yes, Prime Minister"), uttered (usually) by Sir Humphrey as he relishes his victory over his "political master" (or, sometimes, acknowledges defeat). A huge critical and popular success, the series received a number of awards, including several BAFTAs and in 2004 came sixth in the Britain's Best Sitcom poll. (more...)

Recently featured: MeshuggahPlutoniumUSS Connecticut

February 26

The hours of service limit the driving hours of truck and bus drivers

The hours of service (HOS) are regulations issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration governing the working hours of anyone operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in the United States for the purpose of interstate commerce. This includes truck drivers and bus drivers who operate CMVs for motor carriers (their employers). These rules limit the number of daily and weekly hours spent driving and working, and regulate the minimum amount of time drivers must spend resting between driving shifts. The driver of a CMV is required to keep a record of working hours using a log book, outlining the total number of hours spent driving and resting, as well as the time at which the change of duty status occurred. In lieu of a log book, a motor carrier may keep track of a driver's hours using an electronic on-board recorder, which automatically records the amount of time spent driving the vehicle. The HOS's main purpose is to prevent accidents caused by driver fatigue. This is accomplished by limiting the number of driving hours per day, and the number of driving and working hours per week. Enforcement of the HOS is generally handled by DOT officers of each state, and are sometimes checked when CMVs pass through weigh stations. Requests to change the HOS are a source of contentious debate, and many surveys indicate some drivers get away with routinely violating the HOS. (more...)

Recently featured: Yes MinisterMeshuggahPlutonium

February 27

Portrait of Caspar Friedrich by Gerhard von Kügelgen

Caspar David Friedrich (1774–1840) was a 19th-century German Romantic landscape painter, generally considered the most important of the movement. He is best known for his mid-period allegorical landscapes, which typically feature contemplative figures silhouetted against night skies, morning mists, barren trees or Gothic ruins. His primary interest as an artist was the contemplation of nature, and his often symbolic and anti-classical work seeks to convey a subjective, emotional response to the natural world. Friedrich's work characteristically sets the human element in diminished perspective amid expansive landscapes, reducing the figures to a scale that, according to the art historian Christopher John Murray, directs "the viewer's gaze towards their metaphysical dimension". Friedrich was born in the Swedish Pomeranian town of Greifswald, where he began his studies in art as a youth. Later, he studied in Copenhagen until 1798, before settling in Dresden. Friedrich's work brought him renown early in his career, and contemporaries such as the French sculptor David d'Angers (1788–1856) spoke of him as a man who had discovered "the tragedy of landscape". However, his work fell from favour during his later years, and he died in obscurity. By the 1920s his paintings had been discovered by the Expressionists, and in the 1930s and early 1940s Surrealists and Existentialists frequently drew ideas from his work. (more...)

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February 28

Scene7 is an American on-demand rich media software company that provides document hosting and interactive publishing services such as online catalogs, targeted email, video, and image management. Several companies, mostly retailers, use the company's services to showcase products on their websites and to allow customers to interact with the products. Scene7's technology allows users to manipulate product images by zooming in and rotating products, simulating the inspection of merchandise in retail stores. The company, founded as a division of Autodesk, created a room decoration computer software called Picture This Home in the mid-1990s. The division was sold to Broderbund in 1998, then spun off as a company called in June 1999, receiving $30 million in venture capital. After failed to become profitable, it was reorganized and renamed Scene7. It formally launched on January 23, 2001 and focused on helping companies prepare interactive advertisements for consumers. Scene7 was acquired by Adobe Systems on May 31, 2007 for an undisclosed sum. (more...)

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