Wikipedia:Today's featured article/February 2010

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February 1
Richard Gavin Reid in 1934

Richard Gavin Reid (1879–1980) was a Canadian politician who served as the sixth Premier of Alberta from 1934 to 1935. He was the last member of the United Farmers of Alberta to hold the office, and that party's defeat at the hands of the upstart Social Credit League in the 1935 election made him the shortest-serving Premier in Alberta history. When Reid took office, Alberta was experiencing the Great Depression. Reid took measures to ease Albertans' suffering, but believed that inducing a full economic recovery was beyond the capacity of the provincial government. In this climate, Alberta voters were attracted to the economic theories of evangelical preacher William Aberhart, who advocated a version of social credit. Despite Reid's claims that Aberhart's proposals were economically and constitutionally unfeasible, Social Credit routed the UFA in the 1935 election; Reid's party did not retain a single seat. (more...)

Recently featured: Fantastic UniverseHurricane FabianOde on a Grecian Urn

February 2
Lucian Piane in 2009

"Bale Out" is a satirical dance remix by American composer Lucian Piane (pictured), also known as RevoLucian, released on February 2, 2009, to YouTube and MySpace. The piece utilizes audio from a July 2008 rant made by actor Christian Bale on the set of Terminator Salvation. Various other elements are used in the remix, including pulsating dance track beats and clips of Barbra Streisand from a 2006 exchange with a supporter of then-President George W. Bush, creating the impression of Streisand arguing with Bale. The day after its release, the YouTube page for the song had been viewed over 200,000 times, and over a million times by February 5, 2009. The Associated Press called it a "hypnotic dance track", and United Press International noted it was "catchy", characterizing it as a "YouTube sensation". Gil Kaufman of described the piece as "a techno-ripping, demonic dance party". Time magazine's website called the track "hilarious", and Nine News characterized it as a "raging online success". The director of Terminator Salvation McG liked the remix and put a copy of it on his iPod, and Bale said he had heard the remix and thought "they did a good job". (more...)

Recently featured: Richard Gavin ReidFantastic UniverseHurricane Fabian

February 3
18th-century drawing of the first Marshalsea prison

The Marshalsea was a prison on the south bank of the River Thames in Southwark, now part of London. From at least 1329 until it closed in 1842, it housed men under court martial for crimes at sea, including "unnatural crimes", political figures and intellectuals accused of sedition or other inappropriate behaviour, and—most famously—London's debtors, the length of their stay determined largely by the whim of their creditors. Run privately for profit, as were all prisons in England until the 19th century, the Marshalsea looked like an Oxbridge college and functioned largely as an extortion racket. For prisoners who could afford the fees, it came with access to a bar, shop, and restaurant, and the crucial privilege of being allowed to leave the prison during the day, which meant debtors could earn money to pay off their creditors. Everyone else was crammed into one of nine small rooms with dozens of others, possibly for decades for the most modest of debts, which increased as unpaid prison fees accumulated. The prison became known around the world during the 19th century through the writings of the English novelist Charles Dickens, whose father was sent there in 1824 for a debt of £40 and 10 shillings. Much of it was demolished in the 1870s, though some of its buildings were used into the 20th century. (more...)

Recently featured: Bale OutRichard Gavin ReidFantastic Universe

February 4

Wii Sports is a sports game developed and produced by Nintendo as a launch title for the Wii video game console. It was first released in North America along with the Wii on November 19, 2006, and was released in Japan, Australia, and Europe the following month. The game is included as a pack-in game with the Wii console in all territories except Japan, making it the first game included with the launch of a Nintendo system since Mario's Tennis for the Virtual Boy in 1995. Wii Sports is part of the Touch! Generations brand. The game is a collection of five sports simulations, designed to demonstrate the motion-sensing capabilities of the Wii Remote to new players. The five sports included are tennis, baseball, bowling, golf, and boxing. Players use the Wii Remote to mimic actions performed in real life sports, such as swinging a tennis racket. The rules for each game are simplified to make them more accessible to new players. The game also features training and fitness modes that monitor player progress in the sports. Overall, Wii Sports has been well received by critics and received awards from the gaming press and entertainment community. It is the best-selling video game of all time, having outsold the previous best-seller, Super Mario Bros., in 2009. As of December 31, 2009, 60.67 million copies had been sold worldwide. Wii Sports has been featured on television in Wii commercials, news reports, and other programming. (more...)

Recently featured: MarshalseaBale OutRichard Gavin Reid

February 5
Image of the optical afterglow of GRB 970508 taken one month after the burst was detected

GRB 970508 was a gamma-ray burst (GRB) detected on May 8, 1997, at 21:42 UTC. A gamma-ray burst is a highly luminous flash of gamma rays, the most energetic form of electromagnetic radiation, which is often followed by a longer-lived "afterglow" emitting at longer wavelengths (X-ray, ultraviolet, optical, infrared, and radio). GRB 970508 was detected by the Gamma Ray Burst Monitor on the Italian–Dutch X-ray astronomy satellite BeppoSAX. Astronomer Mark Metzger determined that GRB 970508 occurred at least 6 billion light years from Earth; this was the first measurement of the distance to a gamma-ray burst. Until this burst, astronomers had not reached a consensus regarding how far away GRBs occur from Earth. Some supported the idea that GRBs occur within the Milky Way, but are visibly faint because they are not highly energetic. Others concluded that GRBs occur in other galaxies at cosmological distances and are extremely energetic. Although the possibility of multiple types of GRBs meant that the two theories were not mutually exclusive, the distance measurement unequivocally placed the source of the GRB outside the Milky Way, effectively ending the debate. GRB 970508 was also the first burst with an observed radio frequency afterglow. (more...)

Recently featured: Wii SportsMarshalseaBale Out

February 6
Trent Reznor

Ghosts I–IV is the seventh studio release by American industrial rock act Nine Inch Nails, released on March 2, 2008. The team behind the project included Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor (pictured), studio-collaborators Atticus Ross and Alan Moulder, and instrumental contributions from Alessandro Cortini, Adrian Belew, and Brian Viglione. The songs are unnamed, and are identified only by their track listing, position, and album art. Initially intended to be a five-track EP, the final release consists of four nine-track instrumental EPs, totaling 36 tracks. The album was released under a Creative Commons license, and in a variety of differing packages at various price points, including a US$300 "Ultra-Deluxe Limited Edition". Critical reception of the album has been generally favorable, with its unorthodox release attracting positive comments from many critics. Much coverage of Ghosts I–IV has compared it to the digital-download releases of Radiohead's In Rainbows as well as Saul Williams' The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust!. The album was nominated for two Grammy Awards, in the categories "Best Rock Instrumental Performance" and "Best Box Set or Limited Edition Package". (more...)

Recently featured: GRB 970508Wii SportsMarshalsea

February 7
Medieval plowing with oxen

Carucage was a medieval English land tax introduced by King Richard I in 1194, based on the size of the estate owned by the taxpayer. It was a replacement for the danegeld, last imposed in 1162, which had become difficult to collect because of an increasing number of exemptions. Carucage was levied just six times: by Richard in 1194 and 1198; John, his brother and successor, in 1200; and John's son, Henry III, in 1217, 1220, and 1224, after which it was replaced by taxes on income and personal property. The taxable value of an estate was initially assessed from the Domesday Survey, but other methods were later employed, such as valuations based on the sworn testimony of neighbours or on the number of plough-teams the taxpayer used. Carucage never raised as much as other taxes, but nevertheless helped to fund several projects dear to the kings' hearts. It paid the ransom for Richard's release in 1194, after he was taken prisoner by Leopold V, Duke of Austria; it covered the tax John had to pay Philip II of France in 1200 on land he inherited in that country; and it helped to finance Henry III's military campaigns in England and on the European continent. Carucage was an attempt to secure new sources of revenue to supplement and increase royal income in a time when new demands were being made on royal finances. (more...)

Recently featured: Ghosts I–IVGRB 970508Wii Sports

February 8
The Humiliation of Valerian by Sapor, painting by Hans Holbein the Younger

The Roman–Persian Wars were a series of conflicts between states of the Greco-Roman world and two successive Iranian empires. Contact between Parthia and the Roman Republic began in 92 BC; wars began under the late Republic, and continued through the Roman, Sassanid and Byzantine empires. Although warfare between the Romans and the Iranians lasted for seven centuries, the frontier remained largely stable. Neither side had the logistical strength or manpower to maintain such lengthy campaigns so far from their borders, and thus neither could advance too far without risking stretching their frontiers too thin. Both sides did make conquests beyond the border, but the balance was almost always restored in time. The resources expended during the Roman–Persian Wars ultimately proved catastrophic for both empires. The prolonged and escalating warfare of the sixth and seventh centuries left them exhausted and vulnerable in the face of the sudden emergence and expansion of the Caliphate, whose forces invaded both empires only a few years after the end of the last Roman–Persian war. Arab Muslim armies swiftly conquered the entire Sassanid Empire, and deprived the Eastern Roman Empire of its territories in the Levant, the Caucasus, Egypt, and the rest of North Africa. (more...)

Recently featured: CarucageGhosts I–IVGRB 970508

February 9
A boy in front of Cloud Gate with his reflection in the curved metal surface

Cloud Gate, a public sculpture by Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor, is the centerpiece of the AT&T Plaza in Millennium Park within the Loop community area of Chicago, Illinois. The sculpture and AT&T Plaza are located on top of Park Grill, between the Chase Promenade and McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink. Constructed between 2004 and 2006, the sculpture is nicknamed "The Bean" because of its legume-like shape. Made up of 168 stainless steel plates welded together, its highly polished exterior has no visible seams. It is 33 feet by 66 feet by 42 feet (10 m × 20 m × 13 m), and weighs 110 short tons (99.8 t; 98.2 long tons). Kapoor's design was inspired by liquid mercury and the sculpture's surface reflects and distorts the city's skyline. Visitors are able to walk around and under Cloud Gate's 12-foot (3.7 m) high arch. On the underside is the omphalos, a concave chamber that warps and multiplies reflections. The sculpture builds on many of Kapoor's artistic themes, and is popular with tourists as a photo-taking opportunity for its unique reflective properties. (more...)

Recently featured: Roman–Persian WarsCarucageGhosts I–IV

February 10
HMAS Melbourne with USS Midway visible in the background

HMAS Melbourne was an aircraft carrier of the Royal Australian Navy. She was laid down for the Royal Navy in 1943 as the lead ship of the Majestic class of light aircraft carriers, but work on her was suspended when World War II ended. The carrier was purchased by the Australian government in 1947, and upgraded to become the third ship in the world constructed with an angled flight deck. Renamed for the Australian city of Melbourne, the ship was commissioned in 1955. Melbourne never served in combat, but collided with and sank two destroyers during her career: HMAS Voyager in 1964, and USS Frank E. Evans in 1969. These, along with several minor incidents, led to the reputation that the carrier was jinxed. The last carrier in Australian service, Melbourne was decommissioned in 1982. Although sold to China for breaking, the People's Liberation Army Navy studied Melbourne over many years to further plans for a Chinese aircraft carrier. The British carrier HMS Invincible was to be acquired as a replacement, but this was cancelled following the Falklands War and the 1983 Australian federal election. (more...)

Recently featured: Cloud GateRoman–Persian WarsCarucage

February 11
Three of the five members of the Overman Committee in 1919 during hearings

The Overman Committee was a special subcommittee of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary chaired by North Carolina Democrat Lee Slater Overman. Between September 1918 and June 1919, it investigated German and Bolshevik elements in the United States. It was an early forerunner of the better known House Un-American Activities Committee, and represented the first congressional committee investigation into communism. The Committee was originally tasked with investigating pro-German sentiments in the American liquor industry. After World War I ended in November 1918 and the German threat lessened, it turned its attention to communist Bolshevism. Bolshevism had appeared as a threat during the Red Scare of 1919–20 after the Russian Revolution in 1917 saw the Bolsheviks take power in Russia. The Committee's hearings into Bolshevik propaganda, conducted from February 11 to March 10, 1919, helped foster an image of communism as a threat to America. The Committee's final report was released in June 1919. It reported on German propaganda, Bolshevism, and other "un-American activities" in the United States and on likely effects of communism's implementation in the United States. It described German, but not communist, propaganda efforts. The Committee's report and hearings were instrumental in fostering anti-Bolshevik opinion. (more...)

Recently featured: HMAS MelbourneCloud GateRoman–Persian Wars

February 12
The 1998 gold medal game between Russia and the Czech Republic

Ice hockey tournaments have been staged at the Olympic Games since 1920. The men's event was introduced at the 1920 Summer Olympics and was transferred permanently to the Winter Olympic Games programme in 1924. In July 1992, the IOC approved women's hockey as an Olympic event; it was first held at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano. The Olympic Games were originally intended for amateur athletes, and until 1998, the players of the National Hockey League and other men's professional leagues were not allowed to compete. In the men's tournament, Canada was the most successful team of the first three decades, winning six of seven gold medals. The Soviet Union first participated in 1956 and overtook Canada as the dominant international team, winning seven of the nine tournaments in which they participated. The United States won gold in 1960 and again in 1980, which included the "Miracle on Ice" upset of the Soviet Union. Other nations to win gold in the men's event include Great Britain in 1936, Sweden in 1994 and 2006 and the Czech Republic in 1998. Finland, Germany, Russia and Switzerland have also won medals in the sport. In the women's event, Canadian and American teams have both dominated the event. (more...)

Recently featured: Overman CommitteeHMAS MelbourneCloud Gate

February 13
Kitesurfing in Carabane

Carabane is an island and a village located in the extreme south-west of Senegal, in the mouth of the Casamance River. The earliest known inhabitants of the island were the Jola people, the ethnic group which is still the most populous on the island. On January 22, 1836, the island was ceded to France by the village leader of Kagnout in return for an annual payment of 196 francs. In 1869, Carabane became autonomous, but it merged with Sédhiou in 1886. Since World War II, the population of the island has gradually declined for a variety of reasons including periods of drought, the Casamance Conflict and, more recently, the sinking of the Joola in 2002. Because the Joola was the primary means of travel to and from Carabane, much of the village's ability to trade and receive tourists has been lost. Although Carabane was once a regional capital, the village has since become so politically isolated from the rest of the country that it no longer fits into any category of the administrative structure decreed by the Senegalese government. Although there have been attempts to cultivate a tourism industry on the island, the inhabitants have been reluctant to participate. (more...)

Recently featured: Ice hockey at the Olympic GamesOverman CommitteeHMAS Melbourne

February 14
Otto at Ring*Con 2006 in Fulda, Germany

Miranda Otto (born 1967) is an Australian actress. The daughter of actors Barry and Lindsay Otto and the sister of actress Gracie Otto, she began acting at age nineteen, and has performed in a variety of low-budget and major studio films. Her first major film appearance was in the 1986 film Emma's War, in which she played a teenager who moves to Australia's bush country during World War II. After a decade of critically acclaimed roles in Australian films, she gained Hollywood's attention after appearing in supporting roles in The Thin Red Line (1998) and What Lies Beneath (2000). Her breakthrough role came in 2002, when she portrayed Éowyn in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Her private life, including her relationships with actors Richard Roxburgh and Peter O'Brien, has been discussed in the media. In 2008, she starred in the now-cancelled American television series Cashmere Mafia and will appear in the film In Her Skin. (more...)

Recently featured: CarabaneIce hockey at the Olympic GamesOverman Committee

February 15
Flocke, the day after her public debut

Flocke is a polar bear cub who was born in captivity at the Nuremberg Zoo in 2007. A few weeks after her birth, she was removed from her mother's care after concerns were raised for her safety. Although the zoo had established a strict non-interference policy with its animals, officials chose to raise the cub by hand. This decision came at a time when the zoo was receiving negative attention from the media after another female polar bear reportedly ate her newly born cubs. Similar to the excitement around Knut, a captive-born and handraised polar bear at the Berlin Zoo, Flocke ("flake" in German) quickly became a media sensation. After she debuted to the public on 8 April 2008, her name was trademarked by the zoo and her image appeared on toys and in advertisements throughout the city. The zoo announced in May 2008 that United Nations Environment Program chief Achim Steiner would be Flocke's official patron with the hope of using the bear as an ambassador to encourage awareness of climate change. In late 2008, a Russian-born male polar bear named Rasputin was introduced to Flocke's enclosure in the hopes that she would gain valuable socializing skills with a member of her own species. A year later, it was announced that both bears would relocate to Marineland in southern France sometime in 2010. (more...)

Recently featured: Miranda OttoCarabaneIce hockey at the Olympic Games

February 16
Portrait of Boz's Juba, from an 1848 London playbill

Master Juba (c. 1825 – c. 1853) was an African American dancer active in the 1840s. He was one of the first black performers in the United States to play onstage for white audiences and the only one of the era to tour with a white minstrel group. Master Juba frequently challenged and defeated the best white dancers. In 1848, he is said to have traveled to London and became a sensation in Britain because of his unique dance style. Nevertheless, an element of exploitation followed him through the British Isles, with writers treating him as an exhibit on display. Juba subsequently faded from the limelight and died in 1852 or 1853. He was largely forgotten by historians until a 1947 article resurrected his story. Existing documents offer confused accounts of Juba's dancing style, but it was likely to have incorporated both European folk steps and African-derived steps used by plantation slaves. Blackface clowns and minstrels adopted elements of his style, which enhanced the authenticity of their performances. By impacting blackface performance, Juba was highly influential on the development of such American dance styles as tap, jazz, and step dancing. (more...)

Recently featured: FlockeMiranda OttoCarabane

February 17
Lætitia Sadier of Stereolab playing a Moog synthesizer during a live performance

Stereolab were an alternative music band formed in 1990 in London, England. The band originally comprised songwriting team Tim Gane (guitar/keyboards) and Lætitia Sadier (vocals/keyboards/guitar), both of whom remained at the helm across many lineup changes. Other long-time members include Andy Ramsay (drums) and Mary Hansen (backing vocals/keyboards/guitar). Called "one of the most fiercely independent and original groups of the Nineties", Stereolab were one of the first bands to be termed "post-rock". Their primary musical influence was 1970s krautrock, which they combined with lounge, 1960s pop, and experimental pop music. They were noted for their heavy use of vintage electronic keyboards, and their sound often overlays a repetitive "motorik" beat with female vocals sung in English or French. Stereolab often incorporated socio-political themes into their lyrics. Some critics say the group's lyrics carry a strong Marxist message, and Gane and Sadier admit to being influenced by the Surrealist and Situationist cultural and political movements. The band were released from their recording contract with Warner Bros. Records when Warner's imprint Elektra Records folded. (more...)

Recently featured: Master JubaFlockeMiranda Otto

February 18
Architecture at Vkhutemas, book cover by El Lissitzky, 1927

Vkhutemas was the Russian state art and technical school founded in 1920 in Moscow. The workshops were established by a decree from Vladimir Lenin with the intentions, in the words of the Soviet government, “to prepare master artists of the highest qualifications for industry, and builders and managers for professional-technical education.” The school had 100 faculty members and an enrollment of 2,500 students. Vkhutemas was formed by a merger of two previous schools: the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture and the Stroganov School of Applied Arts. The workshops had artistic and industrial faculties; the art faculty taught courses in graphics, sculpture and architecture while the industrial faculty taught courses in printing, textiles, ceramics, woodworking, and metalworking. It was a center for three major movements in avant garde art and architecture: constructivism, rationalism, and suprematism. In the workshops, the faculty and students transformed views of art and reality with the use of precise geometry with an emphasis on space, in one of the great revolutions in the history of art. In 1926, the school was reorganised under a new rector and its name was changed from “Studios” to “Institute”. It was dissolved in 1930, after political and internal pressures throughout its ten-year existence. The school's faculty, students, and legacy were dispersed into as many as six other schools. (more...)

Recently featured: StereolabMaster JubaFlocke

February 19
Old Trafford after its most recent expansion

Old Trafford is an all-seater football stadium in the Trafford borough of Greater Manchester, England, and is the home of Premier League club Manchester United. With space for 75,797 spectators, Old Trafford has the largest capacity of any club football stadium in England, and it is one of two stadia in the country to have been given a five-star rating by UEFA. The stadium is approximately 0.5 miles (0.8 km) from Old Trafford Cricket Ground. It was nicknamed the Theatre of Dreams by Bobby Charlton, and has been United's permanent residence since 19 February 1910, with the exception of an eight-year absence from 1941 to 1949 due to bomb damage during the Second World War. The ground underwent several expansions in the 1990s and 2000s, raising the capacity to over 75,000. The stadium's current record attendance was recorded in 1939, when 76,962 spectators watched the FA Cup semi-final between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Grimsby Town. The ground regularly hosts FA Cup semi-final matches as a neutral venue and has also hosted England international fixtures, as well as matches at the 1966 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 1996, and the 2003 UEFA Champions League Final. Outside football, Old Trafford has hosted rugby league's Super League Grand Final since 1998. (more...)

Recently featured: VkhutemasStereolabMaster Juba

February 20
The Battle of Alexander at Issus

The Battle of Alexander at Issus is a 1529 oil painting by German artist Albrecht Altdorfer, an early pioneer of landscape art and a founding member of the Danube school. It portrays the 333 BC Battle of Issus, in which Alexander the Great secured a decisive victory over Darius III of Persia and gained crucial leverage in his campaign against the Persian Empire. The painting is widely regarded as Altdorfer's masterpiece, and exemplifies his affinity for scenes of monumental grandeur. William IV, Duke of Bavaria commissioned The Battle of Alexander at Issus in 1528, as part of a set of historical pieces that was to hang in his Munich residence. Modern commentators suggest that the painting, through its abundant use of anachronism, was intended to liken Alexander's heroic victory at Issus to the contemporary European conflict with the Ottoman Empire. In particular, the defeat of Suleiman the Magnificent at the Siege of Vienna may have been an inspiration for Altdorfer. A religious undercurrent is detectable, especially in the extraordinary sky; this was probably inspired by the prophecies of Daniel and contemporary concern within the Church about an impending apocalypse. The Battle of Alexander at Issus and four of the others in William's initial set are in the Alte Pinakothek art museum in Munich. (more...)

Recently featured: Old TraffordVkhutemasStereolab

February 21
Panzer I at the El Goloso Museum of Armored Vehicles, in Spain

The Panzer I was a light tank which was produced in Germany in the 1930s. Design of the Panzer I began in 1932 and mass production in 1934. Although intended only as a training tank to introduce the concept of armored warfare to the German Army, the Panzer I saw combat in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, in Poland, France, Soviet Union and North Africa during the Second World War, and even in China during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Based on experience gathered during the Spanish Civil War, the Panzer I helped shape the German armored corps used to invade Poland in 1939 and France in 1940. By 1941, the Panzer I chassis were being reused for production of tank destroyers and assault guns. Ultimately, the Panzer I's performance in combat was limited by its thin armor and light armament, consisting of only two general purpose machine guns. Because it was designed solely for training, the Panzer I was not as capable as other light tanks of the era, such as the T-26. Although weak in combat, it formed a large proportion of Germany's tank strength on paper and was used in all major campaigns between September 1939 and December 1941. Inevitably, the small, vulnerable light tank would be overshadowed in importance by better-known German tanks such as the Panzer IV, Panther, and Tiger, but its contribution to the early victories of Nazi Germany during the Second World War was significant. (more...)

Recently featured: The Battle of Alexander at IssusOld TraffordVkhutemas

February 22
Comet P/Halley as taken March 8, 1986, by W. Liller

Halley's Comet is the best-known of the short-period comets, and is visible from Earth every 75 to 76 years. Halley is the only short-period comet that is clearly visible to the naked eye, and thus, the only naked-eye comet that might appear twice in a human lifetime. Other naked-eye comets may be brighter and more spectacular, but will appear only once in thousands of years. Halley's returns to the inner solar system have been observed by astronomers since at least 240 BC, and recorded by Chinese, Babylonian, and mediaeval European chroniclers, but were not recognised as reappearances of the same object. The comet's periodicity was first determined in 1705 by English astronomer Edmond Halley, after whom it is now named. It last appeared in the inner Solar System in 1986 and will next appear in mid-2061. During its 1986 apparition, Halley's Comet became the first to be observed in detail by spacecraft, providing the first observational data on the structure of the comet nucleus and the mechanism of coma and tail formation. These observations supported a number of longstanding hypotheses about comet construction, particularly Fred Whipple's "dirty snowball" model, which correctly surmised that Halley would be composed of a mixture of volatile ices, such as water, carbon dioxide and ammonia, and dust. However, the missions also provided data which substantially reformed and reconfigured these ideas. (more...)

Recently featured: Panzer IThe Battle of Alexander at IssusOld Trafford

February 23
The Columbia Slough just above its confluence with the Willamette River

The Columbia Slough is a narrow waterway, about 19 miles (31 km) long, in the floodplain of the Columbia River in the U.S. state of Oregon. From its source in the Portland suburb of Fairview, the Columbia Slough meanders west through Gresham and Portland to the Willamette River. It is a remnant of the historic wetlands between the mouths of the Sandy River to the east and the Willamette River to the west. Levees surround much of the main slough as well as many side sloughs, detached sloughs, and nearby lakes. Drainage district employees control water flows with pumps and floodgates. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the city's Bureau of Environmental Services deal with environmental issues. Early attempts to mitigate the pollution, which included raw sewage and industrial waste, were unsuccessful. However, in 1952 Portland began sewage treatment, and over the next six decades the federal Clean Water Act and similar legislation mandated further cleanup. One of the nation's largest freshwater urban wetlands, Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area, shares the lower slough watershed with a sewage treatment plant, marine terminals, a golf course, and a car racetrack. Watercraft able to portage over culverts and levees can travel the entire length of the slough. (more...)

Recently featured: Halley's CometPanzer IThe Battle of Alexander at Issus

February 24
Bodiam Castle in England

A castle is a defensive structure associated with the Middle Ages, found in Europe and the Middle East. The precise meaning of "castle" is debated by scholars, but it is usually considered to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble. Over the approximately 900 years that castles were built they took on a great many forms with many different features, although some, such as curtain walls and arrowslits, were commonplace. A European innovation, castles originated in the 9th and 10th centuries, after the fall of the Carolingian Empire resulted in its territory being divided among individual lords and princes. Early castles often exploited natural defences, and lacked features such as towers and arrowslits and relied on a central keep. In the late 12th and early 13th centuries, a scientific approach to castle defence emerged. This led to the proliferation of towers, with an emphasis on flanking fire. Although gunpowder was introduced to Europe in the 14th century, it did not significantly affect castle building until the 15th century, when artillery became powerful enough to break through stone walls. While castles continued to be built well into the 16th century, new techniques to deal with improved cannon fire made them uncomfortable and undesirable places to live. As a result, true castles went into decline and were replaced by artillery forts with no role in civil administration, and country houses that were indefensible. (more...)

Recently featured: Columbia SloughHalley's CometPanzer I

February 25
Nikita Khrushchev

Nikita Khrushchev (1894–1971) led the Soviet Union during the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964. Khrushchev was responsible for the partial de-Stalinization of the Soviet Union, for backing the progress of the world's early space program, and for several relatively liberal reforms in areas of domestic policy. Khrushchev was born in the Russian village of Kalinovka in 1894. With the help of Lazar Kaganovich, he worked his way up the Soviet hierarchy. He supported Stalin's purges, and approved thousands of arrests. Stalin's political heirs fought for power after his death in 1953, a struggle in which Khrushchev, after several years, emerged triumphant. On February 25, 1956, at the Twentieth Party Congress, he delivered the "Secret Speech", vilifying Stalin and ushering in a less repressive era in the Soviet Union. Hoping eventually to rely on missiles for national defense, Khrushchev ordered major cuts in conventional forces. Despite the cuts, Khrushchev's rule saw the tensest years of the Cold War, culminating in the Cuban Missile Crisis. (more...)

Recently featured: CastleColumbia SloughHalley's Comet

February 26

Pauline Fowler is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, portrayed by Wendy Richard. Pauline was created by scriptwriter Tony Holland and producer Julia Smith as one of EastEnders' original characters, making her debut in the soap's first episode in 1985, and remaining for twenty-one years and ten months, making her the second longest-running original character. Her storylines focus on drudgery, money worries and family troubles. She is portrayed as a stoic, opinionated battle-axe – a family-oriented woman who alienates her kin due to overbearing interference. Her marriage to the downtrodden Arthur was central to the character for the first eleven years of the programme, culminating with his screen death in 1996. She was used for comedic purposes in scenes with her launderette colleague Dot Branning, and scriptwriters included many feuds in her narrative, most notably with her daughter-in-law, Sonia, and Den Watts, a family friend who got her daughter Michelle pregnant at 16. The character was killed off in a "whodunit" murder storyline, with Richard making her final appearance in 2006. (more...)

Recently featured: Nikita KhrushchevCastleColumbia Slough

February 27
Coronal brain section from a patient with HD showing atrophy of the heads of the caudate nuclei

Huntington's disease is an incurable neurodegenerative genetic disorder that affects muscle coordination and some cognitive functions, typically becoming noticeable in middle age. It is the most common genetic cause of abnormal involuntary writhing movements called chorea and is much more common in people of Western European descent. The disease is caused by a dominant mutation on either of the two copies of a gene called Huntingtin, which means any child of an affected parent has a 50% risk of inheriting the disease. Physical symptoms of Huntington's disease can begin at any age from infancy to old age, but usually begin between 35 and 44 years of age. The mutation of the Huntingtin gene codes for a different form of the "huntingtin" protein, whose presence results in gradual damage to specific areas of the brain. The exact way this happens is not fully understood. Genetic counseling has developed to inform and aid individuals considering genetic testing. The earliest symptoms are a general lack of coordination and an unsteady gait. As the disease advances, uncoordinated, jerky body movements become more apparent, along with a decline in mental abilities and behavioral and psychiatric problems. Although the disorder itself is not fatal, complications such as pneumonia, heart disease, and physical injury from falls markedly reduce life expectancy. There is no cure for HD, and full-time care is often required in the later stages of the disease. (more...)

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February 28
Actor Tom Welling

The first season of Smallville began airing on October 16, 2001, on The WB television network. Smallville recounts the early adventures of Kryptonian Clark Kent as he adjusts to life in the fictional town of Smallville, Kansas, during the years before he becomes Superman. The first season comprises 21 episodes and concluded its initial airing on May 21, 2002. The season's stories focus on Martha and Jonathan Kent's attempts to help their adopted son Clark cope with his alien origin and control his developing superhuman abilities. Clark must deal with the meteor-infected individuals that begin appearing in Smallville, his love for Lana Lang, and not being able to tell his two best friends, Pete Ross and Chloe Sullivan, about his alien nature. Clark also befriends Lex Luthor. "Villain of the week" storylines were predominant during the first season; physical effects, make-up effects, and computer-generated imagery became important components as well. The pilot broke The WB's viewership record for a debut series, and was nominated for various awards. Although the villain of the week storylines became a concern for producers, critical reception was generally favorable, and the series was noted as having a promising start. (more...)

Recently featured: Huntington's diseasePauline FowlerNikita Khrushchev