Wikipedia:Today's featured article/May 2010

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May 1
Tropical Storm Barry shortly after being classified

Tropical Storm Barry was a rapidly forming tropical cyclone that made landfall on Florida in early June 2007. The second Atlantic named storm of the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season, Barry developed from a trough of low pressure in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico on June 1. It tracked rapidly northeastward, reaching peak winds of 60 mph (95 km/h) before weakening and making landfall near Tampa Bay as a tropical depression. Barry quickly lost tropical characteristics after wind shear removed much of the convection, and early on June 3 it completed the transition into an extratropical cyclone. The extratropical remnants tracked up the East Coast of the United States, and were absorbed by a larger extratropical cyclone on June 5. The precursor trough produced heavy rainfall across the western Caribbean Sea, which on Cuba unofficially reached over 7.8 inches (200 mm). Outer rainbands in Pinar del Río Province injured three and damaged 55 houses. In Florida, Barry dropped moderate precipitation across the drought-ridden state that peaked at 6.99 inches (178 mm). The rainfall caused some flooding and wet roads, which led to two indirect traffic fatalities. Rough seas killed one surfer in Pinellas County. In Florida and Georgia, the precipitation assisted firefighters in combating severe wildfires. Overall damage from the storm was minor. (more...)

Recently featured: "The Joy of Sect" – "Paranoid Android" – Ba Cut

May 2
Statue of Giovanni Villani in the Loggia del Mercato Nuovo

Giovanni Villani (c. 1280–1348) was an Italian banker, official, diplomat, and chronicler from Florence who wrote the Nuova Cronica on the history of Florence. He was a leading statesman of Florence but later gained an unsavory reputation and served time in prison due to the bankruptcy of a trading and banking company he worked for. His interest in and elaboration of economic details, statistical information, and political and psychological insight mark him as a more modern chronicler of late medieval Europe. His Cronica is viewed as the first introduction of statistics as a positive element in history. However, historian Kenneth R. Bartlett notes that "his reliance on such elements as Divine Providence links Villani closely with the medieval vernacular chronical tradition," that is to say, not linked closely with his Renaissance-era successors. In recurring themes made implicit through significant events described in his Cronica, Villani also emphasized three assumptions about sin and morality that guided historical events, these being that excess brings disaster, forces of right and wrong are at constant struggle, and that events are directly related to the will of God. While continuing work on the Cronica and detailing the enormous loss of life during the Black Death in 1348, Villani died of the very same illness. His work on the Cronica was continued by his brother and nephew. Villani's work has received both praise and criticism from modern historians. (more...)

Recently featured: Tropical Storm Barry – "The Joy of Sect" – "Paranoid Android"

May 3
Karl Aloys

Karl Aloys zu Fürstenberg (1760–1799) was a soldier in the Austrian service. He achieved the rank of Field Marshal, and died at the Battle of Stockach. The third son of a cadet branch of the Fürstenberg, at his birth his chances of inheriting the family title of Fürst zu Fürstenberg were slight; he was prepared instead for a military career, and a tutor was hired to teach him the military sciences. He entered Habsburg military in 1777, at the age of seventeen years, and was a member of the field army in the short War of the Bavarian Succession. His career progressed steadily during the Habsburg War with the Ottoman Empire. During the French Revolutionary Wars, he fought with distinction again for the First Coalition, particularly at Ketsch and Frœschwiller. He was stationed at key points to protect the movements of the Austrian army. With a force of 10,000, he defended the German Rhineland at Kehl, and reversed a bayonet assault by French troops at Bellheim; his troops also overran Speyer without any losses. By the end of the War of the First Coalition, at the age of 35, he had achieved the rank of Field Marshal. During the War of the Second Coalition, he fought in the first two battles of the German campaign, at Ostrach, 21 March 1799, and at the Battle of Stockach, 25 March 1799. At the latter, while leading a regiment of grenadiers, he was hit with French case shot and knocked off his horse. He died shortly afterward. (more...)

Recently featured: Giovanni VillaniTropical Storm Barry – "The Joy of Sect"

May 4
Hildebrandt's Starling

Birds are winged, bipedal, endothermic (warm-blooded), egg-laying, vertebrate animals. There are around 10,000 living species, making them the most numerous tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from the 5 cm (2 in) Bee Hummingbird to the 3 m (10 ft) Ostrich. The fossil record indicates that birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs during the Jurassic period, around 150–200 Ma (million years ago). Some birds, especially corvids and parrots, are among the most intelligent animal species; a number of bird species have been observed manufacturing and using tools, and many social species exhibit cultural transmission of knowledge across generations. Birds are social; they communicate using visual signals and through calls and songs, and participate in social behaviours including cooperative breeding and hunting, flocking, and mobbing of predators. About 120–130 species have become extinct as a result of human activity since the 17th century, and hundreds more before then. Currently about 1,200 species of birds are threatened with extinction by human activities, though efforts are underway to protect them. (more...)

Recently featured: Karl Aloys zu FürstenbergGiovanni VillaniTropical Storm Barry

May 5

The Sex Pistols are an English punk rock band that formed in London in 1975. They were influential in initiating the punk movement in the United Kingdom and inspiring many later punk and alternative rock musicians. Although their initial career lasted just two-and-a-half years and produced only four singles and one studio album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, they are regarded as one of the most influential acts in the history of popular music. The Sex Pistols originally comprised vocalist Johnny Rotten, guitarist Steve Jones, drummer Paul Cook and bassist Glen Matlock. Matlock was replaced by Sid Vicious in early 1977. Under the management of impresario Malcolm McLaren, the band created controversies which captivated Britain. Their concerts repeatedly faced difficulties with organisers and authorities, and public appearances often ended in mayhem. Their 1977 single "God Save the Queen", attacking Britons' social conformity and deference to the crown, precipitated the "last and greatest outbreak of pop-based moral pandemonium". In January 1978, at the end of a turbulent US tour, Rotten left the band and announced its breakup. Over the next several months, the three other band members recorded songs for McLaren's film version of the Sex Pistols' story, The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle. Vicious died of a heroin overdose in February 1979. In 1996, Rotten, Jones, Cook and Matlock reunited for the Filthy Lucre Tour; since 2002, they have staged further reunion shows and tours. (more...)

Recently featured: BirdKarl Aloys zu FürstenbergGiovanni Villani

May 6
Painting of George V in coronation robes, c. 1911

George V (1865–1936) was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 through World War I until his death in 1936. He was the first British monarch of the House of Windsor, which he created from the British branch of the German House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. From the age of twelve George served in the Royal Navy, but upon the unexpected death of his elder brother, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, he became heir to the throne and married his brother's fiancée, Mary of Teck. Although they occasionally toured the British Empire, George lived what later biographers would consider a dull life because of its conventionality. George became King-Emperor in 1910 on the death of his father, King Edward VII. During World War I he relinquished all German titles and styles on behalf of his relatives who were British subjects, and changed the name of the royal house from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Windsor. During his reign, the Statute of Westminster separated the crown so that George ruled the dominions as separate kingdoms, preparing the way for the future development of the Commonwealth of Nations. His reign also witnessed the rise of socialism, communism, fascism, Irish republicanism, and the first Labour ministry. (more...)

Recently featured: Sex PistolsBirdKarl Aloys zu Fürstenberg

May 7
William Aberhart and his Cabinet

The 1937 Social Credit backbenchers' revolt took place from March to June 1937 in Alberta, Canada. It was a rebellion against Premier William Aberhart by a group of backbench members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) from his Social Credit League. The dissidents were unhappy with Aberhart's failure to provide Albertans with C$25 monthly dividends through social credit as he had promised before his 1935 election. When the government's 1937 budget made no move to implement the dividends, many MLAs revolted openly and threatened to defeat the government in a confidence vote. The revolt took place in a period of turmoil for Aberhart and his government: besides the dissident backbenchers, half of the cabinet resigned or was fired over a period of less than a year. Aberhart also faced criticism for planning to attend the coronation of George VI at the province's expense and for stifling a recall attempt against him by the voters of his constituency. After a stormy debate in which the survival of the government was called into question, a compromise was reached whereby Aberhart's government relinquished considerable power to a committee of backbenchers. This committee, dominated by insurgents, recruited two British social credit experts to come to Alberta and advise on the implementation of social credit. Among the experts' first moves was to require a loyalty pledge from Social Credit MLAs. Almost all signed, thus ending the crisis. (more...)

Recently featured: George V of the United KingdomSex PistolsBird

May 8
Denis Menchov, Russian road bicycle racer

The 2009 Giro d'Italia was the 92nd running of the Giro d'Italia, one of professional cycling's Grand Tours; the race also marked the centennial of the first Giro d'Italia. It began in Lido di Venezia on 9 May, and concluded after 21 stages in Rome on the 31st. The Giro was raced on a unique path through Italy, taking the peloton to some historic cities and towns in Italian cycling. Denis Menchov (pictured), representing the Rabobank team, was the winner of the race. After having taken the race lead with his victory in a long and difficult individual time trial midway through the race, Menchov defended it against eventual runner-up Danilo Di Luca by staying with Di Luca in the race's last stages. Di Luca, riding for LPR Brakes–Farnese Vini, won the points classification in addition to finishing second overall, but tested positive for the banned blood booster continuous erythropoietin receptor activator twice during the race and stands to have those results removed. (more...)

Recently featured: 1937 Social Credit backbenchers' revoltGeorge V of the United KingdomSex Pistols

May 9

Jason Voorhees is a fictional character from the Friday the 13th series of slasher films. He first appeared in Friday the 13th (1980), as the son of cook-turned-murderer Mrs. Voorhees, and was portrayed by Ari Lehman. Created by Victor Miller, with contributions by Ron Kurz, Sean S. Cunningham, and Tom Savini, Jason has primarily been an antagonist in the films, whether by stalking and killing the characters, or acting as a psychological threat to the lead character. Since Lehman's portrayal, the character has been represented by numerous actors and stuntmen, sometimes by more than one at a time. Kane Hodder is the most well known of the stuntmen to portray Jason Voorhees, having played the character in four consecutive films. The character's physical appearance has gone through many transformations, with various special makeup effects artists making their mark on the character's design. Filmmakers have given Jason superhuman strength, regenerative powers, and near invulnerability. He has been seen as a sympathetic character, whose motivation for killing has been cited as driven by the immoral actions of his victims. Jason Voorhees is a highly referenced character in popular culture and his signature hockey mask is a widely recognized image. (more...)

Recently featured: 2009 Giro d'Italia1937 Social Credit backbenchers' revoltGeorge V of the United Kingdom

May 10
Neville Chamberlain

Neville Chamberlain (1869–1940) was a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940. Chamberlain is best known for his appeasement foreign policy, and in particular for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany. When Adolf Hitler continued his aggression, Britain declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939, and Chamberlain led Britain through the first eight months of the Second World War. His premiership was dominated by the question of policy towards the increasingly aggressive Germany, and his actions at Munich were widely popular among Britons. Chamberlain resigned the premiership on 10 May 1940, after the failed Allied incursion into Norway as he believed a government supported by all parties was essential, and the Labour and Liberal parties would not join a government headed by him. He was succeeded by Winston Churchill but remained very well regarded in Parliament, especially among Conservatives. Chamberlain's reputation remains controversial among historians, with the initial high regard for him being entirely eroded by books such as Guilty Men, published in his lifetime, which blamed Chamberlain and his associates for the Munich accord and for allegedly failing to prepare the country for war. (more...)

Recently featured: Jason Voorhees2009 Giro d'Italia1937 Social Credit backbenchers' revolt

May 11
St Mary Lake, Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park, located in the American state of Montana, was designated a national park on May 11, 1910. It borders the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. The park encompasses over 1,000,000 acres (4,047 km2) and includes parts of two mountain ranges (sub-ranges of the Rocky Mountains), over 130 named lakes, more than 1,000 different species of plants and hundreds of species of animals. This vast pristine ecosystem is the centerpiece of what has been referred to as the "Crown of the Continent Ecosystem", a region of protected land encompassing 16,000 square miles (41,440 km2). The mountains of Glacier National Park began forming 170 million years ago when ancient rocks were forced eastward up and over much younger rock strata. Known as the Lewis Overthrust, these sedimentary rocks are considered to have some of the finest fossilized examples of extremely early life found anywhere on Earth. Of the estimated 150 glaciers which existed in the park in the mid 1800s, only 25 remained by 2010. Glacier National Park borders Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada—the two parks are known as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, and were designated as the world's first International Peace Park in 1932. Both parks were designated by the United Nations as Biosphere Reserves in 1976, and in 1995 as World Heritage sites. (more...)

Recently featured: Neville ChamberlainJason Voorhees2009 Giro d'Italia

May 12
A field of canola near Winnipeg, Manitoba

Manitoba is a Canadian prairie province which was brought into Confederation in 1870 after the Red River Rebellion. The area has been inhabited for thousands of years, with European contact made in the 17th century. The province has over 110,000 lakes, and has a largely continental climate due to its mostly flat topography. Agriculture, found especially in the fertile southern and western parts of the province, is vital to its economy; other major industries are transportation, manufacturing, mining, forestry, energy, and tourism. The political and cultural capital, Winnipeg, is home to four of the province's five universities, all four of its major professional sports teams, and most of its cultural events. The city is also a transportation and military hub, hosting a busy international airport and the regional headquarters of NORAD. The province has a population of over one million; its largest ethnic group is English, but it has a significant Franco-Manitoban minority and a growing aboriginal population. The province's name, meaning "strait of the spirit" or "lake of the prairies", is derived from the languages of its early aboriginal inhabitants. (more...)

Recently featured: Glacier National ParkNeville ChamberlainJason Voorhees

May 13
An oil on canvas painting of Vlad Tepes

The Historian is the 2005 debut novel of American author Elizabeth Kostova. The plot blends the history and folklore of Vlad III the Impaler (pictured) and his fictional equivalent Count Dracula. Kostova's father told her stories about Dracula when she was a child, and later in life she was inspired to turn the experience into a novel. She worked on the book for ten years and then sold it within a few months to Little, Brown, and Company, which bought it for a remarkable US$2 million. The Historian has been described as a combination of genres, including Gothic novel, adventure novel, detective fiction, travelogue, postmodern historical novel, epistolary epic, and historical thriller. It is concerned with history's role in society and representation in books, as well as the nature of good and evil. The evils brought about by religious conflict are a particular theme, and the novel explores the relationship between the Christian West and the Islamic East. Little, Brown, and Company heavily promoted the book and it became the first debut novel to become number one on The New York Times bestseller list in its first week on sale. As of 2005, it was the fastest-selling hardback debut novel in US history. Kostova received the 2006 Book Sense award for Best Adult Fiction and the 2005 Quill Award for Debut Author of the Year. Sony has bought the film rights and, as of 2007, were planning an adaptation. (more...)

Recently featured: ManitobaGlacier National ParkNeville Chamberlain

May 14

Star Wars: Rogue Squadron is an arcade-style action game co-developed by Factor 5 and LucasArts. The first of three games in the Rogue Squadron series, it was published by LucasArts and Nintendo and released for Windows and the Nintendo 64 in December 1998. Rogue Squadron was one of the first games to take advantage of the Nintendo 64's Expansion Pak, which allows gameplay at a 640 × 480 display resolution, instead of that system's standard 320 × 240 resolution. Set in the fictional Star Wars galaxy and inspired by the Star Wars: X-wing Rogue Squadron comics, the game takes place primarily between events in the films Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. The player controls Luke Skywalker, commander of the elite X-wing pilots known as Rogue Squadron. As the game progresses, Skywalker and Rogue Squadron fight the Galactic Empire in sixteen missions across various planets. Rogue Squadron received generally positive reviews. Critics praised the game's technical achievements and flight controls, but its use of distance fog and the lack of a multiplayer mode drew criticism. (more...)

Recently featured: The HistorianManitobaGlacier National Park

May 15
Stela D, north side, from Quiriguá

Quiriguá is an ancient Maya archaeological site in the department of Izabal in south-eastern Guatemala. It is a medium-sized site covering approximately 3 square kilometres (1.2 sq mi) along the lower Motagua River, with the ceremonial center about 1 km (0.6 mi) from the north bank. During the Maya Classic Period, Quiriguá was situated at the juncture of several important trade routes. The site was occupied by 200, construction on the acropolis had begun by about 550, and an explosion of grander construction started in the 8th century. All construction had halted by about 850, except for a brief period of reoccupation in the Early Postclassic. Quiriguá shares its architectural and sculptural styles with the nearby Classic Period city of Copán, with whose history it is closely entwined. Quiriguá's rapid expansion in the 8th century was tied to king K'ak' Tiliw Chan Yopaat's military victory over Copán in 738. When the greatest king of Copán, Uaxaclajuun Ub'aah K'awiil or "18-Rabbit", was defeated, he was captured and then sacrificed in the Great Plaza at Quiriguá. Before this, Quiriguá had been a vassal state of Copán, but it maintained its independence afterwards. The ceremonial architecture at Quiriguá is quite modest, but the site's importance lies in its wealth of sculpture, including the tallest stone monuments ever erected in the New World. (more...)

Recently featured: Star Wars: Rogue SquadronThe HistorianManitoba

May 16
Hill tribe village in Rattanakiri, Cambodia

Ratanakiri is a province in northeastern Cambodia that borders Laos to the north, Vietnam to the east, Mondulkiri Province to the south, and Stung Treng Province to the west. The province extends from the mountains of the Annamite Range in the north, across a hilly plateau between the Tonle San and Tonle Srepok rivers, to tropical deciduous forests in the south. In recent years, logging and mining have scarred Ratanakiri's environment, long known for its beauty. For over a millennium, Ratanakiri has been occupied by the highland Khmer Loeu, who are a minority elsewhere in Cambodia. During the region's early history, its Khmer Loeu inhabitants were exploited as slaves by neighboring empires. The slave trade economy ended during the French colonial era, but a harsh Khmerization campaign after Cambodia's independence again threatened Khmer Loeu ways of life. The Khmer Rouge built its headquarters in the province in the 1960s, and bombing during the Vietnam War devastated the region. Today, rapid development in the province is altering traditional ways of life. Ratanakiri is sparsely populated; its 150,000 residents make up just over 1% of the country's total population. Residents generally live in villages of 20 to 60 families and engage in subsistence shifting agriculture. Ratanakiri is among the least developed provinces of Cambodia. Its infrastructure is poor, and the local government is weak. Health indicators in Ratanakiri are extremely poor, and almost one in four children die before reaching the age of five. Education levels are also low; three quarters of the population is illiterate. (more...)

Recently featured: QuiriguáStar Wars: Rogue SquadronThe Historian

May 17
A bay Marwari stallion

The Marwari horse is a rare breed from the Marwar region of India. Known for its inward-turning ear tips, it comes in all equine colours, although pinto patterns tend to be the most popular. It is known for its hardiness, and is quite similar to the Kathiawari, another Indian breed from the Kathiawar region southwest of Marwar. Many breed members exhibit a natural pacing gait. The Marwari are descended from native Indian ponies crossed with Arabian horses, possibly with some Mongolian influence. The Rathores, traditional rulers of the Marwar region of western India, were the first to breed the Marwari. Beginning in the 12th century, they espoused strict breeding that promoted purity and hardiness. Used throughout history as a cavalry horse by the people of the Marwar region, the Marwari was noted for its loyalty and bravery in battle. The breed deteriorated in the 1930s, when poor management practices resulted in a reduction of the breeding stock, but today has regained some of its popularity. The Marwari is used for light draught and agricultural work, as well as riding and packing. In 1995, a breed society was formed for the Marwari in India, and in the 2000s horses have begun to be exported to the United States and Europe. (more...)

Recently featured: Ratanakiri ProvinceQuiriguáStar Wars: Rogue Squadron

May 18
Dave Johnston with gas-detection instrument at Mount St. Helens, 4 April 1980

David Alexander Johnston (1949–1980) was a volcanologist with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) who was killed by the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington. One of the principal scientists on the monitoring team, Johnston died while manning an observation post on the morning of May 18, 1980. He was the first to report the eruption, transmitting the famous message "Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!" before being swept away by the lateral blast created by the collapse of the mountain's north flank. His work and that of his fellow USGS scientists had convinced the authorities to close Mount St. Helens to the general public and to maintain the closure in spite of heavy pressure to re-open the area; their work saved thousands of lives. His story has become part of the popular image of volcanic eruptions and their threat to society, and also part of the history of volcanology. Following his death, Johnston was commemorated in several ways, including a memorial fund set up in his name at the University of Washington, and two volcano observatories that were named after him. Johnston's life and death have been featured in several documentaries, films, docudramas and books about the eruption. Along with other people killed by the volcano, Johnston's name is inscribed on memorials dedicated to their memory. (more...)

Recently featured: Marwari horseRatanakiri ProvinceQuiriguá

May 19
Voyager 2 showing Neptune's full ring system with the highest sensitivity

The rings of Neptune were first detected in 1980, but only identified in 1989 by the Voyager 2 spacecraft. The rings are tenuous, faint and dusty, and resemble the rings of Jupiter more closely than those of Saturn or Uranus. Neptune possesses five known rings, each named for an astronomer who contributed important work on the planet: the Galle, Le Verrier, Lassell, Arago and Adams rings. Neptune also has a faint unnamed ring coincident with the orbit of Neptunian moon Galatea. The rings of Neptune are made of extremely dark material, likely organic compounds processed by radiation similar to that found in the rings of Uranus. The proportion of dust in the rings (between 20 and 70%) is high, while their optical depth is low, at less than 0.1. Uniquely, the Adams ring is divided into five discrete arcs, named Fraternité, Égalité 1 and 2, Liberté, and Courage. The arcs occupy a narrow range of orbital longitudes and are remarkably stable, having changed only slightly since their initial detection in 1980. How the arcs maintain stability is still under debate. However, their stability is probably related to the resonant interaction between the Adams ring and its inner shepherd moon, Galatea. (more...)

Recently featured: David A. JohnstonMarwari horseRatanakiri Province

May 20
A view of the island from atop Fort Mackinac

Mackinac Island is an island covering 3.8 square miles (9.8 km2) in land area, part of the U.S. state of Michigan. It is located in Lake Huron, at the eastern end of the Straits of Mackinac, between the state's Upper and Lower Peninsulas. The island was home to a Native American settlement before European exploration began in the 17th century. It served a strategic position amidst the commerce of the Great Lakes fur trade. This led to the establishment of Fort Mackinac on the island by the British during the American Revolutionary War. It was the scene of two battles during the War of 1812. In the late 19th century, Mackinac Island became a popular tourist attraction and summer colony. Much of the island has undergone extensive historical preservation and restoration; as a result, the entire island is listed as a National Historic Landmark. It is well known for its numerous cultural events; its wide variety of architectural styles, including the famous Victorian Grand Hotel; and its ban on almost all motor vehicles. More than 80 percent of the island is preserved as Mackinac Island State Park. (more...)

Recently featured: Rings of NeptuneDavid A. JohnstonMarwari horse

May 21

Bahia was the lead ship of her class of cruisers built for Brazil by Armstrong Whitworth in the United Kingdom. Six months after her 21 May 1910 commissioning, crewmen aboard the ship mutinied during the [Revolta da Chibata] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) (Revolt of the Whip) and killed one of the ship's officers. When Brazil entered the First World War, Bahia and her sister ship Rio Grande do Sul were assigned to the [Divisão Naval em Operações de Guerra] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) (Naval Division in War Operations), the Brazilian Navy's main contribution in that conflict. Based out of Sierra Leone and Dakar, the squadron escorted convoys through an area believed to be heavily patrolled by U-boats. Between the wars, Bahia underwent a major overhaul and modernization and was mobilized against multiple rebellions. In the Second World War, Bahia was once again used as a convoy escort, sailing over 100,000 nautical miles (190,000 km; 120,000 mi) in 358 total days of sailing. On 4 July 1945 she was acting as a plane guard for transport aircraft flying from the Atlantic to Pacific theaters of war. While Bahia's gunners were firing at a kite for anti-aircraft practice, one aimed too low and hit depth charges stored near the stern of the ship, resulting in a massive explosion that incapacitated the ship and sunk her within minutes. Only a small portion of the crew survived the blast, and even fewer were still living when their rafts were discovered days later. Conspiracy theories disputing this story and involving rogue German U-boats persist to this day. (more...)

Recently featured: Mackinac IslandRings of NeptuneDavid A. Johnston

May 22
The BP Pedestrian Bridge

The BP Pedestrian Bridge is a girder footbridge in the Loop community area of Chicago. It spans Columbus Drive to connect Daley Bicentennial Plaza with Millennium Park, both parts of the larger Grant Park. Designed by architect Frank Gehry, it opened along with the rest of Millennium Park on July 16, 2004. Gehry had been courted by the city to design the bridge and the neighboring Jay Pritzker Pavilion, and eventually agreed to do so after the Pritzker family funded the Pavilion. Named for energy firm BP, which donated $5 million toward its construction, it is the first Gehry-designed bridge to have been completed. BP Bridge is described as snakelike because of its curving form. Designed to bear a heavy load without structural problems caused by its own weight, it has won awards for its use of sheet metal. The pedestrian bridge serves as a noise barrier for traffic sounds from Columbus Drive. It is designed without handrails, using stainless steel parapets instead. The total length is 935 feet (285 m), with a five percent slope on its inclined surfaces that makes it barrier free and accessible to all. Although the bridge closes in winter because ice cannot be safely removed from its wooden walkway, it has received favorable reviews for its design and aesthetics. (more...)

Recently featured: Brazilian cruiser BahiaMackinac IslandRings of Neptune

May 23
Margaret Fuller

Margaret Fuller (1810–1850) was a journalist, critic and women's rights activist. She was the first full-time female book reviewer in journalism. She became the first editor of the transcendental publication The Dial in 1840 before joining the staff of the New York Tribune in 1844. By the time she was in her 30s, Fuller had earned a reputation as the most well-read person in New England, male or female. Her seminal work, Woman in the Nineteenth Century, was published in 1845 and is considered the first major feminist work in the United States. Fuller was an advocate of women's rights and, in particular, women's education and the right to employment. She also encouraged many other reforms in society, including prison reform and the emancipation of slaves in the United States. Fuller became involved with the revolution in Italy and allied herself with Giuseppe Mazzini. She also met Giovanni Ossoli, with whom she had a child. All three members of the family died in a shipwreck in 1850. Fuller's body was never recovered. Shortly after Fuller's death her importance faded; the editors who prepared her letters to be published, believing her fame would be short-lived, were not concerned about accuracy and censored or altered much of her words before publication. (more...)

Recently featured: BP Pedestrian BridgeBrazilian cruiser BahiaMackinac Island

May 24
Actor Matthew Fox stars in ABC's 'Lost' as Dr. Jack Shephard

"The Beginning of the End" is the fourth season premiere, and seventy-third episode overall, of the American Broadcasting Company's drama television series Lost. It was aired on ABC in the United States and CTV in Canada on January 31, 2008. Co-creator/executive producer Damon Lindelof and executive producer Carlton Cuse wrote the premiere in late July 2007, with most of the episode directed on location in Oahu, Hawaii, in August and September by executive producer Jack Bender. The episode was watched by eighteen million Americans, bringing in the best ratings for Lost in seventeen episodes. According to Metacritic, "The Beginning of the End" garnered "universal acclaim". The narrative takes place over ninety days after the crash of Oceanic Flight 815, on December 23, 2004. The stranded crash survivors make contact with associates of Naomi Dorrit (played by Marsha Thomason) on a nearby freighter, but the survivors divide when they hear that those on the freighter may not be coming to rescue them. Flashforwards show the post-island lives of Hugo "Hurley" Reyes (Jorge Garcia) and Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox, pictured). They are lying to the public about their time on the island. (more...)

Recently featured: Margaret FullerBP Pedestrian BridgeBrazilian cruiser Bahia

May 25
The original Victoria Cross

The Victoria Cross is a military decoration of Canada modelled on the original British Victoria Cross (pictured) – instituted in 1856 by Queen Victoria – in both intent and appearance, though with several small changes. Created in 1993, it and the original are the highest honours in the Canadian honours system, taking precedence over all other orders, decorations, and medals. It is awarded by either the Canadian monarch or his or her viceregal representative, the Governor General of Canada, to any member of the Canadian Forces or allies serving under or with Canadian military command for extraordinary valour and devotion to duty while facing a hostile force. Whereas in many other Commonwealth countries, the Victoria Cross can only be awarded for actions against the enemy in a wartime setting, the Canadian government has a broader definition of the term enemy, and so the Victoria Cross can be awarded for action against armed mutineers, pirates, or other such hostile forces without war being officially declared. Recipients are entitled to use the post-nominal letters VC (for both English and French), and also to an annual annuity of C$3,000. The Victoria Cross can be awarded more than once, but no one has received the Canadian medal since its inception. (more...)

Recently featured: "The Beginning of the End" – Margaret FullerBP Pedestrian Bridge

May 26
John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough

John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650–1722) was a prominent English soldier and statesman whose career spanned the reigns of five monarchs throughout the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Churchill's role in defeating the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685 helped secure James, the Duke of York on the throne, yet just three years later he abandoned his Catholic mentor for the Protestant Dutchman, William of Orange. Churchill served with distinction in the early years of the Nine Years' War, but persistent charges of Jacobitism brought about his fall from office and temporary imprisonment in the Tower. His marriage to Sarah Jennings – Queen Anne's friend – ensured Marlborough's rise to a dukedom. Becoming de facto leader of Allied forces during the War of the Spanish Succession, his victories in battles ensured his place in history as one of Europe's great generals. But his wife's stormy relationship with the Queen, and her subsequent dismissal from court, was central to his being forced from office and into self-imposed exile. He returned to England and to influence under the House of Hanover with the accession of George I to the British throne in 1714, but his health gradually deteriorated, and he died on 16 June 1722 (O.S). (more...)

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May 27
Image of the Trojan asteroids in front of and behind Jupiter

The Jupiter Trojans are a large group of objects that share the orbit of the planet Jupiter around the Sun. Relative to Jupiter, each Trojan librates around one of the planet's two Lagrangian points of stability, L4 and L5, that respectively lie 60° ahead of and behind the planet in its orbit. Trojan asteroids are distributed in two elongated, curved regions around these Lagrangian points with an average semi-major axis of about 5.2 AU. The first Trojan, 588 Achilles, was discovered in 1906 by the German astronomer Max Wolf. A total of 2,909 Jupiter Trojans have been found as of January 2009. The name "Trojans" derives from the fact that, by convention, they each are named after a mythological figure from the Trojan War. The total number of Jupiter Trojans larger than 1 km is believed to be about 1 million, approximately equal to the number of asteroids larger than 1 km in the main asteroid belt. Like main belt asteroids, Trojans form families. Jupiter Trojans are dark bodies with reddish, featureless spectra. No firm evidence of the presence of water, organic matter or other chemical compounds has been obtained. The Trojans' densities (as measured by studying binaries or rotational lightcurves) vary from 0.8 to 2.5 g·cm−3. Trojans are thought to have been captured into their orbits during the early stages of the Solar System's formation or slightly later, during the migration of giant planets. (more...)

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May 28
Depiction of Aravan, worshiped at Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore

Iravan (Aravan) is a minor character from the Hindu epic of Mahabharata. The son of Pandava prince Arjuna (one of the main heroes of the Mahabharata) and the Naga princess Ulupi, Iravan is the central god of the Kuttantavar cult and plays a major role in the cult of Draupadi. Both these cults are of South Indian origin, from a region of the country where he is worshipped as a village deity. The Mahabharata portrays Iravan as dying a heroic death in the 18-day Kurukshetra War, the epic's main subject. However, the South Indian cults have a supplementary tradition of honouring Iravan's self-sacrifice to the goddess Kali to ensure her favour and the victory of the Pandavas in the war. The South Indian cults focus on three boons granted to Iravan by the god Krishna in honour of his sacrifice. Iravan is also a patron god of the well-known Indian transgender communities called Ali. In Koovagam, Tamil Nadu, an 18-day festival holds a ceremonial marriage of Iravan to Alis and male villagers and followed then by their "widowhood" after ritual re-enactment of Iravan's sacrifice. Iravan is also known in Indonesia. Independent Javanese traditions present a dramatic marriage of Iravan to Titisari, daughter of Krishna, and a death resulting from a case of mistaken identity. (more...)

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May 29
An 1840s depiction of the college's rowing outfit

Jesus College Boat Club is a rowing club for members of Jesus College, Oxford, one of the colleges of the University of Oxford. The club was formed in 1835, but rowing at the college predates the club's foundation: a boat from the college was involved in the earliest recorded races between college crews at Oxford in 1815, when it competed against a crew from Brasenose College. In the early years of rowing at Oxford, Jesus was one of the few colleges that participated in races. A number of college members have rowed for the university against Cambridge University in the Boat Race and the Women's Boat Race. Barney Williams, a Canadian rower who studied at the college, won a silver medal in rowing at the 2004 Summer Olympics, and participated in the Boat Race in 2005 and 2006. Other students who rowed while at the college have achieved success in other fields, including John Sankey, who became Lord Chancellor, and Alwyn Williams, who became Bishop of Durham. The college boathouse, which is shared with Keble College's boat club, dates from 1964 and replaced a moored barge used by spectators and crew-members. (more...)

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May 30

Tōru Takemitsu (1930–1996) was a Japanese composer and writer on aesthetics and music theory. Though largely self-taught, Takemitsu is recognised for his skill in the subtle manipulation of instrumental and orchestral timbre, drawing from a wide range of influences, including jazz, popular music, avant-garde procedures and traditional Japanese music, in a harmonic idiom largely derived from the music of Claude Debussy and Olivier Messiaen. In 1958, he received international attention for his Requiem for strings which resulted in several commissions from across the world, and settled his reputation as the leading Japanese composer of the 20th century. He was the recipient of numerous awards, commissions and honours; he composed over 100 film scores and about 130 concert works for ensembles of various sizes and combinations. He also found time to write a detective novel and appeared frequently on Japanese television as a celebrity chef. In the foreword to a selection of Takemitsu's writings in English, conductor Seiji Ozawa writes: "I am very proud of my friend Tōru Takemitsu. He is the first Japanese composer to write for a world audience and achieve international recognition." (more...)

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May 31
Bronwyn Bancroft

Bronwyn Bancroft (born 1958) is an Indigenous Australian artist, notable for being the first Australian fashion designer invited to show her work in Paris. Born in Tenterfield, New South Wales, and trained in Canberra and Sydney, Bancroft worked as a fashion designer, and is an artist, illustrator, and arts administrator. In 1985 Bancroft established a shop called Designer Aboriginals, selling fabrics made by Indigenous artists including herself. She was a founding member of Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative. Artwork by Bancroft is held by the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Art Gallery of Western Australia. She has provided artwork for over 20 children's books, including Stradbroke Dreaming by writer and activist Oodgeroo Noonuccal and books by artist and writer Sally Morgan. She has also received design commissions, including one for the exterior of a sports centre in Sydney. With a long history of involvement in community activism and arts administration, Bancroft has served as a board member for the National Gallery of Australia. Her painting Prevention of AIDS (1992) was used in a campaign to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS in Australia. As of 2010, Bancroft sits on the boards of copyright collection agency Viscopy and Tranby Aboriginal College, as well as being on the Artists Board at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. (more...)

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