Saturday, 30 November 2013

"The End of an Age."

The Crystal Palace was a cast-iron and plate-glass building originally erected in Hyde Park, London, England, to house the Great Exhibition of 1851. More than 14,000 exhibitors from around the world gathered in the Palace's 990,000 square feet (92,000 m2) of exhibition space to display examples of the latest technology developed in the Industrial Revolution. Designed by Sir Joseph Paxton, the Great Exhibition building was 1,851 feet (564 m) long, with an interior height of 128 feet (39 m).

Because of the recent invention of the cast plate glass method in 1848, which allowed for large sheets of cheap but strong glass, it was at the time the largest amount of glass ever seen in a building and astonished visitors with its clear walls and ceilings that did not require interior lights, thus a "Crystal Palace".

After the exhibition, the building was rebuilt in an enlarged form on Penge Common next to Sydenham Hill, an affluent South London suburb full of large villas. It stood there from 1854 until its destruction by fire in 1936. Even though 89 fire engines and over 400 firemen arrived they were unable to extinguish it. (The fire spread quickly in the high winds that night, because it could consume the dry old timber flooring, and the huge quantity of flammable materials in the building.)  100,000 people came to Sydenham Hill to watch the blaze, among them Winston Churchill, who said, "This is the end of an age".

The building was not adequately insured to cover the cost of rebuilding (at least two million pounds)

The name Crystal Palace came from the playwright Douglas Jerrold. On 13 July 1850 he wrote in the satirical magazine Punch as 'Mrs Amelia Mouser' about the forthcoming Great Exhibition of 1851, referring to a palace of very crystal, a name that was subsequently picked up and repeated even though the building had not been approved at that stage.

The name was later used to denote this area of south London and the park that surrounds the site, home of the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre. A re-working of the building, known as The Garden Palace, was constructed in Sydney in 1879, but this building too was destroyed by fire. There are proposals, although in early stages, to re-build the Crystal Palace within the Crystal Palace Park.

Friday, 29 November 2013

" Good morning. How do you do? How do you like the phonograph?"

Phonograph cabinet built with Edison cement, 1912.
The clockwork portion of the phonograph is
 concealed in the base beneath the statue;
 the amplifying horn is the shell in behind the human figure.
The phonograph was invented in 1877 by Thomas Edison. While other inventors had produced devices that could record sounds, Edison's phonograph was the first to be able to reproduce the recorded sound. His phonograph originally recorded sound onto a tinfoil sheet phonograph cylinder, and could both record and reproduce sounds. 

Edison conceived the principle of recording and reproducing sound between May and July 1877 as a byproduct of his efforts to "play back" recorded telegraph messages and to automate speech sounds for transmission by telephone. He announced his invention of the first phonograph, a device for recording and replaying sound, on November 21, 1877 (early reports appear in Scientific American and several newspapers in the beginning of November, and an even earlier announcement of Edison working on a 'talking-machine' can be found in the Chicago Daily Tribune on May 9), and he demonstrated the device for the first time on November 29 . "In December, 1877, a young man came into the office of the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, and placed before the editors a small, simple machine about which very few preliminary remarks were offered. The visitor without any ceremony whatever turned the crank, and to the astonishment of all present the machine said : " Good morning. How do you do? How do you like the phonograph?" The machine thus spoke for itself, and made known the fact that it was the phonograph..."

The music critic Herman Klein attended an early demonstration (1881-2) of a similar machine. On the early phonograph's reproductive capabilities he writes "It sounded to my ear like someone singing about half a mile away, or talking at the other end of a big hall; but the effect was rather pleasant, save for a peculiar nasal quality wholly due to the mechanism, though there was little of the scratching which later was a prominent feature of the flat disc. Recording for that primitive machine was a comparatively simple matter. I had to keep my mouth about six inches away from the horn and remember not to make my voice too loud if I wanted anything approximating to a clear reproduction; that was all. When it was played over to me and I heard my own voice for the first time, one or two friends who were present said that it sounded rather like mine; others declared that they would never have recognised it. I daresay both opinions were correct."

Thursday, 28 November 2013

How the Pacific Ocean got its name.

Ferdinand Magellan ( c. 1480 – 27 April 1521) was a Portuguese explorer who became known for having organised the expedition that resulted in the first circumnavigation of the Earth completed by Juan Sebastián Elcano. He was born in a still disputed location in northern Portugal, and served King Charles I of Spain in search of a westward route to the "Spice Islands" (modern Maluku Islands in Indonesia).

Magellan's expedition of 1519–1522 became the first expedition to sail from the Atlantic Ocean into the Pacific Ocean (then named "peaceful sea" by Magellan; the passage being made via the Strait of Magellan), and the first to cross the Pacific. His expedition completed the first circumnavigation of the Earth. Magellan did not complete the entire voyage, as he was killed during the Battle of Mactan in the Philippines. (For background see Exploration of the Pacific.)

At 52°S latitude on 21 October 1520, his ships began an arduous trip through the 373-mile (600 km) long passage that Magellan called the Estrecho (Canal) de Todos los Santos, ("All Saints' Channel"), because the fleet travelled through it on 1 November or All Saints' Day. The strait is now named the Strait of Magellan. He first assigned Concepcion and San Antonio to explore the strait, but the latter deserted and returned to Spain on 20 November. On 28 November, the three remaining ships entered the South Pacific. Magellan named the waters the Mar Pacifico (Pacific Ocean) because of its apparent stillness. Magellan and his crew were the first Europeans to reach Tierra del Fuego just east of the Pacific side of the strait.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

all were granted remission of their death sentences........ with the exceptions of Pratt and Smith.

James Pratt (1805–1835) also known as John Pratt, and John Smith (1795-1835) were two London men who became the last two to be hanged for sodomy in England, in November 1835. Pratt and Smith were arrested in August of that year after being observed having sex in the room of another man, William Bonill.

William Bonill, aged 68, had lived for 13 months in a rented room at a house near the Blackfriars Road, Southwark, London. His landlord later stated that Bonill had frequent male visitors, who generally came in pairs, and that his suspicions became aroused on the afternoon of 29 August 1835, when Pratt and Smith came to visit Bonill. The landlord climbed to an outside vantage point in the loft of a nearby stable building, where he could see through the window of Bonill's room, before coming down to look into the room through the keyhole. Both the landlord and his wife saw through the keyhole sexual intimacy between Pratt and Smith; he then broke open the door to confront them. Bonill was absent, but returned a few minutes later with a jug of ale. The landlord went to fetch a policeman and all three men were arrested.

Pratt, Smith and Bonill were tried on 26 September 1835 at the Central Criminal Court, before Baron Gurney, a judge who had the reputation of being independent and acute, but also harsh. Pratt and Smith were convicted under section 15 of the Offences against the Person Act 1828, which had replaced the 1533 Buggery Act, and were sentenced to death. William Bonill was convicted as an accessory and sentenced to 14 years of Penal transportation. James Pratt was a groom, who lived with his wife and children at Deptford, London. A number of witnesses came forward to testify to his good character. John Smith was from Southwark Christchurch and was described in court proceedings and newspaper reports as an unmarried labourer although other sources state he was married and worked as a servant. At the trial, no character witnesses came forward to testify on his behalf.

Seventeen individuals were sentenced to death at the September and October sessions of the Central Criminal Court for offenses that included burglary, robbery and attempted murder. On 21 November, all were granted remission of their death sentences under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy with the exceptions of Pratt and Smith. This was despite an appeal for mercy submitted by the men's wives that was heard by the Privy Council.

Pratt and Smith were hanged in front of Newgate Prison on the morning of 27 November, in front of a crowd that was larger than usual. The size of the crowd was possibly because this was the first execution to have taken place at Newgate in nearly two years.  The event was sufficiently notable for a printed broadside to be published and sold. This described the men's trial and execution and included the purported text of a final letter that was claimed to have been written by John Smith to a friend.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

"They will suck your energy from you - the energy you call money and will put it to evil ends and give you worthless dross in return."

Vrillon, a purported representative of the Ashtar Galactic Command, was the name used by an unidentified voice who broadcast on the Hannington transmitter of Southern Television in the United Kingdom for six minutes at 5:10 PM on Saturday November 26, 1977. The voice, which was disguised and accompanied by a deep buzzing, broke into a broadcast by Independent Television News to warn viewers of "the destiny of your race" and "so that you may communicate to your fellow beings the course you must take to avoid a disaster which threatens your world and the beings on other worlds around you".

As the broadcast did not affect the video signal, it was difficult to detect its source, and the transmission disappeared at the end of what sounded like a prepared statement. Most observers have concluded that the broadcast was a hoax, achieved by directing a powerful signal at the Hannington UHF transmitter.

At the end of what engineers later described as a "rogue transmission", as the signal faded back, various random sound clips are heard (which are most likely picked up from other channels), such as the Looney Tunes cartoon theme song and the Art Davis cartoon "The Goofy Gophers". In addition, other music can be heard along with what sounds like an explosion and various weird noises. 

The broadcast is presently a footnote in ufology and does not represent a particularly significant development in pirate television broadcasting, supplanted largely by the boom around 1984.

Monday, 25 November 2013

"It makes me furious when I see the Mosquito. I turn green and yellow with envy."

The de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito was a British multi-role combat aircraft with a two-man crew that served during the Second World War and the postwar era. The Mosquito was one of the few operational front-line aircraft of the World War II era to be constructed almost entirely of wood and, as such, was nicknamed "The Wooden Wonder".  The Mosquito was also known affectionately as the "Mossie" to its crews. Originally conceived as an unarmed fast bomber, the Mosquito was adapted to many other roles during the air war, including low- to medium-altitude daytime tactical bomber, high-altitude night bomber, pathfinder, day or night fighter, fighter-bomber, intruder, maritime strike aircraft, and fast photo-reconnaissance aircraft. It was also used by the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) as a transport.

When the Mosquito entered production in 1941, it was one of the fastest operational aircraft in the world. Entering widespread service in 1942, the Mosquito first operated as a high-speed, high-altitude photo-reconnaissance aircraft, and continued to operate in this role throughout the war. From mid-1942 to mid-1943 Mosquito bombers were used in high-speed, medium- or low-altitude missions, attacking factories, railways and other pinpoint targets within Germany and German-occupied Europe. From late 1943, Mosquito bomber units were formed into the Light Night Strike Force and used as pathfinders for RAF Bomber Command's heavy-bomber raids. They were also used as "nuisance" bombers, often dropping 4,000 lb (1,812 kg) "cookies", in high-altitude, high-speed raids that German night fighters were almost powerless to intercept.

As a night fighter, from mid-1942, the Mosquito was used to intercept Luftwaffe raids on the United Kingdom, most notably defeating the German aerial offensive, Operation Steinbock, in 1944. Offensively, starting in July 1942, some Mosquito night-fighter units conducted intruder raids over Luftwaffe airfields and, as part of 100 Group, the Mosquito was used as a night fighter and intruder in support of RAF Bomber Command's heavy bombers, and played an important role in reducing bomber losses during 1944 and 1945. As a fighter-bomber in the Second Tactical Air Force, the Mosquito took part in "special raids", such as the attack on Amiens Prison in early 1944, and in other precision attacks against Gestapo or German intelligence and security forces. Second Tactical Air Force Mosquitos also played an important role operating in tactical support of the British Army during the 1944 Normandy Campaign. From 1943 Mosquitos were used by RAF Coastal Command strike squadrons, attacking Kriegsmarine U-boats (particularly in the 1943 Bay of Biscay offensive, where significant numbers of U-boats were sunk or damaged) and intercepting transport ship concentrations.

The Mosquito saw service with the Royal Air Force (RAF) and many other air forces in the European theatre, and the Mediterranean and Italian theatres. The Mosquito was also used by the RAF in the South East Asian theatre, and by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) based in the Halmaheras and Borneo during the Pacific War.

In one example of the daylight precision raids carried out by the Mosquito, on 20 January 1943, the 10th anniversary of the Nazis' seizure of power, a Mosquito attack knocked out the main Berlin broadcasting station while Commander in Chief Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring was speaking, putting his speech off air. Göring himself had strong views about the Mosquito, lecturing a group of German aircraft manufacturers in 1943 that:
In 1940 I could at least fly as far as Glasgow in most of my aircraft, but not now! It makes me furious when I see the Mosquito. I turn green and yellow with envy. The British, who can afford aluminium better than we can, knock together a beautiful wooden aircraft that every piano factory over there is building, and they give it a speed which they have now increased yet again. What do you make of that? There is nothing the British do not have. They have the geniuses and we have the nincompoops. After the war is over I'm going to buy a British radio set - then at least I'll own something that has always worked. 

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Big Drop

Mont Granier is a limestone mountain located between the départements of Savoie and Isère in France. It lies in the Chartreuse Mountains range between the towns of Chapareillan and Entremont-le-Vieux. It has an elevation of 1,933 metres above sea level. Its east face overlooks the valley of Grésivaudan and Combe de Savoie, and the north face overlooks Chambéry. At 900 meters, Mont Granier is one of the highest cliffs in France.

In the year 1248, between November 24–25, a mass of limestone resting on marls slid into the valley, causing a massive landslide that destroyed many villages and caused over a thousand casualties, although the numbers are still debated. This event created the sheer 700 m north face of the mountain.

Five villages were completely destroyed by the avalanche and a further two partially destroyed.

It is a popular spot for hiking, caving, rock climbing, and BASE jumping. The mountain contains the cave system la Systeme de Granier, which is over 55 kilometres (34 mi) long, and 564 metres (1,850 ft) deep.

On November 13, 1988, cavers Pierre Guichebaron and Marc Papet discovered an extension to the Balme Collomb cave on the west side of the mountain at an altitude of 5,577 feet (1,700 meters) that contained the skeletons of over 1,000 cave bears that date between 24,000 and 45,000 years.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

The First Actor

Thespis of Icaria (present-day Dionysos, Greece), according to certain Ancient Greek sources and especially Aristotle, was the first person ever to appear on stage as an actor playing a character in a play (instead of speaking as him or herself). In other sources, he is said to have introduced the first principal actor in addition to the chorus.

Thespis was a singer of dithyrambs (songs about stories from mythology with choric refrains). He is credited with introducing a new style in which one singer or actor performed the words of individual characters in the stories, distinguishing between the characters with the aid of different masks.

This new style was called tragedy, and Thespis was the most popular exponent of it. Eventually, on November 23, 534 BC, competitions to find the best tragedy were instituted at the City Dionysia in Athens, and Thespis won the first documented competition. Capitalising on his success, Thespis also invented theatrical touring; he would tour various cities while carrying his costumes, masks and other props in a horse-drawn wagon.

It is implied that Thespis invented acting in the Western world, and that prior to his performances, no one had ever assumed the resemblance of another person for the purpose of storytelling. In fact, Thespis is the first known actor in written plays. He may thus have had a substantial role in changing the way stories were told and inventing theater as we know it today. In reverence to Thespis, actors in the English-speaking part of the world have been referred to as thespians.


A branch of the National Theater of Greece expressly instituted in 1939 to tour the country is named "The Wagon of Thespis"  in his honour.

Friday, 22 November 2013

"Produit en Bretagne"

The Battle of Ballon took place on 22 November 845 between the forces of Charles the Bald, king of West Francia, and Nominoë Duke of Brittany. Nominoë was appropriating border territory and opposing Charles' attempt to impose Frankish authority. Nominoë defeated Charles, initiating a period of Breton expansion and consolidation of power.

Following his defeat, rumors circulated that Charles had been killed, forcing him to make a quick public appearance in Maine. While there he rebuilt his army, and headed back towards Brittany late in 846. There he concluded a treaty with Nominoë, though the exact content of the agreement is unknown. Despite this a "cold war" persisted, and Breton raids continued into Frankish territory at Christmas of that year. Nevertheless the agreement remained unbroken until 849.

This relatively minor battle is often confused with the much more decisive Battle of Jengland won by Nominoë's son Erispoe against Charles in 851. This confusion dates to Arthur de la Borderie's 1894 History of Brittany and has been repeated many times since. However, it is to the battle of Ballon that some date the birth of a unified and independent Brittany, behind a single sovereign: Nominoë. The expansionist policy of Nominoë, by the conquest of the former Marches of Brittany, a Frankish buffer zone, was continued by Erispoe, who consolidated the borders of medieval Brittany.


In the twentieth century the battle was given emblematic status by Breton nationalists. In 1952 the battle was commemorated by the nationalist group Koun Breizh, who funded the erection of a statue of Nominoë by the artist Raffig Tullou in Bains-sur-Oust, near the site of the victory. Another nationalist group, Bretagne 845, founded in 1982, was named from the date of the battle. It merged with Koun Breizh in 1994

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The energy of a body at rest (E) equals its mass (m) times the speed of light (c) squared

Albert Einstein in 1905
The Annus mirabilis papers (from Latin annus mīrābilis, "extraordinary year") are the papers of Albert Einstein published in the Annalen der Physik scientific journal in 1905. These four articles contributed substantially to the foundation of modern physics and changed views on space, time, mass, and energy. 

At the time the papers were written, Einstein did not have easy access to a complete set of scientific reference materials, although he did regularly read and contribute reviews to Annalen der Physik. 

On November 21 Annalen der Physik published a fourth paper (received September 27), "Ist die Trägheit eines Körpers von seinem Energieinhalt abhängig?" ("Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content?"),[einstein 4] in which Einstein developed an argument for arguably the most famous equation in the field of physics: 


Einstein considered the equivalency equation to be of paramount importance because it showed that a massive particle possesses an energy, the "rest energy", distinct from its classical kinetic and potential energies.

The equation sets forth that energy of a body at rest (E) equals its mass (m) times the speed of light (c) squared, or E = mc2.

Einstein was not the first to propose a mass–energy relationship. However, Einstein was the first scientist to propose the formula and the first to interpret mass–energy equivalence as a fundamental principle that follows from the relativistic symmetries of space and time.


Wednesday, 20 November 2013

"Go in there aggressively, close with the enemy and wipe them out for good"

The My Lai Massacre was the Vietnam War mass murder of between 347 and 504 unarmed civilians in South Vietnam on March 16, 1968. It was committed by the U.S. Army soldiers from the Company C of the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade of the 23rd (Americal) Infantry Division. Victims included women, men, children, and infants. Some of the women were gang-raped and their bodies mutilated. Twenty six soldiers were charged with criminal offenses, but only Second Lieutenant William Calley Jr., a platoon leader in C Company, was convicted. Found guilty of killing 22 villagers, he was originally given a life sentence, but served only three and a half years under house arrest.

The massacre, which was later called "the most shocking episode of the Vietnam War", took place in two hamlets of Son My village in Sơn Tịnh District of Quảng Ngãi Province on the South Central Coast of the South China Sea, 100 miles south of Da Nang and several miles north of Quảng Ngãi city east of Highway 1. These hamlets were marked on the U.S. Army topographic maps as My Lai  and My Khe. The U.S. military codeword for the alleged Viet Cong stronghold in that area was Pinkville, and the carnage became known as the Pinkville Massacre first. Next, when the U.S. Army started its investigation, the media changed it to the Massacre at Songmy. Currently, the event is referred to as the My Lai Massacre in America and called the Son My Massacre in Vietnam.

The incident prompted global outrage when it became public knowledge in November 1969. The My Lai massacre increased to some extent domestic opposition to the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War when the scope of killing and cover-up attempts were exposed. Initially, three U.S. servicemen who had tried to halt the massacre and rescue the hiding civilians were shunned, and even denounced as traitors by several U.S. Congressmen, including Mendel Rivers, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Only thirty years later they were recognized and decorated, one posthumously, by the U.S. Army for shielding noncombatants from harm in a war zone.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Playmates on the Moon!

Apollo 12 was the sixth manned flight in the United States Apollo program and the second to land on the Moon (an H type mission). It was launched on November 14, 1969 from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, four months after Apollo 11. Mission commander Charles "Pete" Conrad and Lunar Module Pilot Alan L. Bean performed just over one day and seven hours of lunar surface activity while Command Module Pilot Richard F. Gordon remained in lunar orbit. The landing site for the mission was located in the southeastern portion of the Ocean of Storms.

Unlike the first landing on Apollo 11, Conrad and Bean achieved a precise landing at their expected location, the site of the Surveyor 3 unmanned probe, which had landed on April 20, 1967. They carried the first color television camera to the lunar surface on an Apollo flight, but transmission was lost after Bean accidentally destroyed the camera by pointing it at the Sun. On one of two moonwalks, they visited the Surveyor, and removed some parts for return to Earth. The mission ended on November 24 with a successful splashdown.

As one of the many pranks pulled during the friendly rivalry between the all-Navy prime crew and the all-Air Force backup crew, the Apollo 12 backup crew managed to insert into the astronauts' lunar checklist (attached to the wrists of Conrad's and Bean's space suits) reduced-sized pictures of Playboy Playmates, surprising Conrad and Bean when they looked through the checklist flip-book during their first EVA. The Apollo Lunar Surface Journal website contains a PDF file with the photocopies of their cuff checklists showing these photos. Appearing in Conrad's checklist were Angela Dorian, Miss September 1967 (with the caption "SEEN ANY INTERESTING HILLS & VALLEYS ?") and Reagan Wilson, Miss October 1967 ("PREFERRED TETHER PARTNER," referring to a special procedure that would require the sharing of life support resources). The photos in Bean's cuff checklist were of Cynthia Myers, Miss December 1968 ("DON'T FORGET - DESCRIBE THE PROTUBERANCES") and Leslie Bianchini, Miss January 1969 ("SURVEY - HER ACTIVITY," in pun of Surveyor). The backup crew who did this later flew to the Moon themselves on Apollo 15. At the back of Conrad's checklist they had also prepared two pages of complex geological terminology, added as a joke to give him the option to sound to Mission Control like he was as skilled as a professional career geologist.

Monday, 18 November 2013

The most prestigious award

The Nobel Prize (Swedish pronunciation: [noˈbɛl], Swedish definite form, singular: Nobelpriset; Norwegian: Nobelprisen) is a set of annual international awards bestowed in a number of categories by Swedish and Norwegian committees in recognition of cultural and/or scientific advances. The will of the Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel established the prizes in 1895. The prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, and Peace were first awarded in 1901. The related Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences was created in 1968. Between 1901 and 2012, the Nobel Prizes and the Prize in Economic Sciences were awarded 555 times to 856 people and organizations. With some receiving the Nobel Prize more than once, this makes a total of 835 individuals and 21 organizations.

The Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway, while the other prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden. The Nobel Prize is widely regarded as the most prestigious award available in the fields of literature, medicine, physics, chemistry, peace, and economics.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awards the Nobel Prize in Physics, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences; the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet awards the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine; the Swedish Academy grants the Nobel Prize in Literature; and the Nobel Peace Prize is not awarded by a Swedish organisation but by the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
The various prizes are awarded yearly. Each recipient, or laureate, receives a gold medal, a diploma and a sum of money, which is decided by the Nobel Foundation. As of 2012, each prize was worth 8 million SEK (c. US$1.2 million, €0.93 million). The prize is not awarded posthumously; however, if a person is awarded a prize and dies before receiving it, the prize may still be presented. Though the average number of laureates per prize increased substantially during the 20th century, a prize may not be shared among more than three people.

George Bernard Shaw is the only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize in Literature (1925) and an Oscar (1938), for his contributions to literature and for his work on the film Pygmalion (adaptation of his play of the same name), respectively. Shaw wanted to refuse his Nobel Prize outright because he had no desire for public honours, but accepted it at his wife's behest: she considered it a tribute to Ireland. He did reject the monetary award, requesting it be used to finance translation of fellow playwright August Strindberg's works from Swedish to English.

An actor's work and his or her identity are inseparable."

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) was an American labor union representing over 105,000 film and television principal and background performers worldwide.

In October 1947, a list of suspected communists working in the Hollywood film industry were summoned to appear before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), which was investigating Communist influence in the Hollywood labor unions. Ten of those summoned, dubbed the "Hollywood Ten", refused to cooperate and were charged with contempt of Congress and sentenced to prison. Several liberal members of SAG, led by Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Danny Kaye, and Gene Kelly formed the Committee for the First Amendment (CFA) and flew to Washington, DC, in late October 1947 to show support for the Hollywood Ten.

The president of SAG – future United States President Ronald Reagan – also known to the FBI as Confidential Informant "T-10", testified before the committee but never publicly named names. Instead, according to an FBI memorandum in 1947: "T-10 advised Special Agent [name deleted] that he has been made a member of a committee headed by Mayer, the purpose of which is allegedly is to 'purge' the motion-picture industry of Communist party members, which committee was an outgrowth of the Thomas committee hearings in Washington and subsequent meetings . . . He felt that lacking a definite stand on the part of the government, it would be very difficult for any committee of motion-picture people to conduct any type of cleansing of their own household". Subsequently a climate of fear, enhanced by the threat of detention under the provisions of the McCarran Internal Security Act, permeated the film industry. On November 17, 1947, the Screen Actors Guild voted to force its officers to take a "non-communist" pledge.

On November 25 (the day after the full House approved the ten citations for contempt) in what has become known as the Waldorf Statement, Eric Johnston, president of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), issued a press release: "We will not knowingly employ a Communist or a member of any party or group which advocates the overthrow of the government of the United States by force or by any illegal or unconstitutional methods."

None of those blacklisted were proven to advocate overthrowing the government – most simply had Marxist or socialist views. The Waldorf Statement marked the beginning of the Hollywood blacklist that saw hundreds of people prevented from working in the film industry. During the height of what is now referred to as McCarthyism, the Screen Writers Guild gave the studios the right to omit from the screen the name of any individual who had failed to clear his name before Congress. At a 1997 ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the Blacklist, the Guild's president made this statement:

"Only our sister union, Actors Equity Association, had the courage to stand behind its members and help them continue their creative lives in the theater. ... Unfortunately, there are no credits to restore, nor any other belated recognition that we can offer our members who were blacklisted. They could not work under assumed names or employ surrogates to front for them. An actor's work and his or her identity are inseparable."

Saturday, 16 November 2013

"One of the most important things in my life."

Lysergic acid diethylamide, abbreviated LSD or LSD-25, also known as lysergide (INN) and colloquially as acid, is a semisynthetic psychedelic drug of the ergoline family, well known for its psychological effects which can include altered thinking processes, closed- and open-eye visuals, synesthesia, an altered sense of time and spiritual experiences, as well as for its key role in 1960s counterculture. It is used mainly as an entheogen, recreational drug, and as an agent in psychedelic therapy. LSD is non-addictive, is not known to cause brain damage, and has extremely low toxicity relative to dose. However, adverse psychiatric reactions such as anxiety, paranoia, and delusions are possible

LSD was first synthesized on November 16, 1938 by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann at the Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, Switzerland as part of a large research program searching for medically useful ergot alkaloid derivatives. LSD's psychedelic properties were discovered 5 years later when Hofmann himself accidentally ingested an unknown quantity of the chemical. The first intentional ingestion of LSD occurred on April 19, 1943, when Hofmann ingested 250 µg of LSD. He said this would be a threshold dose based on the dosages of other ergot alkaloids. Hofmann found the effects to be much stronger than he anticipated.

Beginning in the 1950s the US Central Intelligence Agency began a research program code named Project MKULTRA. Experiments included administering LSD to CIA employees, military personnel, doctors, other government agents, prostitutes, mentally ill patients, and members of the general public in order to study their reactions, usually without the subject's knowledge. The project was revealed in the US congressional Rockefeller Commission report in 1975.

In 1963 the Sandoz patents expired on LSD. Also in 1963, the US Food and Drug Administration classified LSD as an Investigational New Drug, which meant new restrictions on medical and scientific use.Several figures, including Aldous Huxley, Timothy Leary, and Al Hubbard, began to advocate the consumption of LSD. LSD became central to the counterculture of the 1960s. On October 24, 1968, possession of LSD was made illegal in the United States.. Legally approved and regulated psychiatric use of LSD continued in Switzerland until 1993. Today, medical research is resuming around the world.

Steve Jobs, co-founder and former CEO of Apple Inc., said, "Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life."

Friday, 15 November 2013

92,000 instructions per second

The Intel 4004 ("four-thousand-four") is a 4-bit central processing unit (CPU) released by Intel Corporation in 1971. It was the third complete CPU on one chip (preceded by the MP944 and TMS 1000), and the first commercially available microprocessor. Such a feat of integration was made possible by the use of then-new silicon gate technology allowing a higher number of transistors and a faster speed than was possible before.

The first public mention of 4004 was an advertisement in the November 15, 1971 edition of Electronic News,[2] though unconfirmed reports put the date of first delivery as early as March 1971. Packaged in a 16-pin ceramic dual in-line package, the 4004 was the first commercially available computer processor designed and manufactured by chip maker Intel, which had previously made semiconductor memory chips. The chief designers of the chip were Federico Faggin and Ted Hoff of Intel, and Masatoshi Shima of Busicom.

When asked where he got the ideas for the architecture of the first microprocessor, Hoff related that Plessey, "a British tractor company", had donated a minicomputer to Stanford, and he had "played with it some" while he was there. Shima designed the Busicom calculator firmware and assisted Faggin during the first six months of the implementation. 

The Intel 4004 was designed by physically cutting sheets of Rubylith into thin strips to lay out the circuits to be printed, a process made obsolete by current computer graphic design capabilities.

Numerous versions of the Intel MCS-4 line of processors were produced. The earliest versions were ceramic and used a Zebra pattern of white and gray on the back of the chips. The next generation of the chip was plain white ceramic. Current versions of MCS-4 family are produced with plastic. Collectors of these chips have peaked in recent years due to the significance that is associated with this achievement.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Seventy-two days, six hours, eleven minutes and fourteen seconds

Nellie Bly (May 5, 1864 – January 27, 1922) was the pen name of American journalist Elizabeth Jane Cochrane. She was a ground-breaking reporter known for a record-breaking trip around the world in emulation of Jules Verne's character Phileas Fogg, and an exposé in which she faked insanity to study a mental institution from within. In addition to her writing, she was also an industrialist and charity worker.

In 1888, Bly suggested to her editor at the New York World that she take a trip around the world, attempting to turn the fictional Around the World in Eighty Days into fact for the first time. A year later, at 9:40 a.m. on November 14, 1889, and with two days' notice, she boarded the Augusta Victoria, a steamer of the Hamburg America Line, and began her 24,899-mile journey.

She brought with her the dress she was wearing, a sturdy overcoat, several changes of underwear and a small travel bag carrying her toiletry essentials. She carried most of her money (£200 in English bank notes and gold in total as well as some American currency) in a bag tied around her neck.

The New York newspaper Cosmopolitan sponsored its own reporter, Elizabeth Bisland, to beat the time of both Phileas Fogg and Bly. Bisland would travel the opposite way around the world. To sustain interest in the story, the World organized a “Nellie Bly Guessing Match” in which readers were asked to estimate Bly’s arrival time to the second, with the Grand Prize consisting at first of (only) a free trip to Europe and, later on, spending money for the trip.

On her travels around the world, Bly went through England, France (where she met Jules Verne in Amiens), Brindisi, the Suez Canal, Colombo (Ceylon), the Straits Settlements of Penang and Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan. The development of efficient submarine cable networks and the electric telegraph allowed Bly to send short progress reports, though longer dispatches had to travel by regular post and were thus often delayed by several weeks.

Bly travelled using steamships and the existing railroad systems, which caused occasional setbacks, particularly on the Asian leg of her race. During these stops, she visited a leper colony in China and she bought a monkey in Singapore.

As a result of rough weather on her Pacific crossing, she arrived in San Francisco on the White Star liner Oceanic on January 21, two days behind schedule. However, World owner Pulitzer chartered a private train to bring her home, and she arrived back in New Jersey on January 25, 1890, at 3:51 p.m.

"Seventy-two days, six hours, eleven minutes and fourteen seconds after her Hoboken departure" Bly was back in New York. She had circumnavigated the globe almost unchaperoned. At the time, Bisland was still going around the world.


Wednesday, 13 November 2013

What might have been?

After the Battle of Edgehill (23 October) King Charles captured Banbury (27 October) and was greeted by cheering crowds as he arrived in Oxford on 29 October. Charles' nephew and cavalry commander, Prince Rupert of the Rhine, swept down the Thames Valley, capturing Abingdon, Aylesbury and Maidenhead, from where he attempted to capture Windsor, although he failed in that attempt because of Parliamentary strength there. After this, many officers wanted to open peace negotiations, contrary to Rupert’s desire to carry on to London, but the king agreed with the officers and so the Earl of Essex managed to overtake them and reach London with his Parliamentary army by 8 November.

On the 12 November Rupert with a large cavalry detachment stormed Brentford and then proceeded to sack the town. This action encouraged those Londoners who feared for their property to side with the Parliamentarians. On 13 November Essex's army, with the London trainbands and other London citizenry, assembled as an army of about 24,000 on Chelsea Field. They advanced to Turnham Green in the vicinity of the main body of the Royalist army.

The Royalist army of 7,000-12,000 was short of ammunition and probably too small to attack the 24,000 strong Parliamentarian army. Also the King was advised that to engage such an oddly assorted army containing what was obviously a large contingent of armed civilians (namely the Trained Bands under Philip Skippon), would not endear him to London, and it was too early in the war for the Royalists to contemplate taking London without the support of a sizable part of London's population.

With the end of campaigning season close at hand, Charles decided not to press the issue and withdrew. So after a slight cannonade, the Parliamentarians secured a victory without engaging in the battle, which was fortunate for them, as many of their number had never seen a battle before and were not used to army discipline formations and deployments.

Charles (once more contrary to Rupert's advice) retreated back up the Thames Valley towards Oxford (losing the possible chance for a flanking movement through loyal Kent), where Charles set up his headquarters for the rest of the war. Never again during the Civil War would the Royalists come as close to capturing London and without London they could not win the war.


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Thar she blows!

On November 12, 1970, a 45-foot (14 m) long, 8-short-ton (7,300 kg) sperm whale beached itself at Florence, Oregon, on the central Oregon Coast. All Oregon beaches are under the jurisdiction of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, but in 1970, Oregon beaches were technically classified as state highways, so responsibility for disposing of the carcass fell upon the Oregon Highway Division (now known as the Oregon Department of Transportation, or ODOT). After consulting with officials from the United States Navy, they decided that it would be best to remove the whale the same way as they would to remove a boulder. They thought burying the whale would be ineffective as it would soon be uncovered, and believed dynamite would disintegrate the whale into pieces small enough for scavengers to clear up.

Thus, half a ton of dynamite was applied to the carcass. The engineer in charge of the operation, George Thornton, stated—on camera, in an interview with Portland newsman Paul Linnman—that he wasn't exactly sure how much dynamite would be needed.

Coincidentally, a military veteran from Springfield with explosives training, Walter Umenhofer, was at the scene scoping a potential manufacturing site for his employer. Umenhofer later told The Springfield News reporter Ben Raymond Lode that he had warned Thornton that the amount of dynamite he was using was very wrong—when he first heard that 20 cases were being used he was in disbelief. He had known that 20 cases of dynamite was far too much dynamite to be used. Instead of 20 cases they needed 20 sticks of dynamite. Umenhofer said Thornton was not interested in the advice. In an odd coincidence, Umenhofer's brand-new Oldsmobile was flattened by a chunk of falling blubber after the blast. He told Lode he had just bought the Ninety-Eight Regency at Dunham Oldsmobile in Eugene, during the "Get a Whale of a Deal" promotion.

The resulting explosion was caught on film by cameraman Doug Brazil for a story reported by news reporter Paul Linnman of KATU-TV in Portland, Oregon. In his voice-over, Linnman alliteratively joked that "land-lubber newsmen" became "land-blubber newsmen ... for the blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds." The explosion caused large pieces of blubber to land near buildings and in parking lots some distance away from the beach, one of which caused severe damage to Umenhoefer's parked car. Only some of the whale was disintegrated; most of it remained on the beach for the Oregon Highway Division workers to clear away. In his report, Linnman also noted that scavenger birds, whom it had been hoped would eat the remains of the carcass after the explosion, were all scared away by the noise.

Ending his story, Linnman noted that "It might be concluded that, should a whale ever be washed ashore in Lane County again, those in charge will not only remember what to do, they'll certainly remember what not to do."

Currently, Oregon State Parks Department policy is to bury whale carcasses where they land. If the sand is not deep enough, they are relocated to another beach

Monday, 11 November 2013

"Arise, children of the Fatherland"

The Haymarket affair (also known as the Haymarket massacre or Haymarket riot) refers to the aftermath of a bombing that took place at a labor demonstration on Tuesday May 4, 1886, at Haymarket Square in Chicago. It began as a peaceful rally in support of workers striking for an eight-hour day. An unknown person threw a dynamite bomb at police as they acted to disperse the public meeting. The bomb blast and ensuing gunfire resulted in the deaths of seven police officers and at least four civilians; scores of others were wounded.

In the internationally publicized legal proceedings that followed, eight anarchists were convicted of conspiracy. The evidence was that one of the defendants may have built the bomb, but none of those on trial had thrown it. Seven were sentenced to death and one to a term of 15 years in prison. The death sentences of two of the defendants were commuted by Illinois governor Richard J. Oglesby to terms of life in prison, and another committed suicide in jail rather than face the gallows. 

On 11 November 1887 the other four defendants—Engel, Fischer, Parsons, and Spies—were taken to the gallows in white robes and hoods. They sang the Marseillaise, then the anthem of the international revolutionary movement. Family members including Lucy Parsons, who attempted to see them for the last time, were arrested and searched for bombs (none were found). According to witnesses, in the moments before the men were hanged, Spies shouted, "The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today!" Witnesses reported that the condemned men did not die immediately when they dropped, but strangled to death slowly, a sight which left the spectators visibly shaken.

In 1893, Illinois' new governor John Peter Altgeld pardoned the remaining defendants and criticized the trial.

The Haymarket affair is generally considered significant as the origin of international May Day observances for workers. The site of the incident was designated a Chicago Landmark in 1992, and a public sculpture was dedicated there in 2004. In addition, the Haymarket Martyrs' Monument at the defendants' burial site in nearby Forest Park was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997.


Sunday, 10 November 2013

Death of a Hero

Thaman Gurung VC (2 October 1924 – 10 November 1944) was a Nepalese Gurkha recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.  

He was 20 years old, and a Rifleman in the 1st Battalion, 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles, in the Indian Army during World War II when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.


The citation in the London Gazette reads:
On 10 November 1944 at Monte Pompegno, Italy, Rifleman Thaman Gurung was acting as one of two scouts to a fighting patrol.

By skillful stalking both scouts succeeded in reaching the base of the position undetected. Rifleman Thaman Gurung then started to work his way to the summit; the second scout attracted his attention to Germans in a slit trench just below the crest, who were preparing to fire with a machine gun at the leading section. Realizing that if the enemy succeeded in opening fire, the section would certainly sustain heavy casualties, Rifleman Thaman Gurung leapt to his feet and charged them. Completely taken by surprise, the Germans surrendered without opening fire.

Rifleman Thaman Gurung then crept forward to the summit of the position, from which he saw a party of Germans, well dug in on reverse slopes, preparing to throw grenades over the crest at the leading section. Although the sky-line was devoid of cover and under accurate machine gun fire at close range, Rifleman Thaman Gurung immediately crossed it, firing on the German position with his Tommy gun, thus allowing the forward section to reach the summit, but due to heavy fire from the enemy machine guns, the platoon was ordered to withdraw.

Rifleman Thaman Gurung then again crossed the sky-line alone and although in full view of the enemy and constantly exposed to heavy fire at short range, he methodically put burst after burst of Tommy gun fire into the German slit trenches, until his ammunition ran out. He then threw two grenades he had with him and rejoining his section, collected two more grenades and again doubled over the bullet-swept crest of the hill top and hurled them at the remaining Germans. This diversion enabled both rear sections to withdraw without further loss. Meanwhile, the leading section, which had remained behind to assist the withdrawal of the remainder of the platoon, was still on the summit, so Rifleman Thaman Gurung, shouting to the section to withdraw, seized a Bren gun and a number of magazines. He then, yet again, ran to the top of the hill and, although he well knew that his action meant almost certain death, stood up on the bullet-swept summit, in full view of the enemy, and opened fire at the nearest enemy positions. It was not until he had emptied two complete magazines, and the remaining section was well on its way to safety, that Rifleman Thaman Gurung was killed.

It was undoubtedly due to his superb gallantry that his platoon was able to withdraw from an extremely difficult position without many more casualties than were in fact incurred and that some very valuable information was obtained which resulted in the capture of the feature three days later. The rifleman's bravery cost him his life.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Not just about the music

Rolling Stone is a magazine published every two weeks that focuses on politics and popular culture. In 1967, Rolling Stone was founded in San Francisco, California, by Jann Wenner – who is still the magazine's chief editor – and music critic, Ralph J. Gleason.

To get the magazine off the ground, Wenner borrowed $7,500 from his family members and from the family of his soon-to-be wife, Michell Palmer. The first issue carried a cover date of November 9, 1967 and was in newspaper format with a lead article on the Monterey Pop Festival. Rolling Stone magazine, named after the Muddy Waters song "Rollin' Stone" (1950), was initially identified with and reported on the hippie counterculture of the era. However, the magazine distanced itself from the underground newspapers of the time, such as Berkeley Barb, embracing more traditional journalistic standards and avoiding the radical politics of the underground press. In the very first edition of the magazine, Wenner wrote that Rolling Stone "is not just about the music, but about the things and attitudes that music embraces."

In the 1970s, Rolling Stone began to make a mark for its political coverage, with the likes of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson writing for the magazine's political section. Thompson would first publish his most famous work Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas within the pages of Rolling Stone, where he remained a contributing editor until his death in 2005. In the 1970s, the magazine also helped launch the careers of many prominent authors, including Cameron Crowe, Lester Bangs, Joe Klein, Joe Eszterhas, Patti Smith and P. J. O'Rourke. It was at this point that the magazine ran some of its most famous stories, including that of the Patty Hearst abduction odyssey. One interviewer, speaking for large numbers of his peers, said that he bought his first copy of the magazine upon initial arrival on his college campus, which he described as a "rite of passage".

In recent years, the magazine has resumed its traditional mix of content, including in-depth political stories. It also has expanded content to include coverage of financial and banking issues. As a result, the magazine has seen its circulation increase and its reporters invited as experts to network television programs of note.

Friday, 8 November 2013

"I have seen my death."

Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen ( 27 March 1845 – 10 February 1923) was a German physicist, who, on 8 November 1895, produced and detected electromagnetic radiation in a wavelength range today known as X-rays or Röntgen rays, an achievement that earned him the first Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901. In honour of his accomplishments, in 2004 the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) named element 111, roentgenium, a very radioactive element with multiple unstable isotopes, after him.

During 1895 Röntgen was investigating the external effects from the various types of vacuum tube equipment when an electrical discharge is passed through them.In early November, he was repeating an experiment with one of Lenard's tubes in which a thin aluminium window had been added to permit the cathode rays to exit the tube but a cardboard covering was added to protect the aluminium from damage by the strong electrostatic field that is necessary to produce the cathode rays. He knew the cardboard covering prevented light from escaping, yet Röntgen observed that the invisible cathode rays caused a fluorescent effect on a small cardboard screen painted with barium platinocyanide when it was placed close to the aluminium window. It occurred to Röntgen that the Hittorf-Crookes tube, which had a much thicker glass wall than the Lenard tube, might also cause this fluorescent effect.

In the late afternoon of 8 November 1895, Röntgen determined to test his idea. He carefully constructed a black cardboard covering similar to the one he had used on the Lenard tube. He covered the Hittorf-Crookes tube with the cardboard and attached electrodes to a Ruhmkorff coil to generate an electrostatic charge. Before setting up the barium platinocyanide screen to test his idea, Röntgen darkened the room to test the opacity of his cardboard cover. As he passed the Ruhmkorff coil charge through the tube, he determined that the cover was light-tight and turned to prepare the next step of the experiment. It was at this point that Röntgen noticed a faint shimmering from a bench a few feet away from the tube. To be sure, he tried several more discharges and saw the same shimmering each time. Striking a match, he discovered the shimmering had come from the location of the barium platinocyanide screen he had been intending to use next.

Röntgen speculated that a new kind of ray might be responsible. 8 November was a Friday, so he took advantage of the weekend to repeat his experiments and make his first notes. In the following weeks he ate and slept in his laboratory as he investigated many properties of the new rays he temporarily termed "X-rays", using the mathematical designation for something unknown. The new rays came to bear his name in many languages as "Röntgen Rays" (and the associated X-ray radiograms as "Röntgenograms").
Nearly two weeks after his discovery, he took the very first picture using X-rays of his wife Anna Bertha's hand. When she saw her skeleton she exclaimed "I have seen my death!"

At one point while he was investigating the ability of various materials to stop the rays, Röntgen brought a small piece of lead into position while a discharge was occurring. Röntgen thus saw the first radiographic image, his own flickering ghostly skeleton on the barium platinocyanide screen. He later reported that it was at this point that he determined to continue his experiments in secrecy, because he feared for his professional reputation if his observations were in error.


Röntgen's original paper, "On A New Kind Of Rays" (Über eine neue Art von Strahlen), was published on 28 December 1895. On 5 January 1896, an Austrian newspaper reported Röntgen's discovery of a new type of radiation. Röntgen was awarded an honorary Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Würzburg after his discovery. He published a total of three papers on X-rays between 1895 and 1897. Today, Röntgen is considered the father of diagnostic radiology, the medical speciality which uses imaging to diagnose disease.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

An Omen?

The Ensisheim meteorite is a stony meteorite observed to fall on November 7, 1492 in a wheat field outside of the walled town of Ensisheim in then Alsace, Further Austria (now France).

The fall of the meteorite through the Earth's atmosphere was observed as a fireball for a distance of up to 150 kilometres from where it eventually landed.

Sebastian Brant (1458–1521), satirist and author of "Das Narrenschiff" described the meteorite and its fall in the poem, "Loose Leaves Concerning the Fall of the Meteorite".
Residents of the walled town and nearby farms and villages gathered at the location to raise the meteorite from its impact hole and began removing pieces of the meteorite.

A local magistrate interfered with the destruction of the stone, in order to preserve the object for King Maximilian, the son of reigning Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick III. A piece of the meteorite was sent to Cardinal Piccolomini (later Pope Pius III) at the Vatican along with a number of related verses written by Brant.

Brant created broadsheets in Latin and German with a poem about the meteorite describing it as an omen. The fall is also described in Folio 257 of the Nuremberg Chronicle. German painter and mathematician Albrecht Dürer sketched his observations of the fall of the meteorite.


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

The King is Dead

The Battle of Lützen (1632) was one of the most decisive battles of the Thirty Years' War. It was a Protestant victory, but cost the life of one of the most important leaders of the Protestant alliance, Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, which caused the Protestant campaign to lose direction.

Initially, the battle went well for the Protestants, who managed to outflank Wallenstein's weak left wing. After a while, Pappenheim arrived with 2,000–3,000 cavalry and halted the Swedish assault.  However, during the charge, Pappenheim was fatally wounded by a small-calibre Swedish cannonball. At the same time, Pappenheim's counterattack collapsed. He died later in the day while being evacuated from the field in a coach.

Gustavus Adolphus was himself killed while leading a cavalry charge. In the thick mix of gun smoke and fog covering the field, he was separated from his fellow riders and killed by several shots. His fate remained unknown for some time. However, when the gunnery paused and the smoke cleared, his horse was spotted between the two lines, Gustavus himself not on it and nowhere to be seen. His disappearance stopped the initiative of the hitherto successful Swedish right wing, while a search was conducted. His partly stripped body was found an hour or two later, and was secretly evacuated from the field in a Swedish artillery wagon.

Strategically and tactically speaking, the Battle of Lützen was a Protestant victory. Having been forced to assault an entrenched position, Sweden lost about 6,000 men including badly wounded and deserters, many of whom may have drifted back to the ranks in the following weeks. The Imperial army probably lost slightly fewer men than the Swedes on the field, but because of the loss of the battlefield and general theatre of operations to the Swedes, fewer of the wounded and stragglers were able to rejoin the ranks.

The Swedish army achieved the main goals of its campaign. The Imperial onslaught on Saxony was halted, Wallenstein chose to withdraw from Saxony into Bohemia for the winter, and Saxony continued in its alliance with the Swedes. A more long-lasting consequence of the battle was the death of the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus, leader of the Protestant forces. Without him to unify the German Protestants, their war effort lost direction. As a result the Catholic Habsburgs were able to restore their balance and subsequently regain some of the losses Gustavus Adolphus had inflicted on them.

Crucially, Gustavus Adolphus's death enabled the French to gain much firmer control of the anti-Habsburg alliance. Sweden's new regency was forced to accept a far less dominant role than they had held before the battle. The war was eventually concluded at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.

Near the spot where Gustavus Adolphus fell, a granite boulder was placed in position on the day after the battle. A canopy of cast iron was erected over this “Swedes' stone” (German: Schwedenstein) in 1832, and close by, a chapel, was dedicated on 6 November 1907.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Ace of Spies Trumped

Lieutenant Sidney George Reilly, MC (c. 24 March 1873 – 5 November 1925), famously known as the Ace of Spies, was a Jewish Russian-born adventurer and secret agent employed by Scotland Yard, the British Secret Service Bureau and later the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS).He is alleged to have spied for at least four nations. His notoriety during the 1920s was created in part by his friend, British diplomat and journalist Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart, who publicized their thwarted operation to overthrow the Bolshevik regime in 1918.

Throughout his life, Sidney Reilly maintained a close yet tempestuous relationship with the British intelligence community. In 1896, Reilly was recruited by Superintendent William Melville for the émigré intelligence network of Scotland Yard's Special Branch. Through his close relationship with Melville, Reilly would be employed as a secret agent for the Secret Service Bureau, which the War Office created in October 1909.

In 1918, Reilly began to work for MI1(c), an early designation for the British Secret Intelligence Service, under Sir Mansfield Smith-Cumming. Reilly was allegedly trained by the latter organization and sent to Moscow in March 1918 to assassinate Vladimir Ilyich Lenin or attempt to overthrow the Bolsheviks. He had to escape after the Cheka unravelled the so-called Lockhart Plot against the Bolshevik government. Reilly told various tales about his espionage deeds and adventurous exploits. 

n September 1925, undercover agents of the OGPU, the intelligence successor of the Cheka, lured Reilly to Bolshevik Russia, ostensibly to meet the supposed anti-Communist organization The Trust—in reality, an OGPU deception existing under the code name Operation Trust. At the Russian border, Reilly was introduced to undercover OGPU agents posing as senior Trust representatives from Moscow. fter Reilly crossed the Finnish border, the Soviets captured, transported, and interrogated him at Lubyanka Prison. On arrival, Reilly was taken to the office of Roman Pilar, a Soviet official who the previous year had arrested and ordered the execution of Boris Savinkov, a close friend of Reilly. Pilar reminded Reilly that he had been sentenced to death by a 1918 Soviet tribunal for his participation in a counter-revolutionary plot against the Bolshevik government. While Reilly was being interrogated, the Soviets publicly claimed that he had been shot trying to cross the Finnish border. 

According to British intelligence documents released in 2000, Reilly was executed in a forest near Moscow on Wednesday November 5, 1925. According to eyewitness Boris Gudz, the execution of Sidney Reilly was supervised by an OGPU officer, Grigory Feduleev; another OGPU officer, George Syroezhkin, fired the final shot into Reilly's chest. Gudz also confirmed that the order to kill Reilly came from Stalin directly. After Reilly's death there were various rumors about his survival. Some, for example, speculated that Reilly had defected and became an adviser to Soviet intelligence.

In 1983, a television mini-series, Reilly: Ace of Spies, dramatised the historical adventures of Reilly. In Ian Fleming, The Man Behind James Bond by Andrew Lycett, Sidney Reilly is listed as an inspiration for James Bond. Reilly's friend, former diplomat and journalist Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart, was a close acquaintance of Ian Fleming for many years and recounted to Fleming many of Reilly's espionage adventures

Monday, 4 November 2013

Opened by the Prince of Wales.

The City and South London Railway (C&SLR) was the first deep-level underground "tube" railway in the world, and the first major railway to use electric traction. The railway was originally intended for cable-hauled trains, but owing to the bankruptcy of the cable contractor during construction, a system of electric traction using electric locomotives; an experimental technology at the time; was chosen instead.

When opened in 1890, the line had six stations and ran for 3.2 miles (5.1 km) in a pair of tunnels between the City of London and Stockwell, passing under the River Thames. The diameter of the tunnels restricted the size of the trains, and the small carriages with their high-backed seating were nicknamed padded cells. The railway was extended several times north and south, eventually serving 22 stations over a distance of 13.5 miles (21.7 km) from Camden Town in north London to Morden in Surrey.

Although the C&SLR was well used, low ticket prices and the construction cost of the extensions placed a strain on the company's finances. In 1913, the C&SLR became part of the Underground Group of railways and, in the 1920s, it underwent major reconstruction works before its merger with another of the Group's railways, the Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway, forming a single London Underground line called the Northern Line. In 1933, the C&SLR and the rest of the Underground Group was taken into public ownership. Today, its tunnels and stations form the Bank branch from Camden Town to Kennington and the southern leg of the line from Kennington to Morden.

The railway was opened officially by Edward, Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) on 4 November 1890.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

“Woman are born free and remains equal to man in rights. Social distinctions may only be based on common utility”.

Olympe de Gouges (; 7 May 1748 – 3 November 1793), born Marie Gouze, was a French playwright and political activist whose feminist and abolitionist writings reached a large audience.

She began her career as a playwright in the early 1780s. As political tension rose in France, de Gouges became increasingly politically involved. She became an outspoken advocate for improving the condition of slaves in the colonies as of 1788. At the same time, she began writing political pamphlets. Today she is perhaps best known as an early feminist who demanded that French women be given the same rights as French men. In her Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen (1791), she challenged the practice of male authority and the notion of male–female inequality.

Olympe de Gouges wrote her famous Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen shortly after the French constitution of 1791 was created in the same year. She was alarmed that the constitution, which was to promote equal suffrage, did not address—nor even consider—women’s suffrage. The Constitution gave that right only to men. It also did not address key issues such as legal equality in marriage, the right of a woman to divorce her spouse if he abused her, or a woman’s right to property and custody of the children. So she created a document that was to be, in her opinion, the missing part of the Constitution of 1791, in which women would be given the equal rights they deserve. Throughout the document, it is apparent to the reader that Gouges had been influenced by the philosophy of the Enlightenment, whose thinkers, using "scientific reasoning", critically examined and criticized the traditional morals and institutions of the day.

She was executed by guillotine during the Reign of Terror for attacking the regime of the Revolutionary government and for her close relation with the Girondists.

On 6 March 2004, the junction of the Rues Béranger, Charlot, Turenne and Franche-Comté in Paris was proclaimed the Place Olympe de Gouges. The square was inaugurated by the mayor of the Third Arrondissement, Pierre Aidenbaum, along with the first deputy mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo. The actress Véronique Genest read an excerpt from the Declaration of the Rights of Woman.

2007 French presidential contender Ségolène Royal has expressed the wish that the remains of de Gouges be moved to the Panthéon. However, her remains—as those of the other victims of the Reign of Terror—have been lost through burial in communal graves, so any reburial (like that of Condorcet) would be ceremonial.





Saturday, 2 November 2013

The largest wingspan of any aircraft in history.

The Hughes H-4 Hercules (also known as the "Spruce Goose"; registration NX37602) is a prototype heavy transport aircraft designed and built by the Hughes Aircraft company. The aircraft made its only flight on November 2, 1947, and the project never advanced beyond the single example produced. Built from wood because of wartime restrictions on the use of aluminum and concerns about weight, its critics nicknamed it the "Spruce Goose", despite it being made almost entirely of birch rather than spruce. The Hercules is the largest flying boat ever built and has the largest wingspan of any aircraft in history.

In 1942 the U.S. War Department faced the need to transport war materiel and personnel to Britain. Allied shipping in the Atlantic Ocean was suffering heavy losses to German U-boats, so a requirement was issued for an aircraft that could cross the Atlantic with a large payload. Due to wartime priorities the design was further constrained in that the aircraft could not be made of metal.

The aircraft was the brainchild of Henry J. Kaiser, a leading Liberty ship builder. He teamed with aircraft designer Howard Hughes to create what would become the largest aircraft built at that time. It was designed to be capable of carrying 750 fully equipped troops or one M4 Sherman tank.

n 1980, the Hercules was acquired by the Aero Club of Southern California, which put the aircraft on display in a large dome adjacent to the Queen Mary exhibit in Long Beach, California. In 1988, The Walt Disney Company acquired both attractions and the associated real estate. Disney informed the Aero Club of Southern California that it no longer wished to display the Hercules after its highly ambitious Port Disney was scrapped. After a long search for a suitable host, the Aero Club of Southern California sold the Hughes flying boat to Evergreen Aviation Museum. 

By the mid-1990s, the former Hughes Aircraft hangars at Hughes Airport, including the one that held the Hercules, were converted into sound stages. Scenes from movies such as Titanic, What Women Want and End of Days have been filmed in the 315,000 square foot (29,000 m²) aircraft hangar where Howard Hughes created the flying boat.