Construction of St. Peter's Basilica Begins (1506)

With a capacity of over 60,000 people, St. Peter’s Basilica is the one of the world’s largest churches as well as one of the world’s holiest Catholic sites. Begun by Pope Julius II in 1506 and completed more than a century later, it was built to replace Old St. Peter’s, erected by Constantine over Peter’s traditional burial site. Michelangelo and Bernini were among its many architects, and a number of their masterpieces adorn its interior. Why is St. Peter’s not considered a cathedral? Discuss

Clarence Darrow (1857)

Darrow was an American lawyer and a leading member of the American Civil Liberties Union. He worked to free anarchists charged with murder in the Haymarket Riot, and his defense of Eugene V. Debs established his reputation as a union lawyer. Later came sensational criminal cases that displayed his eminence as a defense lawyer, especially the Loeb-Leopold murder case. Perhaps his most famous case was the Scopes trial, in which he defended a high school teacher who was charged with what? Discuss

The Sword of Gou Jian

In 1965, archeologists excavating ancient tombs in Hubei, China, discovered a bronze sword sheathed tightly in a wooden scabbard. The weapon had been in a wet, underground tomb for over 2,000 years, yet the blade remained untarnished and sharp. Scientists, amazed by the sword’s resilience, tested it to determine its chemical composition and found it to be an alloy of six metals. What does the “text of birds and worms” inscribed on the blade tell historians about the artifact? Discuss

Ill-Fated Apollo 13 Spacecraft Returns to Earth Safely (1970)

Less than a year after the first lunar landing, Apollo 13 departed for the moon. Two days into the mission, an oxygen tank exploded, severely damaging the spacecraft’s electrical system, and the landing had to be aborted. Despite limited power, loss of cabin heat, a shortage of potable water, and the need to improvise a carbon dioxide removal system, the craft returned safely to Earth. The immortal line from the mission—”Houston, we have a problem”—is a misquote. What was actually said? Discuss

John Pierpont Morgan (1837)

The son of a financier, Morgan began his career as an accountant before being named a partner in the firm that became J.P. Morgan and Company. One of the world’s most powerful railroad magnates, he formed a syndicate to supply the US Treasury’s depleted gold reserves and financed the mergers that formed General Electric and US Steel Corporation—the world’s first billion-dollar corporation. In addition to being a noted art collector, Morgan had one of America’s most important collections of what? Discuss

Astrobiology

Astrobiology, also called exobiology, combines aspects of astronomy, biology, and geology in an interdisciplinary study of life in space. According to astrobiologists, the search for extraterrestrial life throughout the universe is governed by 6 basic parameters that determine whether an environment can support life: temperature, pressure, salinity, acidity, water availability, and oxygen content. Which 3 planetary bodies, located within our solar system, are best equipped to sustain life? Discuss