Category Archives: Article of the Day

European Heat Wave of 2003

The 2003 European heat wave was one of the hottest summers on record in Europe. Tens of thousands of people—mostly elderly—died in the extreme weather, with more than 14,000 perishing in France alone. Melting glaciers caused avalanches in Switzerland, and deadly forest fires wreaked widespread destruction in Portugal. In Germany, the lowest river levels in a century hindered shipping traffic. Wheat crops across Southern Europe failed. What agricultural product actually benefited from the heat? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

The Beverage-Can Stove

A beverage-can stove is a homemade, lightweight, portable, reusable stove made from aluminum beverage cans. Popular among backpackers, it requires more fuel than some commercial stoves but is incredibly lightweight and easy to make. It is also said to be fail-proof even in difficult environments. Beverage-can stoves burn denatured alcohol and are nearly silent when operating. Their basic design dates back more than a century. How long does it take a beverage-can stove to boil two cups of water? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Panchatantra

The Panchatantra is a collection of fables that are among the most widely-known animal stories in the world. The original Sanskrit work, now lost, may have been written down in India as early as 100 BCE. It then spread throughout the ancient world. A textbook created for instructing the three sons of a king, it contains morals that glorify shrewdness over altruism. One story concerns a war between crows and owls. When a crow defects to join the owls and is accepted by them, what happens? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

The White Movement

The Bolshevik-backed Red Army, formed in the aftermath of the 1917 Russian Revolution, was named for the traditional color of the workers’ movement. After the subsequent Russian Civil War resolved in favor of the Bolsheviks and the Red Army, the iconic red flag of the USSR, identified with Communism, was adopted. Fighting against the Bolsheviks in the Revolution, and against the Red Army in the Civil War, was a movement named for a different color—the White Movement. Why white? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Secret Sharing

In cryptography, secret sharing is a method of guarding information by distributing pieces of it to a number of people or entities. Each participant has a share of the secret, but no share is useful on its own. Some shares may even be decoys that are not useful at all. In certain scenarios, multiple participants may collaborate to try to reconstruct the original secret. How can they be certain that no one is misrepresenting himself just to gain access to more shares? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Fritz Joubert Duquesne

Said to have been handsome, charming, and fluent in several languages, Duquesne was a South African Boer who led a life of intrigue. He was a secret agent, military officer, big game hunter, saboteur, and journalist. Imprisoned on numerous occasions, he narrowly avoided execution by firing squad and once escaped from prison by feigning paralysis. While spying for Germany, he and 32 others were arrested in the FBI’s 1941 takedown of the Duquesne Spy Ring. Who is he suspected of assassinating? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

French Indochina

The region that is today home to Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam came under French control in the late 1800s as French Indochina. Though occupied by Japan during World War II, the area did not achieve full independence from France until 1954. Soon after independence, the Vietnam War erupted. After World War II, US President Franklin Roosevelt unsuccessfully attempted to arrange for China to acquire the region before France could regain control. What was Chairman Chiang Kai-shek’s emphatic response? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

The Hittites

The Hittites were an ancient Indo-European people who flourished from 1600 to 1200 BCE in what is today Turkey and Syria. They either displaced or absorbed the previous inhabitants of the region, the Hattians, whose culture had a strong influence on that of the Hittites. For several hundred years, the Hittite Empire was the chief cultural and political force in West Asia. The loose confederation of the empire was eventually broken up by invaders, and its remnants were conquered by whom? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Human Echolocation

Used by some blind people to navigate the world, human echolocation is a technique for establishing the locations and shapes of nearby objects by making sounds and interpreting the echoes that result. Sound-producing methods include tapping a cane, stamping, or making clicking noises with one’s mouth. This sort of echolocation can provide blind practitioners with enough information to identify large objects by ear alone. What are some feats that blind people have accomplished using echolocation? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Eusapia Palladino

Born in Italy in 1854, Palladino was a Spiritualist medium who travelled the world hosting séances at which tables seemed to levitate and spirits supposedly appeared. Many notable people—including Pierre Curie and Arthur Conan Doyle—became devotees of her. Despite performing under strict conditions that she could control, Palladino was repeatedly exposed as a fraud who pulled stunts like lifting tables with her feet. This prompted some to hold down her shoes during séances. What did she do then? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary