Category Archives: Article of the Day

The Three Gorges Dam

The largest hydroelectric dam in the world, China’s Three Gorges Dam stretches 1.4 miles (2.3 km) across the Yangtze River. Begun in 1993 and largely completed by 2006, the controversial project displaced more than a million people and inundated huge tracts of land. However, it increased the river’s shipping capacity, reduced the threat of flooding, and will eventually generate nearly 85 billion kilowatts a year. How much electricity will the dam have to generate to recoup building costs? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Qigong

Considered by some to be an important form of alternative medicine, qigong is an ancient Chinese system of postures, exercises, breathing techniques, and meditations. Its central idea is the control and manipulation of qi—also known as chi—believed by practitioners to be the fundamental life energy responsible for health and vitality. In China, qigong is used in conjunction with other medical therapies for many chronic conditions. How is qigong related to the practice of martial arts?

Source: The Free Dictionary

Maison du Roi

The Maison du Roi was the entourage that attended to the needs of the French royal family from the 14th to the 19th century. It was administered by the chief steward of France until the 1700s, when a ministry was organized to oversee the thousands of employees tasked with duties such as managing the king’s stables, hunting for the king’s meat, providing the king’s food and entertainment, and attending to the king’s spiritual needs. What was the Grand Panetier charged with overseeing?

Source: The Free Dictionary

The Gang of Four

The Gang of Four was an alliance of four Chinese political officials who rose to prominence during the Cultural Revolution but were later imprisoned for implementing the harsh policies of Mao Zedong, fomenting widespread civil unrest, and attempting to seize power. They had the youthful Red Guard persecute intellectuals and suppress a wide variety of traditional cultural activities. A month after Mao’s death in 1976, the four were arrested. Among them was Mao’s third wife. What happened to her? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Parallax

Parallax is the apparent change in the position of an object resulting from a change in the position of the observer. The effect is useful in calculating the distances of stars from Earth, as stars appear to shift in relation to each other from different points in Earth’s orbit. Parallax can affect the accuracy of photographers and snipers, who may see a target from an angle different than that of their instruments. What does parallax have to do with why pigeons bob their heads?

Source: The Free Dictionary

Harlequinade

Harlequinade was a type of theatrical performance popular in 18th-century Britain. It was a slapstick adaptation of the commedia dell’arte, itself a 16th-century Italian comedy tradition featuring stock characters in improvised performances. A typical Harlequinade showcased a series of interwoven scenes culminating in a skit about the clever protagonist Harlequin and his love interest, Columbine. Which Harlequinade character became so popular that he remains instantly recognizable today? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Nature

One of the world’s most prestigious and most cited scientific journals, Nature was founded in 1869. It covers a wide range of disciplines, and publication in the respected magazine is highly competitive. Nature has published many significant breakthroughs, such as the first cloning of a mammal, the discovery of neutrons, and the sequencing of the human genome. Why was the 1953 Watson and Crick paper that revealed the structure of DNA not peer-reviewed prior to publication?

Source: The Free Dictionary

Urbex: Urban Exploration

Urbex is the exploration of the normally unseen or off-limits structures of urban environments or industrial facilities, such as abandoned subway tunnels, missile silos, grain elevators, asylums, schools, and amusement parks. Urban explorers often face myriad dangers in such areas, including toxic chemicals, broken glass, and collapsing floors. Arrest for trespassing is also a risk. The unspoken rule of urbex is: Take nothing but photographs; leave nothing but what? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

En Pointe

En pointe is the classical ballet technique of dancing on the tips of the toes. Primarily the domain of female dancers, it conveys an appearance of fairy-like weightlessness. Pointe work is accomplished with the aid of specialized ballet shoes that have a flat, stiff front that supports the toes and a shank that supports the arch. Still, dancing en pointe puts tremendous stress on dancers’ feet and requires extensive training. Why should dancers be at least 12 before starting to dance en pointe?

Source: The Free Dictionary

William of Ockham

Born around 1285, William of Ockham was an English Franciscan philosopher, theologian, and political writer. He is remembered as the originator of the medieval rule of logical economy known as Ockham’s razor, the doctrine that unnecessary assumptions should be avoided in formulating hypotheses. He was excommunicated by Pope John XXII for his defense of the Franciscan notion of poverty and the rights of the empire against the papacy. He died in Bavaria. How did he come to be there? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary