Category Archives: Article of the Day

The Year without a Summer

It is now widely thought that the eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Tambora—the largest in over 1,600 years—led to a widespread reduction in temperature in 1816 that destroyed crops and prompted food shortages and famine across the globe. The event became the primary motivation for western expansion in America, and the lack of horse feed inspired research into horseless travel. What novel is said to have been written by an author forced to stay inside by the unseasonable weather in July 1816? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Catch-22

Catch-22 is a term coined by Joseph Heller in his novel of the same name to describe a situation in which a desired outcome is impossible to attain. Heller’s prototypical Catch-22 concerns the sanity of military pilots. Basically, since combat missions are so dangerous, those who fly them must be insane and should be grounded. Asking to be grounded, however, shows concern for one’s own wellbeing and demonstrates a pilot’s sanity. He must therefore continue to fly. What are other examples? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

The Percy-Neville Feud

The Percy-Neville Feud was a string of skirmishes between two prominent northern English families and their followers that helped provoke the Wars of the Roses—a series of dynastic civil wars between supporters of the Houses of Lancaster and York in the 15th century. Six months after the Nevilles allied themselves with Richard, Duke of York—rival of the Lancastrian King Henry VI—the Percys met the Nevilles and the Duke in the first battle at St. Albans. What was the original reason for the feud? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Exquisite Corpse

Exquisite corpse is an exercise in which a collection of words or images is assembled by several participants, each of whom adds to a composition by either following a predetermined sequence—such as adjective-noun-adverb-verb-article-adjective-noun—or by looking at the end of the previous entry. The name of the game is derived from the phrase that French Surrealists created when they first played it in 1925: “Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau,” which means what? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Sensory Illusions in Flight

Because human senses are adapted for use on the ground, relying on sensory input alone to navigate during flight can be dangerous. Since the senses do not always accurately reflect the movement of an aircraft, they can cause a number of sensory illusions, including those affected by vision and fluid in the inner ear. Some illusions result in false sensations of rotation, while others can cause misconceptions about the orientation of one’s aircraft. What is the black-hole approach illusion? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Lion-Baiting

Baiting is a blood sport that involves setting game dogs upon an often chained up animal for the purpose of subduing it by incapacitating or killing it. In 1610, during the reign of James I of England, the first recorded lion-baiting event was staged for the amusement of his court. The practice continued in the UK until the early 19th century, when public outrage brought the issue to the attention of parliament. What became of the one dog that survived the 1610 event? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

TlhIngan Hol

TlhIngan Hol is the constructed language spoken by Klingons in the fictional Star Trek universe. The language was first heard on screen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and was subsequently developed into a full language by linguist Marc Okrand. Deliberately designed to be “alien,” it contains many peculiarities, such as object-verb-subject word order. However, a few dedicated Trekkies can actually converse in Klingon. What literary works have been translated into Klingon? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Medieval Fortifications

In the thousand years leading up to the Renaissance, developments in the construction and design of defensive fortifications changed warfare. As new tactics, weapons, and siege techniques were created to breach them, fortifications were modified to maintain their effectiveness. Along with walls, moats, and drawbridges, soldiers used measures such as machicolations—openings between a wall and a parapet through which stones and boiling water could be hurled—and killing fields, which were what? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

"Jumping the Shark"

“Jumping the shark” is a colloquialism used by TV critics and fans to denote the point in a TV series at which the characters or plot veer into a ridiculous, out-of-the-ordinary storyline. Shows that have “jumped the shark” are typically deemed to have passed their peak and undergone too many changes to retain their original appeal. The term is an allusion to a scene in a 1977 episode of the TV series Happy Days, when the popular character Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli does what? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

The Malmedy Massacre

The Malmedy Massacre occurred in 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge—a bloody German offensive on the Western Front near the end of World War II. Under orders from Hitler to carry out the attack with brutality, the German spearhead trapped an American convoy, forcing the Americans to surrender. The unarmed prisoners were then taken to a field, where approximately 80 of them were executed. Some troops managed to escape to the Allied lines. What became of the German officer who led the massacre? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary