Saturday, January 15, 2005

Beyond the Atmosphere: Early Years of Space Science

Beyond the Atmosphere: Early Years of Space Science - A book-length history of the period between Sputnik I and the creation of NASA, by the NASA History Office.

From the site:

The rocket apparently made its debut on the pages of history as a fire arrow used by the Chin Tartars in 1232 for fighting off a Mongol assault on Kai-feng-fu. The lineage to the immensely larger rockets now used as space launch vehicles is unmistakable. But for centuries rockets were in the main rather small, and their use was confined principally to weaponry, the projection of lifelines in sea rescue, signaling, and fireworks displays. Not until the 20th century did a clear understanding of the principles of rockets emerge, and only then did the technology of large rockets begin to evolve. Thus, as far as spaceflight and space science are concerned, the story of rockets up to the beginning of the 20th century was largely prologue.

Nevertheless, well before the 1900s numerous authors showed a keen appreciation of what satellites might mean if only a way could be found to launch them. Their fictional accounts of space travel are often cited as early harbingers of the modern space age, and in the light of recent achievements the long history of rockets makes exciting reading. Especially those engaged in space research and exploration find peculiar fascination in reading about Kepler's imaginary visit to the moon, described in the little book Somnium, sive Astronomia Lunaris published in 1634, several years after Kepler's death, or in following the flights of fantasy recounted in Jules Verne's De la Terre a la Lune (1865) and Autour de la Lune (1870). Even the artificial satellite turned up in The Brick Moon by Edward Everett Hale, serialized in the Atlantic Monthly in 1869 and 1870. Launched by huge rotating water wheels, the Brick Moon, a manned satellite, was intended to serve as a navigational aid. In the first years of the space program, John Nicolaides, one of the engineers professionally interested in geodesy and navigation, took great delight in giving his colleagues copies of Hale's little story.

These and numerous other writings of the kind legitimately belong to the lore of the space age. While they predate the emergence of the serious work on large rockets that made the space program and space science possible, they nevertheless have a special significance. Such imaginings reflect [26] the centuries-long interest of mankind in the heavens. Some men climbed mountains to set up astronomical observatories, others to measure how air pressure changes with height. No sooner had the Montgolfier brothers in 1783 demonstrated the feasibility of hot-air balloons than aeronauts began to fly in them. That same year J. A. C. Charles of France ascended in a hydrogen-filled balloon. This first grasp on the age-old dream of flight brought forth an amazing variety of ideas and experiments, and by the end of the 19th century powered balloon flight was a reality, the sausage-shaped dirigible being the most successful form. In the 1920s and 1930s high-altitude ballooning was serious business, with men like Gray, Piccard, Anderson, and Stevens setting one altitude record after another. The record of 22 kilometers gained by the last two in the helium-inflated Explorer II, in 1935, persisted for two decades.

Friday, January 14, 2005

History of Costa Rica

History of Costa Rica. This is a brief but helpful overview to the Central American nation of Costa Rica.

From the site:

In 1502, on his fourth and last voyage to the New World, Christopher Columbus made the first European landfall in the area. Settlement of Costa Rica began in 1522. For nearly three centuries, Spain administered the region as part of the Captaincy General of Guatemala under a military governor. The Spanish optimistically called the country "Rich Coast." Finding little gold or other valuable minerals in Costa Rica, however, the Spanish turned to agriculture.

The small landowners' relative poverty, the lack of a large indigenous labor force, the population's ethnic and linguistic homogeneity, and Costa Rica's isolation from the Spanish colonial centers in Mexico and the Andes all contributed to the development of an autonomous and individualistic agrarian society. An egalitarian tradition also arose. This tradition survived the widened class distinctions brought on by the 19th-century introduction of banana and coffee cultivation and consequent accumulations of local wealth.

Costa Rica joined other Central American provinces in 1821 in a joint declaration of independence from Spain. Although the newly independent provinces formed a Federation, border disputes broke out among them, adding to the region's turbulent history and conditions. Costa Rica's northern Guanacaste Province was annexed from Nicaragua in one such regional dispute. In 1838, long after the Central American Federation ceased to function in practice, Costa Rica formally withdrew and proclaimed itself sovereign.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Ancient Greece: Science and Technology

Ancient Greece: Science and Technology - Discusses early inventions, such as calculating devices, machines using gears, steam engines, war technology, and town planning. Some mathematicians included are Thales, Pythagoras, Euclid, Archimedes, and Appolonius. Some topical concepts covered are astronomical discoveries, prime numbers, evolution of the species, and measuring the circumference of the earth.

From the site:

Hellas is the modern name of Greece and was used also in ancient times for example in the word Hellenes to describe all the Greeks (derived from the Roman Graeci, a Latin name (probably derived from Γραικοί as described by Aristotle “... καὶ οἱ καλούμενοι τότε μὲν Γραικοί, νῦν δὲ Ἕλληνες”, Meteorologica) for a small Hellenic tribe (Dorians) from Epirus. Another possibility is that it is derived from Graia in Boetia; some citizens founded in Italy a colony with cities such as “Cumae” and “Nea Polis” (new city) that now is known as Naples or Napoli. The Greeks actually used their local group names such as Athenians, Macedonians, Spartans, etc. The division of Greece in city state probably was a reason for the success, because each city state had its own specific culture and political system, it was not a monolithic block. There were of course some common elements for all these states such as religion, language (dialects) etc. What was important for Greece were the individual personalities. Hellas was the name of a district in Greece that housed a religious confederacy associated with the Delphic oracle. Hellen was in Mythology the son of Deucalion and Pyrrha and his children were Aeolus, Dorus and Xuthus.

First there is practical no original source that describes the technology of ancient Greeks. Archimedes did not consider worth to write about his inventions and the work of Heron is from translations or text written later. We have various indirect sources such as from Vitruvius. A large number of original sources was destroyed by events like the fire of the Alexandria Library, by fanatics, or by natural causes. Devices like the repeating catapult of Dionysius, the planetaria of Archimedes like the Antikythera device, Gigantic ships or steam engines shows that ancient Greeks were not only “theoretical oriented” but that theoretical and applied science are connected together. Only the last 50 years we have a clearer view of the Greek technology and we understand that significant part of this knowledge did not survive. An assumption is that the “aristocratic” Greeks were not interested to gets their hands dirty. But there was a technological advance due to economic reasons or because of the necessity to produce better weapons. And YES! The development of money (probably introduced first by the Lydians) in form of coins and trade was also very important. With Alexander the Great Greek language became the language of Science.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Flagship Portsmouth Museum

Flagship Portsmouth Museum - Home of three historic British warships: Henry VII's doomed flagship Mary Rose, Nelson's flagship HMS Victory, and the world's first iron battleship, HMS Warrior. Site also provides additional information about the Royal Naval Museum and Action Stations.

From the site:

King Richard I ordered the construction of a dockyard in Portsmouth, and granted the town its first charter, in 1194. Eighteen years later, his brother King John instructed that the dockyard be enclosed "by a good and strong wall".

Henry VII ordered the construction of the world's first dry dock in the dockyard in 1495. It was designed by Sir Reginald Bray, architect of the Henry VII Chapel at Westminster Abbey.

Henry VIII made the dockyard his fleet construction centre, and when Charles II created the Royal Navy in 1670, he gave Portsmouth the status of Royal Dockyard. With this came new slips, wharfs, storehouses and the first stone docks.The Great Ship Basin and six surrounding dry docks - one now occupied by HMS Victory and another by Mary Rose - are one of the surviving legacies of the great age of sail.

Sail's golden age, between 1750 to 1850, saw the yard at peak production because of almost continuous war. To this period the dockyard owes its glorious brick storehouses, residences, and ropehouse, the latter rebuilt after a famous arson attack by Jack the Painter, a sympathiser with the cause of the American rebels.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

George W. Bush Speeches

George W. Bush Speeches. Here are some links to some important speeches that the newly re-elected President of the United States of America has given in the past.

First Inaugural Address of George W. Bush
George W. Bush State of the Union 2001 - This is not officially recorded as a State of the Union but everyone calls it one anyway.
George W. Bush State of the Union 2002
George W. Bush State of the Union 2003
George W. Bush State of the Union 2004

Monday, January 10, 2005

History of Cyprus

History of Cyprus. This is an overview to the history of this troubled nation. It includes a good summary of the political issues which have caused the island to be divided between the Greek and Turkish populations.

From the site:

Cypriot culture is among the oldest in the Mediterranean. By 3700 BC, the island was well inhabited, a crossroads between East and West. The island fell successively under Assyrian, Egyptian, Persian, Greek, and Roman domination. For 800 years, beginning in 364 AD, Cyprus was ruled by Byzantium. After brief possession by King Richard I (the Lion-Hearted) of England during the Crusades, the island came under Frankish control in the late 12th century. It was ceded to the Venetian Republic in 1489 and conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1571. The Ottomans applied the millet system to Cyprus, which allowed religious authorities to govern their own non-Muslim minorities. This system reinforced the position of the Orthodox Church and the cohesion of the ethnic Greek population. Most of the Turks who settled on the island during the 3 centuries of Ottoman rule remained when control of Cyprus--although not sovereignty--was ceded to Great Britain in 1878. Many left for Turkey during the 1920s, however. The island was annexed formally by the United Kingdom in 1914 at the outbreak of World War I and became a crown colony in 1925.

Cyprus gained its independence from the United Kingdom and established a constitutional republic in 1960, after an anti-British campaign by the Greek Cypriot EOKA (National Organization of Cypriot Fighters), a guerrilla group that desired political union, or enosis, with Greece. Archbishop Makarios, a charismatic religious and political leader, was elected president.

Shortly after the founding of the republic, serious differences arose between the two communities about the implementation and interpretation of the constitution. The Greek Cypriots argued that the complex mechanisms introduced to protect Turkish Cypriot interests were obstacles to efficient government. In November 1963, President Makarios advanced a series of constitutional amendments designed to eliminate some of these special provisions. The Turkish Cypriots opposed such changes. The confrontation prompted widespread intercommunal fighting in December 1963, after which Turkish Cypriots ceased to participate in the government. Following the outbreak of intercommunal violence, many Turkish Cypriots (and some Greek Cypriots) living in mixed villages began to move into enclaved villages or elsewhere. UN peacekeepers were deployed on the island in 1964. Following another outbreak of intercommunal violence in 1967-68, a Turkish Cypriot provisional administration was formed.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Crossfire in the Wake of the 1995 Referendum: Quebec's English Media and Provincial Power Dynamics

Crossfire in the Wake of the 1995 Referendum: Quebec's English Media and Provincial Power Dynamics. This interesting essay is by Daniel Faichney. It was published in the Winter 2004 issue of the Michigan Journal of History.

From the site:

On the evening of October 30th, 1995 a quiet corner of North America grappled with a political crisis. The province of Quebec , long dissatisfied with its role in the larger Canadian polity, had narrowly defeated a proposal to separate from Canada . Amid the confusion among the province's mainstream electorate, the polarized voices for and against secession cried loudly in response to the results. Rallies in favor of either side filled the city of Montreal with two different crowds. In the days which followed Referendum Day's height of tension, Quebec 's English language, or anglophone, news media followed a complex path. This path was as equally characterized by relief and confidence as it was by caution and anger. Instead of placing an emphasis on consensus building – as it had done in the past – the media instead offered a fractured outlook on the referendum and its implications.

Five newspaper articles, from the Montreal Gazette and the McGill University Reporter , articulated several different responses to a post-referendum situation that was, above all else, charged with emotion. The referendum, because it was won for federalism by mere 1.54% margin, was more a sign of popular indecision than a victory for the continued cohesion of Canada . [1] Attempting to frame the outcome in a positive light, the Montreal Gazette emphasized that a miniscule majority was nonetheless a valid majority. In the interest of delegitimizing the separatist movement, which had acquired a nearly equal mandate from the electorate, the Gazette focused on the offensive concession speech of provincial Premier and separatist leader Jacques Parizeau.