Saturday, January 28, 2006

Icarus Rising... A Memorial to the Crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger

Icarus Rising... A Memorial to the Crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Today is the 20th anniversary of the Challenger disaster which set back the American space program.

The blogged site of the day is a memorial site interpretating the Challenger disaster in terms of the Greek myth of Icarus.

Q from Star Tek: The Next Generation (yes, fiction) noted about space exploration, "If you can't take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it's not for the timid."

This may sound harsh but it is probably true. Disasters such as the Challenger explosion are horrid but they will happen again if we are serious about leaving Earth and exploring the Universe. Are we afraid? Can death stop us from taking our rightful place amongst the stars?

The future will determine this. How far can we advance the exploration of space in our lifetimes?

Friday, January 27, 2006

History of Senegal

History of Senegal. This is a short overview to the history of the African nation of Senegal.

Wikipedia notes, "The Republic of Senegal is a country south of the Senegal River in West Africa. Senegal is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Mauritania to the north, Mali to the east, and Guinea and Guinea-Bissau to the south. The Gambia forms an enclave within Senegal, following the Gambia River more than 300 km inland. The Cape Verde islands lie some 560 km off the Senegalese coast."

From the site:

Archaeological findings throughout the area indicate that Senegal was inhabited in prehistoric times. Islam established itself in the Senegal River valley in the 11th century; 95% of Senegalese today are Muslims. In the 13th and 14th centuries, the area came under the influence of the Mandingo empires to the east; the Jolof Empire of Senegal also was founded during this time.

In January 1959, Senegal and the French Soudan merged to form the Mali Federation, which became fully independent on June 20, 1960, as a result of the independence and the transfer of power agreement signed with France on April 4, 1960. Due to internal political difficulties, the Federation broke up on August 20, 1960. Senegal and Soudan (renamed the Republic of Mali) proclaimed independence. Leopold Sedar Senghor, internationally known poet, politician, and statesman, was elected Senegal's first President in August 1960.

After the breakup of the Mali Federation, President Senghor and Prime Minister Mamadou Dia governed together under a parliamentary system. In December 1962, their political rivalry led to an attempted coup by Prime Minister Dia. Although this was put down without bloodshed, Dia was arrested and imprisoned, and Senegal adopted a new constitution that consolidated the President’s power. In 1980, President Senghor decided to retire from politics, and he handed over power in 1981 to his handpicked successor, Abdou Diouf. Abdou Diouf was President from 1981-2000. He encouraged broader political participation, reduced government involvement in the economy, and widened Senegal's diplomatic engagements, particularly with other developing nations. Domestic politics on occasion spilled over into street violence, border tensions, and a violent separatist movement in the southern region of the Casamance. Nevertheless, Senegal's commitment to democracy and human rights strengthened. Diouf served four terms as President. In the presidential election of 2000, he was defeated, in a free and fair election, by opposition leader Abdoulaye Wade. Senegal experienced its second peaceful transition of power, and its first from one political party to another.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Maritime History of the Great Lakes

Maritime History of the Great Lakes. The five Great Lakes of North America are vast. They would be classified as seas if they were salt water rather than fresh water. I have visited all five and I can understand why those who have only seen them on a map can not fathom the sheer scope of the Great Lakes sytem.

This Great Lakes history site has ship lists, regional histories, government reports and newspaper accounts featuring shipbuilding, shipwrecks and the working lives of steamboats, schooners and the people who sailed them.

The site itself notes, "This site is an ongoing experiment in the design of a digital library, a collection of documents intended to be of value to those researching Great Lakes History." It has some good content although a few areas (such as shipwrecks) are still a bit sparse.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Past pandemics that ravaged Europe

Past pandemics that ravaged Europe. This BBC article is from November 2005. It discusses some of the past disease outbreaks which have killed large numbers in Europe. As talk of a possible bird flu pandemic continues, I think this is a good article to contemplate.

The author (Verity Murphy) notes that the first recorded European pandemic was in 430BC and it hit Athens.

The Greek historian Thucydides (who survived the outbreak) wrote, "People in good health were all of a sudden attacked by violent heats in the head, and redness and inflammation in the eyes, the inward parts, such as the throat or tongue, becoming bloody and emitting an unnatural and fetid breath."

Probably the worst European pandemic was in 6th Century AD under the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. A plague hit the city of Constantinople. It was the first recorded outbreak of the bubonic plague. It was devastating.

Murphy noted, "From AD 541 to 542 it killed 40% of Constantinople's population, with the Byzantine historian Procopius claiming that at its peak the plague was killing 10,000 people in the city every day. The disease fanned out across the eastern Mediterranean, wiping out a quarter of the region's population."

I would hope with modern medicine that any new pandemics will kill a much smaller percentage of people. This is probably true but with the widespread travel occurring around the world a new pandemic would also hit everywhere globally rather quickly. Even a pandemic killing 1% or 2% of the world population would set a new record for pandemic deaths. (Hat tip to the World of Royalty Blog for the article.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Egyptologists unearth statue of King Tut's grandmother

Egyptologists unearth statue of King Tut's grandmother. CNN has this history in the news article up today.

The statue of Queen Ti is missing its legs but is otherwise well preserved. It was buried under about half a meter of rocks and sand. This is often the case with archeological finds. Sometimes luck (just as much as good site selection and careful digging) is necessary for good finds. Who knows what else is out there (in Egypt or elsewhere in the world) just under our feet?

Please note that the picture above is not Queen Ti. I just picked it from a public domain source to help with the Ancient Egyptian theme of this post.

From the site:

Egyptologists have discovered a statue of Queen Ti, wife of one of Egypt's greatest pharaohs and grandmother to the boy-king Tutankhamun, at an ancient temple in Luxor, an Egyptian antiquities official said on Tuesday.

The official said the roughly 3,400 year-old statue was uniquely well preserved. Ti's husband, Amenhotep III, presided over an era which saw a renaissance in Egyptian art.

"It was a time of flourishing of art in ancient Egypt ... Behind a good man is a strong woman. And she was a very strong lady," said Sabry Abdel Aziz, head of the Pharaonic department at Egypt's Supreme Council for Antiquities.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Canadian Election Results

Canadian Election Results. Today is election day in Canada! Will the Liberals stay in power or will there be new government instead? I am not Canadian and I do not live in Canada but I will be watching the CBC tonight to see how this election turns out.

I have always liked watching the British elections too. I love the Official Monster Raving Loony Party candidates who stand in the line with the other candidates as the results are announced. Canada does not have the Raving Loony Party but I guess the Marijuana Party of Canada comes close.

The blogged history site of the day has a good overview of prior Canadian election results going back to 1867. The results of the 2004, 2000 and 1997 elections are available with the results broken down by province.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Coming Anarchy

Coming Anarchy. I found this blog a few weeks ago. I discovered it when I noticed some visitors to the World History Blog were coming from this site. (I guess there is a link here on the large blogroll.)

Anyway, I have really enjoyed reading the posts at Coming Anarchy. The writers are good and the blog readership leaves lots of good comments. The posts deal with current events, politics, and history.

And the blog has a great motto, "Speak Victorian, Think Pagan."