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March 1
Paul Kane, Self-portrait, ca. 1845

Paul Kane was an Irish-Canadian painter, famous for his paintings of First Nations peoples in the Canadian West and other Native Americans in the Oregon Country. Largely self-educated, Kane grew up in Toronto (then known as York) and trained himself by copying European masters on a study trip through Europe. He undertook two voyages through the wild Canadian northwest in 1845 and from 1846 to 1848. The first trip took him from Toronto to Sault Ste. Marie and back. Having secured the support of the Hudson's Bay Company, he set out on a second, much longer voyage from Toronto across the Rocky Mountains to Fort Vancouver and Fort Victoria in the Oregon Country and back again. On both trips Kane sketched and painted Native Americans and documented their life. Upon his return to Toronto, he produced from these sketches more than one hundred oil paintings. Kane's work, particularly his field sketches, are still a valuable resource for ethnologists. The oil paintings he did in his studio are considered a part of the Canadian heritage, although he often embellished these considerably, departing from the accuracy of his field sketches in favour of more dramatic scenes. (more...)

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March 2
Zion seen from the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway

Zion National Park is located near Springdale, Utah in the southwestern United States. It has an area of 229 square miles (593 km²) and ranges in elevation from a low point of 3,666 ft (1,128 m) on Coalpits Wash to a high point at 8,726 ft (2,660 m) at Horse Ranch Mountain. Established in 1909 as Mukuntuweap National Monument, it became Zion National Park in 1919. The Kolob section was proclaimed a separate Zion National Monument in 1937, but was incorporated into the park in 1956. Zion is an ancient Hebrew word meaning "place of refuge" or "sanctuary," often used by the LDS settlers in Utah. Protected within the park is a dramatic landscape of sculptured canyons and soaring cliffs, mostly from the 170 million year old tan to orange-red sandstone of the Navajo Formation. Zion is located at the junction of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert provinces. This unique geography and the variety of life zones within the park make Zion significant as a place of unusual plant and animal diversity. (more...)

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March 3

Triumph of the Will is a documentary-style propaganda film by the German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl chronicling the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg. It features footage of uniformed Nazi party members marching and drilling to melodious major-keyed classical music, as well as excerpts from speeches given by various Nazi Leaders at the Congress, including portions of Adolf Hitler's own speeches. The overriding theme of the film is that Germany is a great power once again, and that Hitler is a German Messiah who will bring glory to the nation. Triumph of the Will was released in 1935 and rapidly became the best-known example of propaganda in the history of the cinema. Riefenstahl's innovative techniques such as moving cameras, the use of telephoto lenses to create a distorted perspective, aerial photography, and revolutionary approach to the use of music and cinematography have earned Triumph recognition as one of the greatest films in history, although its glorification of the Nazi regime makes it controversial. (more...)

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March 4
Intel 80486DX2 microprocessor in a ceramic PGA package

A central processing unit is the component in a digital computer that interprets instructions and processes data contained in software. CPUs provide the fundamental digital computer trait of programmability, and are one of the core components found in almost all modern microcomputers, along with primary storage and input/output facilities. A CPU that is manufactured using integrated circuits, often just one, is known as a microprocessor. Since the mid-1970s, single-chip microprocessors have almost totally replaced all other types of CPUs, and today the term "CPU" almost always applies to some type of microprocessor. Early CPUs were custom-designed as a part of a larger, usually one-of-a-kind, computer. However, this costly methodology of designing custom CPUs for a particular application has largely given way to the development of inexpensive and standardized classes of processors that are suited for one or many purposes. This standardization trend generally began in the era of discrete transistor mainframes and minicomputers and has rapidly accelerated with the popularization of the integrated circuit. Modern microprocessors appear in everything from automobiles to cell phones to children's toys. (more...)

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March 5

"This Charming Man" is a song by British rock band The Smiths, released as their second single in October of 1983 on the indie label Rough Trade. The song was composed by guitarist Johnny Marr and singer/lyricist Morrissey. Musically, the song is defined by Marr's bright jangle pop guitar riff and Morrissey's characteristic vocals. The rhythm section of Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce provides an unusually danceable beat, featuring a motownesque bassline. The lyrics revolve around the popular Smiths theme of sexual ambiguity and as with many of Morrissey's compositions, features a line taken from a cult film, play, poem or novel—in this case "A jumped-up pantry boy who doesn't know his place" from the 1972 film Sleuth. Though only moderately successful on its release (reaching #25 on the UK charts), today it is widely considered to be a classic and is one of the most popular songs in the band's catalog. In 2004, BBC Radio 2 listeners voted it #97 on the station's "Sold On Song Top 100" poll, while in 2001 UNCUT pegged it as #10 on their "100 singles that changed your life" feature. (more...)

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March 6

Barbara McClintock was a pioneering American scientist and one of the world's most distinguished cytogeneticists. McClintock received her PhD in botany from Cornell University in 1927, where she was a leader in the development of maize cytogenetics; the field remained the focus of her research for the rest of her career. Her work was groundbreaking: she developed the technique to visualize maize chromosomes and used microscopic analysis to demonstrate many fundamental genetic concepts, including genetic recombination by crossing-over during meiosis—a mechanism by which chromosomes exchange information. She produced the first genetic map for maize, linking regions of the chromosome with physical traits, and she demonstrated the role of the telomere and centromere, regions of the chromosome that are important in the conservation of genetic information. During the 1940s and 1950s, McClintock discovered transposition and using this system showed how genes are responsible for turning on or off physical characteristics. Awards and recognition of her contributions to the field followed, including the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded to her in 1983 for the discovery of genetic transposition; she was the first and only woman to receive an unshared Nobel Prize in that category. (more...)

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March 7
An Iranian depiction of the Muslim pursuit following the battle

The Battle of Badr was a key battle in the early days of Islam and a turning point in Muhammad's war against his Quraish opponents in Mecca. The battle has been passed down in Islamic history as a decisive victory ascribed to either divine intervention or the genius of Muhammad. Although it is one of the few battles mentioned by name in the Muslim holy book, the Qur'an, virtually all contemporary knowledge of the battle at Badr comes from traditional Islamic accounts, both hadiths and biographies of Muhammad, written down decades after the battle. Prior to the battle, the Muslims and Meccans had fought several smaller skirmishes in late 623 and early 624, as the Muslim ghazawāt plundering raids grew increasingly commonplace, but this was their first large-scale battle. Muhammad was leading a raiding party against a caravan when he was surprised by a much larger Quraishi army. Advancing to a strong defensive position, Muhammad's well-disciplined men managed to shatter the Meccan lines, killing several important leaders including Muhammad's chief opponent, Amr ibn Hishām. For the early Muslims, the battle was extremely significant because it was the first sign that they might eventually overcome their enemies in Mecca, one of the richest and most powerful pagan cities in pre-Islamic Arabia. (more...)

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March 8
The TARDIS in its typical blue police box disguise

The TARDIS is a fictional time machine and spacecraft in the British science fiction television programme Doctor Who. A product of Time Lord technology, a properly piloted and working TARDIS is capable of transporting its occupants to any point in space and time. Its interior exists in multidimensional space, leading to it being significantly larger on the inside than it appears from outside. Externally, the TARDIS resembles the shape of a 1950s British police box, and the programme has become so much a part of British popular culture that the shape of the police box is now more immediately associated with the TARDIS than its original real-world function. The word has also entered popular usage and is used to describe anything that seems bigger on the inside than on the outside. (more...)

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March 9
Workers in a plantation picking tea leaves

Kerala is a state on the southwestern tropical Malabar Coast of India. To its east and northeast, Kerala borders Tamil Nadu and Karnataka; to its west and south lie the Indian Ocean islands of Lakshadweep and the Maldives, respectively. Kerala also envelops Mahé, a coastal exclave of the Union Territory of Pondicherry. In prehistory, Kerala's rainforests and wetlands — then thick with malaria-bearing mosquitoes and man-eating tigers — were largely avoided by Neolithic humans. More than a millennium of overseas contact and trade culminated in four centuries of struggle between and among multiple colonial powers and native Keralite states. Kerala was granted statehood on November 1, 1956. Radical social reforms begun in the 19th century by the kingdoms of Kochi and Travancore — and spurred by such leaders as Narayana Guru and Chattampi Swamikal — were continued by post-Independence governments, making Kerala among the Third World's longest-lived, healthiest, and most literate regions. Kerala's 31.8 million people now live under a stable democratic socialist political system and exhibit unusually equitable gender relations. (continued...)

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March 10
Marian Rejewski

Marian Rejewski was a Polish mathematician and cryptologist who, in 1932, solved the Enigma machine, the main cipher machine then in use by Germany. The success of Rejewski and his colleagues jump-started British reading of Enigma in World War II, and the intelligence so gained, code-named "Ultra", contributed to the defeat of Nazi Germany. While studying mathematics at Poznań University, Rejewski attended a secret cryptology course conducted by the Polish General Staff's Cipher Bureau, which he joined full-time in 1932. The Bureau had had no success in reading Enigma, and set Rejewski to work on the problem in late 1932. After only a few weeks he had deduced the secret internal wiring of the Enigma. Rejewski and two mathematician colleagues then developed an assortment of techniques for the regular decryption of Enigma messages, including the cryptologic "card catalog", the "cyclometer", and the cryptologic "bomb". Five weeks before the German invasion of Poland in 1939, Rejewski and his colleagues presented their results on Enigma decryption to their French and British counterparts. Shortly after the outbreak of war, the Polish cryptologists were evacuated to France, and later to Britain. In Britain, Rejewski worked with a Polish unit solving low-level German ciphers. In 1946 Rejewski returned to his family in Poland and worked as an accountant, remaining silent about his cryptologic work until the Enigma story became public in the 1970s. (continued...)

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March 11
Dunnottar Castle

The history of Scotland in the High Middle Ages concerns itself with the era between the death of Domnall II in 900 and the death of king Alexander III in 1286, which led indirectly to the Scottish Wars of Independence. In the tenth and eleventh centuries, northern Great Britain was dominated by Gaelic culture, and by a Gaelic regal lordship called "Alba", in Latin called either "Albania" or "Scotia," and in English called "Scotland", although the kingdom only controlled part of modern Scotland, and other kingdoms existed for much of the era. After the twelfth century reign of King David I, the Scottish monarchs are better described as Scoto-Norman than Gaelic, preferring French culture to native Scottish culture, although Gaelic remained the dominant language of the people throughout the period. After the twelfth century too, the trend was towards unity under the Scottish crown, a unity which was not maintained after the Wars of Scottish Independence. (continued...)

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March 12
A member of the Republic of Korea national team

Amateur Radio Direction Finding is an amateur map and compass sport that combines the skills of orienteering and radio direction finding. It is a timed race in which individual competitors use a topographic map and a magnetic compass to navigate through diverse wooded terrain while searching for radio transmitters. The rules of the sport and international competitions are organized by the International Amateur Radio Union. ARDF events use radio frequencies on either the two meter or eighty meter amateur radio bands. These two bands were chosen because of their universal availability to amateur radio licensees in all countries. The radio equipment carried by competitors on a course must be capable of receiving the signal being transmitted by the five transmitters and useful for radio direction finding, including a radio receiver, attenuator, and directional antenna. Most equipment designs integrate all three components into one handheld device. (continued...)

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March 13
Teddy Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States. He had been the 25th Vice President before becoming President upon the assassination of President William McKinley. Inaugurated at the age of 42, Roosevelt became the youngest President in U.S. history. Within the Republican Party, he was a reformer who sought to bring the party's conservative ideals into the 20th century. He broke with his friend and successor William Howard Taft and ran as a third party candidate in 1912 on the Progressive Party ticket. Before his presidency, Roosevelt served as a New York State assemblyman, Police Commissioner of New York City, U.S. Civil Service Commissioner, and Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Navy. As a colonel, he commanded his famous all-volunteer First U.S. National Cavalry regiment, the "Rough Riders" during the Spanish-American War. Roosevelt also served a successful term as Governor of New York. He was a famous historian and naturalist; his 15 books include works on outdoor life, natural history, U.S. Western and political history, an autobiography and a host of other topics. In his lifetime, he was considered a foremost authority on North American big game animals and Eastern birds. (continued...)

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March 14
A depiction of the story from Daniel 3 of the three youths thrown into the furnace.

Makuria was a kingdom located in what is today Southern Egypt and Northern Sudan. It was one of a group of Nubian kingdoms that emerged in the centuries after the fall of the Kingdom of Meroë, which had dominated the region from around 800 BCE to 350 CE. Makuria originally covered the area along the Nile River from the Third Cataract to somewhere between the Fifth and Sixth Cataracts. Its capital was Dongola. By the end of the 6th century it had converted to Christianity, but in the 7th century Egypt was conquered by the Islamic armies, and Nubia was cut off from the rest of Christendom. In 651 an Arab army invaded, but it was repulsed and a treaty known as the baqt was signed creating a relative peace between the two sides that lasted until the 13th century. Makuria expanded, annexing its northern neighbour Nobatia either at the time of the Arab invasion or during the reign of King Merkurios. The period from roughly 750 to 1150 saw the kingdom stable and prosperous, in what has been called the "Golden Age". However, increased aggression from Egypt, the Islamization and Arabization of the populace, and internal discord saw the state collapse in the 14th century. (continued...)

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March 15
An early, tinted 20th-century photograph of the Palazzo Pitti

The Palazzo Pitti is a vast, mainly Renaissance palace in Florence, Italy. It is situated on the south side of the River Arno, a short distance from the Ponte Vecchio. The core of the present palazzo dates from 1458 and was originally the town residence of Luca Pitti, an ambitious Florentine banker. It was later bought by the Medici family in 1549: as the official residence of the ruling families of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, it was enlarged and enriched almost continually over the following three centuries. In the 19th century, the palazzo, by then a great treasure house, was used as a power base by Napoleon I, and later served for a brief period as the principal royal palace of the newly united Italy. In the early 20th century, the palazzo together with its contents was given to the Italian people by the King Victor Emmanuel III, subsequently its doors were opened to the public to serve as one of Florence's largest art galleries. Today housing several major collections, in addition to those of the Medici family, it is fully open to the public. (continued...)

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March 16
Crop diversification was carried out, phasing out rubber in favour of oil palms

The Second Malaysia Plan was an economic development plan set out by the government of Malaysia, with the goal of implementing the aims of the New Economic Policy. It aimed to "restructure" Malaysian society and overturn Chinese Malaysian and foreign hegemony in the economy of Malaysia so that the Malays would not be disadvantaged economically. Although the First Malaysia Plan had also set out to tackle the problem of poverty, especially among the Malays, it had not been very successful, and may have been a factor in the May 13 Incident when racial rioting broke out in Kuala Lumpur. The Second Malaysia Plan was regarded by some as excessive in its zeal to increase Malay participation in the economy, and the government accordingly scaled back the emphasis on restructuring the economy when the plan ended. (continued...)

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March 17
The Irish Crown Jewels included the Grand Master's star and badge

The Most Illustrious Order of Saint Patrick is an order of chivalry associated with Ireland. The Order was created in 1783 by George III. The regular creation of knighthoods of St Patrick lasted until 1922, when most of Ireland became independent as the Irish Free State. While the Order technically still exists, no knighthood of St Patrick has been created since 1934, and the last surviving knight, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, died in 1974. The patron saint of the Order is St Patrick. Its motto is Quis separabit?, which is Latin for "Who will separate us?". Most British orders of chivalry cover the entire kingdom, but the three most exalted ones each pertain to one constitutent nation only. The Order of St Patrick, which pertains to Ireland, is the third-most senior in precedence and age. The Order of St Patrick earned international coverage when in 1907 its insignia, known generally as the Irish Crown Jewels, were stolen from Dublin Castle shortly before a visit by the Order's Sovereign, King Edward VII. Their whereabouts remain a mystery. (continued...)

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March 18

The West Wing is a popular and widely acclaimed American television serial drama created by Aaron Sorkin and produced and co-written by John Wells. The series is set in the West Wing of the White House, the location of the Oval Office and offices of presidential senior staff, during the fictional Democratic administration of Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen). The West Wing is produced by Warner Bros. and is now in its seventh and final season. It first aired on NBC in 1999 and has been picked up by networks in other countries, including the United Kingdom and Japan. On January 22, 2006, NBC announced that the series would end its seven year run on May 14. The show has received positive reviews from television critics, political science professors, and former White House staffers. Overall, The West Wing has won 24 Emmy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards. The show's popularity has dropped in recent years, but it still remains one of the most popular shows among high-income viewers. (continued...)

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March 19

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is an anti-Semitic text purporting to describe a plan to achieve global domination by the Jewish people. Following its first public publication in 1903 in the Russian Empire, numerous independent investigations have repeatedly proved the writing to be a hoax; notably, a series of articles printed in The Times of London in 1921 revealed that much of the material was directly plagiarized from earlier works of political satire unrelated to Jews. Nevertheless, some people continue to view it as factual, especially in parts of the world where anti-Semitism, anti-Judaism, or anti-Zionism are widespread. It is frequently quoted and reprinted by anti-Semites, and is sometimes used as evidence of Jewish conspiracy, especially in the Middle East. The Protocols are widely considered the beginning of contemporary conspiracy theory literature, and take the form of an instruction manual to a new member of the "Elders", describing how they will run the world through control of the media and finance and replace the traditional social order with one based on mass manipulation. (continued...)

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March 20
Size comparison between the Sun and Earth

The Sun is the spectral type G2V yellow star at the center of our solar system. The Earth and many other bodies (including other planets, asteroids, meteoroids, comets and dust) orbit the Sun, which accounts for more than 99% of the solar system's mass. Different latitudes of the Sun rotate at different rates; a point on the equator takes 25 days, while a point at a pole takes 36 days. The resultant torsion upsets the Sun's very strong magnetic field to create an 11-year solar cycle of activity. Heat and light from the Sun have supported almost all life on Earth. Humans use sunlight to grow crops (see photosynthesis) and power solar cells. The Sun is a ball of plasma with a diameter of 1.392 million km (864,950 mi) and a mass of about 2.0×1030 kg, which is somewhat higher than that of an average star. About 74% of its mass is hydrogen, with 25% helium, and the rest made up of trace quantities of heavier elements. The Sun is about 4.6 billion years old, and is about halfway through its main sequence evolution, during which nuclear fusion reactions in its core fuse hydrogen into helium. (continued...)

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March 21
Cape Horn from the South

Cape Horn is the southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago of southern Chile; it is widely considered to be the southern tip of South America. Cape Horn is the most southerly of the great capes, and marks the northern boundary of the Drake Passage; for many years it was a major milestone on the clipper route, by which sailing ships carried trade around the world. However, the waters around the cape are particularly hazardous, due to strong winds, large waves, and icebergs; these dangers have made it notorious as a sailors' graveyard. Today, the Panama Canal has greatly reduced the need for cargo ships to travel via the Horn. However, sailing around the Horn is widely regarded as one of the major challenges in yachting, and a number of recreational sailors continue to sail this route, sometimes as part of a circumnavigation. Several prominent ocean yacht races sail around the world via the Horn, notably the Vendée Globe, and speed records for round-the-world sailing follow the same route. (continued...)

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March 22
A plaque listing the victims of the bombings

The Bath School disaster was a series of bombings of a farm, school and car in Bath Township, Michigan, on May 18, 1927. The bombings killed 45 people and injured an additional 58; most of these were children in the second through sixth grades. The Bath School disaster is the deadliest act of mass murder in a school in United States history, claiming more than three times as many victims as the Columbine High School massacre. Bath Consolidated school board member Andrew Kehoe was upset by a property tax levy used to fund the school building. He blamed the additional tax for putting his farm into foreclosure. On the morning of May 18, Kehoe first killed his wife and then set his farm buildings on fire. As fire fighters arrived at the farm, an explosion rocked the school building. A detonator Kehoe planted in the school ignited dynamite and hundreds of pounds of pyrotol. While rescuers were gathering at the school, Kehoe drove up, stopped and detonated a bomb in his shrapnel-filled vehicle. With this, Kehoe killed himself and the school superintendent, as well as killing and injuring several more. (continued...)

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March 23
Brunel before the launching of the Great Eastern (1857)

Isambard Kingdom Brunel was a British engineer. Voted the second greatest Briton of all time in a 2002 BBC poll (after Winston Churchill), he is best known for the creation of the Great Western Railway, a series of famous steamships, and numerous important bridges. Though his projects were not always successful, they often contained innovative solutions to long-standing engineering problems. During his short career, Brunel achieved many engineering "firsts", including the building of the first tunnel under a navigable river and development of the first propeller-driven steamship, which was at the time also the largest ship ever built. Brunel was a heavy cigar smoker and suffered several years of ill health with kidney problems, before succumbing to a stroke at the age of fifty-three. (continued...)

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March 24
The New Parliament House Canberra

Canberra is the capital city of Australia and with a population of just over 323,000 is Australia's largest inland city. Canberra was selected as the location of the nation's capital in 1908 as a compromise between Sydney and Melbourne and is unusual amongst Australian capital cities as an entirely purpose-built, planned city. Following an international contest for the city's design, a design by Chicago architect Walter Burley Griffin was selected and construction commenced in 1913. Although the growth and development of Canberra was hindered by the World Wars and the Great Depression, it emerged as a thriving city post-World War II. As Australia's seat of government, Canberra is the site of Parliament House, the High Court of Australia and numerous government departments; it is also the location of numerous social and cultural institutions of national significance. The federal government contributes the largest percentage of Gross State Product and is the largest employer in Canberra. Canberra is also a popular destination for domestic and international tourists. (continued...)

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March 25

The Jackson 5 was an American popular music quintet from Gary, Indiana. The group, active from 1962 to 1990, regularly played from a repertoire of R&B, soul, funk, and later disco. Considered "one of the biggest phenomenons in pop music" during the early 1970s, the Jackson 5 group is also notable for launching the career of its lead singer, Michael Jackson. The primary members of the group were all the male children of Katherine and Joseph Jackson: Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, Michael, and Randy. Most of the early hits were written and produced by a specialized songwriting team known as The Corporation™; later Jackson 5 hits were chiefly crafted by Hal Davis. They continued their success into the 1980s with hits such as "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" and "State of Shock", and a highly successful 1984 Victory tour before disbanding in 1990. (continued...)

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March 26
Hitachi J100 adjustable frequency drive chassis

Electrical engineering is a professional engineering discipline that deals with the study and application of electricity, electromagnetism and electronics. The field first became an identifiable occupation in the late nineteenth century with the commercialization of the electric telegraph and electrical power supply and now encompasses a range of sub-disciplines including power, control systems, electronics and telecommunications. Whilst these terms are often used to mean the same, electrical engineering is sometimes distinguished from electronics engineering. Where this distinction is made, electrical engineering is considered to deal with the problems associated with large-scale electrical systems such as power transmission and motor control whereas electronics engineering deals with the study of small-scale electronic systems including semiconductors and the design of integrated circuits. Advances during the 20th century in radio technologies, followed by the invention of early computers and integrated circuits, led to the development of the specialized field. Meanwhile, universities were developing formal programs of study, and today, the field's practitioners generally hold an academic degree in their discipline and may be certified by a professional body. (continued...)

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March 27
White's Tree Frog

Frog is the common name for amphibians in the order Anura. Adult frogs are characterised by long hind legs, a short body, webbed digits, protruding eyes and the absence of a tail. Most frogs move by jumping or climbing. Most frogs have a semi-aquatic lifestyle. They typically lay their eggs in puddles, ponds or lakes, and their larvae, called tadpoles, have gills and develop in water. Adult frogs follow a carnivorous diet, mostly of arthropods, annelids and gastropods. Frogs are most noticeable through their call, which can be widely heard during the mating season. The distribution of frogs ranges from tropic to subarctic regions, with most of the species found in tropical rainforests. With over 5,000 species described, they are among the most diverse groups of vertebrates. However, their declining numbers are increasingly giving cause for concern. A distinction is often made between frogs and toads on the basis of their appearance, prompted by the convergent adaptation of so-called toads to dry environments; however, this distinction has no taxonomic basis. (continued...)

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March 28
A painting by Edward Hicks showing the animals boarding Noah's Ark two by two

According to the Bible, Noah's Ark was a massive vessel built at God's command to save Noah, his family, and a core stock of the world's animals from the Great Flood. The story is contained in the Hebrew Bible's book of Genesis, chapters 6 to 9. According to one school of modern textual criticism — the documentary hypothesis — the Ark story told in Genesis is based on two originally quasi-independent sources, and did not reach its present form until the 5th century BC. Nevertheless, many Orthodox Jews and traditional Christians reject this analysis, holding that the Ark story is true, and that any perceived inadequacies can be rationally explained. The Ark story told in Genesis has extensive and striking parallels in the Sumerian myth of Utnapishtim, which tells how an ancient king was warned by his personal god to build a vessel in which to escape a flood sent by the higher council of gods. By the beginning of the 18th century, the growth of biogeography as a science meant that few natural historians felt able to justify a literal interpretation of the Ark story. Nevertheless, Biblical literalists continue to explore the region of the mountains of Ararat, in northeastern Turkey, where the Bible says Noah's Ark came to rest. (continued...)

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March 29
Voters lining up outside a Baghdad polling station during the 2005 Iraqi election

Voter turnout is a measure of the percentage of eligible voters who cast a ballot in an election. Almost all political scientists feel that high turnout is desirable in a democracy, but there is much debate over the factors that affect turnout. Different countries have very different average voter turnouts: for example, turnouts in the United States are typically more than 40 percentage points below those in Malta, which also does not have compulsory voting, and Australia, which does. These differences are believed to be caused by a mix of cultural and institutional factors. After increasing for many decades, there has been a trend of decreasing voter turnout in most established democracies since the 1960s. This issue has been much studied, but scholars are divided on what has caused it, with a wide array of economic, demographic, technological, cultural, and institutional factors proposed as the cause of this decline. There have been many efforts to increase turnout and encourage voting. (continued...)

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March 30
The Suez Canal area, 6–15 October 1973

The Yom Kippur War was fought from October 6 (the day of Yom Kippur) to October 26, 1973, between Israel and a coalition of Egypt and Syria. The War began with a surprise joint attack by Egypt and Syria into the Sinai and Golan Heights, respectively, which had been captured by Israel six years earlier during the Six-Day War. The Egyptians and Syrians advanced during the first 24–48 hours, after which momentum began to swing in Israel's favor. By the second week of the war, the Syrians had been pushed entirely out of the Golan Heights. In the Sinai to the south, the Israelis had struck at the "hinge" between two invading Egyptian armies, crossed the Suez Canal (where the old cease-fire line had been), and cut off an entire Egyptian army just as a United Nations cease-fire came into effect. The war had far-reaching implications for many nations. The Arab world, which had been humiliated by the lopsided defeat of the Egyptian-Syrian-Jordanian alliance during the Six-Day War, felt psychologically vindicated by its string of victories early in the conflict. This vindication paved the way for the peace process that followed, as well as liberalizations such as Egypt's infitah policy. The Camp David Accords which came soon after led to normalized relations between Egypt and Israel—the first time any Arab country had recognized the Israeli state. Egypt, which had already been drifting away from the Soviet Union, then left the Soviet sphere of influence almost entirely. (continued...)

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March 31
A saffron crocus flower with red stigmas

Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of the saffron crocus, a species of crocus in the family Iridaceae. The flower has three stigmas, which are the distal ends of the plant's carpels. Together with its style, the stalk connecting the stigmas to the rest of the plant, these components are often dried and used in cooking as a seasoning and colouring agent. Saffron, which has for decades been the world's most expensive spice by weight, was first cultivated in the vicinity of Greece. Saffron is characterised by a bitter taste and an iodoform- or hay-like fragrance; these are caused by the chemicals picrocrocin and safranal. It also contains a carotenoid dye, crocin, that gives food a rich golden-yellow hue. These qualities make saffron a much sought-after ingredient in many foods worldwide. Saffron also has medicinal applications. The word saffron originated from the 12th century Old French term safran, which derives from the Latin word safranum. (continued...)

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