From Cape Canaveral, Florida, Navy Commander Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. is launched into space aboard the Freedom 7 space capsule, becoming the first American astronaut to travel into space. The suborbital flight, which lasted 15 minutes and reached a height of 116 miles into the atmosphere, was a major triumph for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
NASA was established in 1958 to keep U.S. space efforts abreast of recent Soviet achievements, such as the launching of the world’s first artificial satellite–Sputnik 1–in 1957. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the two superpowers raced to become the first country to put a man in space and return him to Earth. On April 12, 1961, the Soviet space program won the race when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was launched into space, put in orbit around the planet, and safely returned to Earth. One month later, Shepard’s suborbital flight restored faith in the U.S. space program.
NASA continued to trail the Soviets closely until the late 1960s and the successes of the Apollo lunar program. In July 1969, the Americans took a giant leap forward with Apollo 11, a three-stage spacecraft that took U.S. astronauts to the surface of the moon and returned them to Earth. On February 5, 1971, Alan Shepard, the first American in space, became the fifth astronaut to walk on the moon as part of the Apollo 14 lunar landing mission.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 4, 2016 is:
wisenheimer \WYE-zun-hye-mer\ noun
Leslie delivered a flawless presentation even in spite of interruptions from the wisenheimers in the back of the classroom.
"… we both come from incredibly saucy families who love to sling it every which way, so it just seemed natural for us to cross our fingers that any children we had would be little wisenheimers." — Lisa Sugarman, The Daily Ardmoreite (Ardmore, Oklahoma), 20 Dec. 2015
Did you know?
We wouldn't joke around about the origin of this witty word. In the early 20th century, someone had the smart idea to combine the adjective wise (one sense of which means "insolent, smart-alecky, or fresh") with -enheimer, playing on the pattern of family names such as Oppenheimer and Guggenheimer. Of course, wisenheimer isn't the only "wise-" word for someone who jokes around. There's also wiseacre, wisecracker, and wise guy. All of these jokesters are fond of making wisecracks.
On May 4, 1994, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat reached agreement inCairo on the first stage of Palestinian self-rule.
The agreement was made in accordance with the Oslo Accords, signed inWashington, D.C.on September 13, 1993. This was the first direct, face-to-face agreement betweenIsrael and the Palestinians and it acknowledged Israel’s right to exist. It was also designed as a framework for future relations between the two parties.
The Gaza-Jericho agreement signed on this day in history addressed four main issues: security arrangements, civil affairs, legal matters and economic relations.It included an Israeli military withdrawal from about 60 percent of the Gaza Strip (Jewish settlements and their environs excluded) and the West Bank town of Jericho, land captured by Israel during the Six-Day War of 1967. The Palestinians agreed to combat terror and prevent violence in the famous “land for peace” bargain. The document also included an agreement to a transfer of authority from the Israeli Civil Administration to the newly created Palestinian Authority, its jurisdiction and legislative powers, a Palestinian police force and relations betweenIsrael and the Palestinian Authority.
The Israeli Defense Forces withdrew from Jericho on May 13 and from most of the Gaza Strip on May 18-19, 1994. Palestinian Authority police and officials immediately took control. During the first few days there was a spate of attacks on Israeli troops and civilians in and near the Strip. Arafat himself arrived in Gaza to a tumultuous, chaotic welcome on July 1.
As time went on,timetables stipulated in the dealwere not met, Israel’s re-deployments were slowed and new agreements were negotiated. Israeli critics of the deal claimed “Land for Peace” was in reality “Land for Nothing.”
The momentum toward peaceful relations between Israel and the Palestinians was seriously jolted by the outbreak of the 2000 Palestinian uprising, known as “Second Intifada.” Further strain was put on the process after Hamas came into power in the 2006 Palestinian elections.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 3, 2016 is:
callow \KAL-oh\ adjective
: lacking adult sophistication : immature
"So callow was Williams that there was a clause in his first contract, which he signed at the age of 18, that stipulated the team would pay for his mother to be with him at least one week of every month." — Steve Hummer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 9 Dec. 2012
"At 5-10, 145 pounds, Justin Thomas, 22, seems too slight and callow to be a good example … of the foundational act on which modern professional golf is built. At least until he springs into his downswing with a driver." — Golf Digest, February 2016
Did you know?
You might not expect a relationship between the word callow and baldness, but that connection does in fact exist. Callow comes from calu, a word that meant "bald" in Middle English and Old English. By the 17th century, callow had come to mean "without feathers" and was applied to young birds not yet ready for flight. The term was also used for those who hadn't yet spread their wings in a figurative sense. Callow continues to mean "inexperienced" or "unsophisticated" today.
On this day in 1469, the Italian philosopher and writer Niccolo Machiavelli is born. A lifelong patriot and diehard proponent of a unified Italy, Machiavelli became one of the fathers of modern political theory.
Machiavelli entered the political service of his native Florence by the time he was 29. As defense secretary, he distinguished himself by executing policies that strengthened Florence politically. He soon found himself assigned diplomatic missions for his principality, through which he met such luminaries as Louis XII of France, Pope Julius II, the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, and perhaps most importantly for Machiavelli, a prince of the Papal States named Cesare Borgia. The shrewd and cunning Borgia later inspired the title character in Machiavelli’s famous and influential political treatise The Prince (1532).
Machiavelli’s political life took a downward turn after 1512, when he fell out of favor with the powerful Medici family. He was accused of conspiracy, imprisoned, tortured and temporarily exiled. It was an attempt to regain a political post and the Medici family’s good favor that Machiavelli penned The Prince, which was to become his most well-known work.
Though released in book form posthumously in 1532, The Prince was first published as a pamphlet in 1513. In it, Machiavelli outlined his vision of an ideal leader: an amoral, calculating tyrant for whom the end justifies the means. The Prince not only failed to win the Medici family’s favor, it also alienated him from the Florentine people. Machiavelli was never truly welcomed back into politics, and when the Florentine Republic was reestablished in 1527, Machiavelli was an object of great suspicion. He died later that year, embittered and shut out from the Florentine society to which he had devoted his life.
Though Machiavelli has long been associated with the practice of diabolical expediency in the realm of politics that was made famous in The Prince, his actual views were not so extreme. In fact, in such longer and more detailed writings as Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy (1517) and History of Florence (1525), he shows himself to be a more principled political moralist. Still, even today, the term “Machiavellian” is used to describe an action undertaken for gain without regard for right or wrong.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 2, 2016 is:
moil \MOYL\ verb
1 : to work hard : drudge
Revelations that the popular motivational speaker was born into a wealthy family cast further doubts on his claims that he holds the secret to finding wealth without the need to toil and moil.
"Playwright Eugene O'Neill moiled over several works, including 'Strange Interlude,' in a summer rental cottage you'll pass if you're on the historical walking tour." — Susan Bayer Ward, The Chicago Daily Herald, 15 May 2005
Did you know?
Moil may mean "to work hard" but its origins are the opposite of hard; it ultimately derives from Latin mollis, meaning "soft." (Other English derivatives of mollis are emollient, mollify, and mollusk.) A more immediate ancestor of moil is the Anglo-French verb moiller, meaning "to make wet, dampen," and one of the early meanings of moil in English was "to become wet and muddy." The "work hard" sense of moil appears most frequently in the pairing "toil and moil." Both moil and toil can also be nouns meaning "work." Moil implies work that is drudgery and toil suggests prolonged and fatiguing labor.
Although accounts of an aquatic beast living in Scotland’s Loch Ness date back 1,500 years, the modern legend of the Loch Ness Monster is born when a sighting makes local news on May 2, 1933. The newspaper Inverness Courier related an account of a local couple who claimed to have seen “an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the surface.” The story of the “monster” (a moniker chosen by the Courier editor) became a media phenomenon, with London newspapers sending correspondents to Scotland and a circus offering a 20,000 pound sterling reward for capture of the beast.
Loch Ness, located in the Scottish Highlands, has the largest volume of fresh water in Great Britain; the body of water reaches a depth of nearly 800 feet and a length of about 23 miles. Scholars of the Loch Ness Monster find a dozen references to “Nessie” in Scottish history, dating back to around A.D. 500, when local Picts carved a strange aquatic creature into standing stones near Loch Ness. The earliest written reference to a monster in Loch Ness is a 7th-century biography of Saint Columba, the Irish missionary who introduced Christianity to Scotland. In 565, according to the biographer, Columba was on his way to visit the king of the northern Picts near Inverness when he stopped at Loch Ness to confront a beast that had been killing people in the lake. Seeing a large beast about to attack another man, Columba intervened, invoking the name of God and commanding the creature to “go back with all speed.” The monster retreated and never killed another man.
In 1933, a new road was completed along Loch Ness’ shore, affording drivers a clear view of the loch. After an April 1933 sighting was reported in the local paper on May 2, interest steadily grew, especially after another couple claimed to have seen the beast on land, crossing the shore road. Several British newspapers sent reporters to Scotland, including London’s Daily Mail, which hired big-game hunter Marmaduke Wetherell to capture the beast. After a few days searching the loch, Wetherell reported finding footprints of a large four-legged animal. In response, the Daily Mail carried the dramatic headline: “MONSTER OF LOCH NESS IS NOT LEGEND BUT A FACT.” Scores of tourists descended on Loch Ness and sat in boats or decks chairs waiting for an appearance by the beast. Plaster casts of the footprints were sent to the British Natural History Museum, which reported that the tracks were that of a hippopotamus, specifically one hippopotamus foot, probably stuffed. The hoax temporarily deflated Loch Ness Monster mania, but stories of sightings continued.
A famous 1934 photograph seemed to show a dinosaur-like creature with a long neck emerging out of the murky waters, leading some to speculate that “Nessie” was a solitary survivor of the long-extinct plesiosaurs. The aquatic plesiosaurs were thought to have died off with the rest of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Loch Ness was frozen solid during the recent ice ages, however, so this creature would have had to have made its way up the River Ness from the sea in the past 10,000 years. And the plesiosaurs, believed to be cold-blooded, would not long survive in the frigid waters of Loch Ness. More likely, others suggested, it was an archeocyte, a primitive whale with a serpentine neck that is thought to have been extinct for 18 million years. Skeptics argued that what people were seeing in Loch Ness were “seiches”–oscillations in the water surface caused by the inflow of cold river water into the slightly warmer loch.
Amateur investigators kept an almost constant vigil, and in the 1960s several British universities launched expeditions to Loch Ness, using sonar to search the deep. Nothing conclusive was found, but in each expedition the sonar operators detected large, moving underwater objects they could not explain. In 1975, Boston’s Academy of Applied Science combined sonar and underwater photography in an expedition to Loch Ness. A photo resulted that, after enhancement, appeared to show the giant flipper of a plesiosaur-like creature. Further sonar expeditions in the 1980s and 1990s resulted in more tantalizing, if inconclusive, readings. Revelations in 1994 that the famous 1934 photo was a hoax hardly dampened the enthusiasm of tourists and professional and amateur investigators to the legend of the Loch Ness Monster.