June 30 – Anniversary of the Tunguska Event

Posted June 27, 2013

A column of blue light shot across the sky. A few Russians saw it and wondered what on earth it could be.
(Hint: it wasn't ON Earth.)

Ka-Blam!

A boom and a flash, and a shock wave that knocked people off their feet. Windows broke.

Luckily for those people, they were really far away from the explosion. The living things nearby weren't so lucky: 80 MILLION trees were knocked down! The felled trees were arranged in a circular pattern with the an epicenter near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River, in Russia.

What caused this huge explosion, which happened on this date in 1908?

Scientists believe that the Tunguska event was an “airburst” of a large meteoroid or comet. It was rushing toward the Earth at great speeds and began to burn up in our atmosphere. When it was three to six miles (5 – 10 km) away from Earth's surface, apparently, the meteoroid or comet got so hot it exploded. It was the shock wave from this explosion—basically, the air that was pushed strongly and rapidly away from the exploding body—that caused the trees to fall.


Even though the meteoroid or comet burst in the air rather than hit the Earth's surface, this event is still referred to as a meteor (or comet) impact. As a matter fact, it is the largest impact event on Earth in recorded history. The explosion was about a thousand times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

If the event had happened in a populated area, it would have destroyed an entire city!

Partly because of this event, many people are working on a way to protect ourselves from other, possibly even larger meteoroid, asteroid, and comet impacts. Read about “laser bees” here, the Don Quijote plan here, and paintball planetary protection here

Also on this date:



Anniversary of the discovery of the Excelsior Diamond






Did you hear that Nik Wallenda crossed Niagara Falls on Friday, June 15, 2012, for the first time in history? Well, Wallenda's crossing was at the widest, wildest, wettest spot. This 1859 crossing (by a guy named Gravelet) was a lot tamer because it was higher up on the river. (But Gravelet later crossed the Falls on a tightrope while blindfolded, then while pushing a wheelbarrow, then on stilts, and then while carrying another man!!!)



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June 29 – Shrimp Festival in Flanders

Posted June 27, 2013

You want to catch some shrimp? You're going to need a boat!

Unless, that is, you live in Flanders.

Apparently Flanders (the northern part of Belgium) is pretty much the only place in the world in which people still catch shrimp on horseback. 


This traditional “fishing” style involves riding into the ocean on horseback—nice and slowly—and when the horses are chest-deep in water, using nets to scoop up tiny gray shrimp. This traditional practice is celebrated this weekend in the town of Oostduinkerke, in the Shrimp Festival. Tourists come from all over to watch the horseback fishing—and of course to eat the shrimp!

How do the Belgians eat the gray shrimp? Two typical dishes are tomatoes stiffed with shrimp and mayonnaise and fried shrimp.

Have a shrimp festival of your own!

  • Take a peek at Shrimp on a Treadmill. (I think it's possible that some people have too much time on their hands!) 

Also on this date:






























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June 28 – Happy Birthday, Peter Paul Rubens!

Posted June 27, 2013

There are people who make a splash in a big way, in this world, and Rubens made his splash with colorful paint!

This Flemish painter was born on this date way back in 1577. (Flanders is now a part of Belgium, but Rubens was actually born in Germany but moved to Antwerp, Flanders, when he was 11 or 12 years old.)

Rubens had a happy family life.
Here is a self-portrait in which
he included his wife and son.

(Yes, the kid in the "dress" is a boy.
I read that the blue sash indicated
that this was clothing appropriate
for little boys.)
Rubens used a lot of color and captured a lot of movement in his paintings, and his portraits were popular with nobility. He was able to run a large studio, and he was knighted by the kings of Spain and England!

By the way, the reason that Germany lost Rubens to Flanders was because his parents faced religious persecution and fled their homes. Religious persecution is just never a good idea!











  • Here is a page about Rubens that includes a brief bio, pictures, games and puzzles.

  • Here is a coloring page featuring a Rubens piece. 


  • Rubens had a “secret garden” at his house/studio, which is now a museum. Check it out. 


Here is Peter Paul Rubens's signature, which
identified his paintings as his own. Come up
with a signature of your own—maybe your whole
name, or just your first 
or last name, or just your
initials.


Also on this date:





















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June 27 – Mathematics Gains a Logician

Posted June 27, 2013



Today is NOT Augustus Caesar's birthday AND Augustus DeMorgan's birthday.

What do you think that means?



Does it mean:
  1. it may be either Caesar's birthday or DeMorgan's birthday, but it is definitely not the birthday of both these guys...
          or
  2. it is definitely neither guy's birthday...

Well, according to the rules of logic created by DeMorgan, it means #1. Augustus Caesar was born in September, and Augustus DeMorgan was born on this date in 1806. He was born in India to British parents.

Here are DeMorgan's laws:

NOT (A AND B) = (NOT A) OR (NOT B)
NOT (A OR B) = (NOT A) AND (NOT B)

This sort of logic may seem unimportant. You don't use this stuff to figure out a budget that will allow you to save up for a Settlers of Catan expansion pack, or to fill out a Girl Scout Cookie form, or to figure out how much fabric you will need to create capes for the Justice League of America. But this kind of logic is actually really important to all of us, every day, because it is used in computers. Our digital circuits have AND, OR, and NOT “gates” that computer programmers manipulate as they create new apps and games.



Find out more about digital logic gates in I Programmer

Find out more about AND and OR in Boolean searches here. Check out this other video if you are curious about NOT (or if you happen to like pirates, ninjas, and cephalopods). 


Also on this date:
















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June 26 - National Canoe Day in Canada

Posted June 26, 2013

Can you canoe today?
Oar” you going to paddle upstream, sightseeing all the while, and then shoot downstream, white-knuckling through the white water?
Oar” maybe you will join a crew and do some rowing / racing!

Celebrating Canoe Day is probably a lot easier for most Canadians than it is for the rest of us, since there are more than THREE MILLION lakes and even more rivers in Canada! As a matter of fact, there is more “inland water” in Canada than in any other nation.

At any rate, happy Canoe Day!

Celebrate any way you can!

If you cannot canoe today, maybe you can do something along these lines:
  • Here are directions for creating miniature canoes out of craft sticks.

  • If you have birch trees nearby, you are in luck—you can make a model of a birch bark canoe! Here is how. 

  • I think these canoe-themed cupcakes are so cute! The canoe and other decorations are made with marshmallow fondant.

Eat your canoe for lunch!


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June 25 – Statehood Day in Slovenia

Posted June 25, 2013

When I was a kid, there was a nation called Yugoslavia on our maps and globes.

The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was created out of the old Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. It existed most of the twentieth century (the 1900s), although it was invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany and Mussolini's Italy during World War II. After the Nazi's (and the other Axis powers) lost the war, Yugoslavia was reinstated as a Communist nation, under the names the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia and then the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

But modern globes and maps have no trace of Yugoslavia. Instead, where that nation used to be are Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Slovenia. Seven small countries arising from just one country that was smaller than the U.S. state of Colorado!

Learn about Slovenia

Slovenia (which is a bit smaller than the U.S. state of New Jersey) has a bit of the Alps in the northern part of the country and a bit of shoreline along the Adriatic Sea. More than half of the country is forested, making the nation one of the most forested in Europe. Like Croatia, Slovenia has some of that awesome “Karst topography,” which means that an ancient bed of limestone has eroded into an area with underground rivers, gorges, and caves.

One of my favorite-looking cities in the world is Slovenia's capital, Ljubljana. I don't mean I like how the buildings and bridges of the city look—although they're perfectly wonderful, I'm sure!—but rather that I love the look of the name! If you want to hear how this city name is pronounced, listen to this

Alpine ibex
Even though it is pretty tiny, Slovenia has a lot of diversity of animals, due mostly to all the different sorts of landforms and the various altitudes. The wildlife in the country include everything from marmots, Alpine ibex, and chamois in the high mountains, to deer, roe deer, boar, edible dormouse, and hares, in the hills; from the strange olm in the caves to the bottlenose dolphin in the nearby Adriatic; from the Eurasian lynx to the red fox and European jackal —and my favorite, the adorable hedgehog!

Hedgehog
Not just the animals are varied: the Slovene people have absorbed influences from all over, and the culture is a bit of a mash-up of various traditions. Here is a New York Times slide show about Slovenia. 

And this tourism video is titled Slovenia: Diversity to Discover.


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June 24 – Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day in Quebec

Posted June 24, 2013

Today is another version of Midsummer celebration—this time bundled into the feast day of John the Baptist. In Quebec, the observation of Saint John-the-Baptist's Day took on a patriotic tone starting in the 1800s. Just as Saint Patrick's Day has come to be a time to celebrate all things Irish, the early promoters of Saint-Jean- Baptiste Day felt that the holiday would rally French Canadians to gather in Quebec and take pride in their language and culture.


Some of the traditions, such as lighting bonfires, came straight out of the Midsummer playbook. Other traditions include parades, fireworks, and musical concerts.



By the way, like Saint Patrick's Day, this Catholic feast day has been largely secularized. It is a national holiday in Quebec, so even English-speakers and non-Catholics have the day off work and attend various events. There have been a few protests and even a riot connected with the holiday; some people in Quebec want to pull out of Canada, and this patriotic holiday seems to some separatists to be the perfect time to make their arguments. There has also been some tension about the use of the English language during a French Canadian event. A few years ago, two Quebec bands were going perform in a Montreal event—but always sing their songs in English. Some complaints about this caused the organizers to ban the musicians from the concert. Outrage rained down upon the organizers, with both French-speaking and English-speaking Quebecers criticizing the ban. So the organizers put the two bands back on the program!

Learn more about Quebec and French Canada.

  • Here is a brief history of the settlement of Canada. Knowing the history helps you understand why there are French and English speakers in the country.
  • Here is a KidZone website with info about and maps of Quebec.
  • Here are some songs in French and English, including “O Canada.”

Also on this date:


















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