Good morning on a U.S. holiday: Saturday, July 4, 2020, or Independence Day—the day when the Continental Congress, in the Declaration of Independence, declared that the 13 colonies were no longer subjects of the British king, but were free and independent states.
There’s a Google Doodle gif celebrating the Fourth today, and clicking on it goes to a site that has additional fireworks.
Appropriately, it’s National Barbecue Day, though nearly everyone will be grilling at home today—no parties (except in Texas and Florida). It’s also Independence from Meat Day, National Barbecued Spareribs Day, Jackfruit Day, National Caesar Salad Day, National Country Music Day, and International Cherry Pit Spitting Day (the record distance for this feat is a reamarkable 93 feet and 6.5 inches (28.51 m), set in 2004 by Brian “Young Gun” Krause).
It’s going to be a scorcher of a week in Chicago, with high temperatures reaching the mid-80s to 90s for the foreseeable future. I wouldn’t mind some cooler temperature and rain for the ducks’ sake.
News of the day: According to the New York Times, Trump gave a strong and divisive speech at Mount Rushmore for the Fourth of July. You can read about it here. I have no doubts the speech was execrable, but this seems another case where editorializing seeps into a straight journalistic report.
For the seventh day out of nine, the U.S. set a record for the number of coronavirus cases reported: a shocking figure of 57,497. That’s in a single day! How is Trump going to explain this away? Remember when he said there were only a few cases and it would go away in the summer?
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 129,407, an increase of about 800 deaths over yesterday’s report. The world death toll now stands at 526,035, an increase of about 5800 from yesterday.
Stuff that happened on July 4 include:
- 1054 – A supernova, called SN 1054, is seen by Chinese Song dynasty, Arab, and possibly Amerindian observers near the star Zeta Tauri. For several months it remains bright enough to be seen during the day. Its remnants form the Crab Nebula.
Here’s a reconstruction of how it would have been seen in China in 1054 (caption from Wikipedia). Remember that it’s 6,500 light years away, so the event would have occurred several millennia before it was observed. The supernova was visible for about two years.
And how it looks today as The Crab Nebula (caption again from Wikipedia):
This is a mosaic image, one of the largest ever taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope of the Crab Nebula , a six-light-year-wide expanding remnant of a star’s supernova explosion. Japanese and Chinese astronomers recorded this violent event nearly 1,000 years ago in 1054, as did, almost certainly, Native Americans. The orange filaments are the tattered remains of the star and consist mostly of hydrogen. The rapidly spinning neutron star embedded in the center of the nebula is the dynamo powering the nebula’s eerie interior bluish glow. The blue light comes from electrons whirling at nearly the speed of light around magnetic field lines from the neutron star. The neutron star, like a lighthouse, ejects twin beams of radiation that appear to pulse 30 times a second due to the neutron star’s rotation. A neutron star is the crushed ultra-dense core of the exploded star.
- 1776 – American Revolution: The United States Declaration of Independence is adopted by the Second Continental Congress.
- 1826 – John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, respectively the second and third presidents of the United States, die the same day, on the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the United States Declaration of Independence. Adams’ last words were, “Thomas Jefferson survives.”
This is one of those remarkable coincidences of American history, though one suspects that Adams and Jefferson were hanging on until the 50th anniversary. Sadly, when Adam spoke those words, Jefferson had been dead for several hours.
- 1831 – Samuel Francis Smith writes “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” for the Boston, Massachusetts July 4 festivities.
- 1845 – Henry David Thoreau moves into a small cabin on Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. Thoreau’s account of his two years there, Walden, will become a touchstone of the environmental movement.
- 1855 – The first edition of Walt Whitman‘s book of poems, Leaves of Grass, is published In Brooklyn.
The first edition, printed in only 200 copies, will run you near $300,000:
- 1862 – Lewis Carroll tells Alice Liddell a story that would grow into Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequels.
- 1918 – Bolsheviks kill Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his family (Julian calendar date).
- 1934 – Leo Szilard patents the chain-reaction design that would later be used in the atomic bomb.
- 1939 – Lou Gehrig, recently diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, informs a crowd at Yankee Stadium that he considers himself “The luckiest man on the face of the earth”, then announces his retirement from major league baseball.
Gehrig knew he was dying, and was a shy man who didn’t want to speak. Pressed into service, he made this remarkable short oration (he said more, but this is all that was recorded on film). He died on June 2, 1941.
- 1947 – The “Indian Independence Bill” is presented before the British House of Commons, proposing the independence of the Provinces of British India into two sovereign countries: India and Pakistan.
- 1951 – William Shockley announces the invention of the junction transistor.
- 2004 – The cornerstone of the Freedom Tower is laid on the World Trade Center site in New York City.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1790 – George Everest, Welsh geographer and surveyor (d. 1866)
- 1816 – Hiram Walker, American businessman, founded Canadian Club whisky (d. 1899)
- 1872 – Calvin Coolidge, American lawyer and politician, 30th President of the United States (d. 1933)
- 1881 – Ulysses S. Grant III, American general (d. 1968)
- 1883 – Rube Goldberg, American sculptor, cartoonist, and engineer (d. 1970)
- 1937 – Thomas Nagel, American philosopher and academic
America’s equivalent of the British cartoonist W. Heath Robinson, Goldberg devised hundreds of impractical but funny machines. I found one that involves ducks, or rather vitamin-fed “superducks”:
Those who met the Grim Reaper on July 4 include:
- 1826 – John Adams, American lawyer and politician, 2nd President of the United States (b. 1735)
- 1826 – Thomas Jefferson, American architect, lawyer, and politician, 3rd President of the United States (b. 1743)
- 1831 – James Monroe, American soldier, lawyer, and politician, 5th President of the United States (b. 1758)
- 1934 – Marie Curie, French-Polish physicist and chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1867)
- 2003 – Barry White, American singer-songwriter, pianist, and producer (b. 1944)
- 2008 – Jesse Helms, American politician (b. 1921)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is contemplating going on walkies to the Vistula:
A: Are you going with us to the river?Hili: I’m entertaining the idea.
Ja: Idziesz z nami nad Wisłę?Hili: Zastanawiam się.
From Simon, who says, ” Even 350 years or so on, Pepys seems to have it nailed.” Pepys is talking about bubonic plague, not syphilis, of course.
UPDATE: This quote turns out to be bogus (see here; h/t: Matthew Cobb), but I’ve left it up anyway as an object lesson in getting fooled.
A Walt Handelsman cartoon (in inadvertently makes fun of the irritating statement, “All lives matter” used as a retort to “Black lives matter.”
From Writing About Writing:
I’m famous! Andrew Sullivan tweeted about my post yesterday about the redefinition of transgender women. “Back-hole” is used sarcastically: it’s the new woke term for “anus”.
In which a major dictionary disappears up its own "back-hole".https://t.co/w0rtsOVNfk
— Andrew Sullivan (@sullydish) July 3, 2020
2,000 people a year still die from bubonic plague, caused by a bacillus that’s the direct descendant of the species that killed millions in the 14th century. Two suspected cases have just appeared in western Mongolia.
Meanwhile, welcome back old friend…https://t.co/4nLuC0zTaH
— paul dennis (@trypewriter01) July 3, 2020
From Gethyn: amazingly realistic cakes (I may have posted this one before):
I like cake but this just makes me feel uncomfortable https://t.co/49rRSEuSXU
— X Curtis (@Xris32) July 3, 2020
From cesar, who says, correctly, that both the Woke and creationists are trying to cancel Darwin. I’m just waiting for the inevitable toppling of Darwin statues. We can look forward to the renamed town of Huxley, Australia.
The creationist campaign to dethrone Darwin is gaining strength. pic.twitter.com/a4aEI8XSTk
— Noah Carl (@NoahCarl90) July 3, 2020
From a biology professor at Tel Aviv University, sent by reader Simon. Simon Says, “his guy does an amazing job of finding things and giving them great science-related labels.” Yep, that’s the way big labs work these days:
First author and others who are only mentioned in the acknowledgements pic.twitter.com/2QXxL8kGcg
— Oded Rechavi 🦉 (@OdedRechavi) July 2, 2020
And another from Rechavi:
“..I'm not sure if you received my previous email so am forwarding a copy to you in case it bounced the first time I sent it”https://t.co/CJmjNND3HK
— Oded Rechavi 🦉 (@OdedRechavi) July 3, 2020
Tweets from Matthew. These reptiles could rule the world if they wanted:
Notice anything odd about this alligator’s hand? 8 toes! This is Octo and he is polydactyl, which means he has extra toes! This is the only gator I’ve ever seen that has this. Normally, alligators have 5 toes on their front hands. Octo is a rescued alligators at evergladesoutpost pic.twitter.com/riSNFwEsVq
— Gabby Nikolle (@gabby_gatorgirl) June 7, 2020
Matthew says, “DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!”
Sound up to hear Gabby the Gator Girl:
This is “Seven”, a large alligator that I have worked with for over 2 years! Alligators are incredibly smart animals, and are capable of learning commands, such as their name, stationing, and more. Notice how he pauses when I tell him to “wait”. pic.twitter.com/2hqiKBkHT3
— Gabby Nikolle (@gabby_gatorgirl) July 2, 2020