Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Holidays for December 10th 2013

Dewey Decimal System Day

Today is the birthday of Melvil Dewey (December 10, 1851 – December 26, 1931), the American librarian and educator, and inventor of the Dewey Decimal System of library classification. In memory of Melvil Dewey, today is the Dewey Decimal System Day.

The Dewey Decimal System, or Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) is a numerical system of library classification first proposed by Dewey in 1876. Since its inception, the classification has been revised and expanded through 23 editions, the latest issued in 2011. Basically the system provides a framework within which a library book is assigned a ‘DDC number’ that unambiguously locates it in a specific space of shelving in the library, making it easy to find and return to its proper place.

The Dewey system classifies all books into 10 basic categories:
  • 000 – Computer science, Library and Information science & general work
  • 100 – Philosophy and psychology
  • 200 – Religion
  • 300 – Social sciences
  • 400 – Language
  • 500 – Science
  • 600 – Technology
  • 700 – Arts
  • 800 – Literature
  • 900 – History, geography & biography
While fiction books can also fit into the Dewey system (in the 800s), most libraries reserve the system for non-fiction works, rather classifying fiction using a basic alphabetic author-based system.

The Dewey system is used by no less than 200 000 libraries in more than 135 countries. It’s main competitor is the American Library of Congress Classification, which is more complex, but does have the advantage that it allows for the addition of new categories, which makes it more future-proof. The Library of Congress Classification is, however, very US-centric, and despite its increased adaptability it has been much less widely adopted than the Dewey system.

To what extent Dewey’s Decimal System will be able to continue remaining relevant as the knowledge landscape changes remains to be seen, but there can be no doubt that Melvil Dewey made a huge contribution to the classification and accessibility of knowledge the world over. And that must be a good thing.

Human Rights Day

Human Rights Day is celebrated annually across the world on December 10th.

Human Rights day is celebrated to promote the universal human right: to live and to do so peacefully. Some of the world's occupants have this right suppressed [e.g. the right to equality]. This day was declared to raise awareness of human rights and of those who are deprived of these rights.

"The date was chosen to honour the United Nations General Assembly's adoption and proclamation, on 10 December 1948, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global enunciation of human rights." "The commemoration was established in 1950, when the General Assembly invited all states and interested organizations to celebrate the day as they saw fit."

"The day is a high point in the calendar of UN headquarters in New York City, United States, and is normally marked by both high-level political conferences and meetings and by cultural events and exhibitions dealing with human rights issues." "In addition, it is traditionally on 10 December that the five-yearly United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights are awarded." "Many governmental and nongovernmental organizations active in the human rights field also schedule special events to commemorate the day, as do many civil and social-cause organisations."

Nobel Prize Day

The first Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace. The ceremony came on the fifth anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite and other high explosives. In his will, Nobel directed that the bulk of his vast fortune be placed in a fund in which the interest would be "annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind." Although Nobel offered no public reason for his creation of the prizes, it is widely believed that he did so out of moral regret over the increasingly lethal uses of his inventions in war.

Alfred Bernhard Nobel was born in Stockholm in 1833, and four years later his family moved to Russia. His father ran a successful St. Petersburg factory that built explosive mines and other military equipment. Educated in Russia, Paris, and the United States, Alfred Nobel proved a brilliant chemist. When his father's business faltered after the end of the Crimean War, Nobel returned to Sweden and set up a laboratory to experiment with explosives. In 1863, he invented a way to control the detonation of nitroglycerin, a highly volatile liquid that had been recently discovered but was previously regarded as too dangerous for use. Two years later, Nobel invented the blasting cap, an improved detonator that inaugurated the modern use of high explosives. Previously, the most dependable explosive was black powder, a form of gunpowder.

Nitroglycerin remained dangerous, however, and in 1864 Nobel's nitroglycerin factory blew up, killing his younger brother and several other people. Searching for a safer explosive, Nobel discovered in 1867 that the combination of nitroglycerin and a porous substance called kieselguhr produced a highly explosive mixture that was much safer to handle and use. Nobel christened his invention "dynamite," for the Greek word dynamis, meaning "power." Securing patents on dynamite, Nobel acquired a fortune as humanity put his invention to use in construction and warfare.

In 1875, Nobel created a more powerful form of dynamite, blasting gelatin, and in 1887 introduced ballistite, a smokeless nitroglycerin powder. Around that time, one of Nobel's brothers died in France, and French newspapers printed obituaries in which they mistook him for Alfred. One headline read, "The merchant of death is dead." Alfred Nobel in fact had pacifist tendencies and in his later years apparently developed strong misgivings about the impact of his inventions on the world. After he died in San Remo, Italy, on December 10, 1896, the majority of his estate went toward the creation of prizes to be given annually in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace. The portion of his will establishing the Nobel Peace Prize read, "[one award shall be given] to the person who has done the most or best work for fraternity among nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." Exactly five years after his death, the first Nobel awards were presented.

Today, the Nobel Prizes are regarded as the most prestigious awards in the world in their various fields. Notable winners have included Marie Curie, Theodore Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, George Bernard Shaw,Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Dalai Lama, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Nelson Mandela. Multiple leaders and organizations sometimes receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and multiple researchers often share the scientific awards for their joint discoveries. In 1968, a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science was established by the Swedish national bank, Sveriges Riksbank, and first awarded in 1969.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences decides the prizes in physics, chemistry, and economic science; the Swedish Royal Caroline Medico-Surgical Institute determines the physiology or medicine award; the Swedish Academy chooses literature; and a committee elected by the Norwegian parliament awards the peace prize. The Nobel Prizes are still presented annually on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death. In 2006, each Nobel Prize carried a cash prize of nearly $1,400,000 and recipients also received a gold medal, as is the tradition.

National Lager Day

Raise a glass - December 10 is National Lager Day!

Despite being the most popular type of beer in the world, lager is a relative newcomer to the beer scene when compared with ale.

Ale uses the strain of yeast that ferments at the surface of the fermenting vessel (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), which was also the original strain used to produce beer in ancient Babylon more than 5,000 years ago.

Lager uses the strain of yeast that ferments at the bottom of the fermenting vessel for longer periods of time and in colder temperatures (Saccharomyces uvarum). In medieval Bavaria, brewers noticed that their beer continued to ferment when stored in caves during the long winter. This resulted in lagerbier or German for “beer brewed for keeping.”

The actual strain of yeast wouldn’t be identified by scientists until the 19th century, about the same time that German immigrants introduced the United States to lager-style beer. Thus the American Lager was born, and American breweries never looked back.

Helped along by its crisp taste and smooth finish, lager has come a long way in a relatively short period of time. Whether downing a frosty pint, pairing a glass with a plate of buffalo wings or pouring a can into a recipe for beer battered fish, raise a glass to the unicellular organism that made it all possible.

Hip hip hooray for Saccharomyces uvarum!