Nov. 2, 1998

Looking West

by Billy Collins


Today's Reading: "Looking West" by Billy Collins, from PICNIC, LIGHTNING, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press (1998).

It was on this day in 1960 that a British jury acquitted Penguin Books of obscenity for publishing D.H. Lawrence's novel LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER. It was published in a limited edition in 1928, but it wasn't until 1959 that Penguin brought out the first full edition.

Today marks the anniversary of the one and only flight of the SPRUCE GOOSE, owned and piloted by HOWARD HUGHES, in 1947. It was actually made more out of birch than spruce, and had a wingspan of 319 feet—a little larger than the length of a football field. Hughes flew the plane for only about a mile before he had to bring it down.

It's the birthday of 2 Nobel prize-winning physicists, MELVIN SCHWARZ in New York in 1932, and RICHARD TAYLOR, born in Medicine Hat, Alberta, in 1929. Schwarz was noted for his research in the 1960s into neutrinos—subatomic particles that are difficult to detect because they have no electrical charge and almost no mass. Richard Taylor proved the existence of quarks, subatomic particles which are unobservable, but generally thought to be the most basic building-blocks of life. The term "quarks" comes from a line in James Joyce's 1939 novel Finnegan's Wake: "Three quarks for Muster Mark."

Today marks the first broadcast of radio station KDKA in Pittsburgh in 1920, the world's FIRST REGULAR BROADCAST STATION. The programming began at 8 p.m. with a series of bulletins on the Harding presidential election. A banjo player stood by in case the wire reports went dead, but all went off without a hitch, and the next day dozens of listeners phoned the station to ask where they could buy radios.

It's the birthday of DANIEL BOONE, born in 1734 in southeastern Pennsylvania, not far from Reading. Boone was the first person to blaze a trail through the Cumberland Gap, a notch in the Appalachians where Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee all meet.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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