#AtoZChallenge2015: Zn, for Zinc

Today is the last post of this 2015 AtoZAprilChallenge, and it’s about this marvellous element Zinc, symbol Zn, and number 30 on the elements periodic table. Zinc has many fantastic properties, and is a major component of living things.

1943 Zinc PennyZinc, in commerce also spelter, is a chemical element with symbol Zn and atomic number 30. It is the first element of group 12 of the periodic table. In some respects zinc is chemically similar to magnesium: its ion is of similar size and its only common oxidation state is +2. Zinc is the 24th most abundant element in Earth’s crust and has five stable isotopes. The most common zinc ore is sphalerite (zinc blende), a zinc sulfide mineral. The largest mineable amounts are found in Australia, Asia, and the United States. Zinc production includes froth flotation of the oreroasting, and final extractionusing electricity (electrowinning).

Brass, which is an alloy of copper and zinc, has been used since at least the 10th century BC in Judea[2] and by the 7th century BC in Ancient Greece.[3] Zinc metal was not produced on a large scale until the 12th century in India and was unknown to Europe until the end of the 16th century. The mines of Rajasthan have given definite evidence of zinc production going back to the 6th century BC.[4] To date, the oldest evidence of pure zinc comes from Zawar, in Rajasthan, as early as the 9th century AD when a distillation process was employed to make pure zinc.[5] Alchemistsburned zinc in air to form what they called “philosopher’s wool” or “white snow”.

The element was probably named by the alchemist Paracelsus after the German word Zinke. German chemist Andreas Sigismund Marggraf is credited with discovering pure metallic zinc in 1746. Work by Luigi Galvani and Alessandro Voltauncovered the electrochemical properties of zinc by 1800. Corrosion-resistant zinc plating of iron (hot-dip galvanizing) is the major application for zinc. Other applications are in batteries, small non-structural castings, and alloys, such as brass. A variety of zinc compounds are commonly used, such as zinc carbonate and zinc gluconate (as dietary supplements), zinc chloride (in deodorants), zinc pyrithione (anti-dandruff shampoos), zinc sulfide (in luminescent paints), and zinc methyl or zinc diethyl in the organic laboratory.

Zinc is an essential mineral perceived by the public today as being of “exceptional biologic and public health importance”, especially increasingly regarding prenatal and postnatal development.[6] Zinc deficiency affects about two billion people in the developing world and is associated with many diseases.[7] In children it causes growth retardation, delayed sexual maturation, infection susceptibility, and diarrhea.[6] Enzymes with a zinc atom in the reactive center are widespread in biochemistry, such as alcohol dehydrogenase in humans.[8] Consumption of excess zinc can cause ataxialethargy and copper deficiency

Various isolated examples of the use of impure zinc in ancient times have been discovered. Zinc ores were used to make the zinc–copper alloy brass many centuries prior to the discovery of zinc as a separate element. Judean brass from the 14th to 10th centuries BC contains 23% zinc.[2]

Knowledge of how to produce brass spread to Ancient Greece by the 7th century BC, but few varieties were made.[3] Ornaments made of alloys containing 80–90% zinc, with lead, iron, antimony, and other metals making up the remainder, have been found that are 2,500 years old.[17] A possibly prehistoric statuette containing 87.5% zinc was found in a Dacian archaeological site.[49]

The oldest known pills were made of the zinc carbonates hydrozincite and smithsonite. The pills were used for sore eyes and were found aboard the Roman ship Relitto del Pozzino, which wrecked in 140 BC.[50][51]

The manufacture of brass was known to the Romans by about 30 BC.[52] They made brass by heating powdered calamine (zinc silicate or carbonate), charcoal and copper together in a crucible.[52] The resulting calamine brass was then either cast or hammered into shape for use in weaponry.[53] Some coins struck by Romans in the Christian era are made of what is probably calamine brass.[54]

Strabo writing in the 1st century BC (but quoting a now lost work of the 4th century BC historian Theopompus) mentions “drops of false silver” which when mixed with copper make brass. This may refer to small quantities of zinc that is a by-product of smelting sulfide ores.[55] Zinc in such remnants in smelting ovens was usually discarded as it was thought to be worthless.[56]

The Berne zinc tablet is a votive plaque dating to Roman Gaul made of an alloy that is mostly zinc.[57]

The Charaka Samhita, thought to have been written between 300 and 500 AD,[58] mentions a metal which, when oxidized, produces pushpanjan, thought to be zinc oxide.[59]Zinc mines at Zawar, near Udaipur in India, have been active since the Mauryan period. The smelting of metallic zinc here, however, appears to have begun around the 12th century AD.[60][61] One estimate is that this location produced an estimated million tonnes of metallic zinc and zinc oxide from the 12th to 16th centuries.[19] Another estimate gives a total production of 60,000 tonnes of metallic zinc over this period.[60] The Rasaratna Samuccaya, written in approximately the 13th century AD, mentions two types of zinc-containing ores: one used for metal extraction and another used for medicinal purposes.”

About Zinc and healthhttp://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/

Zinc in foodhttp://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=115

Image: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=10228&picture=1943-zinc-penny&large=1

#AtoZChallenge2015: Ysolde

In old Welsh and Gaelic legends, and Wagner’s opera, she’s Tristan’s lover. Ysolde, or Isolde, or Iseult, cuts a tragic and romantically beautiful figure of womanhood, loyalty and courage in the bleak world of the Arthurian and Wagnerian mythologies, the latter partly inspired by an old tale by Gottfried von Straßburg.

La Belle Iseult, William Morris, 1858“The Irish princess, Iseult of Ireland (also La Belle Iseult, Iseult “the Fair”), is the daughter of King Anguish of Ireland and Queen Iseult the Elder. She is a main character in theTristan poems of Béroul, Thomas of Britain, and Gottfried von Strassburg and in the opera Tristan und Isolde by Richard Wagner.

Iseult is first seen as a young princess who heals Tristan from wounds he received fighting her uncle, Morholt. When his identity is revealed, Tristan flees back to his own land. Later, Tristan returns to Ireland to gain Iseult’s hand in marriage for his uncle, King Mark of Cornwall. She is betrothed to an evil steward who claims to have killed a dragon, but when Tristan proves he killed the dragon Iseult’s parents agree to marry her to Mark. On the journey back to Cornwall, Iseult and Tristan accidentally drink a love potion prepared for her and Mark by Iseult the elder and guarded by Brangaine, Iseult’s lady-in-waiting. The two fall hopelessly in love, and begin an affair that ends when Mark banishes Tristan from Cornwall.

In the verse tradition, the lovers do not meet again until Tristan is on his death bed (see below), but in the later Prose Tristan and works based upon it, Tristan returns from Brittany and they resume their affair. Mark is much less sympathetic in these versions, and the adulterers eventually flee from his wrath. Lancelot gives them refuge in his estate Joyous Garde, and they engage in many further adventures. Additional episodes are integrated into the earlier sections of the narrative as well, including several involving the great Saracenknight Palamedes‘ unrequited love for Iseult, and in some versions, the two even have children. In the prose versions, the lovers’ end comes when Mark finds them as Tristan plays the harp for Iseult beneath a tree. The cruel king stabs his nephew in the back, and Tristan, at Iseult’s request, fatally crushes his beloved in a tight embrace as his final act.

One of her rumored burial sites is Chapelizod in Dublin, Ireland…

After King Mark learns of the secret love affair between Tristan and Iseult, he banishes Tristan to Brittany, never to return to Cornwall. There, Tristan is placed in the care of Hoel of Brittany after receiving a wound. He meets and marries Hoel’s daughter, Iseult Blanchmains (Iseult “of the White Hands”), because she shares the name of his former lover. They never consummate the marriage because of Tristan’s love for Iseult of Ireland.

During one adventure in Brittany, Tristan suffers a poisoned wound that only Iseult of Ireland, the world’s most skilled physician, can cure. He sends a ship for her, asking that its crew fly white sails on the return if Iseult is aboard, and black if she is not. Iseult agrees to go, and the ship races home, white sails high. However, Tristan is too weak to look out his window to see the signal, so he asks his wife to check for him. In a moment of jealousy, Iseult of the White Hands tells him the sails are black, and Tristan expires immediately of despair. When the Irish Iseult arrives to find her lover dead, grief overcomes her, and she passes away at his side. This death sequence does not appear in the Prose Tristan. In fact, while Iseult of the White Hands figures into some of the new episodes, she is never mentioned again after Tristan returns to Cornwall, although her brother Kahedin remains a prominent character.

The plot element of the fatal misunderstanding of the white and black sails is similar to—and might have been derived from—the story of Aegeus and Theseus in Greek mythology.”

On Gnostic Love: http://hipsterconservative.com/2013/10/04/gnostic-love-in-tristan-und-ysolde/

Image: La belle Iseult, William Morris, 1858, courtesy Tate Gallery:

“This is the only completed easel painting that William Morris produced. It is a portrait in medieval dress of Jane Burden, whom Morris married in April 1859. The picture has been identified in the past as Queen Guenevere, partly owing to the fact that Morris published his first volume of poetry,The Defence of Guenevere, in March 1858. However, recent research has established convincingly that the picture is intended to represent Iseult mourning Tristram’s exile from the court of King Mark.

Iseult appears to have recently arisen from her bed, where a small greyhound lies curled up among the crumpled sheets. In Le Morte d’Arthur (c.1470), the author, Sir Thomas Malory (c.1405-71), reminds us that ‘the queen had always a little brachet [bitch-hound] with her that Sir Tristram gave her the first time that ever she came into Cornwall, and never would that brachet depart from her but if Sir Tristram was nigh’ (quoted in Banham and Harris, p.115). She stands wistfully in her small chamber, her feelings for Tristram reinforced by the sprigs of rosemary, symbolising remembrance, in her crown, and the word ‘DOLOURS’ (grief) written down the side of her mirror.

The rich colours, the emphasis on pattern and details such as the illuminated missal reveal where Morris’s true talents lay. He was less at home with figure painting than with illumination, embroidery and woodcarving, and he struggled for months on this picture. He worked for much of the time at 17 Red Lion Square, the rooms he shared with Edward Burne-Jones. Many of the furnishings such as the Turkish rug, Persian embroidered cover and whitework hangings on the bed were probably in Morris’s personal collection. The background panel is close in style to the heavy tapestries designed by Morris for Red Lion Square and the table cover is of the type taken as a model by Morris and Webb for the firm’s church furnishings.

In 1874 the picture was claimed as his own by Ford Madox Brown’s son Oliver. Rossetti, who had a great fondness for Jane Burden, offered him £20 for it as ‘an early portrait of its original, of whom I have made so many studies myself’ (quoted in Parry, p.103). The picture eventually passed to Rossetti’s brother, William Michael. It lay forgotten in a cupboard until Rossetti’s death, when it was returned to Jane Burden.

Further reading:
Joanna Banham and Jennifer Harris (eds), William Morris and the Middle Ages, exhibition catalogue, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester 1984, pp.114-6, reproduced pl.IV, in colour.
Leslie Parris (ed.), The Pre-Raphaelites, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1984, reprinted 1994, pp.169-70; reproduced p.169.
Linda Parry (ed.), William Morris, exhibition catalogue, Victoria & Albert Museum, London 1996, pp.102-3, reproduced p.89, in colour.

Frances Fowle
December 2000″

#AtoZChallenge2015: Xenophon #philosopher and #soldier

As a child, passionate about history lessons, I was always attracted by philosophers who were also soldiers. There were quite a few in ancient times, and this Spartan hero is perhaps the archetype!

Busto di Senofonte in marmo bianco, biblioteca di Alessandria d'Egitto.Xenophon was a Greek philosopher, soldier, historian, memoirist, and the author of numerous practical treatises on subjects ranging from horsemanship to taxation.  While best known in the contemporary philosophical world as the author of a series of sketches of Socrates in conversation, known by their Latin title Memorabilia, Xenophon also wrote a Symposium and an Apology which present a set of vivid and intriguing portraits of Socrates and display some sharp contrasts to the better known portraits in the works of Xenophon’s contemporary, Plato.  Xenophon’s influence in Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and in Early Modern intellectual circles was considerable; he was a pioneer in several literary genres including the first-person military memoir (Anabasis) , the biographical novel (Education of Cyrus), and the continued history (Hellenica).  The range of his areas of expertise and the glancing charm of his down-to-earth writing style continue to fascinate and repay our study. For one example of his work in moral philosophy, he emphasized the importance of self-control, which comprises one of the cardinal virtues of Greek popular morality. This is highlighted by Xenophon in many ways.  Socrates is often said by Xenophon to have exemplified it in the very highest degree.  Cyrus displays it when he is invited to look upon the most beautiful woman in Asia, who happens to be his prisoner of war. He firmly declines this temptation; but his general Araspas stares at her endlessly, falls in lust, insults her honor, and ignites a chain of events described by Xenophon that ends in her suicide over her husband’s corpse…

Xenophon was born during the early years of the Peloponnesian War, in the outlying deme of Athens called Erchia.  Located in the fertile plain known as “Mesogeia” (literally “middle earth”) and overlooked by the beautiful mountains Hymettus and Penteli, Erchia was about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the bustling center of Athens–about a three hour walk or one hour brisk horseback ride.  His father Gryllus owned and supervised an estate whose income derived chiefly from farming.  Thus, Xenophon will have grown up surrounded by a combination of small hold-farming and urban influences.   Coming of an age in turbulent political times, Xenophon is thought to have been in Athens and personally present at the return of Alcibiades (408), the trial of the Generals, and the overthrow of the 30 Tyrants, all signal events in the rough history of Athenian civic life.

Little else is known about Xenophon’s earliest years.  From his later writings it can be safely inferred that he received a good basic education and military training as befitted a young member of the Equestrian class, that he was able to ride and hunt extensively, and that in his formative years he observed the careful work needed to keep a modest farm maintained and productive.

In 401. B.C.E at the age of 29, Xenophon was invited by his friend Proxenus to join him on a mercenary military venture to Persia, ostensibly to protect the territory of a minor satrap who was under threat.  In fact, though this was not known to Xenophon or Proxenus, the campaign was rather more ambitious than that: it was a game of thrones, nothing less than an assault on the claim of the Persian king Artaxerxes II, by his brother Cyrus the Younger.  The unfolding of this journey into foreign territory, with its adventures and mortal hazards, was a formative event in Xenophon’s life.  In the very first engagement, Cyrus was himself killed.  In a peace parley that followed, the generals of the expeditionary force were executed by treachery, leaving the army stranded, leaderless and surrounded by hostile peoples whose languages they did not speak, and winter was coming.  Xenophon eventually assumed leadership of this stranded and confused army, and led them to safety – as many as survived.  The book which Xenophon later wrote about their harrowing travels ‘up country’, Anabasis, is a hair-raising and brutally graphic soldier’s journal, of which more will be said later.

Upon his return to Greece, Xenophon continued his mercenary work under a Spartan general named Agesilaus.  He even went fighting, with Agesilaus’ “10,000” soldiers who returned from the battle of Coroneia in Persia, against a combined Athenian and Theban force.  Athens issued a decree of exile against Xenophon as a result. .  Even though it is possible that his banishment was revoked in later years, Xenophon never returned to Athens.

In gratitude for his service in this decisive Lacedaimonian victory, the Spartans gave Xenophon an estate in Elis, about 2 miles from Olympia – a region of the Peloponnese which was known for its unparalleled beauty and richness.  Here in Elis over the next 23 years, Xenophon would live a life of semi-retirement and quiet rural pursuits.  Here also he would write the bulk of his works, raise a family, and keep a distanced and reflective historical eye on the political fortunes of Athens. Nothing is known of his wife beyond her name: Philesia.  He had two sons, Gryllus and Diodorus. The Former was killed in the battle of Mantinea in 362 B.C., and Xenophon received many carefully written eulogies, a testament to his prominence in his own time.

When his adoptive city of Sparta was defeated in the Battle of Leuctra in 371 B.C., Elians drove Xenophon from his rural retreat and confiscated it.  Xenophon then moved to “flowery Corinth” where he ended his days.”

(From the Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy)

About Anabasis, Xenophon’s masterpiece

Image: Busto di Senofonte in marmo bianco, biblioteca di Alessandria d’Egitto, http://www.flickr.com/photos/dandiffendale/2341340203/sizes/o/in/photostream/

Author: Dan Diffendale

#AtoZChallenge2015: Weimar

The town nests in the rolling hills of Thuringia, surrounded by woods and battlefields from the Napoleonic wars: Weimar is above all a city of german culture, the rest place of Goethe and Schiller. For us, it is a charming stop on the long road to the capital, a place to remember Werther, the Bauhaus, and the death of the first German democracy…

DSC_0564“Weimar is situated within the valley of Ilm river, a tributary of Saale river on the southern border of the Thuringian Basin, a fertile agricultural area between the Harz mountains 70 km (43 mi) in the north and the Thuringian Forest 50 km (31 mi) in the southwest. The municipal terrain is hilly; the height of the city centre in Ilm valley is approximately 200 m of elevation. To the north, the terrain rises to Ettersberg, the city’s 482 m high backyard mountain. The range of hills in the south of Weimar rises up to 370 m and is part of the Ilm Saale Plate Muschelkalk formation. The eastern, central and western parts of the municipal territory are in agricultural use, whereas the Ettersberg and some southern areas are wooded…

After the Treaty of Leipzig (1485) Weimar became part of the electorate of the Ernestine branch of Wettins with Wittenberg as capital. The Protestant Reformation was introduced in Weimar in 1525; Martin Luther stayed several times in the city. As the Ernestines lost the Schmalkaldic War in 1547, their capital Wittenberg went also to the Albertines, so that they needed a new residence. As the ruler returned from captivity, Weimar became his residence in 1552 and remained as such until the end of the monarchy in 1918. The first Ernestine territorial partition in 1572 was followed by various ones, nevertheless Weimar stayed the capital of different Saxe-Weimar states. The court and its staff brought some wealth to the city, so that it saw a first construction boom in the 16th century. The 17th century brought decline to Weimar, because of changing trade conditions (as in nearby Erfurt). Besides, the territorial partitions led to the loss of political importance of the dukes of Saxe-Weimar and their finances shrunk. The city’s polity weakened more and more and lost its privileges, leading to the absolutist reign of the dukes in the early 18th century. On the other hand, this time brought another construction boom to Weimar, and the city got its present appearance, marked by various ducal representation buildings. The city walls were demolished in 1757 and during the following decades, Weimar expanded in all directions. The biggest building constructed in this period was the Schloss as the residence of the dukes (north and east wing: 1789–1803, west wing 1832–1835, south wing: 1913–1914). Between 1708 and 1717 Johann Sebastian Bach worked as the court’s organist in Weimar…

The period from the start of the regencies of Anna Amalia (1758–1775) and her son Carl August (1775–1828) through to Goethe’s death in 1832 is denoted as the “golden” or the “classical” age because of the high level of cultural activity in Weimar. The city became an important cultural centre of Europe, having been home to such luminaries as GoetheSchillerHerderWieland and Bertuch; and in music the piano virtuoso Hummel. It has been a site of pilgrimage for the German intelligentsia since Goethe first moved to Weimar in 1775. Goethe was also active in civic duties while living there. He served as Privy Councilor to the Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach for an extended period. The tombs of Goethe and Schiller, as well as their archives, may be found in the city. Goethe’s Elective Affinities (1809) is set around the city of Weimar. In comparison to many major German states, the dukes’ policy was liberal and tolerant in this period. The liberal Saxe-Weimar constitution was brought into effect in 1816…

The time after Goethe’s death is denoted as the “silver” age because Weimar remained an influential cultural centre. The first emphasis was fostering music. In 1842, Franz Liszt moved to Weimar as court conductor. He organized the premiere of Richard Wagner‘s Lohengrin (1850) in the city. The Weimar School of Music was founded in 1872 as Germany’s first orchestra school. Richard Strauss worked in Weimar between 1889 and 1894 as second conductor in the acclaimed Staatskapelle Weimar (the court orchestra founded in 1491). Several of his encores for works such as Hansel and GretelDon Juan and Macbeth were performed by the Staatskapelle Weimar. In 1897, Friedrich Nietzsche moved to Weimar and died here in 1900.

In 1860 the Weimar Saxon-Grand Ducal Art School, the precursor of today’s Bauhaus University, was founded. This was the beginning of academic arts education in Weimar. The institution created its own painting style, the “Weimar School” of painting with representatives such as Max Liebermann and Arnold Böcklin. The Kunstgewerbeschule Weimar was found by Henry van de Veldewith the support of Grand Duke William Ernest in 1902 and represents the other root of the Bauhaus, known as “Das Neue Weimar” (“The New Weimar”) around Harry Graf Kessler. It was a foundation against Prussia‘s restrictive arts policy favouring Historicisminstead of international Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau.

Already in the 19th century, the curation of Weimar and its heritage started. Many archives, societies and museums were found to present and conserve the cultural sights and goods. In 1846, Weimar was connected by the Thuringian Railway. In the following decades, the city saw a construction and population boom (like most late-19th-century cities in Germany). Nevertheless, Weimar did not become industrialised, and remained a city of clerks, artists and rentiers. During the German Revolution of 1918–19 the last reigning grand duke of Saxe-Weimar-EisenachWilliam Ernest, had to abdicate and went in exile to Heinrichau in Silesia…”

About the Weimar Republic… We remember the hopes, the murdered revolution, the legacy…

About the Bauhaus

Image: the Goethe and Schiller monument in front of the Nationaltheater in Weimar (© Honoré Dupuis 2013)

#AtoZChallenge2015: #Valley

Alpine valleys, their flowing streams, the Spring meadows and the sight of high peaks are an endless source of inspiration. Back in October 2012, two months after a wonderful summer visit to the South Tyrol I posted this sad and yet hopeful little story:


” The declining sunlight casts long shadows on the meadows, trees and rocks magically elongated over the sensual curves of the valley.

The little cross is hidden from view, not far from our path, but few walkers know it is there.

It’s almost our secret, a tiny haven nestled at the foot of the magic mountain, a special place: we belong there.

We can hear the small stream, running through the pine trees, as you turn your beloved face towards me, the green eyes I worship, deep into my lost soul, as images of our fall flash through my mind, and yours.

There, high above the valley, is the vertical cliff where you last kissed me, before our death: we haunt this place, and only the spirits will ever know.”

#AtoZChallenge2015: Utopia

Idealistic dream, vain hopes of justice and perfection, for others perhaps more dystopia? History and fiction are full of tentative or real utopia, for mankind never gives up…

“The term utopia was coined in Greek by Sir Thomas More for his 1516 book Utopia, describing a fictional island society in the Atlantic Ocean.

The word comes from the Greekοὐ (“not”) and τόπος (“place”) and means “no-place“, and strictly describes any non-existent society ‘described in considerable detail’. However, in standard usage, the word’s meaning has narrowed and now usually describes a non-existent society that is intended to be viewed as considerably better than contemporary society.[1] Eutopia, derived from the Greek εὖ (“good” or “well”) and τόπος (“place”), means “good place”, and is strictly speaking the correct term to describe a positive utopia. In Englisheutopia and utopia are homophonous, which may have given rise to the change in meaning…

Chronologically, the first recorded utopian proposal is Plato‘s Republic.[3] Part conversation, part fictional depiction, and part policy proposal, it proposes a categorization of citizens into a rigid class structure of “golden,” “silver,” “bronze” and “iron” socioeconomic classes. The golden citizens are trained in a rigorous 50-year-long educational program to be benign oligarchs, the “philosopher-kings.” Plato had stressed this many times in both quotes by him and in his published works, such as The Republic. The wisdom of these rulers will supposedly eliminate poverty and deprivation through fairly distributed resources, though the details on how to do this are unclear. The educational program for the rulers is the central notion of the proposal. It has few laws, no lawyers and rarely sends its citizens to war, but hires mercenaries from among its war-prone neighbors (these mercenaries were deliberately sent into dangerous situations in the hope that the more warlike populations of all surrounding countries will be weeded out, leaving peaceful peoples).

During the 16th century, Thomas More’s book Utopia proposed an ideal society of the same name. Some readers, including utopian socialists, have chosen to accept this imaginary society as the realistic blueprint for a working nation, while others have postulated that More intended nothing of the sort. Some maintain the position that More’s Utopia functions only on the level of a satire, a work intended to reveal more about the England of his time than about an idealistic society. This interpretation is bolstered by the title of the book and nation, and its apparent confusion between the Greek for “no place” and “good place”: “utopia” is a compound of the syllable ou-, meaning “no”, and topos, meaning place. But the homophonic prefix eu-, meaning “good,” also resonates in the word, with the implication that the perfectly “good place” is really “no place.” (…)

A global utopia of world peace is often seen as one of the possible end results of world history. Within the localized political structures or spheres it presents, “polyculturalism” is the model-based adaptation of possible interactions with different cultures and identities in accordance with the principles of participatory society.[6]

The Soviet writer Ivan Efremov produced, during the “Thaw” period, the science-fiction utopia Andromeda (1957) in which a united humanity communicates with a galaxy-wide Great Circle and develops its technology and culture within a social framework characterized by vigorous competition between alternative philosophies.

The English political philosopher James Harrington, author of the utopian work The Commonwealth of Oceana, inspired English country party republicanism and was influential in the design of three American colonies. His theories ultimately contributed to the idealistic principles of the American Founders. The colonies of Carolina (founded in 1670), Pennsylvania (founded in 1681), and Georgia (founded in 1733) were the only three English colonies in America that were planned as utopian societies with an integrated physical, economic, and social design. At the heart of the plan for Georgia was a concept of “agrarian equality” in which land was allocated equally and additional land acquisition through purchase or inheritance was prohibited; the plan was an early step toward the yeoman republic later envisioned by Thomas Jefferson.[7][8][9]

The communes of the 1960s in the United States were often an attempt to greatly improve the way humans live together in communities. The back to the land movements and hippies inspired many to try to live in peace and harmony on farms, remote areas, and to set up new types of governance.

Intentional communities were organized and built all over the world with the hope of making a more perfect way of living together. However, many of these new small communities failed, but some are growing like the Twelve Tribes Communities that started in the United States and have grown to many tribes around the world.”

(From Wikipedia article)

Image: “Hieronymus Bosch – The Garden of Earthly Delights – The Earthly Paradise (Garden of Eden)” by Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516) – →This file has been extracted from another file: Jheronimus Bosch 023.jpg.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hieronymus_Bosch_-_The_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights_-_The_Earthly_Paradise_(Garden_of_Eden).jpg

#AtoZChallenge2015: the T34 tank #9May #WWII

Today I wish to celebrate a hero. Soon Europe will remember May 1945, and victory over the Axis powers. This franco-german jewish household will remember the millions of soviet soldiers who died in the war, and all the others, from the US, Britain, Canada, Australia… India, Africa, Viet-Nam and many places who were called upon to fight the hydra. We will also remember the resistance, first in Germany – the Sachsenhausen concentration camp (KZ) was opened in 1934 to destroy the opposition, trade-unionists, communists, socialists, christians, and ultimately the German Jews, before many others – and then across Europe, with a special mention of Greece and Yugoslavia…

However this hero is a machine, the soviet designed and built T34 tank, that together with infantry fronted all the battles, from Stalingrad to Berlin:

Monument to Soviet Tank Crew Warriors in Sevastopol (T-34)“The T-34 was essential in resisting the German summer offensive in 1942, and executing the double encirclement manoeuver that cut off the German Sixth Army at the Battle of Stalingrad in December 1942. The Sixth Army was surrounded, and eventually surrendered in February 1943, a campaign widely regarded as the turning point of the war on the Eastern Front.

In 1943, the Soviets formed Polish and Czech armies-in-exile, and these started to receive the T-34 Model 1943 with a hexagonal turret. Like the Soviet forces themselves, the Polish and Czech tank crews were sent into action quickly with little training, and suffered high casualties.

In July 1943, the Germans launched Operation Citadel, in the region around Kursk, their last major offensive on the Eastern Front in World War II. It was the debut of the German Panther tank, although the numbers employed at Kursk were small and the brunt of the burden carried by the Panzer IIIStuG III, and Panzer IV. The campaign featured the largest tank battles in history. The high-water mark of the battle was the massive armour engagement at Prokhorovka, which began on 12 July, though the vast majority of armour losses on both sides were caused by artillery and mines, rather than tanks.[85] Over 6,000 fully tracked armoured vehicles, 4,000 combat aircraft, and 2 million men are believed to have participated in these battles…

The T-34 was a Soviet medium tank which had a profound and lasting effect on the field of tank design. Although its armour and armament were surpassed later in the war, it has been often credited as the most effective, efficient, and influential tank design of World War II.[3] At its introduction, the T-34 possessed an unprecedented combination of firepower, mobility, protection, and ruggedness. Its 76.2 mm (3 in) high-velocity tank gun provided a substantial increase in firepower over any of the T-34’s contemporaries;[4] its heavy sloped armour was difficult to penetrate by most contemporary anti-tank weapons. First encountered in 1941, German tank general von Kleist called it “the finest tank in the world”[5] and Heinz Guderian confirmed the T-34’s “vast superiority” over German armour[6] and found it “very worrying.” [7]

The T-34 was the mainstay of Soviet armoured forces throughout World War II. The design and construction of the tank were continuously refined during the war to enhance effectiveness and decrease costs, allowing steadily greater numbers of T-34s to be fielded despite heavy losses. It was the most-produced tank of the war, and the second most-produced tank of all time after its successor, the T-54/55 series.[8] By the end of the war in 1945, the T-34 had replaced many light and heavy tanks in Red Army service. It accounted for the majority of Soviet tank production, and following the war it was widely exported. Its evolutionary development led directly to the T-54/55 series of tanks, built until 1981 and still operational as of 2015 and which itself led to the T-62T-72, and T-90 tanks which, along with several Chinese tanksbased on the T-55, form the backbone of many armies even today. In 1996, T-34 variants were still in service in at least 27 countries…

In 1937, the Red Army had assigned engineer Mikhail Koshkin to lead a new team to design a replacement for the BT tanks at the Kharkiv Komintern Locomotive Plant (KhPZ). The prototype tank, designated A-20, was specified with 20 mm (0.8 in) of armour, a 45 mm (1.77 in) gun, and the new Model V-2-34 engine, using less-flammable diesel fuel in a V12configuration designed by Konstantin Chelpan. It also had an 8×6-wheel convertible drive similar to the BT tank’s 8×2, which allowed it to run on wheels without caterpillar tracks.[10] This feature had greatly saved on maintenance and repair of the unreliable tank tracks of the early 1930s, and allowed tanks to exceed 85 kilometres per hour (53 mph) on roads, but gave no advantage in combat and its complexity made it difficult to maintain. By 1937-38, track design had improved and the designers considered it a waste of space, weight, and maintenance resources, despite the road speed advantage.[11] The A-20 also incorporated previous research (BT-IS and BT-SW-2 projects) into sloped armour: its all-round sloped armour plates were more likely to deflect rounds than perpendicular armour.[12]

During the Battle of Lake Khasan in July 1938 and the Battles of Khalkhin Gol in 1939, an undeclared border war with Japan on the frontier with occupied Manchuria, the Soviets deployed numerous tanks against the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA). Although the IJA Type 95 Ha-Go light tanks had diesel engines,[13] the Red Army’s T-26 and BT tanks used petrol engines which, while common in tank designs of the time, often burst into flames when hit by IJA tank-killer teams[14] using Molotov cocktails. Poor quality welds in the Soviet armour plates left small gaps between them, and flaming petrol from the Molotov cocktails easily seeped into the fighting and engine compartment; portions of the armour plating that had been assembled with rivets also proved to be vulnerable.[15] The Soviet tanks were also easily destroyed by the Japanese Type 95 tank’s 37 mm gunfire, despite the low velocity of that gun,[16] or “at any other slightest provocation.”[17] The use of riveted armour led to a problem called “spalling“, whereby the impact of enemy shells, even if they failed to disable the tank or kill the crew on their own, would cause the rivets to break off and become projectiles inside the tank…

Valuable lessons from Lake Khasan and Khalkhin Gol regarding armour protection, mobility, quality welding, and main guns were incorporated into the new T-34 tank, which represented a substantial improvement over the BT and T-26 tanks in all four areas.[20] Koshkin’s team completed two prototype T-34s in January 1940. In April and May, they underwent a grueling 2,000-kilometre (1,200 mi) drive from Kharkiv to Moscow for a demonstration for the Kremlin leaders, to the Mannerheim Line in Finland, and back to Kharkiv via Minsk and Kiev.[19] Some drivetrain shortcomings were identified and corrected…

Over two years, the unit production cost of the T-34 was reduced from 269,500 rubles in 1941, to 193,000, and then to 135,000.[33]Production time was cut in half by the end of 1942, even though most experienced factory workers had been sent to the battlefield and were replaced by a mixed workforce that included 50% women, 15% boys, and 15% invalids and old men. Originally “beautifully crafted machines with excellent exterior finish comparable or superior to those in Western Europe or America”, later T-34s were much more roughly finished; this did not compromise mechanical reliability, however.[29]

In 1943, T-34 production had reached an average of 1,300 per month; this was the equivalent of three full-strength Panzer divisions.[35] By the end of 1945, over 57,300 T-34s had been built: 34,780 T-34 tanks in multiple variants with 76.2 mm guns in 1940–44, and another 22,609 of the revised T-34-85 model in 1944–45.[36] The single largest producer was Factory N.183 (UTZ), building 28,952 T-34s and T-34-85s from 1941 to 1945. The second-largest was Krasnoye Sormovo Factory N.112 in Gorky, with 12,604 in the same period.[37]

At the start of the war, T-34s were about four percent of the Soviet tank arsenal, but by the end it made up at least 55% of tank production (based on figures from;[38] Zheltov 2001 lists even larger numbers).

Following the end of the war, a further 2,701 T-34s were built prior to the end of Soviet production. Under license, production was restarted in Poland (1951–55) and Czechoslovakia (1951–58), where 1,380 and 3,185 T-34-85s were made, respectively, by 1956.[39] Altogether, as many as 84,070 T-34s are thought to have been built, plus 13,170 self-propelled guns built on T-34 chassis.[40] It was the most-produced tank of the Second World War, and the second most-produced tank of all time, after its successor, the T-54/55 series…

The T-34 was one of the best protected tanks in the world in 1941. Good armour thickness was enhanced by the sloped armour shape, which provided protection in excess of what armour thickness alone would indicate. Some tanks also had appliqué armour of varying thickness welded on to the hull and turret. Tanks thus modified were called s ekranami (Russianс экранами, “with screens”).[25]

The USSR donated two combat-used Model 1941 T-34s to the United States for testing purposes in late 1942. The examinations, performed at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, revealed problems with overall armour build quality, especially of plate joins and welds, as well as the use of soft steel combined with shallow surface tempering. Leak issues were noted as well: “In a heavy rain lots of water flows through chinks/cracks, which leads to the disabling of the electrical equipment and even the ammunition”.[43] Earlier models of the T-34, until the Model 1942, had cast turrets whose armour was softer than that of the other parts of the tank, and offered poor resistance even to 37 mm anti-aircraft shells.

Despite these deficiencies, the T-34’s armour proved problematic for the Germans in the initial stages of the war on the Eastern Front. In one wartime account, a single T-34 came under heavy fire upon encountering one of the most common German anti-tank guns at that stage of the war: “Remarkably enough, one determined 37 mm gun crew reported firing 23 times against a single T-34 tank, only managing to jam the tank’s turret ring.”[44] Similarly, a German report of May 1942 noted the ineffectiveness of their 50 mm gun as well, noting that “Combating the T-34 with the 5 cm KwK tank gun is possible only at short ranges from the flank or rear, where it is important to achieve a hit as perpendicular to the surface as possible.”[26] However, a Military Commissariat Report of the 10th Tank Division, dated 2 August 1941 reported that the frontal armour could be effectively defeated within 300-400 m by the 37 mm Pak 36’s armour-piercing shot.[45][46] According to an examination of damaged T-34 tanks in several repair workshops in August to September 1942, collected by the People’s Commissariat for Tank Industry in January 1943, 54.3% of all T-34 losses were caused by the German long-barreled 50 mm KwK 39 gun.”(from Wikipedia’s article)

The T34 has its own museum here!

Image: “Monument to Soviet Tank Crew Warriors in Sevastopol” by Cmapm – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Monument_to_Soviet_Tank_Crew_Warriors_in_Sevastopol.jpg#/media/File:Monument_to_Soviet_Tank_Crew_Warriors_in_Sevastopol.jpg