Good News in History, January 4

13 years ago today, the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, officially opened in Dubai. Taking the crown from the Taipei 101 building in Taiwan’s capital, the Burj Khalifa has been the tallest building and structure on Earth since 2009, a year before it was even finished. Burj Khalifa was designed by a team led by Adrian Smith of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the firm that designed the Sears Tower in Chicago, a previous record holder for the world’s tallest building. READ more… (2010)

Burj Khalifa CC 3.0. Donaldytong

The UAE was seeking to diversify out of an oil-based economy, and the designation of Dubai as a special economic zone was a chief component in that strategy. The whole area was designed to be a mixed-use development, including apartments, shopping malls, and offices, which today have proven a financial success even considering the massive expenditure of the tower itself, which generates very little revenue at all.

The total floor count is 154, plus 9 for maintenance. It has over 3 million square feet (309k square meters) of interior space and has a roof height of 2,426 feet (739.4 meters).

The design is derived from Islamic architecture. As the tower rises from the flat desert base, there are 27 setbacks in a spiral pattern, decreasing the cross-section of the tower as it rises and creating convenient outdoor terraces. These setbacks are arranged and aligned in a way that minimizes vibration wind loading from eddy currents and vortices. At the top, the central core emerges and is sculpted to form a finishing spire. At its tallest point, the tower sways a total of 4.9 feet (1.5 meters) back and forth.

MORE Good News on this Date:

Happy Birthday to the author/historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, who turns 80 years old today (1943)
Burma gained its independence from the UK (1948)
US President Lyndon Johnson laid out his plans for “The Great Society” which included broad tax cuts, civil rights reforms and major spending for education, medical care, urban problems, and transportation (1965)
The Doors released their self-titled debut album “The Doors”, one of the most acclaimed LPs in all of popular music, which featured their breakthrough million-selling single, Light My Fire (1967)
Afghans approved a new constitution (2004)
The United States Congress elected Nancy Pelosi as the first female Speaker of the House in U.S. history (2007)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention removed a ban on persons with HIV from entering the country (2010)

111 years ago today, a royal charter established the Scout Association throughout the British Empire. It was the world’s first such association when it was formed in 1910, and two years later a charter issued by King George V standardized the practice across the realm.

Bear Grylls and Dwayne Fields with scouting statue Instagram @beargryllsOBE

Today, the UK’s Scout Association is the largest of its kind in Europe, with more than 400,000 members, representing 35% of all scouts on the continent. Since 2015, famous public speaker and outdoor television presenter Bear Grylls has been their Chief Scout. CHECK OUT this list of other uber-famous former scouts… (1912)

David Attenborough – broadcaster and naturalistDavid Beckham – England international footballer and former captainTony Blair – former Prime Minister of the United KingdomDavid Bowie – singer-songwriter, producer and actorRichard Branson – Virgin Group FounderJohn Major – former Prime Minister of the United KingdomPaul McCartney – singer/songwriter/bassist of the Beatles and WingsJohn Lennon – singer/songwriter of the BeatlesGeorge Michael – singer/songwriterKeith Richards – guitarist and songwriter of the Rolling StonesHarold Wilson – former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

52 years ago today, Ohio agreed to pay $675,000 each to the relatives of Kent State victims who were shot during a 1970 Vietnam war protest on campus. Joseph Kelner, a personal injury attorney, won the settlement in the iconic court case by taking on both the sitting governor of Ohio and the president of Kent State University after four students were killed by members of the Ohio National Guard shooting 67 rounds into a crowd of demonstrators. The plaintiffs accepted the settlement with the condition that defendants agree to state publicly that they regretted what had happened. (1971)

On this day in 1809, Louis Braille, the inventor of a reading and writing system for the blind, was born in France. Losing his sight at an early age, the precocious boy perfected his system of dots by the time he was 15-years-old. Now known as Braille, it went unused for years after his death, but eventually was recognized as a revolutionary invention, and adapted for use in languages worldwide. The simple tactile code has remained virtually unchanged to this day.

Photo by Diego Molano, CC license

“We do not need pity, nor do we need to be reminded we are vulnerable,” said Mr. Braille. “We must be treated as equals – and communication is the way this can be brought about.” WATCH how he started with an Army code for communicating in silence and darkness.

And, Happy Birthday to Michael Stipe, the visual artist and former lead singer of R.E.M, who turns 63 years old today. Since the band dissolved in 2011, the singer, songwriter, and visual artist has rarely appeared on stage. (1960)

170 years ago today, New Yorker Solomon Northup finally regained his freedom, after having been drugged, kidnapped, and sold into slavery in Louisiana. One of the few kidnapped free black people to regain independence after being tricked and enslaved, he published Twelve Years a Slave later that year, which became a national bestseller. He wrote the seminal memoir in three months with the help of David Wilson, a local writer and journalist, and it sold 30,000 copies within three years.

Once again a free man, Northup rejoined his wife and children and again worked as a carpenter. (He had also previously been a professional violinist.) He became active in the abolitionist movement and lectured on slavery throughout the northeastern U.S. in the years before the American Civil War. WATCH the real-life descendants of Northup—and historical slave owners—come together for racial reconciliation on the grounds where he once lived as a slave… (1853)

And, on this day 380 years ago, perhaps the greatest physicist the world has known, Isaac Newton, was born. Widely recognized as one of the most influential scientists of all time, he invented his own calculus when he was 26 years old.

An English mathematician, astronomer, and theologian, his book Principia, “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy”, formulated our understanding of the mechanics of motion and gravity, which dominated scientists’ view of the physical universe for the next three centuries. This farmer’s son also built the first practical reflecting telescope, and made pathbreaking observations in optics, figuring out that white light is really made of multiple colors. WATCH a cool video… (1543)

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