April 4, 2012

April Dates and Facts

By Eloise Graham

April – a month in spring! This year, we have had spring-like weather in February. I hope April will not disappoint us. April is a new beginning, a chance to look forward to more leisure time. But, April is also a busy time, preparing yards, gardens, decks, maybe summer cabins, boats, campers and fishing equipment.

Diamond is the birthstone for April. The diamond has remarkable optical characteristics. Because of its extremely rigid lattice, it can be contaminated by a few types of impurities, such as nitrogen and boron. Combined with wide transparency, this results in the clear, colorless appearance of most natural diamonds. Small amounts of defects or impurities (about one per million of lattice atoms) color diamonds blue (boron), yellow (nitrogen), brown structural lattice defects, green (radiation exposure), purple, pink, orange or red. The diamond also has relatively high ability to disperse light of different colors. Excellent optical and mechanical properties, combined with efficient marketing, make the diamond the most popular gemstone.

The diamond is also used in industrial tools. The Greeks named the stone adamas, which means unbreakable. The diamond is an allotrope of carbon, where the carbon atoms are arranged in a variation of the face-centered cubic crystal structure called a diamond lattice. The diamond is renowned as a material with superlative physical qualities, most of which originate from the strong bonding between its atoms. In particular, diamond has the highest hardness and thermal conductivity of any bulk material. Those properties determine the major industrial application of diamond in cutting and
polishing tools.

Sweet Pea is the flower designated to April. The sweet-smelling flowers come in a wide range of colors, the main feature of this climbing plant. The vine grows 6 to 9 feet tall, with dwarf types reaching 8-20 inches. Sweet peas are also suitable for baskets, tubs and spillover plant-ings, and make excellent cut flowers. They will do best if planted in a different place each year.

April is also known for “April Fool’s Day.” Some think it is so called because of the change of calendars. In 1582, Pope Gregory introduced a new calendar called the Gregorian calendar which is the calendar we still use today. The old calendar had been called the Julian calendar, was ahead by ten days because each year was a little too long. Gregory moved the new calendar forward by ten days.

In the Julian calendar, the old calendar, New Year was celebrated from March 25th to April 1st. The first day of the Gregorian calendar is January 1st. Britain didn’t accept the new calendar until 1752. In France, people were forgetful and other people refused to accept the new calendar, so they still celebrated New Year on April 1st. Other people would play tricks on them and call them April Fools.

One of the all time biggest European pranks took place in 1957. The BBC TV program Panorama did a documentary on ‘spaghetti farmers’ growing “spaghetti trees.” The hoax Panorama program featured a family from Ticino in Switzerland carrying out their yearly spaghetti harvest. It showed women carefully plucking strands of spaghetti from a tree and laying them in the sun to dry.

The joke was an enormous success. Hundreds of people believed there were such things as spaghetti trees. Soon after the broadcast ended, the BBC began to receive hundreds of calls from puzzled viewers. “Did spaghetti really grow on trees?” they wanted to know. Others were eager to learn how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this the BBC reportedly replied that they should “place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”