February 2012 marked the 60th anniversary of the Queen's accession to
the thrones of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand
(as well as the 60th anniversary of her becoming Head of Commonwealth).
Celebrations were held in these countries to mark the occasion.
there was an extra public holiday in the UK. Events were staged in London
that included a concert and maritime parade of boats along the River Thames, in which up to 1,000 vessels participated (the largest
flotilla to be seen on the river in 350 years), with a million people
watching from the riverside.* Street parties
took place around the country.
As of 2012, Queen Victoria was the only other monarch in the histories of Britain,
Canada and a few other Commonwealth realms to have celebrated a Diamond
Jubilee (in 1897).
Credit: Matt Gibson
2012 is held in Poland and Ukraine
2012 UEFA European Football Championship was jointly hosted by Poland and Ukraine. It was won by Spain, who beat Italy 4–0 in the final. Spain became the first team to win two consecutive European Championships, and also three straight major tournaments (Euro 2008, 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012).*
hosts the Olympic Games
In 2012, London hosted the Summer Olympics for the third time in its history – the only city to have done so on this many occasions. The event took place amid the largest security operation ever seen in peacetime Europe. London had been transformed in recent years by a number of massive construction projects. In addition to the Olympic Games venues themselves, there was neighbouring Stratford City, a mixed use development with almost 11 million ft² of commercial floor space and community facilities. Work had also started on Crossrail, a £15 billion rail connection linking Heathrow Airport with the central and eastern parts of the city. Several new landmarks dominated the skyline, including the 87-storey Shard of Glass,* which became the tallest skyscraper in Europe (until surpassed by Mercury City Tower in Moscow) and the first to break the 1000 ft barrier.
Credit: BaldBoris (CC BY 2.0)
Science Laboratory explores the Red Planet
Mars Science Laboratory, known as Curiosity, was by far the largest and most powerful rover ever sent
to Mars. Among its many instruments were the first video camera
taken to another planet. As well as filming the surface, it also recorded the descent through the atmosphere, in HD quality. The rover also featured the first 3D camera on Mars. The mission
had four main goals:
to determine if life ever arose on Mars
to characterise the climate of Mars
to characterise the geology of Mars
to prepare for human exploration
I crosses the heliopause
in 1977, Voyager I's original mission was to visit the gas giants of Jupiter and Saturn. It was
the first probe to obtain detailed images of these planets and their moons. By 1998, having travelled over 6.5 billion miles (10.4 billion km), it became the most distant human-made object ever sent into space, hurtling away from Earth at a speed greater than any other spacecraft. By 2003,
it had entered the "termination shock", the point where solar
wind particles slow down to subsonic speeds due to interactions with
the local interstellar medium.
In 2013, NASA announced that Voyager 1 had crossed the heliopause and entered interstellar space during the previous year, on 25th August 2012. This had originally been expected to happen in 2015 – but a new model of the heliopause, combined with fresh measurements of electron density, confirmed that it had indeed exited the Solar System three years early.*
The probe was expected to continue sending back signals until 2025 (along with its sister craft, Voyager II), before finally losing power from its generators and being unable to operate any instruments. It would enter the Oort Cloud in another 300 years, crossing that region after a period of 30,000 years, then passing the red dwarf AC+79 3888 in the year 42,000 AD.
Windows 8 featured a much faster startup, integrated web applications,
improved support for digital media (including AVC HD and 3D video), faster
resumes from low-power states, and support for both USB 3.0 and Bluetooth
3.0. It also included facial recognition (due to increasing use
of webcams integrated into computers), which could log a user in automatically.
There were substantial improvements for touch usage. In October 2013, Microsoft released the first major update, Windows 8.1. This addressed some aspects that were criticised by reviewers and early adopters. Mainstream support for the operating system was planned to run until 2018 and extended support until 2023.
Quad-core smartphones and tablets
The first quad-core smartphones and tablets were released in 2012, offering a major boost in processing power. This new generation included the Samsung Galaxy S3, HTC Edge, HTC Zeta, HTC Quattro tablet and the Asus Transformer Prime.**
launches the Wii U
Wii U was the first of the 8th generation games consoles, the others
being the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, both launched in 2013. The
Wii U featured gameplay in full 1080p resolution, up to 32GB of flash-based
memory for storing game saves, a touch tablet controller with built-in
camera, and game discs with 25GB content using a Nintendo-proprietary
format based on that of Blu-ray Discs. It was backward compatible with
Credit: Takimata (CC BY-SA 1.0)
The Abraj Al-Bait Towers are completed in Mecca
Also known as the Mecca Royal Hotel Clock Tower, this became the second tallest building in the world after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.* It consisted of seven different towers, with the Hotel Tower, the tallest, soaring to a height of 601 m (1,972 ft).
Built by the Saudi Binladin Group, Saudi Arabia's largest construction company, it cost over $15 billion and took almost eight years to complete. Along with its place among the world's tallest, Abraj Al-Bait held the record for largest habitable floor area at 16,150,000 sq ft (1,500,000 sq m). The hotel tower and its signature clock also broke records for the tallest hotel, tallest clock tower and largest clock face.
The complex was built to model the Islamic architecture of the old city and was located adjacent to the mosque Masjid al-Haram, Islam's most holy site and home to the Kaaba. It would serve to accommodate the enormous number of pilgrims and worshippers visiting the site – easing stresses on the city during the Hajj when millions of Muslims arrived as part of the pilgrimage. The towers could hold up to 100,000 people, with a large prayer room for up to 10,000. The complex also boasted a five-story shopping mall, heliports, residential areas, conference and business rooms, an Islamic Museum and a lunar observatory used to sight the Moon during holy months.
The tower sparked a global outcry during its development, however. The site was previously occupied by the historic Ajyad Fortress, an Ottoman castle built in 1781 that was demolished to make way for its construction.* The new tower received further criticism for its dominating stature over the rest of the city and its out of place modern appearance.*
Credit: AHMAD FAIZAL YAHYA
The Mayan calendar reaches the end of its
The Mayans were an ancient people that lived thousands of years
ago in what is now Central America. They are noted for having the only
fully-developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas –
as well as its art, architecture, mathematical and astronomical systems.
As part of their culture, the Mayans used a Long Count calendar. This
identified a particular date by counting the number of days from a starting
date, which is calculated to have been 11th August 3114 BCE in the Gregorian
calendar. A b'ak'tun was the longest unit of measurement in
this system and was equivalent to 144,000 days (394 years). When correlated
with the modern Western calendar it can be shown that the 13th b'ak'tun ended on 21st December 2012. This date
generated a huge amount of publicity, with many gullible people expecting the end of the
world, or a transformative event of some kind. This was despite no record
of the Mayans themselves believing that any such event would occur.*