16 May 1966

The Communist Party of China issues its May 16 Notice to start the Cultural Revolution.

The Cultural Revolution, formally the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, was a sociopolitical movement in China from 1966 until 1976. Launched by Mao Zedong, then Chairman of the Communist Party of China, its stated goal was to preserve ‘true’ Communist ideology in the country by purging remnants of capitalist and traditional elements from Chinese society, and to re-impose Maoist thought as the dominant ideology within the Party. The Revolution marked Mao’s return to a position of power after the Great Leap Forward. The movement paralyzed China politically and negatively affected the country’s economy and society to a significant degree.

The movement was launched in May 1966, after Mao alleged that bourgeois elements had infiltrated the government and society at large, aiming to restore capitalism. To eliminate his rivals within the Communist Party of China, Mao insisted that these “revisionists” be removed through violent class struggle. China’s youth responded to Mao’s appeal by forming Red Guard groups around the country. The movement spread into the military, urban workers, and the Communist Party leadership itself. It resulted in widespread factional struggles in all walks of life. In the top leadership, it led to a mass purge of senior officials, most notably Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping. During the same period, Mao’s personality cult grew to immense proportions.

In the violent struggles that ensued across the country, millions of people were persecuted and suffered a wide range of abuses including public humiliation, arbitrary imprisonment, torture, hard labor, sustained harassment, seizure of property and sometimes execution. A large segment of the population was forcibly displaced, most notably the transfer of urban youth to rural regions during the Down to the Countryside Movement. Historical relics and artifacts were destroyed. Cultural and religious sites were ransacked.

Mao officially declared the Cultural Revolution to have ended in 1969, but its active phase lasted until the death of military leader and proposed Mao successor Lin Biao in 1971. After Mao’s death and the arrest of the Gang of Four in 1976, reformers led by Deng Xiaoping gradually began to dismantle the Maoist policies associated with the Cultural Revolution. In 1981, the Party declared that the Cultural Revolution was “responsible for the most severe setback and the heaviest losses suffered by the Party, the country, and the people since the founding of the People’s Republic”.

In May 16, 1966, an “expanded session” of the Politburo was called in Beijing. The conference, rather than being a joint discussion on policy, was essentially a campaign to mobilize the Politburo into endorsing Mao’s political agenda. The conference was heavily laden with Maoist political rhetoric on class struggle, and filled with meticulously-prepared ‘indictments’ on the recently ousted leaders such as Peng Zhen and Luo Ruiqing. One of these documents, released on May 16, was prepared with Mao’s personal supervision, and was particularly damning:

Those representatives of the bourgeoisie who have sneaked into the Party, the government, the army, and various spheres of culture are a bunch of counter-revolutionary revisionists. Once conditions are ripe, they will seize political power and turn the dictatorship of the proletariat into a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Some of them we have already seen through; others we have not. Some are still trusted by us and are being trained as our successors, persons like Khruschev for example, who are still nestling beside us.

This text, which became known as the “May 16 Notification”, summarized Mao’s ideological justification for the Cultural Revolution. Effectively it implied that there are enemies of the Communist cause within the Party itself: class enemies who “wave the red flag to oppose the red flag.” The only way to identify these people was through “the telescope and microscope of Mao Zedong Thought.” While the party leadership was relatively united in approving the general direction of Mao’s agenda, many Politburo members were not especially enthusiastic, or simply confused about the direction of the movement. The charges against esteemed party leaders like Peng Zhen rang alarm bells in China’s intellectual community and among the eight non-Communist parties.

18 December 1966

Saturn’s moon Epimetheus is first discovered by astronomer Richard Walker.

Epimetheus is an inner satellite of Saturn. It is also known as Saturn XI. It is named after the mythological Epimetheus, brother of Prometheus.

Epimetheus occupies essentially the same orbit as the moon Janus. Astronomers assumed that there was only one body in that orbit, and accordingly had difficulty determining their orbital characteristics. Observations were photographic and spaced widely apart in time, so that while the presence of two objects was not obvious, the observations were difficult to reconcile with a reasonable orbit.

Audouin Dollfus observed a moon on 15 December 1966, which he proposed to be named “Janus”. On 18 December, Richard Walker made a similar observation which is now credited as the discovery of Epimetheus. However, at the time, it was believed that there was only one moon, unofficially known as “Janus”, in the given orbit.

Twelve years later, in October 1978, Stephen M. Larson and John W. Fountain realised that the 1966 observations were best explained by two distinct objects sharing very similar orbits. This was confirmed in 1980 by Voyager 1, and so Larson and Fountain officially share the discovery of Epimetheus with Walker.

Epimetheus received its name in 1983. The name Janus was approved by the IAU at the same time, although the name had been used informally since Dollfus proposed it shortly after the 1966 discovery.

Epimetheus’s orbit is co-orbital with that of Janus. Janus’s mean orbital radius from Saturn is, as of 2006, only 50 km less than that of Epimetheus, a distance smaller than either moon’s mean radius. In accordance with Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, the closer orbit is completed more quickly. Because of the small difference it is completed in only about 30 seconds less. Each day, the inner moon is an additional 0.25° farther around Saturn than the outer moon. As the inner moon catches up to the outer moon, their mutual gravitational attraction increases the inner moon’s momentum and decreases that of the outer moon. This added momentum means that the inner moon’s distance from Saturn and orbital period are increased, and the outer moon’s are decreased. The timing and magnitude of the momentum exchange is such that the moons effectively swap orbits, never approaching closer than about 10,000 km. At each encounter Janus’s orbital radius changes by ~20 km and Epimetheus’s by ~80 km: Janus’s orbit is less affected because it is four times more massive than Epimetheus. The exchange takes place close to every four years; the last close approaches occurred in January 2006, 2010 and 2014, and the next in 2018. This is the only such orbital configuration known in the Solar System.

The orbital relationship between Janus and Epimetheus can be understood in terms of the circular restricted three-body problem, as a case in which the two moons are similar in size to each other.

29 August 1966

The Beatles perform their last concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

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Although they made an unannounced live appearance in January 1969 on the rooftop of the Apple building, The Beatles’ final live concert took place on 29 August 1966 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California.

The Park’s capacity was 42,500, but only 25,000 tickets were sold, leaving large sections of unsold seats. Fans paid between $4.50 and $6.50 for tickets, and The Beatles’ fee was around $90,000. The show’s promoter was local company Tempo Productions.

The Beatles took 65% of the gross, the city of San Francisco took 15% of paid admissions and were given 50 free tickets. This arrangement, coupled with low ticket sales and other unexpected expenses resulted in a financial loss for Tempo Productions.

Candlestick Park was the home of the baseball team the San Francisco Giants. The stage was located just behind second base on the field, and was five feet high and surrounded by a six-foot high wire fence.

The compère was ‘Emperor’ Gene Nelson of KYA 1260 AM, and the support acts were, in order of appearance, The Remains, Bobby Hebb, The Cyrkle and The Ronettes. The show began at 8pm.

The Beatles took to the stage at 9.27pm, and performed 11 songs: Rock And Roll Music, She’s A Woman, If I Needed Someone, Day Tripper, Baby’s In Black, I Feel Fine, Yesterday, I Wanna Be Your Man, Nowhere Man, Paperback Writer and Long Tall Sally.

The group knew it was to be their final concert. Recognising its significance, John Lennon and Paul McCartney took a camera onto the stage, with which they took pictures of the crowd, the rest of the group, and themselves at arm’s length.