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Exoplanet close to us

Scientists have discovered an exoplanet quite close to us that could have the potential to host life. An exoplanet is a planet outside our solar system that orbits some star other than the Sun. The planet has been given the name “Proxima b”, and it orbits the star “Proxima Centauri”. What’s special about Proxima Centauri is that it is the closest star to Earth (of course, besides our Sun). Proxima b is a little bigger than Earth, takes 11 days to complete an orbit around its star, and is thought to be in its star’s “Goldilocks Zone”.

Umm, what does that mean? Remember the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears? Goldilocks doesn’t like the soup that is too hot or too cold; she likes the one that has just the right temperature. She doesn’t like the bowl that is too big or too small; she likes the one that is just the right size. If a planet is in the “Goldilocks Zone”, it implies that it has just the right size, temperature, and distance from its star to be in the “habitable zone” or, in other words, to support life on it. Most scientists believe water is needed to have life on a planet, and therefore, they look for planets which could contain water.

So how close is Proxima Centauri to us? It is just over 4 light-years away. A light year is the distance that light travels in one year (about 6 trillion miles or 10 trillion km).

Here is a video about Proxima Centauri.

 

Image Credits: Y. Beletsky (LCO)/ESO/ESA/NASA/M. Zamani for the location of Proxima Centauri image, https://www.eso.org for Proxima b’s image
Sources: http://www.nasa.gov, https://www.eso.org

Longest living vertebrates

It was recently announced that the longest living vertebrates known to us on Earth are the Greenland sharks. They can live for up to 400 years, and are found in the waters of the North Atlantic. They are gray in color and are about 5 meters (16 feet) long. Animals that have a backbone are known as “vertebrates”.  Here is a video that gives more information about the sharks.

 

Image Credits:  Julius Nielsen, University of Copenhagen for the image of the Greenland shark
Sources: http://news.ku.dk, http://mashable.com, http://data.worldbank.org

Olympic Games come to an end

The Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil came to an end on August 21. The Olympic flame was put out. The Olympic flag was taken down and passed on to Tokyo, Japan, the host city of the 2020 Olympic Games. One of the highlights of the closing ceremony was Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe showing up as a video game character ‘Super Mario’.

 

 

 

The United States topped both the total medal (121) and gold medal (46) counts. China had the next highest total medal count with 70. Here are two videos, one showing the best and worst of sportsmanship moments from these Games and the other explaining the history of the Olympic Games.


Image Credits: https://www.olympic.org for all the Olympic images
Sources: https://www.olympic.org

Iran bans Pokemon Go

Iran became the first country to ban the Pokemon Go app. Pokemon Go is a game played on a mobile device. As a person moves, the game uses real location information to show virtual creatures that can be knocked out with a virtual ball. The game has gotten people walking around, and the Iranian government said that it could cause “security” issues. Here is a video about this news story.

Image Credits: http://www.pokemongo.com for Pokemon Go’s image
Sources: theguardian.com

Left Hander’s Day 2016

The International Left-Handers Day was celebrated on August 13 all over the world. This day has been celebrated annually since 1992. It’s a day that raises awareness about the issues that left-handed people have to deal with. Most things in our world (such as door knobs, tools, can openers, scissors, and so on) are designed for right-handed people, and left-handed people have a hard time using them. It’s also a day when left-handers celebrate being left-handed. Approximately 10% of the world’s population is left-handed. Bill Gates (currently the world’s wealthiest person, known for co-founding the company Microsoft) and Mark Zuckerberg (CEO of Facebook) are both left-handed. Steve Jobs (one of the founders of Apple) was also left-handed. Here is a left-handed video.

Image Credits: http://www.lefthandersday.com for Bill Gates image
Sources: http://www.lefthandersday.com, fortune.com

A bit more news

A large earthquake struck central Italy near the town of Amatrice on August 24. It had a magnitude of 6.2 on the Richter scale. More than 200 people have died, and many have been injured. Numerous homes and buildings were destroyed.

 

 

 

 

The fast food company Kentucky Fried Chicken came up with a new product that it gave out for free on its website. It was KFC’s Extra Crispy Sunscreen! Yes, you read it right, it was sunscreen that made you smell like fried chicken. You can watch a video here.

A Guinness World Record was set in China for the “most robots dancing simultaneously.” There were over a thousand robots moving to the music for a full minute. You can watch a video here.

 

July 2016 was the warmest month ever recorded since record keeping began in 1880.

 

 

 

A trial with self-driving taxis has started in a small area of Singapore. The car drives itself around, but there is a person behind the wheel in case something goes wrong. A taxi can be booked using a smartphone app. The company nuTonomy has used small electric vehicles and installed cameras, radars, and software to create these self-driving cars. You can watch a video here.

 

Image Credits: https://www.kfc.com for KFC’s sunscreen image, http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com for the dancing robots image,  nasa.gov for the temperature chart, http://earthquake.usgs.gov for Italy earthquake map image, http://nutonomy.com for nuTonomy’s car image,
Sources: https://www.kfc.com, http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com, https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov, CNN, http://earthquake.usgs.gov, http://nutonomy.com

Australia on the move

Australia has been on the move. It was recently announced that in the past 22 years, the continent has drifted north by about 1.5m (5 feet). Australia is often called “the land down under” because it lies entirely in the Southern Hemisphere and appears low down on globes and in maps. So maybe we’ll soon have to call it “the land not-so-down-under”. :-)

Scientists believe that the Earth’s surface consists of a hard shell called the crust, which is broken into large pieces called plates. Continents and oceans lie on top of these plates. Below these plates is very hot liquid rock called magma. The plates are floating on top of this magma and are constantly moving at very slow speeds (around 5 to 10 cm a year). The Australian plate is the fastest moving continental plate on Earth.

The way we determine where we are located on the planet is by using longitude and latitude lines mapped to the Earth. However, if our spot moves, then we need to update our longitude and latitude coordinates to show our new location. The last time Australia updated its local coordinate system was 22 years ago.

Some of the gadgets and technology we use (such as self-driving vehicles and drones) need precise location information. The government of Australia is in the process of fixing the country’s local coordinate system so that maps show Australia in the right place.

Here is a video that explains this news story.
Image Credits: Hellerick for the globe’s image
Sources: http://www.news.com.au/, http://www.abc.net.au, http://www.ga.gov.au

G-7 Summit

The G-7 summit is currently being held in Shima, Japan (May 26–27). It is a meeting of leaders from seven powerful countries around the globe. These countries are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, and the United States. The presidents of the European Union Council and the European Union Commission also participate in the meetings. Some of the issues being discussed at this summit are the global economy, trade, human rights, and climate change.

The G-7 was started in France in 1975. There were only six members then, and sure enough, it was called the G-6. The addition of Canada made it the G-7, and Russia bumped it to the G-8. In 2014, the membership of Russia was suspended. This was because of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, where Russia took over a region of the country called Crimea. Now it is back to being G-7. The group meets every year.

The G-7 is not the only “G” out there. There is the G-20, which is a group of 19 nations and the European Union. There is also the G-77, a group of countries which did start with 77 members, but now has 134. The group decided to stick with its original name though, which was very wise, otherwise it would have been changing its name every few months! :-)

Here are the current leaders of the G-7 nations: Canada – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, France – President François Hollande, Germany – Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italy – Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Japan – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, United Kingdom – Prime Minister David Cameron,  and the United States – President Barack Obama.

 

Image Credits: http://www.japan.go.jp/g7 for the leaders image and the flags image
Sources: https://www.g7germany.de, http://www.japan.go.jp/g7, ww.g77.org, https://www.g20.org

No Coke in Venezuela

The company Coca-Cola announced that its bottling company in Venezuela has stopped production of Coke and its other sugary drinks for the time being. This is because of a huge shortage of sugar in Venezuela. Coca-Cola will continue to produce its diet (or light) drinks in Venezuela that don’t use sugar to sweeten the taste. The shortage of sugar is partly because fewer farmers are growing sugar cane crop. The cost of growing sugar cane has shot up. The price of sugar cane is controlled by the government, where the farmers cannot charge beyond a maximum price that is set by the government. Therefore, farmers have turned to growing other crops that will make them more money.

Well, how much sugar can a 12-ounce of Coke have? One can contains over 9 teaspoons of sugar.

Sugar isn’t the only shortage Venezuelans are dealing with. Another is “power.” Power shortages are caused by drought problems which have led to low water levels in the country’s rivers and dams. About 70% of the country’s energy comes from hydroelectric power plants (where falling or flowing water is used to generate power). With very low water levels, the hydroelectric plants are not generating enough electricity for the nation. There have been daily power cuts around the nation.

Venezuelans are unhappy with their government. Many have signed a petition for the removal of their President Nicolas Maduro.

Coca Cola was invented in the United States in 1886 by a pharmacist named John Pemberton (image). Pemberton initially sold the drink for medicinal purposes, and claimed that it cured a few diseases. A man called Asa Candler bought the formula of the drink and went on to create the Coca Cola Company in 1892. Today the company has more than 3,500 beverages and sells its drinks in over 200 countries.

Here is a video of a Coca Cola’s advertisement that became popular called “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing”. There are two more videos, one about how much sugar is in a can of Coke, and the other is an experiment using cans of Coke and Diet Coke to see which will float or sink.

Did you know?

The story above contains an oxymoron. Oxymorons are a combination of contradictory words. Can you spot the oxymoron? It’s “huge shortage”. :-)

Image Credits: http://www.coca-colacompany.com for Coca-Cola’s image and Pemberton’s image
Sources: http://money.cnn.com, http://www.reuters.com, http://www.coca-colacompany.com

Eurovision Song Contest 2016

The Eurovision Song Contest, an annual song competition for countries that are active members of the European Broadcasting Union, was recently held. This year, the contest took place in Stockholm, Sweden and 42 countries participated. The winning song was “1944″, performed by Jamala for the country Ukraine. Eurovision is one of the world’s largest and oldest music competitions. It started in 1956, and has been broadcast on TV every year since, making it one of the longest running television shows in the world. The participants can sing in any language they wish. The contest is held in the country of the previous year’s winner. Therefore, next year’s Eurovision will be held in Ukraine.

Some of Eurovision’s contestants have gone on to become quite famous. ABBA from Sweden (the 1974 winner), Celine Dion from Canada (the 1988 winner), and Julio Iglesias from Spain (a 1970 participant) are some examples.

You can watch the winning song here.

 

Did you know?

Belgium’s song entries in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2003 and 2008 were in made-up languages.

Image Credits: Thomas Hanses (EBU) and http://www.eurovision.tv for the image of Jamala
Sources: http://www.eurovision.tv