Our Little Earth – August 17, 2007

August 17, 2007
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WHAT’S GOING ON
Battle over the Arctic
arctic oceanOn August 2, a Russian Mir submarine (like the one pictured) placed a Russian flag on the Arctic seabed under the North Pole. Russia claims that  the seabed there is part of a mountain range that is an extension of Russia’s land mass. Within days, similar claims were made by Denmark, Canada, the United States, and Norway!
There are two questions that arise. The first is about how ownership of a water body and the seabed below it is decided. The second is why there is such strong interest in owning the North Pole and its surrounding area. Lets look at both of these.
The North Pole is permanently covered with shifting ice, and there is no land beneath the ice. Its ownership is defined by the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea. According to current law, no one owns the North Pole or the region of the Arctic around it. All the countries currently claiming the North Pole are limited to a 200 mile (320km) zone around their coasts. However, they can make claims to extend these zones, and that is what is happening.
So why would someone want to own the area around the North Pole? One big reason is that it is very likely that the seabed below the Arctic Ocean contains oil, minerals and natural gas. Another reason is to be able to own the shipping routes that are becoming possible due to the melting ice.
So can we expect a similar scramble for Antarctica? Luckily, the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 has made Antarctica a common shared scientific region.
Endeavour flies to Space Station
Fig TwoThe space shuttle Endeavour took off on August 8 for a trip to the International Space Station (ISS). Its mission is to work on expanding the station, perform some repairs, and deliver supplies.
The ISS is a large research facility being put together in space. Work started on it in 1998 and will be completed in 2010. Sixteen countries are involved in making this happen. When completed, it will be roughly the size of a five bedroom house. It is approximately 220 miles (350 km) from the Earth’s surface, and is large enough that it can be spotted from Earth. The ISS goes around Earth once every ninety minutes, and has just completed fifty thousand orbits since the start. Since November 2000, there have been humans living continuously on this space station.
The ISS was the site of the first wedding in outer space – Russian astronaut Yuri Malenchenko got married in 2003 while he was on the ISS and his wife-to-be was in Texas, USA. It was also the venue for “the golf shot around the world”. In November 2006, an astronaut knocked a golf ball into space. This sounds quite unbelievable but that ball is still orbiting the Earth and can be tracked here!
Ancient city in Cambodia
Temple PhotoAngkor Wat is a large temple in Cambodia. It is part of a huge temple complex that was built in the ancient city of Angkor. This week, archaeologists discovered that Angkor was actually a much larger city than was previously thought. They used information from satellites that helped reveal ruins under the ground. More than 70 new temples were discovered, along with roads and canals. It is estimated that the ancient city was spread over almost 1000 square kilometers (400 square miles), making it comparable to the area of London! Also, there could have been close to a million people living in Angkor, which would make it larger than any of the European cities at the time or the great cities of the Mayan civilization.
The Angkor settlement started around 500 AD. The people were called the Khmer. They practiced the Hindu religion. Around 1200 AD, a new king introduced Buddhism. For an unknown reason, the settlement was abandoned around 1500 AD. The new discoveries shed some light on this mystery. The settlement became so large that it caused a lot of erosion and water management problems, which might have led to its ruin.
Over the next four hundred years, the thick jungle around Angkor completely covered the city and its existence was forgotten until French missionaries found it in 1860. The picture shows one of the temples as it was found by the French.
Angkor was featured in the movie “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider”. Angelina Jolie, who plays Lara Croft in the movie, fell in love with the country and adopted a Cambodian child.
SOMETHING FAMOUS
FigureMeet Yuri Gagarin, the first human being to travel into space. He was born in 1934 in a village in Russia. His parents worked in a farm, and his family went through quite a few hardships during World War II. He trained as a metalworker, and as his hobby, he learned to fly airplanes. His passion about flying got him into the military flight training. He was selected to join the Soviet space program. On April 12, 1961, he became the first man in space and the first to orbit the Earth. The flight lasted 108 minutes. Unfortunately, Yuri was not able to travel in space a second time – he was killed in a plane crash in 1968. Yuri Gagarin has a lot of things named after him including a crater on the Moon!
DID YOU KNOW
It is impossible for most people to lick their own elbow. Try it!
Every year, a bird called the arctic tern migrates from the Arctic to the edges of Antarctic and back again! That could be a round trip journey of 40,000 km (25,000 miles)! This bird actually enjoys two summers every year.
FUNNY BONE
What kind of plates do they serve food on in outer space?
Flying saucers!
GO FIGURE
What is greater – the number of polar bears in Antarctica or the number of penguins in the Arctic?
What happened in 1961 (the same year that Yuri Gagarin traveled into space) and will not happen again until the year 6009?
FIGURED OUT
In our last edition, the name of one of the countries mentioned was an anagram of “But I’m in a desert area!”. The answer is the United Arab Emirates.
The second answer is the Palme D’or. First four letters = inner face of your hand = PALM. Last four letters, in reverse = something you would have done on your bike = RODE.
ETCETERA
Credits: NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) for Mir photo, NASA for International Space Station photo, Wikipedia Commons for Angkor photo, Russian Institute of Radionavigation and Time (http://www.rirt.ru) for Yuri Gagarin photo.
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