Our Little Earth – December 21, 2007

December 21, 2007
Our Little Earth
The Electronic Newspaper for Kids
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Lots happening in South Korea

Fig OneSouth Korea has been a very busy country these last couple of weeks. First, on Dec 7th, there was a huge
oil spill (10,000 tons – that is more than 3 Olympic-size swimming pools) near its coast. The spill was caused when the oil tanker was hit by a drifting barge carrying a crane. There has been a huge effort to clean up this oil – over 40,000 people have helped!

On Dec 10th, history was made when the first regular rail service started between North and South Korea after
more than 50 years! The cargo trains will make a round-trip run every week day. North and South Korea were created in 1948 when Korea was split into two countries. Soon after the split, the two countries got into a war with each other and have barely talked to each other since. So a regular train service is a huge step towards becoming friends again.

Lastly, on December 19th, South Koreans elected a new president for their country – Lee Myung-bak. Lee will take over the presidency in February, 2008 (until then, he will be known as the President-elect). For many years, Lee ran one of the companies of the Hyundai Group, one of South Korea’s largest corporations. Hyundai is the world’s largest ship builder and one of the largest auto makers.

Russia’s President Putin is “Person of the Year”

Fig Two Time magazine named  Russian President Vladimir Putin its “Person of the Year” for 2007. Putin took over as President of Russia in 2000, replacing Boris Yeltsin. He has helped Russia’s economy recover steadily and has brought Russia back as a prominent world power.

The Person of the Year award by Time Magazine has been awarded since 1927. The award is given to individuals (or sometimes groups of people or even things) that significantly influence the world, for better or worse. There have been some interesting winners in the past that were not individuals. Last year, the Person of the Year was “You”, as in all of us. This was to recognize the impact that user-generated information has caused because of the internet. In 1982, the award went to the computer for the impact it was having on us. In 1988, planet Earth was the winner because our environment and its protection became a significant subject.

One of the runners-up for the award this year is someone you all know – J. K. Rowling, who has touched a large portion of the human race with Harry Potter and other figments of her imagination!

You can browse through all the winners of this award at : http://www.time.com/time/2007/poy/.

W00t for W00t!

Fig Three-Merriam-Webster, one of the world’s largest publisher of dictionaries, has announced its choice of the word of 2007 – “w00t”. That’s spelt with two zeroes! W00t is a word that has been used by people playing online games and by people in online chat rooms. The definition for w00t given by Merriam Webster is “expressing joy”.

The origins of w00t are not clear. Some attribute it to the phrase “We Owned the Other Team”, used by online gamers. Others say that it comes from a combination of the words “wow” and “loot”. W00t belongs to a language called “leet” that has been created by internet users and has become part of the internet culture. It combines alphabet and numbers to form words. For example, “3” represents “E”, “0” represents “O”, “4 represents “A”, and 7 represents “T”. This is why “leet” itself is also referred to as “l337” and “l33t”.

W00t is the word of the year but that doesn’t make it an official word in the Merriam-Webster dictionary just yet. For a word to become official, it needs to be used often, over a period of time, by several communities of people, and with a consistent meaning. “Blog” was the word of the year in 2004, and has since become an official word in the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

By the way, the American version of the Oxford English Dictionary chose “locavore” as its word of 2007. The definition given to locavore is “someone who only eats locally grown food”!

Figure Let’s play Taekwondo! Taekwondo is a form of martial arts that originates from Korea. The word Taekwondo is often translated as ‘the way of hand and foot’. It is known for its fast, high, and spinning kicks.

Taekwondo’s origins are in ancient martial arts practiced in Korea over 2000 years ago. Various forms of this sport have been practiced over the centuries. When the Japanese occupied Korea, they had forbidden the practice of any martial arts, but it was still done in secret. After the Japanese left in the 1940s, the martial arts started thriving again, but there were several different forms being followed. An army general by the name of General Choi helped unify and standardize these forms in 1955 and gave it the name Taekwondo. So for a 2000 year old art, Taekwondo has a very young name!

Russia is home to the longest continuous rail line in a country! The Trans-Siberian railroad takes you from Moscow in the West to Vladivostok to the East – a journey of almost six thousand miles (about ten thousand kilometers). That is about the distance from San Francisco to Paris! This ride takes 7 days. There are two longer train rides that both use the Trans-Siberian railroad – one starts in the Ukraine, and the other goes all the way to North Korea. Both of these roughly take 9 days each!
The world’s thinnest cellular phone is the Samsung Ultra Edition II – just 0.2 in (5.9mm) thick. The handset has a 3-megapixel camera and 11 hours of  music play time. Samsung is one of South Korea’s largest corporations.
An English teacher was lecturing to his class one day. “In English,” he said, “a double negative forms a positive. In some languages, though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However, there is no language where a double positive can form a negative.”

A voice from the back of the room piped up, “Yeah, right.”

Three musicians travel together to New York. When they arrive in the city, they go to the hotel to check in. They plan to share the same room. The desk clerk quotes a rate of $30 for the night. They pay him and go to their room.

But, then the clerk remembers there is a weekend special room rate of $25 a night. Trying to correct the situation, he gives five one dollar bills to the bellboy to take to the guests’ room. On the way there, the bellboy says to himself, “Three people can’t divide five dollars evenly amongst them.” So he takes two dollars for himself and when he gets to the room, he gives each musician a one dollar refund.

So now each of the three musicians paid nine dollars and the bellboy kept two dollars for himself. That totals $29. So where did the extra dollar go?

What word, when written in capital letters, is the same forwards, backwards and upside down?
Puzzle from last edition: Andy and John (from the Chocolate truck story) are driving through four countries to get from the UK to Mali. Which countries are these? Their names begin with the letters F, S, M, and M.
Solution: The four countries are France, Spain, Morocco, and Mauritania.
Puzzle from last edition: Jack has a 5 liter bucket, a 3 liter bucket, and an unlimited supply of sand. He needs to get exactly 4 liter of sand into one of the buckets. How can he go about doing that?
Solution: There are several solutions. The main trick to this is to use “remaining” sand – the sand left over in one bucket when you are done filling the other. Here is one solution:
– Start with empty buckets.
– Fill the 3 liter bucket and pour it into the 5 liter one.
– Fill the 3 liter bucket again and keep pouring until the 5 liter bucket is filled. This will leave 1 liter in the 3 liter bucket.
– Empty out the 5 liter bucket, pour the 1 liter into it. Fill the 3 liter bucket again and pour it all into the 5 liter bucket. This gives us 4 liters of sand in that bucket.
Talking of liters, here is an interesting fact. “Liter” is the American English spelling of the word. In British English, it is spelt “Litre”. Try finding a couple more words that have similar spelling differences.
Credits: Harvard for Korea map picture, Kremlin’s press material for Putin’s picture, Red Star Taekwando club for Taekwando picture, Merriam Webster for dictionary photo.
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