Our Little Earth – February 01, 2008

February 1, 2008
Our Little Earth
The Electronic Newspaper for Kids
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WHAT’S GOING ON
Tribes fight in Kenya

Wildebeest Kenya re-elected its president in December. Mr Kibaki of the Kikuyu tribe won the election, defeating Mr Odinga of the Luo tribe. The Luo and some other tribes have been quite unhappy about the fact that the Kikuyus have dominated the politics of Kenya for a long time. They believe that the Kikuyus cheated to keep Mr Kibaki in power. Fighting broke out right after the election. After a month of fighting, the two opposing leaders are meeting with the former United Nation’s chief Kofi Annan to see if a peaceful agreement can be reached.

Kenya is a very popular tourist destination for its magnificent safaris. You’ll find elephants, lions, rhinoceros, wildebeest, zebras – the list goes on! One of the world’s greatest natural events, the Great Migration, takes place between Kenya and its neighboring country, Tanzania. Each summer, more than 2 million animals (1.5 million wildebeest, 500,000 gazelles, 200,000 zebras, and other animals) go from Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park to Kenya’s Maasai Mara and return in the autumn. They go looking for fresh grass to eat and water to drink. The exact time of the migration is determined by the rains. The roundtrip journey is around 500 km (310 miles) long. It is hard to visualize the immensity of the Great Migration – imagine all the people in the city of Paris in France suddenly getting up and walking to Brussels in Belgium and back! Get the idea?

Ships flying kites!

SkySails On January 22nd, a ship called the “Beluga SkySails? started sailing from Germany to Venezuela. What makes this trip special is that it’s the first time a commercial ship is being pulled along by a kite!

Now, if you’ve flown kites, you know that a kite can barely pull you, so how could it possibly pull a ship?! Well, there are a couple of things. First, this kite is a bit bigger than the ones you fly – it’s actually about the size of a volleyball court! Also, the kite really isn’t pulling the ship, but is helping enough so that the ship can travel a bit faster while using less fuel. Such kites could reduce fuel usage by 10-35%, which is great for the environment. The kite is controlled by a computer to take advantage of different wind conditions.

This idea of using a kite to pull something is not new. There are records from China from the 13th century where kites were used to speed up canoes across water.  Today, kites are used in many sports. Surfers started using kites to help them travel over the waves – this sport is now called kite-surfing and has become quite popular. Once the surfers started doing it, the skateboarders and snowboarders weren’t far behind. So now we have land-boarding and snow-kiting! What’s really neat is that if the wind is right, you can even go uphill on your skateboard or snowboard!

Space flight coming up

VirginGalactic Want to go take a trip to space? What will it be like to have zero gravity? How does our Earth look like from space? Well, it might not be that far away when you can answer these questions for yourself! Virgin Galactic is one of several companies hoping to offer trips to space.

On January 23rd, Virgin Galactic presented its design of the space flight system that will take passengers to space. There are two parts to the system – one is the carrier aircraft (White Knight Two) and the other is the spaceship (SpaceShipTwo). White Knight Two will lift SpaceShipTwo to a distance of about 15km (9 miles) from the Earth’s surface, where SpaceShipTwo will be released and launched into space. SpaceShipTwo will then take its passengers to space by reaching a distance of over 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the Earth’s surface. The passengers will experience being without gravity for up to 6 minutes, before returning back to Earth. The roundtrip will be approximately 2.5 hours long. SpaceShipTwo is designed to seat eight people – six passengers and two pilots. The first flight is planned for 2009. A seat to space on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo costs US$200,000 and more than 200 individuals have already booked their flights! While that seems expensive, the current price to go to space is a hundred times higher – the Russian Space Agency takes tourists to space for US$20 million!! The first space tourist who actually paid for his own ticket to space was Dennis Tito of the United States in 2001. Virgin Galactic is not the only company thinking about space tourism. There a few other players such as EADS Astrium, Rocketplane Kistler, Space Adventures, Benson Space Company, and Blue Origin. Hopefully, in a few years the cost of space travel will come down and more of us can think about a holiday trip to space.

SOMETHING FAMOUS
GravityApple Let’s understand Newton’s law of gravity. When an apple drops from a tree, why does it come down and not go up? It’s all thanks to the apple obeying Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation! The law says that every object in the universe attracts every other object in the universe with a force called gravity. So yes, you are attracted to the person sitting next to you – but by a very very very teeny tiny amount. What matters is how much the attraction is, and that depends upon how large the objects are and how far apart they are. The larger the object, the stronger the attraction. Also, the closer two objects are, the more they attract. Since the Earth is so massive, it attracts the apple when it breaks loose from the tree. Also, that’s why astronauts in space float around – they are too far away from Earth (or another large object) to get pulled down by gravity.

Isaac Newton lived from 1643 to 1727. He is one of the greatest scientists who has ever lived. He made many discoveries in mathematics, optics, and physics. Newton is the person who wrote the Law of Universal Gravitation. He was born in a small town in England. There is a famous story that Newton was sitting under an apple tree when an apple fell on his head. That made him discover “gravity”. Well, the story isn’t proven to be true, but Newton did spend a couple of years on a farm. He didn’t have much to do at the farm and spent a lot of time thinking and working on his ideas. A lot of his discoveries came after that. So the next time you want to spend a day outside “thinking”,  you can tell your Mom that you’re just trying to be like Newton.

DID YOU KNOW
The Angel Falls in Venezuela is the highest waterfall in the world.
You can’t sneeze with your eyes open. Next time you sneeze, try to keep your eyes open and see what happens!
FUNNY BONE
A woman walked into a doctor’s office and said “Doctor, it hurts everywhere I touch – my shoulders, my elbow, my hip, my knee! What’s wrong with me?”
The doctor took one quick look and announced “You have a broken finger!”
GO FIGURE
Emily’s  mother had four children. The first was April, the second was May, and the third was June. What was the name of her fourth child?
Write out the nine digits in order: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9. You can get 100 by inserting six plus or minus signs between the numbers. Can you figure out how?
FIGURED OUT
Puzzle from last edition: Can you convert “SPAIN” into “PLANT”, changing one letter at a time?
Solution:
Spain – slain – plain – plait – plant.
Puzzle from last edition: If you are in Tallinn, Estonia and need to get to Lisbon, Portugal, what is the least number of visas you would need to do the trip.
Solution:
Zero! One can go from Estonia to Portugal by stepping through Schengen nations only. And since you are already in a Schengen country, there’s no other visa you would need!
ETCETERA
Credits: KenyaSafaris for the wildebeest photo; Beluga Group for the SkySail photo; Virgin Galactic Group for the Virgin Galactic photo.
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