Our Little Earth – February 15, 2008

February 15, 2008
Our Little Earth
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Serbia’s future unfolds

Fig One Serbia had its presidential election on February 3rd, and Boris Tadic was re-elected. Mr Tadic has his hands full because a region of Serbia, called Kosovo, is getting ready to declare its independence from Serbia. Let’s look at a bit of history first.

Serbia is itself one of the world’s youngest countries – it’s just a year and a half old! It is a result of the break up of a larger country called Yugoslavia. The majority of the people living in Serbia are Serbs, but another group called the Albanians live in a region of Serbia called Kosovo. They wish to create their own country, but Serbs don’t want that to happen.

There is another problem. Serbia wants to become part of the European Union (EU), which is a group of several countries in Europe (27 so far). This will help Serbia become economically stronger. But the EU is supporting Kosovo’s decision to separate from Serbia. So now Mr Tadic is caught between what the Serbs want and what the EU expects.

Something unique to Serbs is their three-fingered salute (called Tri Prsta). The salute is given with the thumb, index, and middle fingers open. Some people say that the origin of the salute comes from the Christian Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The salute is used by some Serb sports fans and players.

Like raspberries? You might enjoy a trip to Serbia – it grows about one-third of the world’s raspberries!

New chip sets record

Fig Two Intel, one of the biggest makers of chips (nope, not the ones made of potatoes!) had a big announcement this week. They have created Tukwila, the first chip in the world with more than 2 billion transistors!

A chip is a tiny piece of silicon with electronic switches called transistors. Each transistor can be switched on or off which enables the chip to do its computation. Tukwila is a microprocessor, a type of chip that is the brain of a computer. The first microprocessor on a single chip was also made by Intel in 1971 and was called the 4004. It had 2,300 transistors. This sounds like a trivial number now, but the 4004 was quite a marvel back then. Tukwila, in comparison, has a million times as many transistors!

How can they fit so many more transistors in a chip today? Well, the engineers keep shrinking the transistor size and wiring width, so more can fit. The wiring on the 4004 was 10,000 nanometers. That is already one-tenth the size of a human hair. On the Tukwila, that wiring will be only 65 nanometers – one could squeeze 1500 of those into the same size as a human hair!

Famous paintings stolen

Fig Three- On February 10th, three thieves broke into a museum in a town in Switzerland and stole four very precious paintings. The paintings were worth around US$160 million! The stolen art was created by some of the world’s most magnificent painters: Cezanne, Degas, Van Gogh and Monet. This is one of the biggest painting thefts the world has seen in the last 20 years.

All four painters were born around the mid-1800s and lived part of their lives in France and died there. Monet & Degas were both “impressionist” painters while Van Gogh and Cezanne were considered “post-impressionist” painters. Both these painting styles developed mainly in France in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The early impressionist painters were quite the rule-breakers. They focused on lighting and color more than lines. They used short brush strokes. Their subjects were ordinary scenes of everyday life. Early critics called their paintings ‘unfinished’. But they became increasingly popular. Post-Impressionism was based on Impressionism but emphasized expression and emotion – they made use of unnatural colors and would distort shapes for effect.

While the thieves have gotten away with the paintings, we probably won’t be seeing them for sale on eBay or anywhere else! The paintings are very widely recognized, and so the thieves will have a hard time trying to sell them.


Meet Nikola Tesla (1856-1943). Tesla was of Serbian origin and moved to the United States at the age of 28. Tesla was a great scientist and made many contributions in the fields of electricity and magnetism. Some have called these so important that they call Tesla the man who invented the twentieth century. We can partly say thanks to Tesla for the radio and electricity we have at home.

The biggest airport in Serbia and the biggest power plant in Serbia are named after Tesla. There is a statue of Tesla at Niagara Falls, United States in memory of his work that allowed the generation of electricity from the Falls.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa,  considered by many to be the most famous painting in the world, was stolen in 1911 from the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. The painting was stolen by a former employee of the museum and was returned 2 years later.
The world’s first general-purpose electronic digital computer, the ENIAC, was built in 1946. It weighed 30 tons and covered an area of 1800 square feet (167 square meters). That’s like four rooms full of stuff weighing more than six elephants!
Father: How were the exam questions?
Son: Easy!
Father: Then why do you look so unhappy?
Son: Well, the questions were easy, but the answers gave me a really hard time!
After a local art theft, six suspects were being interviewed. Below is a summary of their statements. The police know that exactly four of them told one lie each and all of the other statements are true. From this information can you tell who committed the crime?

Alan said:
It wasn’t Brian. It wasn’t Dave. It wasn’t Eddie.
Brian said:
It wasn’t Alan. It wasn’t Charlie. It wasn’t Eddie.
Charlie said:
It wasn’t Brian. It wasn’t Freddie. It wasn’t Eddie.
Dave said:
It wasn’t Alan. It wasn’t Freddie. It wasn’t Charlie.
Eddie said:
It wasn’t Charlie. It wasn’t Dave. It wasn’t Freddie.
Freddie said:
It wasn’t Charlie. It wasn’t Dave. It wasn’t Alan.

I am mentioned somewhere in this edition. The letters of my name spell “Take All Ions”. Who am I?
Puzzle from last edition: 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?
Emily, of course!
Puzzle from last edition: 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?
Here’s one solution: 12 + 3 ? 4 + 5 + 67 + 8 + 9 = 100.
Credits: Intel for the photo of the 4004 chip, the Tesla Museum for the photo of Tesla.
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