Our Little Earth – June 6, 2008

June 06, 2008
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WHAT’S GOING ON
No more kings in Nepal

Nepal Flag May 28 was a historical day in Nepal. After 240 years of being ruled by kings, Nepal will now fully be run by a government elected by the people. Thus it transitions from being a monarchy (“ruled by one”) to a democracy (“ruled by the people”).

Strictly speaking, Nepal was not a pure monarchy. The king was ruling Nepal along with a government headed by a prime minister. But the king will now step down. His family will vacate the royal palace, which will become a museum. Also, a new “constitution” will be written. This is a document that lays down all the rules that any future government will have to follow. The constitution is usually quite complex. In Nepal, they expect that it will take two years for the constitution to be put in place!

Nepal is known as the “trekker’s paradise”. Of the 10 highest mountains in the world, 8 are in Nepal (including the highest – Mt Everest). It is also the birth place of Gautama Buddha, a spiritual leader and the founder of a religion called Buddhism.

If you are a dog, you’d certainly want to be in Nepal for the festival of Tihar. On the second day of the festival, dogs are honored – a flower necklace is put around their necks and they are given a lot of good food to eat! The famous saying ‘every dog has his day’  really comes true!

Tribes that avoid contact with the rest of the world

Amazonia Tribe Can you imagine a group of humans on Earth who have never been contacted by the rest of the world, who don’t know what an airplane is, who have never seen a telephone? Do such people really exist? It’s hard to believe, but there are indeed almost 100 “uncontacted” tribes in the world today and about half of these live in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil and Peru.

Last week, the Brazilian government released some photographs taken from a plane flying over some remote parts of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. These photos show a tribe whose members are painted red head to toe, and who live in very simple huts. The tribe seemed to be alarmed at seeing the plane and started shooting arrows at it. This tribe and others like it are threatened by the shrinking rainforest, caused by trees being chopped for use by humans. The Brazilian government is hoping that photos like these will help protect the land that these tribes live on.

The Amazon rainforest is the largest rainforest on our planet,  about two-thirds the size of the United States. It is shared by 9 countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Suriname, French Guiana and Guiana.  The Amazon rainforest gets its name from the Amazon River which flows through it. Its importance can be judged by some of its nicknames – the “jewels of the planet” (30% of the world’s species live there), the “lungs of the planet” (20% of the world’s oxygen is produced there), and the “pharmacy of the world” (it provides a large variety of medicinal products).

But rainforests across the world are being destroyed at an alarming rate by humans for wood, for paper, for cattle ranches, and for growing crops. A piece of rainforest the size of a football field is destroyed each second! So how about you use as little paper as possible in these next few weeks?

Films in France and songs in Serbia

First Movie The film festival at Cannes (pronounced “kaan”) finished on May 25th. It is the world’s most famous and prestigious film festival held every year in the town of Cannes, France. Film celebrities from all over the world were in attendance, and more than 4000 reporters were there to cover the festival (and the celebrities!).

Films from 31 countries were shown over a ten day period.The highest award is the Palme d’Or (French for “Golden Palm”) which was awarded to “The Class”, a French movie about a teacher’s first year at a tough school.

The Cannes film festival has been around for over 60 years. But that’s only half as old as film-making itself. Photography, or the art of “still pictures” was invented in the 1820s. It was only in the 1890s that “moving pictures” were invented. The Lumiere brothers (Auguste and Louis) in France invented a device to record and show moving pictures. They called it the “cinematographe”, from which we get the word “cinema”. Their first film was “La Sortie des usines Lumière”, which was just 48 seconds long! They did the first paid public showing of their films in Paris, France on December 28, 1895. Many scholars view this event as the “birth of cinema” (you can still watch these films if you want – click here). Years later, Louis Lumiere was asked to become the first president of a film festival – the Cannes film festival!

Europe celebrated another big event, the Eurovision Song Contest. Dima Bilan, a Russian signer, won the contest on May 24th. 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! Some of its winners have gone on to become quite famous – ABBA from Sweden (1974) and Celine Dion from Canada (1988). This year the contest was held in Serbia and 43 countries participated in the Eurovision.

SOMETHING FAMOUS
Muybridge Let’s meet Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904), a famous photographer who made an important invention almost by accident. He came to California in the USA from England, and made a name for himself with his excellent photographs of the Yosemite National Park and of the city of San Francisco.

He was once hired by a businessman to settle a bet for him. The businessman had claimed that a horse actually lifts all four legs off the ground while galloping. Muybridge invented a technique of using several cameras to capture pictures of a galloping horse on a farm, and was able to show that the businessman was right. Soon, Muybridge invented a device called a “zoopraxiscope” that could project a series of pictures and give the sense of motion. The picture on the left shows the individual photos taken by Muybridge while the animation on the right shows them as a “moving picture”. Muybridge’s device heavily influenced future inventions in movie projectors.

The businessman whose bet Muybridge settled was a person called Leland Stanford, and the farm where he took his pictures is now home to Stanford University , California, USA . So, could it be that the reason we are able to enjoy movies today is because the founder of Stanford University had made a bet about a horse?

DID YOU KNOW
On May 25, Min Bahadar Surchan, a 76-year-old Nepali, became the oldest person to reach the world’s highest point – the top of Mount Everest. The very next day, a 75-year old Japanese man made it to the top of Mount Everest becoming the 2nd oldest person to reach the world’s highest point!
In the early hours of June 7th, Saturday, we will pass an interesting “time”. At one point, the official time will be ”03:04:05 06-07-08″. This, of course, is only true of countries where the date is written as month-day-year. Many countries write the day first and then the month, so 06-07-08 will actually be July 6th!
FUNNY BONE
A boy walks into a restaurant and asks the waiter, “If I show you a really good trick, will you give me a free milkshake?” The waiter considers it, and then agrees. The boy reaches into his pocket and pulls out a tiny rat. He reaches into his other pocket and pulls out a tiny piano. The rat stretches, cracks his knuckles, and proceeds to play the blues.After the boy finished his milkshake, he asked the waiter, “If I show you an even better trick, will you give me free food for the rest of the evening?” The waiter agrees, thinking that no trick could possibly be better than the first. The boy reaches into his pocket and pulls out a tiny rat. He reaches into his other pocket and pulls out a tiny piano. The rat stretches, cracks his knuckles, and proceeds to play the blues. The boy reaches into another pocket and pulls out a small bullfrog, which begins to sing along with the rat’s music.

While the boy is enjoying his free food, a stranger confronts him and offers him £100,000 for the bullfrog. “Sorry,” the boy replies, “he’s not for sale.” The stranger increases the offer to £250,000 cash up front. The boy agrees, and turns the frog over to the stranger in exchange for the money.

“Are you insane?” the waiter demanded. “That frog could have been worth millions to you, and you let him go for a mere £250,000!”

“Don’t worry about it.” the boy answered. “The frog was really nothing special. You see, the rat’s a ventriloquist.”

GO FIGURE
I am in the Amazon rainforest in a country whose name begins with E. I need to get to another country in the Amazon rainforest whose name begins with G. What’s the shortest number of country hops I need to do to get to my destination?
I am mentioned in this newsletter. I have 8 letters. The first four letters mean the inner face of your hand. The last four letters, in reverse, describe something you would have done on your bike. What am I?
FIGURED OUT
Puzzle from last edition: If you are buying a gallon of milk in the United States for US$5 and if you are buying a gallon of milk in Canada for the same amount of converted money, which milk is cheaper?
Solution:
The milk in Canada. One Canadian gallon is more than one American gallon (Four Canadian gallons make five U.S. gallons).
Puzzle from last edition: No matter how hungry they get, the Inuits will not eat penguin eggs to stay alive. Do you know why?
Solution:
The Inuits live in the Arctic (near the north pole) and penguins are found in the Antarctic (the south pole).
ETCETERA
Credits: funai.gov.br for Brazilian tribe photos.
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