Our Little Earth – March 14, 2008

March 14, 2008
Our Little Earth
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WHAT’S GOING ON
Season for new leaders!

Vote Box It seems to be the season for elections for Presidents and Prime Ministers around the globe. Russia, Malta, Malaysia, and Spain had elections in the last few days for the most important person in their government.

Let’s start with the basics of elections. These elections are a time when citizens of a country vote to choose the leader they want. Each country has its own government structure and laws to decide who the winner is. The winner usually has to win the most votes. In some countries, the most powerful government figure is the Prime Minister, but in some others, it is the President or the Monarch or yet some other person. Once a new leader is elected, the time she or he serves in the office varies amongst various countries.

Russia had elections for the next President on March 2 and Dmitriy Medvedev won by a large percentage. He stays in office for four years. On March 8, Malta held elections for its Prime Minister. The current Prime Minister, Lawrence Gonzi, won again, but only by a slight margin. The Prime Minister is elected for a 5 year term. On the same day, Malaysia had its elections, where the current Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi won, but his party lost a lot of control it used to have. In Malaysia, the election must be held no later than five years. On March 9, the current Prime Minister of Spain, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, won the elections in Spain keeping him in the office for another  four years.

Unmanned spaceship flies to International Space Station

Jules Verne Spaceship On March 9, the European Space Agency launched Jules Verne, an Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), to the International Space Station (ISS). Jules Verne is named after a famous science fiction writer from France. The launch took place from French Guiana, a part of France that is actually located in South America.

The ATV is a huge spacecraft that is carrying supplies for the ISS. There are no people on it,  and its most amazing feature is that it can find the ISS and attach itself to it without any human help! Jules Verne is  the size of a large bus and weighs around 20 tonnes. It is going to hang out in space and do some tests while waiting for NASA’s Space Shuttle Endeavour to leave from the ISS. It will then attach itself with the ISS on April 3.

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. Since November 2000, there have been humans living continuously on this space station.

The Grand Canyon gets flooded

Grand Canyon The Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA, is one of the largest and most spectacular canyons in the world. The Colorado river flows through it. Almost fifty years ago, a dam called the Glen Canyon dam was built on the Colorado river. Last week, gates in the dam were opened for almost three days so that a lot of water could flow into the Grand Canyon and flood it. It sounds hard to believe but this was done to help the wildlife in and around the Grand Canyon!

So why would flooding be good for the local wildlife? The Colorado river is formed because of snow that melts far away. The river would bring a lot of “sediment” with it – this  means stuff like sand, tiny rocks, bits of plants, etc. There would also be occasional floods which would cause this sediment to be deposited in interesting ways. This would create sandy beaches, and underwater piles of sand which would slow down and collect river water. All this was very critical for various fish species to survive. But when the Glen Canyon dam was built, very little sediment would flow down into the Grand Canyon. This has upset the ecology and interfered with how species would have evolved in the region. One interesting example is a fish known as the humpback chub. The chub used to hide from other fish because of the reddish sediment in the Colorado river. After the dam was built and the sediment disappeared, bigger fish could spot the chub more easily and started eating it. So a type of fish that has been around for a few million years is suddenly almost extinct because of a man-made dam. Geologists are hoping that an occasional man-made flood can help correct some of this damage.

SOMETHING FAMOUS
Jules Verne Meet Jules Verne, a writer who saw the future! Jules Verne is famous for having written the books “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”, “Around the World in Eighty Days”, and “Journey to the Center of the Earth”, amongst others. In many of his books, Verne described fantastic adventures involving air, space, underwater, and underground travel. He often provided scientific descriptions of things in great detail, and in many cases, these were similar to things that were invented several years later. Across his writings, he had ‘predicted’ things such as cars, helicopters, submarines, space shuttles, air conditioning, television, and projectors! It’s no wonder he is often described as one of the fathers of science fiction.

Verne was born in France in 1828. As a young boy, he once tried to run away from home but was caught and brought back. He was sent to study law but would instead write plays and stories. When his father discovered this, he stopped giving Verne any more money for his studies. Verne ended up becoming a very successful and very rich writer. But let’s not jump to the conclusion that running away from home or not listening to your parents is a good thing!

DID YOU KNOW
On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin, a Russian astronaut, became the first human being to travel into space.
Aoccdrnig to a rsearech procejt at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosnt mttaer waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe!
FUNNY BONE
A five-year-old boy, Mike, couldn’t wait to tell his father about the movie he had watched on television, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” The scenes with the submarine and the giant octopus had kept him wide-eyed.
In the middle of the telling, his father interrupted “Mike, what caused the submarine to sink?”
Mike promptly replied. “Dad, it was the 20,000 leaks!”
GO FIGURE
In my country we have a very fast train,
I border a nation that rhymes with grain.
One of my neighbors looks like a boot,
The other has castles and cars with repute,
Another I touch is famous for chocolate and cheese,
I am mentioned in this edition, you will guess me with ease!
Two fathers and two sons breakfasted on three eggs. Each person ate a whole egg. How is that possible?
FIGURED OUT
Puzzle from last edition: Mark Beaumont biked through 8 countries to get from France to Iran. Which countries are these? Their names begin with the letters B, N, G, P, U, R, B, and T.
Solution:
Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey.
Puzzle from last edition: “Eleven plus two” is an anagram for something else that equals 13. What is it?
Solution:
“Twelve plus one”!
ETCETERA
Credits: ESA for Jules Verne launch pad photo, AP for Glen Canyon Dam photo.
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