Our Little Earth – May 23, 2008

May 23, 2008
Our Little Earth
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WHAT’S GOING ON
Earthquake in China

Plate Tectonics A massive earthquake struck in the Sichuan province in China on May 12th. It had a magnitude of 7.9 on the Richter scale, and was large enough to be felt in Bangkok, Thailand, which is more than 1,800 kilometers (1100 miles) away. More than 50,000 people have died.

What causes earthquakes? Scientists believe that the Earth’s surface consists of a hard shell called the crust, which is broken into large pieces called plates. Continents and oceans lie on top of these plates, as shown in the image. Below these plates is very hot liquid rock called magma. The plates are floating on top of this magma and are constantly moving at very slow speeds (around 5 to 10cm a year). Some plates are moving away from each other causing magma to bubble up and create new land or sea bed. Some plates are moving towards each other and pushing each other. This can create mountains and cause existing mountains (including Mount Everest) to keep getting taller. Some plates are sliding next to each other and this friction causes earthquakes. The magnitude of an earthquake is measured on the Richter scale, and is determined by how much the earth shakes. Usually, a magnitude of 6 and above is considered to be a strong earthquake. Also, each one-point increase on the scale indicates ten times the amount of shaking! The largest recorded earthquake in the world was a magnitude 9.5 in Chile in 1960.

Foreigners attacked in South Africa

Vredefort Dome Thousands of foreigners who have been living in South Africa have been leaving the country this last week in a mad rush. Some South African citizens have formed mobs and have been attacking foreigners.

There are around 3 to 5 million foreigners who live in South Africa, many of whom are from countries like Zimbabwe, Nigeria, and Mozambique. They left their countries and moved to South Africa for a better life or to earn more money. But now around 30% of South Africans are unemployed. Food and fuel prices have been rising which has increased poverty. The locals feel that foreigners living in their country are stealing their jobs, and have gotten angry enough to start attacking them.

South Africa is called a rainbow nation because of the diverse cultures and people that live there. They say you can find all skin tones in South Africa, and it has as many as 11 official languages! One of the biggest issues that South Africa faced in the last century was apartheid, where people of different races were treated differently. Apartheid came to an end in the 1990s, and South Africa is a multi-racial democracy today.

The Vredefort crater in South Africa is believed to be the world’s largest confirmed crater that was created by the impact of an asteroid or comet.  It is approximately 300km (186 miles) in diameter. The picture shown is the view of the crater from outer space.

Ice Hockey World Championship

ice hockey On May 18th, Russia won the 2008 ice hockey World Championship defeating Canada. The final game was very exciting and went into overtime. Sixteen countries participated in the Championship games that were held in Canada.

Ice hockey is known as one of the world’s fastest and roughest team sports. It is fast because the players are moving around on ice skates, hitting a rubber “puck” which can travel at speeds as high as 100 miles per hour (160 km per hour). It is rough because players are actually allowed to use their hips or shoulders to hit another player to slow them down! Spectators don’t go to watch just the fast action but also all the pushing around.

There are some ice hockey traditions that are popular in North America: Hats are thrown on the ice when a player scores three goals in a game. Towels are waved by fans at  stadiums to give a morale boost to their home team. There is one tradition that was actually banned in 1996 – one American team’s fans used to throw plastic rats on the ice whenever the team scored a big goal!

The Canadians actually invented ice hockey as we know it today. A Canadian also invented an even more popular sport – basketball! You might have heard of another game they invented – Trivial Pursuit.

Canada and Russia, the two finalists this year, are also the world’s two largest countries (Russia is bigger than Canada). Also, here’s another interesting coincidence – the World Championship was played in Russia last year. The winner? You guessed it – Canada!

SOMETHING FAMOUS
Club Penguin Let’s visit Club Penguin, an online virtual community for kids ages 6 to 14. Club Penguin was started by two Canadian parents, Merrifield and  Priebe, who could not find a safe website for their kids to meet friends on and play games. So they decided to create one. Club Penguin went live in 2005. As a member, you get a cartoon penguin avatar that you customize to represent yourself.  Your penguin can have an igloo to live in. You can get virtual money by playing games. The money can be used to buy clothes for your penguin and furniture for your igloo. You can chat with friends by sending text messages, and do many fun activities in a world that is covered by snow. Club Penguin puts in a huge effort in trying to make the site safe for kids to use. Club Penguin was bought by Disney last August. In just three years it has grown so big that the word “Club Penguin” was one of the top 10 terms searched around the world on Google in 2007! .
DID YOU KNOW
Penguins have the highest density of feathers of all bird species. In some penguin species, it is as high as 75 feathers per square inch.
Lesotho, San Marino, and the Vatican City are the only three countries that are completely surrounded by a single other country on all sides. Lesotho lies within South Africa, while the other two are within Italy.
FUNNY BONE
FATHER: How are your grades, son?
SON: Under water, Dad.
FATHER: Under water? What do you mean?
SON: They’re below C level!
GO FIGURE
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 money, which milk is cheaper?
The arctic winters have been known to turn bitterly cold for long stretches. In some rare cases, the extended cold will freeze the ice pack so thick that the Inuits cannot hunt or fish.

When this happens, the Inuits face life-threatening situations. But no matter how hungry they get, the Inuits will not eat penguin eggs to stay alive. Do you know why?

FIGURED OUT
Puzzle from last edition: All the countries I border are mentioned in the edition, but I am not. What country am I?
Solution:
Bhutan.
Puzzle from last edition: What country from the edition is mentioned in the phrase “I would love to eat my lunch in a park under a big willow tree.”
Solution:
China.
ETCETERA
Credits: US Geological Society for plate tectonics image; NASA for Vredefort Dome image, Disney for Club Penguin logo.
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