|November 23, 2007|
|WHAT’S GOING ON|
|Terror from the sea
On Nov 16th, Bangladesh was hit by a cyclone. Cyclone Sidr brought winds of up to 240km/hr (150mph), and created waves of water that were over 5m (16ft) high. This has caused extensive flooding and damage. Homes, crops, and power lines have been destroyed over large areas. At least a few thousand people have died because of the cyclone. Many countries around the world are providing aid to help the people of Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is a reasonably young country and has had two births in a way. Until 1947, it was part of India and was ruled by the British. In 1947, as part of India’s independence, a new country called Pakistan was created. Pakistan had two separate portions, called East and West Pakistan. In 1971, East Pakistan became its own country called Bangladesh. Bangladesh is a very densely populated country – its population is larger than that of Russia, a country that is more than a hundred times bigger!
Cyclones are very large storms with winds swirling around at a very fast speed. The center of the storm is called an “eye”, and is actually quite a calm area. The eye is surrounded with thunderstorms that have very strong winds and rains. The wind rotates around the eye of the storm in one direction. As the wind spirals, it causes a large amount of water to pile up at the center of the storm. This large amount of water (called a tidal surge) is carried by the storm and is eventually dumped on land causing a lot of flooding.
What’s the difference between cyclones, hurricanes, and typhoons? Not much! They are all the same type of storm – the only difference is what part of the world the storm strikes. In Australia and the Indian Ocean, they are called cyclones. In the Western Pacific Ocean, they are called typhoons. In the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and the Eastern Pacific Ocean, they are called hurricanes.
|Terror on the sea
On Nov 13th, a Russian tanker carrying oil got caught in a nasty storm near the Black Sea. The tanker split apart and spilled over 3,000 metric tons (979,000 gallons) of oil into the water. That’s a lot of oil – you could easily fill an Olympic-size swimming pool with it! The spill is a big environmental disaster – many fish, dolphins, and over 30,000 birds have died. A large number of people are trying to clean up the oil spill, but it can take up to a month.
Lately, oil has been in the news a lot. Why is there such a fuss about oil? Firstly, we should realize that we’re talking about crude oil (or petroleum) and products from it. The Russian tanker was carrying fuel oil which also comes from crude oil. Crude oil comes from the earth, as opposed to food oils like olive oil or sunflower oil – no points for guessing where those come from!
Crude oil has become the world’s most important source of energy, and is the biggest reason that cars can move and planes can fly! Most of the world’s oil comes from a few countries. Some of these countries produce enough oil for themselves and have extra oil that they can sell to the rest of the world. These are the oil exporting countries. Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil exporter followed by Russia. The world’s largest consumer of oil is the United States followed by China. The cost of oil is at record highs and has almost touched US$100/barrel (a barrel is 42 gallons or 160 liters). This price has been going up mainly because the demand for oil across the world is growing fast, while there are some concerns about the supply. On the demand side, countries like China and India are doing well economically and need much more oil than before. On the supply side, some of the oil producing countries are having political problems which make their future supply uncertain. Also, the global value of the US dollar is falling, and hence oil that is priced in US dollars has to be priced higher for the exporting countries to make the same amount of money as before.
|Terror in the sea
Scared of spiders and scorpions? Well, you should be happy you weren’t around 400 million years ago. Scientist have just discovered that back then, there were some scorpions that were taller than humans! Sounds like a science fiction movie, doesn’t it?
This scorpion was actually aquatic – it lived in the sea. Scientists found a fossilized claw in a town in Germany. From the size of the claw, scientists determined that the sea scorpion’s body was 2.5 meters (8 feet) in length!
Scorpions belong to the family of arthropods (animals such as spiders, insects, and crabs). Arthropods are amongst the oldest living animals on Earth – several species including the sea scorpion just discovered existed long before the dinosaurs. Many of the ancient arthropods were quite large – scientists had already discovered gigantic scorpions, cockroaches, millipedes, and dragonflies that lived long ago. But this sea scorpion is much larger, making it the largest known arthropod. Today, the largest arthropod (the Japanese spider crab) is tiny in comparison – its body is less than 2 feet long. Even today, more than 75% of the living animal species are arthropods. So from an evolutionary view, one could say that it’s good to be a bug!
Meet Grameen Bank, a bank in Bangladesh that has created a whole new way to help the poor across the world. The idea that the bank has been using since 1976 and has made popular is called micro-credit. For this, the bank, along with its creator, Muhammad Yunus, was awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.
Micro-credit is a kind of banking where very small loans are given out to people who are unable to provide any “collateral”. In other words, they do not have something of value such as a piece of land that the bank can take over if they are unable to repay the loan. Instead, the bank places a higher degree of faith in the person taking the loan. Grameen Bank believed that many poor people had skills that could enable them to earn a living, but they needed a small amount of money to get started. Most loans are given to women. Grameen’s model has worked wonderfully. More than 98% of the borrowers repay their loan, a rate much higher than most banks. The micro-credit model has been copied in more than 100 countries already, and has already benefited several million people.
Your family can also participate easily in this world-changing idea by working with a non-profit micro-credit group such as kiva.org.
|DID YOU KNOW|
|The longest human chain, created by people holding hands, was formed in Bangladesh on December 11, 2004. The length of this chain was an amazing 1000 km (650 miles), and it took more than 5 million people to build it! That’s like a line of people standing all the way from Paris to Rome!|
|Moscow, the capital of Russia, was ranked as the world’s most expensive city in June 2007.|
|Marie was very excited about learning German in school. Her friend, Nina, decided to find out how much German Marie had learnt so far.
“So, Marie, how does one say ‘Please come here.’ in German?”
Marie thought about it and finally said “Sie kommen hier”. That sounded about right to her.
“And how about ‘Please go there.’?”, asked Nina.
Now Marie was stumped. But she finally said with a smile, “I’d first go over there myself, and then I’d say ‘Sie kommen hier'”!
|This is an old and famous Russian puzzle. You have to carry a wolf, a goat and a cabbage across a river in a boat. You can take only one of them with you on the boat in each trip. If you leave the wolf and the goat on the same side, the wolf will eat the goat. If you leave the goat and the cabbage on the same side, the goat will eat the cabbage. They will never eat one another while you stay with them. How do you make sure they all safely reach the other side of the river?|
|Can you find a way to get from Iran to Finland? You will have to use an atlas for this. You are only allowed to move from one country to another that it actually shares a border with – which means that they touch each other on the map. Also, you are only allowed to visit countries that are mentioned in this newsletter!|
|Puzzle from last edition: 8 + 8 = 91. That doesn’t sound right, does it? But there is one way you can make it correct without changing it – can you guess how?
Solution: Turn it upside down – “16 = 8 + 8”!
|Puzzle from last edition: I am mentioned in this newsletter. The letters of my name can be rearranged to spell “Pain Task”. What am I?
|Credits: CIMSS for the satellite images of cyclone SIDR; Ukrainian Ministry of Emergency for the Russian Oil Tanker photo; Simon Powell and the University of Bristol for the sea scorpion image; Grameen Bank for their logo image.|
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