Our Little Earth – October 12, 2007

October 12, 2007
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Koreas get friendly

Fig One On October 2, President Roh Moo-hyun of South Korea walked across the border into North Korea to meet President Kim Jong-il. The visit was to promote friendship and improve relationships between the two countries. This is only the second time in more than fifty years that leaders of the two countries have met.

So why are the two Koreans not good friends with each other? And why are there two Koreas instead of one anyway?

For over 4000 years, North and South Korea were part of the same country called – no prizes for guessing – Korea. In 1910, the Japanese occupied Korea and ruled it until the Second World War. When the war ended in 1945, the Japanese had to give up control of Korea. Korea was then occupied by the Soviet Union in the north and the United States in the south. These parts were separated by a straight line called the 38th Parallel (since it was the latitude for 38 degrees north). This led to the formation of two separate countries in 1948 – North Korea and South Korea. North Korea attacked South Korea in 1950, starting the three year Korean war. The Soviet Union and China helped North Korea, while the United States helped South Korea. The countries have barely talked to each other since then, but finally things are looking brighter.

North Korea has also been in the news since it possesses nuclear weapons. But just this week it has agreed to disable its nuclear facilities by the end of this year.

South Koreans are one of the world’s most hi-tech people! They love gadgets and technology. Most of the country has very high speed internet access. They have the coolest cell phones – phones that you can watch TV on, phones that can store thousands of songs, and even phones that can project their pictures and videos onto a screen!

South Koreans love robots, and they aim to have a robot in every home by the year 2020. A few months ago, Tiro, a robot, acted as the master of ceremonies at a wedding! Some schools have used robots to make sure children behave in the corridors, and even to teach English!

Olympic medals “lost”

Fig Two October 5th was a sad day in the history of sports. Marion Jones, considered to be one of the world’s most outstanding women athletes of all time, admitted that she had used performance-enhancing drugs during the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

Marion had won five medals in Sydney in running and jumping. She became the first woman to win five medals in a single Olympics. Since the use of performance-enhancing drugs is banned in sporting events, several of her wins are now disqualified. Marion has to give up all the Olympic medals and many other prizes.

Lately, there have been several reports of performance-enhancing drug use in sports. What are these drugs? These are substances that can be taken by an individual to make them faster, stronger, better at a sport. These include steroids that help in building muscle quickly and EPO that helps in feeling less tired during a sport. Athletes who use these drugs put themselves in danger because the drugs have several side effects such as potential heart disease and infections. Most sport organizations have increased their efforts to keep sports clean of such “cheating” by repeatedly testing the blood and urine of athletes. More athletes are getting caught and are paying the price. Marion Jones’ amazing career has been instantly reduced to one of shame.

Space age turns 50!

Fig Three-Russia celebrated on October 4th the fiftieth anniversary of the launch of Sputnik I, the world’s first man-made satellite.

Oct. 4, 1957 is a historic day – the space age was born! Sputnik I was about the size of a beach ball 58 cm. (22.8 inches) in diameter and weighed only 83.6 kg.(183.9 pounds). It took Sputnik I about 98 minutes to orbit the Earth. Just a month later, Russia launched another satellite, the Sputnik II, which carried on it the first animal in space – a dog named Laika.

Satellites have opened up a whole world (or should one say universe?) of possibilities. There are now more than 500 satellites orbiting the earth. Communication satellites bring telephone connections and TV channels to everyone; navigational satellites enable devices such as GPS systems to determine their location; weather satellites tell us whether we ought to carry an umbrella and if fishing boats should rush back before a storm!

The launch of Sputnik I was also the start of the “space war” between Russia and the United States. There was a lot of competition and conflict between these two countries at the time (often referred to as the Cold War). Space became another territory for them to compete with each other in. Russia got the right to brag about the first (and second) satellite in space. The Americans launched their first satellite a couple of months later, and the race was on. NASA was created in the USA in 1958 to focus on space exploration. On April 12 1961, Russia claimed a huge victory by putting the first man in space – Yuri Gagarin. The pressure was really high on the Americans to prove that they were technologically as good or better. On July 21 1969, Neil Armstrong, an American astronaut, became the first person to set foot on the Moon. Thankfully, the space war cooled off, and today, Russia and the United States work together on space exploration. In fact, just this week, a Russian spacecraft took off for the International Space Station, carrying on board both American and Russian astronauts. But the story of the space war continues to fascinate people, and just last month, another movie on the topic was released – “In the shadow of the moon”.


Listen to the music of the Nutcracker, one of the most performed ballets around the world.

The music was composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, one of the greatest music composers in the world. Born in Russia in 1840, Tchaikovsky had started playing the piano by age 5. He studied law but gave it up to become a musician.

In 1891, Tchaikovsky was asked to write the music for a ballet based on the book “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”. It is a story of a little girl and a wooden doll that was given to her on Christmas eve. Tchaikovsky heavily used an instrument called the celesta, which he had recently discovered in Paris, France. The Nutcracker is now one of the most performed ballets around the world, and watching it has become a Christmas tradition. Some of the famous pieces from the ballet are the Russian Dance, Sugar Plum Dance, Waltz of the Flowers, and the March.

Voyager 1, which was launched over 30 years ago on Sept 5, 1977, is the farthest object that man has sent from the Earth. As of July 2, 2007, Voyager 1 was over 103 AU (Astronomical Units) from the Earth, where one AU is the average distance from Earth to the Sun -150 million km (93 million miles).  At the speed of light, it takes over 14 hours for a signal from Voyager 1 to reach one of the antennas here on Earth!
Tae Wah Gooding of South Korea is the fastest rice eater in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. On Nov 7, 2000, she ate 64 grains of rice, one-by-one, in three minutes with chopsticks.  How close do you think you can get? Give it a try!
“If Tchaikovsky were alive today, ” said the teacher, “what would he find that he was most famous for?”
Mia raised her hand and said “For being the oldest man alive?”
Something mentioned in the news today is hidden in this phrase. Can you find it?

“I used to be one nation, where you could learn a Taekwondo kick or eat kimchi.”

The letters of my name can be rearranged to say “One Major Sin”. Who am I?
Solution for the question – Can you cut a cake into eight pieces with just three cuts?

You can indeed! The first two cuts are in the form of a plus sign, making four pieces. The third cut is sideways – so this would be parallel to the table top, if the cake was on a table. That gives eight pieces!

A slightly messier solution is to make a cut, pile one half over the other, make a second cut, and repeat! You get 8 pieces, although the icing might be all crushed!

There’s another solution too if one gets creative about the cuts. The first two cuts are in the shape of a plus, and the third is actually a circular cut!

Solution for the question – Letters of the name of which place mentioned can be rearranged to form “Man Army”?


Credits: National Archives and Record Administration for Korea photo, NASA for Sputnik photo, USOC.org for Marion Jones photo, and the Moscow Ballet for the Nutcracker photo.
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