Задание 13. Чтение. Полное понимание информации в прочитанном тексте.. ЕГЭ 2021 по английскому языку
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I have a confession to make. Even though my wife, Morgen, is an endless fount of interesting topics, when she suggested that I write about passenger pigeons, my first reaction was a yawn. How interesting can pigeons be? There are bazillions of them out there — I practically trip over them walking down the sidewalk every day. “But passenger pigeons are extinct,” she said. So are lots of animals, and that’s very sad, but it still doesn’t make them particularly interesting to the general public. She kept insisting that no, really, this particular kind of extinct pigeon is truly fascinating, and I kept displaying a complete lack of enthusiasm. Finally, she started reading some facts off a Web page. After the fi rst couple of items, I thought, “Yeah, OK, that’s a bit interesting, but if that’s all there is to it…” Only it wasn’t. She kept reading — and I kept saying “Wow.” Even I had to admit, yes, the story of the passenger pigeon is quite interesting. So by way of penance, allow me to present the official information on passenger pigeons.
The last passenger pigeon in the world died less than 100 years ago — in 1914, according to most reports. In fact, we know exactly when and where the species went extinct: Tuesday, September 1, 1914, at 1:00 p. m. Eastern time at the Cincinnati Zoo. We even know the last bird’s name: Martha. She was 29 years old. It’s rather extraordinary that we should have such detailed and precise information about the moment when a species meets its demise — the passenger pigeon is almost certainly unique in that regard. What’s even more extraordinary is that just a century or so earlier, passenger pigeons had been more numerous than any other bird in North America — numbering in the billions.
The word “passenger” in the name does not mean the pigeon liked to hitch rides on other animals (nor should the passenger pigeon be confused with the carrier pigeon, an entirely different animal). Rather, the name apparently comes from the French word passage, which means, roughly, “passage” (or “transit” or “crossing”); it referred to the birds’ massive and frequent migrations. The adjective form of passage is passager, and this apparently became “passenger” in English via folk etymology. The scientific name is Ectopistes migratorius, which means, more or less, “migrating wanderer.”
Because the birds always stayed in large groups, the small animals that were their main predators posed little threat; they could never kill enough of a flock to threaten the group’s survival. This behavior, however, became their undoing once the human population began to balloon in North America. As European settlers and their descendants moved across the continent, they cut down many of the trees that had provided food and shelter for the passenger pigeons. This had relatively little effect on the birds’ overall population, but it did restrict their habitat. Because birds nesting by the hundreds of thousands or millions in a confined area were such an easy target — and, perhaps, in “retaliation” for destroying crops — farmers and hunters began to trap and kill passenger pigeons in huge numbers, selling them (very cheaply) for meat.
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How did the author become interested in the topic of passenger pigeon?
- His wife read him some facts from the Internet in a loud voice.
- His wife found some facts in books and gave him to read.
- His wife found and read him some facts from traditional books.
- His wife showed him some facts on the Internet and he read them himself.
I’m not normally one to lose sleep over missed opportunities; we all make the best decisions we can and life goes on. But about a decade ago, I made a truly stupid choice and I’ve been kicking myself for it ever since. I was doing graduate work in linguistics at the University of California, San Diego, and a musical group called Huun-Huur-Tu came to town and put on a concert at the university. I saw the posters, noticed that my classmates excitedly anticipated the concert, and seriously considered going… but for some unfathomable reason, I decided not to. The next day, and for a week or two afterward, that was all anyone could talk about: this amazing, surreal event — and, for linguistics students in particular, the complex vocal mechanics behind it. In the years since, I’ve yet to cross paths with the Huun-Huur-Tu again, and when two different people suggested to write about them, it was with a certain sense of shame and self-pity that I agreed.
What could be so special about a style of singing — don’t all singers use their throats? Not like these folks. The simplest way of explaining what throat singers do is that they can sing two notes at the same time. In fact, not just two notes — some throat singers can produce as many as four distinct tones simultaneously. The effect is truly weird and chilling. The singers hail from Tuva, an autonomous Russian republic just north of the Mongolian border and a bit west of Irkutsk. Although Tuvans are the best-known throat singers, similar vocal techniques are used by some Tibetan Buddhist monks, as well as Mongolians and other residents of central Asia; the technique is also known among the Inuit in North America and Siberia. Xhosa-speaking women in southern Africa also practice a form of throat singing.
The combinations of notes you hear in throat singing aren’t really chords in the conventional sense; even the best throat singer can’t sing a melody and counterpoint at the same time. Instead, the sound is more like a bagpipe, with a constant-pitched drone under a higher melody with a different timbre.
There are in fact several very distinct forms of throat singing. One sounds rather like a digeridoo, with a flute- or whistle-like melody. Others resemble a low growling sound, a bird call, or rolling water, to give just a few examples. But in every case throat singing sounds like it could not possibly be coming from a human being — especially not a single human.
Throat singing is closely related to vocal techniques known as overtone singing, harmonic singing, and multiphonic singing. Whether these techniques amount to the same thing, or whether one is considered a subset of another, depends on whom you ask; there are no precise, widely agreedon definitions. But all have in common a way of changing vocal sounds so that multiple distinct tones are perceived at once.
Although Huun-Huur-Tu is the best-known group of traditional Tuvan Throat Singers, there’s another Tuvan who has taken the art down a different path. A singer named Ondar combines Tuvan throat-singing techniques with modern instruments and pop stylings that sound familiar to western ears. While some critics feel he has corrupted a beautiful art form, a more charitable view is that he has helped to make throat singing more accessible and understandable to an audience that would otherwise not accept it. Ondar was featured in the documentary Genghis Blues, and has music available on Apple’s iTunes Music Store — a sure sign of popular acceptance.
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What is the meaning of the word ‘note’ in the second paragraph?
- A characteristic way of speaking.
- Something written down to assist the memory.
- A musical sound which represents a tone.
- A short, informal letter.
When I travel, I usually make a conscious effort to avoid having very specific expectations. I plan out an itinerary, but I try to maintain a sense of equanimity about the experiences ahead. I like to be surprised — and I like to be able to experience new things in my own way, on my own terms. This sort of attitude has not only saved me some disappointment, it’s helped me to approach fairly commonplace sights and events with a sense of wonder and delight. As a result — and frankly, without much effort — I found myself feeling neutral, perhaps even about the prospect of visiting a glacier in Patagonia. I’ve seen ice; what could this be other than a great quantity of it? I expected to be cold, so I packed appropriate clothing. I expected scenic views, so I packed my camera. And that was about as far as I thought about it.
The trip to the Perito Moreno glacier took us more than an hour by bus from the town of El Calafate, Argentina. When we rounded a corner on a mountain road and I got my first glimpse of the glacier, I thought, “Wow. That’s really big.” Later, from a much different angle, I realized what a tiny slice of one corner of one end of this glacier I’d seen earlier, and I was overwhelmed at the scale of what I saw. As glaciers go, I am told, this is not one of the larger ones. Even though I took dozens of pictures, including some panoramic shots, there is simply no way to capture how big this thing looks in person. No wide-angle lens could do it, because it’s not only impossibly wide but tall and long as well. Shot of climbing a mountain or flying high overhead, there is no way to take in the whole thing at once. So, yes: a lot of ice… but that doesn’t begin to tell the story.
We took a boat across the lake into which the glacier drains, then hiked along the shore to a point near the edge of the glacier. There, we were outfitted with crampons for a 90-minute hike on the glacier itself. After about five minutes of climbing on the steep ice, our guides mentioned that it would become much more strenuous from here on, and two members of our group decided to turn back. The rest of us got a good workout, some extraordinary views, and a few surprises.
The Perito Moreno glacier also has several unique features. For one thing, it is, at the moment (according to some experts, at least) the only glacier in the world in a state of equilibrium — neither advancing nor retreating. Retreating is the norm, due to global warming — numerous glaciers have disappeared in recent decades, and many others are shrinking rapidly. The Perito Moreno glacier, however, advances at the same rate ice breaks off, and has done so for many years.
Another unusual characteristic is that this glacier empties into a lake right at the point where two branches connect through a fairly narrow channel. From time to time, the glacier’s face reaches all the way to the outcropping of land on the other side of the channel — sealing it off to create, in effect, two separate lakes. As the glacier continues to melt, the water level in one of the lakes rises at a faster rate than the other, causing significant flooding. Eventually, the warm water melts enough of the ice that an underwater tunnel forms between the lakes; as the tunnel expands, the water levels equalize. Before long, the tunnel becomes more of an underpass for a giant ice bridge; when this inevitably collapses, it’s a spectacular sight. The last such collapse occurred in March 2004. The glacier then advanced to block the channel again, and when we visited in December 2004, a small tunnel had recently formed and the water from the higher lake was still rushing into the lower one.
Just before we went around the last wall of ice on our way off the glacier, the guide said there was a special treat waiting for us. They’d set up a little table on the ice with complimentary cups of hot tea for everyone — on the rocks, of course. Yes, those rocks. It was a delightful treat. We left tired, sweaty, sunburned, and very satisfied.
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‘This in’ ‘… what could this be other than a great quantity of it?’ (The first paragraph) refers to...
- a glacier in Patagonia.
- the prospect.
- his feelings.
As an American, I have always been a bit ambivalent when it comes to units of measurement. I learned units like inches, pints, and pounds first, but all through elementary and secondary school, the metric system (or S. I., Système International) was taught, along with dire warnings that we’d better get used to the new measurements because the U. S. was going to be giving up Imperial units real soon now. That would have been fine with me, because I’m fluent in meters, liters, and grams too, and they all make more sense to me than their Imperial counterparts. Temperature, strangely, is the exception: I can’t seem to switch my brain out of Fahrenheit. The entire world — excluding Americans — has come to the sane conclusion that units of measurement based on outdated and arbitrary standards should be abandoned, and that everything should be based on easy-to-calculate units of ten.
Everything, that is, except time, the measurement of which requires dealing in inconvenient quantities such as 60, 12, 7, 365, 31, 30, 28, and every so often, 29 and 366. Why shouldn’t time be measured in units of 10, 100, and 1000? Seconds, hours, weeks, and months, after all, are simply arbitrary divisions of days, seasons, and years. It would be better to divide them up in a decimal-friendly way. But it turns out that there have been numerous proposals to do exactly that.
Let’s back up a bit and consider a few basics. Everyone agrees that time measurements should be based on regular, observable phenomena such as the dependable fact that the sun rises and sets every day, and that the Earth’s position relative to the sun follows predictable, year-long cycles. One could argue that the notion of a “day” having a fixed duration is a bit of a fiction, since the hours of sunlight vary according to season and latitude, but I think most people are content taking an average (i. e., a mean solar day) as the rule. And of course there’s the whole leap year problem, but that need not hold up an entire timekeeping revolution. Though the idea of a “day” and “year” are with us to stay, however, all the other units — seconds, minutes, hours, weeks, and months (and even seasons, depending on where you live)— are arbitrary divisions that are ripe for revision.
The first serious attempt to slice up the clock and calendar decimally happened in France as a consequence of the French Revolution. The new government instituted a republican calendar that consisted of 12 months of 30 days each, months bearing names suggestive of the season in which they fell (but only, of course, in France). An extra five days of festivities were added at the end of each year (not part of any month) to make the solar cycle work out. Each month consisted of three “dekades,” or 10-day weeks. New clocks had to be designed and built, too. A day now had 10 hours; hours had 100 minutes, and minutes had 100 seconds. Because the months were not that much different from existing months (breaking the strict unitof- 10 rule), they were relatively easy to get used to. But having a “minute” that was almost a minute and a half long, and an “hour” that lasted almost two and a half hours, was too much. The republican government fought a losing battle to institute the new timekeeping system from 1793 until 1805, when it was finally abandoned.
One exception to the solution is Internet Time, a standard promoted by Swiss watchmaker Swatch. In Swatch’s system, the day is divided evenly into 1000 units called “beats”; each beat lasts 1 minute, 26.4 seconds. Internet Time is designed to be universal, rather than local — so if you say an event is going to occur at 435 beats (which is how Internet Time is notated), that represents a fixed time that works anywhere in the world. Beat 0 is defined as midnight in Biel, Switzerland, where the Swatch headquarters is located. The downside to the lack of time zones, of course, is that Internet Time has no consistent relationship to the cycle of the sun; you simply have to memorize what beat range constitutes periods such as “morning,” “afternoon,” and “evening” in your local area — and then recalculate if you travel.
The phrase ‘in a decimal-friendly way’ in the second paragraph is closest in meaning to...
- the way of accurate calculation.
- the way of using convenient fractions.
- the way based on the unit ten.
- the way of easy calculation.
Books used to be such rare and wonderful things. I’m not talking about centuries ago, either. As recently as a couple of decades ago, when I was in school, I felt awestruck every time I visited the large public library downtown. It was amazing to me that as an ordinary citizen—a kid, no less—I could walk in and borrow nearly any book, no matter how old, famous, or important it was. Searching through endless card catalogs seemed like a mysterious black art, and I was always slightly surprised to find that a book I was looking for was actually on the shelves. Wouldn’t everyone in the city want to read this?
I’m equally amazed at the profound changes that have taken place in the last ten years or so with respect to how people think about books. On the one hand, there seems to be an increasingly common assumption that all useful knowledge exists in digital form, or is at least catalogued that way. Where once a search for information would begin at the library, now it seems that’s the last place many people look—if it isn’t on the Web, how important can it be? On the other hand, despite the ever-increasing numbers of books being published and mega-bookstores, the meme of borrowing books from a library has lost a lot of its vigor. You can pick up any book you might want on the way home from work, or order it online with one click. For a certain segment of modern western society, going to a library for books is now seen as a sign of lower, rather than higher, class. Be that as it may, libraries remain the primary repository of a huge portion of the world’s knowledge, ready to be uncovered by seekers of all kinds. But there are libraries…and then there are libraries.
Public libraries funded by taxes are a relatively modern invention, dating back only to the mid-1800s in the United States. Before that time, members of the general public who wanted access to a large collection of books had to pay for it. One very common form of library required patrons to pay monthly or annual dues in exchange for access (which may or may not have included borrowing rights). When public libraries began to catch on, these membership libraries (also called subscription libraries) began to dwindle rapidly; there are now just 18 still functioning in the U.S.
One such library is the Mechanics’ Institute Library in San Francisco, of which I’m a member. The library was founded in 1854 as an educational resource for “mechanics”—that is, anyone in an engineering or technical field—providing not just books but classes, lectures, and cultural programs. By 1906, the library’s collection had reached nearly 200,000 volumes, but they were completely destroyed by the fire resulting from the great earthquake that hit the city that year. Within four years, however, a new building was erected for the library, and with a number of generous donations, it was back in business—this time, with a more general collection to appeal to a wider and less technically oriented audience. It also added a chess room, home to one of the oldest chess clubs in the country but available for use by all members. Today, the Mechanics’ Institute Library is still going strong, with an up-to-date and ever-expanding collection of books, periodicals, CDs, videotapes, and DVDs; high-speed wireless internet access; and a very popular series of cultural events. It’s one of my favorite spots to do research, write, or just get away from the noise and chaos of the city.
Why would I pay to go to the Mechanics’ Institute Library when there is a perfectly good public library in town that’s much larger, closer to where I live, and free? That’s a bit like asking why I’d eat at a small, out of the way, expensive French restaurant when there’s a perfectly good mall food court nearby. In other words: you get what you pay for. When I go to the Mechanics’ Institute, I know that I will be walking into a clean, quiet, beautiful setting filled with great books—as well as intelligent and thoughtful people who, like me, care enough about the quality of their library experience to pay for it. Both patrons and staff take books very seriously— much more so, on average, than what I’ve seen in public libraries.
What question does the author pose in the first paragraph?
- Why hasn’t the book been borrowed yet?
- Why don’t people go to the library?
- Why has the book never been read?
- Who would like to read the book?
I have a special fondness for contradiction — the apparent not-goingtogether of things I like or believe equally. For example, I love living in the city, and can’t imagine being without the energy, resources, and constant stimulation it provides. But I could say with equal conviction that I’m the happiest person when I’m far away from people, noise, and chaos, immersed in the solitude of nature. As a result, when planning a vacation, I’m never quite sure whether I want to “get away from it all” or experience the novelty and adventure of another urban area. Las Vegas, New York, and Paris are among my favorite places to visit; on the other hand, I also enjoy a meditative retreat, a long weekend in the desert, or a lazy trip through the countryside. But my very favorite place to go for peace and quiet is Saturna Island.
Perhaps I should begin with a quick geography lesson. British Columbia is Canada’s westernmost province. Its largest city, Vancouver, is on the Pacific coast. Not far off the coast — about an hour and a half by ferry — is Vancouver Island, which is an immense piece of land. On Vancouver Island you’ll find Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, and about three-quarters of a million people. The stretch of ocean between the mainland and Vancouver Island is known as the Georgia Strait, and scattered along the 300-mile length of the strait are hundreds of smaller islands, only a handful of which are inhabited. The Gulf Islands, as they are called, have all the natural beauty typical of the Pacific Northwest, and a much more relaxed pace of life than the big cities.
Saturna is the southernmost Gulf Island, just beyond U. S. waters. Although it’s one of the larger islands at twelve square miles, it’s the least populated, with just over 300 year-round residents. It can be reached only by float plane, private boat, or ferry, but there are no direct ferry routes from the mainland. By the time you get there, you already have a sense of its remoteness. And as soon as you begin to look around, you realize you’re in a wonderfully different place.
Guidebooks sometimes describe Saturna in terms of what it doesn’t have. There are no camping facilities. There’s no town, either — just a few scattered businesses. There’s no laundromat, bookstore, movie theater, or pharmacy. And there’s no bank; by law, that would require the presence of a full-time police officer on the island, which it also doesn’t have. In this tiny rural outpost of civilization, you can find not only peace and quiet, but an amazing concentration of interesting things and people.
I distinctly remember the exact moment I got hooked on Saturna. On our first visit there several years ago, Saturna was our last stop on a tour of the Gulf Islands. We had reservations at the Breezy Bay Bed & Breakfast. When we arrived, our host, Renie Muir, showed us to our room in the 1890s farmhouse. As we walked up the stairs, we first entered a library. I just gasped — this was the room of my dreams. Dark wood, the smell of old books, and comfy chairs all around. For me, that’s heaven. I knew I had come to the right place, and as I was to discover, that room was in a way a microcosm of the entire island: a place of contemplation, interesting ideas, and a simpler, more meaningful way of life.
Outside our window was a farm. One path led down to a small beach; another led up to the top of a hill with a beautiful panoramic view. We spent many hours relaxing, exploring, reading, and talking. You may be thinking, “That’s nice, but I can relax or talk anywhere. What’s really so special about Saturna?” The best way I can think of to put it is, of all the places I’ve visited, Saturna has consistently had the highest concentration of memorable moments. Something about the place, the environment, and the people who are drawn to the island, makes it a fertile breeding ground for interesting things.
How many people live on Vancouver Island?
- About 600 000 people.
- About three million people.
- About 750 000 people.
- About 350 000 people.
When I get a sore throat, I always find a cup of tea with some honey very soothing. I always assumed that the restorative power of honey was mostly in my head. Sure, it tastes good and has a pleasant texture that coats my irritated throat, but it’s practically pure sugar, after all. What good could it possibly do me other than diminishing my perception of discomfort for a few minutes? So I’ve been content in my belief that honey is little more than a tasty treat. Now, ironically enough, my convictions are being challenged, as researchers are turning up new evidence of honey’s medical benefits left and right.
Historically, honey has been used as a folk remedy in cultures around the world for millennia. It has been prescribed informally as a cure for smallpox, baldness, eye diseases, and indigestion. As with most natural “cures” unsupported by scientific studies, I sort of chuckle and sigh when I read about things like this—honey’s properties make it a surprisingly effective cure-all. Or, let’s say, cure-much.
Honey’s salutary effects stem primarily from its antimicrobial properties. Most bacteria and other microorganisms cannot grow or reproduce in honey. I found this quite surprising, because bacteria love sugar. Honey contains around 40% fructose and 30% glucose—among other sugars—making it seemingly a great treat for microbes. However, honey is also somewhat acidic, and acids prevent the growth of some bacteria.
So what happens when you dilute honey with water—the bacteria just multiply like crazy, right? Well…yes and no. Amazingly enough, diluted honey supports the growth of bacteria that are helpful to humans while killing off dangerous bacteria. Some microorganisms do indeed flourish in a water solution of honey—such as the yeast added into honey.
What does all this mean in practical terms? For one thing, it means that honey applied topically to a wound can promote healing just as well as, or in many cases better than, ointments and other cures. Its antibacterial properties prevent infection. It also functions as an anti-inflammatory agent, reducing both swelling and pain. As if that weren’t enough, it even reduces scarring. In studies around the world, honey has been shown to be extraordinarily effective in the treatment of wounds, burns, and surgical incisions. Honey has been shown to be effective in treating inflammation of the eyes. Honey also functions as cream, making it a useful treatment for sunburn as well as a skin softener. But wait, there’s more! Honey is truly a head-to-toe cure.
Now that you’ve worked yourself into a gleeful frenzy over the miraculous properties of honey, I want to temper your enthusiasm a bit. The bad news, if you can call it that, is that not all honey is created equal. The chemical composition of honey depends on a huge number of variables, the most important of which is the type or types of plant that provided the source nectar. Honeys vary not only in color and flavor, but in their medicinal properties, with some varieties being much more potent than others. Because it’s impossible to regulate the comings and goings of millions of bees, there’s also no way to guarantee that honey from any location will be chemically the same from year to year or free of contamination from pollutants the bees may have found their way into. Honey supplies must be tested thoroughly and regularly.
As I was reflecting on all the health benefits of honey, it suddenly occurred to me: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sick bee. Coincidence? Probably. But honey may be one miracle cure that lives up to the buzz.
The author is skeptical...
- when he reads that honey heals almost all diseases.
- reading that honey heals baldness and smallpox.
- when he reads about folk stories about this remedy.
- when he reads about the support of scientific studies.
The other day I was at a restaurant with some friends, and one member of our party arrived a bit late. Before sitting down, he started heading toward the corner of the room, and when someone asked where he was going, he held up his hands and said, “Demunification.” Although I had never heard that word before, I understood immediately what he was saying: he was heading to the lavatory to wash his hands in order to “de-MUNI-fy” them — MUNI being short for San Francisco Municipal Railway, the transit authority that runs the city’s buses and streetcars. When you’re riding a bus or streetcar that’s so crowded you have to stand, you end up holding onto the handrails, which feel grimy from being handled by untold thousands of people before you. Almost everyone I know who rides MUNI habitually washes their hands as soon afterward as possible, which is probably an excellent idea.
From time to time I’m in some sort of social situation where a handshake is expected, but my hands are not necessarily clean. This always makes me feel awkward — it’s one thing to decline a handshake when my hands are covered with motor oil or pastry flour, but in the absence of visible contaminants, North Americans typically consider it an insult not to accept a handshake. Not that I’m hypersensitive about germs, but this made me wonder: considering the wide range of alternatives, how did the handshake come to be the standard greeting in this society?
I’ve read at least half a dozen contradictory accounts of the origin of the handshake. Because handshakes clearly predate written history, all these explanations are ultimately somewhat speculative. But the most popular story is that an open right hand showed you were not carrying a weapon; if two men met and displayed empty right hands, this presumably meant a basic level of trust existed that neither would stab the other. In one variant of this story, the handshake evolved from an elbow-to-wrist “patdown” to check for hidden knives; in another, the shaking motion was supposed to dislodge any sharp objects that may have been kept in the sleeve.
Meanwhile, the “I’m-not-going-to-stab-you” story doesn’t tell us why the handshake won out over other greeting gestures in the West. After all, in some cultures the standard greeting (even between people who don’t know each other well) is a kiss on one or both cheeks; in others, people hug, rub noses, bow, or even stick out their tongues. I suggest one possibility. At one time the English were more demonstrative with their gestures of greeting — for example, English men routinely greeted all women with a kiss. As part of the Victorian behavioral “reforms,” public kissing of any kind became socially unacceptable and the handshake came into fashion for both men and women as a convenient way to keep a person at arm’s length. So to speak.
At least in the United States, the handshake has become an extremely ambiguous symbol. At one level, it just means “hello” or “goodbye.” But it can also be construed to mean “we’re in agreement” or even that an informal contract has been reached.
Of course, business types will read all sorts of meaning into the very style of your handshake. Even if you execute it under exactly the right circumstances, it must be firm but not too firm; it must be held for exactly the right amount of time but no longer; it must be accompanied by direct eye contact; and, for bonus sincerity points, you should add your left hand to make a “hand sandwich.” You may also be judged on the angle of your hand and the number and intensity of shakes.
So then, how do we convey all those extra meanings that are supposed to be encoded in a handshake? My advice is to do what our parents told us when we were three years old: “Use your words.”
Which of the following makes the author feel awkward?
- To decline a handshake when his hands are covered with motor oil.
- To decline a handshake when his hands are covered with pastry flour.
- To decline a handshake when his hands are covered with visible contaminants.
- To decline a handshake when his hands are seen clean.
My decision to re-think my consumer habits and become more eco conscious was an awareness that grew slowly over time. It was an accumulation of noticing rubbish strewn around the city, seeing videos on the effect of plastic pollution on our oceans, numerous documentaries and books and the infamous Blue planet II. It finally culminated with the realisation that the cheap synthetic material involved in fast fashion, the rows and rows of plastic film covering items on the supermarket shelf, the takeaway cutlery, and every disposable coffee cup you see in the hands of people in the city, cannot be recycled and are therefore going straight to landfill or to be incinerated.
Plastics can stay around for up to 450 years, releasing toxins into the environment and breaking down into smaller pieces which pollute our oceans and harm birds and marine life. I quickly realised that the throw away culture and the plastic waste epidemic that is destroying the world’s oceans and finding its way back to us through the food chain wasn’t just happening ‘elsewhere’ – the Emerald Isle was just as much a part of the mess and what’s more we were all contributing to it! But why? How had it come to this and why wasn’t this being talked about?
I knew that I had to make a change and transform my consumer habits so that I could begin as much as possible, to lessen my negative impact on this beautiful planet. I decided to start with my personal contribution to landfill waste and began to reduce the amount of items in plastic packaging that I bought, seeking biodegradable and compostable options, or simply no packaging at all, as well as durable and recyclable replacements such as glass and stainless steel.
Our current linear economy where we endlessly “make, use, and dispose” and intentionally construct products ‘designed for the dump’ is creating global depletion of natural resources and over accumulation of waste which is detrimental to our environment, our wildlife and our health. We want to create a more sustainable circular economy where items are designed and manufactured to last and then kept in use for as long as possible by repairing them, reusing, upcycling, sharing, or repurposing them and at the end of their life, when they are completely exhausted, the individual parts can be used again to make something else or otherwise biodegrade harmlessly back into the earth.
Fast Fashion has a big environmental impact which includes worker exploitation, chemical pollution and depletion of natural resources. Synthetic fibres also don’t biodegrade and are derived from coal and petroleum products. Globally we consume 80 billion new pieces of clothing each year, this is 400% more than we consumed 20 years ago and we are discarding them even faster.
We need to take back our consumer power and start talking about the impact our throwaway culture is having on the planet. Each one of us can make a difference and if we engage and empower our families, friends and communities and through this begin to influence local government and businesses, small changes can lead to big ones!
I am interested in minimalism, zero waste and in becoming part of a circular economy where things are built to last, where we can reduce the over consumption that is draining the earth’s resources and polluting our oceans, and instead become conscious consumers, where we value and take responsibility for our possessions, and repair, swap, thrift, upcycle or recycle rather than throw away.
The necessity of improving the throw away culture is evident because...
- it is happening only in the Emerald Isle.
- the plastic waste epidemic leads to change the food chain.
- it applies to all parts of the world.
- it contributes to the destruction of the world’s oceans.
By Joshua Marks
While 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is occurring and greenhouse gas emissions are the main cause, political measures will have not been strong enough so far to initiate a massive policy shift away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable forms of energy. Perhaps more extreme weather events such as droughts, wildfires, heat waves and flooding will convince the public to put more pressure on policymakers to act urgently to curb carbon emissions and address this issue before it’s too late.
Air pollution and climate change are closely linked, as the same greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet are also creating smoggy conditions in major cities that endanger public health. If you’ve seen horrifying images of pollution-choked Chinese cities and think the smog is isolated to Beĳ ing or Shanghai, think again. U. S. scientists are finding that Chinese pollution is intensifying storms over the Pacific Ocean and contributing to more erratic weather in the U. S.
Water and soil pollution might not get the media attention that air pollution does, but they are still important public health concerns. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, dirty water is the world’s biggest health risk. While the Clean Water Act did much to make American water safe from harmful pollutants, today there is a new threat to clean water coming from the shale gas fracking boom taking place across the country.
Soil contamination is a major issue across the world. In China, nearly 20 percent of arable land has been contaminated by toxic heavy metals. Soil pollution threatens food security and poses health risks to the local population. The use of pesticides and fertilizers are also major factors in soil pollution.
Forests are important to mitigating climate change because they serve as “carbon sinks,” meaning that they absorb CO2 that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere and worsen global warming. It is estimated that 15 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation. Cutting down trees also threatens animals and humans who rely on healthy forests to sustain themselves, and the loss of tropical rainforests is particularly concerning because around 80 percent of the world’s species reside in these areas. About 17 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been cut down in the past 50 years to make way for cattle ranching.
As the population increases and climate change causes more droughts, water scarcity is becoming more of an issue. Only three percent of the world’s water is fresh water and 1.1 billion people lack access to clean, safe drinking water. As the current drought in California dramatically shows, access to water is not just an issue for developing countries but the United States as well. In fact, by the middle of this century more than a third of all counties in the lower 48 states will be at higher risk of water shortages with more than 400 of the 1,100 counties facing an extremely high risk.
Increasing human encroachment on wildlife habitats is causing a rapid loss of biodiversity that threatens food security, population health and world stability. Climate change is also a major contributor to biodiversity loss, as some species aren’t able to adapt to changing temperatures. According to the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Index, biodiversity has declined 27 percent in the last 35 years.
What are U. S. scientists mostly worried about?
- Smog is dangerous for humans.
- Chinese cities suffer from air pollution.
- The weather in the USA is becoming unpredictable.
- Major cities are going to vanish in the Pacific Ocean.
The first Wednesday in every month was a Perfectly Awful Day — a day to be awaited with dread, endured with courage and forgotten with haste. Every floor must be spotless, every chair dustless, and every bed without a wrinkle. Ninety-seven squirming little orphans must be scrubbed and combed and buttoned into freshly starched ginghams; and all ninety-seven reminded of their manners, and told to say, 'Yes, sir,' 'No, sir,' whenever a Trustee spoke.
It was a distressing time; and poor Jerusha Abbott, being the oldest orphan, had to bear the brunt of it. But this particular first Wednesday, like its predecessors, finally dragged itself to a close. Jerusha escaped from the pantry where she had been making sandwiches for the asylum's guests, and turned upstairs to accomplish her regular work. Her special care was room F, where eleven little tots, from four to seven, occupied eleven little cots set in a row. Jerusha assembled her charges, straightened their rumpled frocks, wiped their noses, and started them in an orderly and willing line towards the dining-room to engage themselves for a blessed half hour with bread and milk and prune pudding.
Then she dropped down on the window seat and leaned throbbing temples against the cool glass. She had been on her feet since five that morning, doing everybody's bidding, scolded and hurried by a nervous matron. Mrs. Lippett, behind the scenes, did not always maintain that calm and pompous dignity with which she faced an audience of Trustees and lady visitors. Jerusha gazed out across a broad stretch of frozen lawn, beyond the tall iron paling that marked the confines of the asylum, down undulating ridges sprinkled with country estates, to the spires of the village rising from the midst of bare trees.
The day was ended — quite successfully, so far as she knew. The Trustees and the visiting committee had made their rounds, and read their reports, and drunk their tea, and now were hurrying home to their own cheerful firesides, to forget their bothersome little charges for another month. Jerusha leaned forward watching with curiosity — and a touch of wistfulness — the stream of carriages and automobiles that rolled out of the asylum gates. In imagination she followed first one equipage, then another, to the big houses dotted along the hillside. She pictured herself in a fur coat and a velvet hat trimmed with feathers leaning back in the seat and nonchalantly murmuring 'Home' to the driver. But on the door-sill of her home the picture grew blurred.
Jerusha had an imagination — an imagination, Mrs. Lippett told her, that would get her into trouble if she didn't take care — but keen as it was, it could not carry her beyond the front porch of the houses she would enter.
Poor, eager, adventurous little Jerusha, in all her seventeen years, had never stepped inside an ordinary house; she could not picture the daily routine of those other human beings who carried on their lives undiscommoded by orphans.
Je-ru-sha Ab-bott, you are wanted in the office, And I think you'd better hurry up!
Tommy Dillon, who had joined the choir, came singing up the stairs and down the corridor, his chant growing louder as he approached room F. Jerusha wrenched herself from the window and refaced the troubles of life.
'Who wants me?' she cut into Tommy's chant with a note of sharp anxiety.
Mrs. Lippett in the office, And I think she's mad. Ah-a-men!*
Why the day was especially distressing for Jerusha?
- Because she had a lot of duties as she was the oldest girl.
- Because Jerusha hoped to find a family.
- Everybody needed her advice.
- Nobody wanted to help her.
Four grunts, an indignant voice asking why nobody could leave a hat alone, a slammed door, and Mr Packington had departed to catch the eightforty- five to the City. Mrs Packington sat on at the breakfast table. Her face was flushed, her lips were pursed, and the only reason she was not crying was that at the last minute anger had taken the place of grief.
"I won't stand it," said Mrs Packington. "I won't stand it!" She remained for some moments brooding, and then murmured: "The minx. Nasty sly little cat! How George can be such a fool!"
Anger faded; grief came back. Tears came into Mrs Packington's eyes and rolled slowly down her middle-aged cheeks.
"It's all very well to say I won't stand it, but what can I do?"
Suddenly she felt alone, helpless, utterly forlorn. Slowly she took up the morning paper and read, not for the first time, an advertisement on the front page.
Are you happy? If not, consult Mr Parker Pyne, 17 Richmond Street".
"Absurd!" said Mrs Packington. "Utterly absurd." Then: "After all, I might just see…"
Which explains why at eleven o'clock Mrs Packington, a little nervous, was being shown into Mr Parker Pyne's private office.
As has been said, Mrs Packington was nervous, but somehow or other, the mere sight of Mr Parker Pyne brought a feeling of reassurance. He was large, not to say fat; he had a bald head of noble proportions, strong glasses and little twinkling eyes.
"Pray sit down," said Mr Parker Pyne. "You have come in answer to my advertisement?" he added helpfully.
"Yes," said Mrs Packington, and stopped there.
"And you are not happy," said Mr Parker Pyne in a cheerful, matter-offact voice. "Very few people are. You would really be surprised if you knew how few people are happy."
"Indeed?" said Mrs Packington, not feeling, however, that it mattered whether other people were unhappy or not.
"Not interesting to you, I know," said Mr Parker Pyne,
"but very interesting to me. You see, for thirty-five years of my life I have been engaged in the compiling of statistics in a government office. Now I have retired, and it has occurred to me to use the experience I have gained in a novel fashion. It is all so simple. Unhappiness can be classified under five main heads — no more, I assure you. Once you know the cause of a malady, the remedy should not be impossible.
"I stand in the place of the doctor. The doctor first diagnoses the patient's disorder, then he proceeds to recommend a course of treatment. There are cases where no treatment can be of any avail. If that is so, I say frankly that I can do nothing. But I assure you, Mrs Packington, that if I undertake a case, the cure is practically guaranteed."
Could it be so? Was this nonsense, or could it, perhaps, be true? Mrs Packington gazed at him hopefully.
"Shall we diagnose your case?" said Mr Parker Pyne, smiling. He leaned back in his chair and brought the tips of his fingers together. "The trouble concerns your husband. You have had, on the whole, a happy married life. Your husband has, I think, prospered. I think there is a young lady concerned in the case — perhaps a young lady in your husband's office."
The expression “I won’t stand it” in the second paragraph means ...
- I’ll cope with it.
- I like it.
- I’ll change it.
- I can’t bear it.
One was called Mrs Richman and she was a widow. The second was called Mrs Sutcliffe; she was American and she had divorced two husbands. The third was called Miss Hickson and she was a spinster. They were all in the comfortable forties and they were all well off.
Mrs Sutcliffe had the odd first name of Arrow. When she was young and slender she had liked it well enough. It suited her and the jests it occasioned though too often repeated were very flattering; she was not disinclined to believe that it suited her character too: it suggested directness, speed, and purpose.
She liked it less now that her delicate features had grown muzzy with fat, that her arms and shoulders were so substantial and her hips so massive. It was increasingly difficult to find dresses to make her look as she liked to look. The jests her name gave rise to now were made behind her back and she very well knew that they were far from obliging. But she was by no means resigned to middle age. She still wore blue to bring out the colour of her eyes and, with the help of art, her fair hair had kept its lustre.
What she liked about Beatrice Richman and Frances Hickson was that they were both so much fatter than she, it made her look quite slim; they were both older and much inclined to treat her as a little young thing. It was not disagreeable. They were good-natured women and they chaffed her pleasantly about her beaux; they had both given up the thought of that kind of nonsense, indeed Miss Hickson had never given it a moment's consideration, but they were sympathetic to her f lirtations. It was understood that one of these days Arrow would make a third man happy.
'Only you mustn't get any heavier, darling,' said Mrs Richman.
'And for goodness' sake make certain of his bridge,' said Miss Hickson.
They saw for her a man of about fifty, but well-preserved and of distinguished carriage, an admiral on the retired list and a good golfer, or a widower without encumbrances, but in any case with a substantial income. Arrow listened to them amiably, and kept to herself the fact that this was not at all her idea. It was true that she would have liked to marry again, but her fancy turned to a dark slim Italian with flashing eyes and a sonorous title or to a Spanish don of noble lineage; and not a day more than thirty. There were times when, looking at herself in her mirror, she was certain she did not look any more than that herself.
They were great friends, Miss Hickson, Mrs Richman, and Arrow Sutcliffe. It was their fat that had brought them together and bridge that had cemented their alliance. They had met first at Carlsbad, where they were staying at the same hotel and were treated by the same doctor who used them with the same ruthlessness. Beatrice Richman was enormous. She was a handsome woman, with fine eyes, rouged cheeks, and painted lips. She was very well content to be a widow with a handsome fortune. She adored her food. She liked bread and butter, cream, potatoes, and suet puddings, and for eleven months of the year ate pretty well everything she had a mind to, and for one month went to Carlsbad to reduce.
When Mrs Sutcliffe was young she liked her name because…
- she liked the sound of it.
- it suited her character.
- it matched her surname.
- it suited both her appearance and her character.
Mackintosh went into the dining-room and turned over once more the old newspapers. But he could not read them. The house was very still. Walker was upstairs in his room asleep, the Chinese cook was busy in the kitchen, the two policemen were out fishing. The silence that seemed to brood over the house was unearthly, and there hammered in Mackintosh's head the question whether the revolver still lay where he had placed it. He could not bring himself to look. The uncertainty was horrible, but the certainty would be more horrible still. He sweated.
At last he could stand the silence no longer, and he made up his mind to go down the road to the trader's, a man named Jervis, who had a store about a mile away. He was a half-caste, but even that amount of white blood made him possible to talk to. He wanted to get away from his bungalow, with the desk littered with untidy papers, and underneath them something, or nothing. He walked along the road.
As he passed the fine hut of a chief a greeting was called out to him. Then he came to the store. Behind the counter sat the trader's daughter, a swarthy broad-featured girl in a pink blouse and a white drill skirt. Jervis hoped he would marry her. He had money, and he had told Mackintosh that his daughter's husband would be well-to-do. She flushed a little when she saw Mackintosh.
'Father's just unpacking some cases that have come in this morning. I'll tell him you're here.'
He sat down and the girl went out behind the shop. In a moment her mother waddled in, a huge old woman, a chiefess, who owned much land in her own right; and gave him her hand. Her monstrous obesity was an offence, but she managed to convey an impression of dignity. She was cordial without obsequiousness; affable, but conscious of her station. 'You're quite a stranger, Mr Mackintosh. Teresa was saying only this morning: "Why, we never see Mr Mackintosh now."'
He shuddered a little as he thought of himself as that old native's sonin- law. It was notorious that she ruled her husband, notwithstanding his white blood, with a firm hand. Hers was the authority and hers the business head. She might be no more than Mrs Jervis to the white people, but her father had been a chief of the blood royal, and his father and his father's father had ruled as kings.
The trader came in, small beside his imposing wife, a dark man with a black beard going grey, in ducks, with handsome eyes and flashing teeth. He was very British, and his conversation was slangy, but you felt he spoke English as a foreign tongue; with his family he used the language of his native mother. He was a servile man, cringing and obsequious.
'Ah, Mr Mackintosh, this is a joyful surprise. Get the whisky, Teresa; Mr Mackintosh will have a gargle with us.'
He gave all the latest news of Apia, watching his guest's eyes the while, so that he might know the welcome thing to say.
'And how is Walker? We've not seen him just lately. Mrs Jervis is going to send him a sucking-pig one day this week.'
'I saw him riding home this morning,' said Teresa.
'Here's how,' said Jervis, holding up his whisky.
Where did Mackintosh decide to go?
- To the post-office.
- To the nearest shop.
- To a well-known restaurant.
- For a walk.
Most of us would confess to have a soft spot for these charismatic birds. Penguins spread across our daily lives, featuring on items such as biscuit wrappers and book covers through to Christmas and birthday cards, as well as starring in animations on cinema and television screens. We focus on their comedic waddle, their flightless vulnerability, their enduring parental care in the frozen tundra. Who could fail to care for these birds? But for those still unsure of a penguin’s charm, there is one woman in particular who could change their minds. Her name is Dyan deNapoli, whose infectious passion for protecting penguins has earned her the moniker, ‘The Penguin Lady’. She is a penguin expert and educator. Dyan is on a mission to raise awareness and help to save these very special and endangered birds. And it all began after being surrounded by penguins at Boston’s New England Aquarium, when she became smitten and captivated by their antics.
But it requires a lot of dedication — saving penguins is rewarding and stressful in equal measure. Chicks need feeding every few hours with freshly prepared and specialised food, and constantly weighed to monitor their growth. Dyan has spent many nights awake with worry; life is tenuous for young animals and penguin chicks are no exception. But her dedication to save these birds is vital because of the severe conservation status of many penguin species.
It's a worrying possibility as penguins, as we all know, aren’t usual birds: they’re flightless, spend long periods of time in the water chasing food, are long-lived and take months to raise chicks; all features that make them very susceptible to natural and man-made disasters. Crucially, penguins have important — even critical — roles to play in the ecosystem of the ocean and on land. There are 18 recognized species of penguins in the world today, with 13 of them currently in trouble.
But it’s much more than these birds’ loveable nature and striking good looks that makes deNapoli so passionate about penguins. She has been extremely concerned about threatened and endangered species since childhood. “When I learned about the conservation status of most penguin species, I became determined to educate the public about them.” And as most species have seen a 50–95% decline over the last 50–100 years, there is plenty to worry about — especially when it's known that healthy populations of penguins mean healthy oceans.
On rocky shores, beaches, coastal forests, and sea-ice penguins come ashore to breed and raise their young. And here some populations are still at risk from egg poaching, habitat loss, and human disturbance. Being flightless they are particularly vulnerable to introduced predators, such as rats, cats and foxes, that shouldn’t naturally be there. It is the main problem.
Dyan has first-hand experience of the devastating impact of oiling on these seabirds. There have been many tragic examples to deal with, but perhaps the most notable, she says, occurred in 2000 when an ore carrier called the MV Treasure sank off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa spilt more than 1,300 tonnes of oil into the ocean. It threatened a large proportion of the endangered African penguins and prompted an international rescue mission involving 12,500 volunteers, who were quickly on scene. It was a crisis that deNapoli couldn’t ignore and rushed to the affected area, where she worked as a supervisor and bird rehabilitation manager on this historic team. Together they relocated 19,500 birds before they became oiled, and cleaned and nursed back to health 91% of the 20,000 birds that were actually affected by the oil.*
Why is Dyan named as ‘The Penguin Lady?’
- Because she was surrounded by penguins in the aquarium.
- Because she has organized special park for penguins.
- Because she is an activist who tries to save these birds.
- Because she sells penguins and earns a lot of money.
I’ve never entirely understood radio. As in: why do so many people have a radio on so much of the time? That’s a habit I never got into, and the whole concept of radio as an always-on background noise strikes me as odd, if not downright annoying. I love listening to music, but I prefer to pick my own tunes and play them when I’m able to pay attention to them. Besides, if I’m looking for audio, the Internet offers me a much wider range of choices than terrestrial or satellite radio stations do. As a result, I couldn’t tell you the first thing about my local radio stations: their frequencies, call letters, or what sorts of programming they offer.
When I was growing up in western Pennsylvania, however, I had a somewhat greater awareness of radio stations — particularly during the winter months, when we’d listen eagerly on snowy mornings to find out if school had been cancelled that day. The station we usually listened to was KDKA, which happened to be both the first commercial radio station in the country and a notable exception to the rule that all radio stations in the eastern U. S. had call letters that started with W. I always had the vague idea that these two facts had something to do with each other, but as a habitual non-radio listener, I never thought that much about it. It turns out that not-thinking-that-much-about-it was a prominent theme in the history of radio call letters.
Around the turn of the 20th century, radio was brand new and was originally used as a wireless telegraph, with messages transmitted in Morse code. To shorten the number of dots and dashes needed to identify each party, operators of radio stations on both ships and land adopted the practice already common in telegraphy to begin messages with short (oneto three-letter) identifiers — call letters (or call signs). Without a central authority to hand out call letters, users chose their own, and frequently chose ones already in use. By 1906, an international convention established that every station should have a unique, three-letter call sign, but left vague the matter of how that uniqueness was to be ensured.
To help eliminate the confusion, the Bureau of Navigation, part of the U. S. Department of Commerce, began assigning three-letter call signs to American ships in early 1912, using the K prefix for ships on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and W for ships on the Pacific coast and the Great Lakes; the reasons for choosing K and W, if any, are unknown. Shortly thereafter, at the London International Radiotelegraphic Convention, ranges of letters were assigned to each of the participating nations; in addition to W and most of the K range, the U. S. got the N prefix (to be used only by the navy).
In the late 19th century and the first decade and a half or so of the 20th, call signs for both ships and land-based stations had only three letters. But as the number of ships and stations increased, the pool of available combinations began to run out. Adding a fourth letter was the obvious solution, though if a ship sank or was otherwise put out of commission, its call sign was sometimes “recycled” by a land-based station. By 1930, only four-letter call signs were available. Meanwhile, authority to assign call letters moved in 1927 from the Bureau of Navigation to the newly formed Federal Radio Commission, which was replaced by the Federal Communications Commission in 1934.*
Which of the following is true?
- The author prefers to have a radio on to provide background noise.
- The author wants to have the possibility to choose the music to listen to.
- The author prefers terrestrial or satellite radio stations to the Internet.
- The author knows all about local radio stations.
On a few evenings when we were living in San Francisco, we were startled to hear a long succession of enormously loud booming noises. We went outside to investigate. The sky was clear, we didn’t see any lights to suggest explosions, and everyone seemed to be going about their business without worrying about the strange sounds, so we presumed we were simply unaware of some normal occurrence. The source, on further investigation, turned out to be fireworks — sometimes they were coming from the baseball stadium. What amazed us, though, was that the spots where these fireworks were being set off were miles away from us and over a hill — far enough that we couldn’t catch even a glimpse — and yet from the volume we would have thought they were going off right over our heads.
Today’s interesting thing is a phenomenon consisting of similarly mysterious booming noises, but without such a ready explanation. The most generic term I could find for such sounds is mistpouffers (spelled “mistpoeffers” in Belgium and the Netherlands). In various areas they go by such diverse terms as “Guns of the Seneca” (near Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake in New York), “Barisal guns” (in Bangladesh), “uminari” (in Japan), “fog guns,” “lake guns,” and many others. In all these instances, the terms describe a sound or series of sounds that resemble loud but distant cannon fire, usually heard near the edge of a large body of water. The sounds occur when there are no storms in the vicinity that could produce thunder and no other obvious source. Sometimes they’re accompanied by a rumble that can be felt strongly enough to shake plates and hanging pictures; other times no vibration is felt.
The fact that such sounds have been reported for centuries means that proposed explanations such as artillery tests and sonic booms are not entirely satisfying. Earthquakes and volcanoes, on the other hand, can certainly produce loud booming sounds. If the atmospheric conditions are right and the sound is loud enough, it can travel enormous distances; the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa in Indonesia was heard at least 3000 miles away. However, one would expect that if seismic activity were the cause, it would be on a newsworthy scale, and therefore easily connectable to the sounds. That doesn’t seem to be the case with mistpouffers, and they’re also too frequent to make this a really good answer.
I’ve read a number of theories having to do with escaping gases, the idea being that for one reason or another a giant gas bubble is released from the sea floor, floats up to the surface, and then makes a huge “pop”; this is thought to explain why the sounds are usually heard near water and results in the evocative name “lake farts.” The gas-bubble idea strikes me as distinctly silly. If this were truly the cause, surely there’d be innumerable reports of people sighting such bubbles popping on the water’s surface — passengers in nearby ships would be stunned by the noise — and that would be that.
The leading theory about the sounds is disappointingly mundane: the source is thought to be thunder (or, in some cases, explosions of one sort or another) whose sound travels a long way simply because atmospheric and topographic conditions happen to be just right. This seems eminently plausible: if a volcano could be heard thousands of miles away, undoubtedly the sound from a thunderstorm far out over the sea could carry from beyond the horizon. There is a bunch of math and atmospheric science that seems to support this explanation, and while the details are a bit opaque to me, I feel confident that we need not appeal to invisible alien spacecraft, the footsteps of the gods, or other such fanciful causes.
Was the author able to see the fireworks?
- Yes, they were seen over the hill.
- Yes, they went off right over their heads.
- Yes, though they were miles away.
- No, they were too far away.
I confess that I am something of a fan of the Swedish home furnishings store IKEA, having spent countless hours wandering its shiny showrooms in different countries. I always feel like I’ve found a tiny corner of Sweden wherever I happen to be in the world.
For years I had noticed that horses, and red horses in particular, were a common decorative motif in IKEA products, whether appearing twodimensionally on pillows or rugs, or as carved decorative figures gracing elegant bookshelves. I’ve only recently learned the significance of these tiny horses, and the centuries of history they represent. I thought IKEA was a popular symbol of Sweden, but the Dalahäst (or Dalecarlian) horse is a much more ancient and enduring one. Created in the Swedish province of Dalarna (Dalecarlia in English), the painted wooden horse has become a potent icon of Swedish culture.
Horses are an integral part of the history of Sweden, having deep cultural and religious significance. It is believed that horses were first introduced to Sweden around 2000 B.C., when nomads invaded the area, overpowering the local inhabitants with their superior military capabilities—including their horsemanship. Horses soon became a valuable asset in farming and forestry for the region.
The religious symbolism of the horse is long-standing in Sweden; not only was the horse the sacred animal of the religion of the Vikings, but it was celebrated in Norse mythology as well. Horses were associated with the gods, most notably with Odin, who was said to have an eight-legged horse named Sleipner, given to him by the trickster figure Loki.
When Christianity was introduced to Sweden in the 11th century, church leaders worked to discourage horse worship among the people, teaching that the horse was unclean, as were the practices associated with it. The ongoing struggle between the church and local custom can be seen in two separate incidents from the 17th century. In 1624, Bishop Johannes Rudbeckius of Västerås, the diocese city of Dalarna, gave a sermon denouncing the selling of certain “articles of destruction” in the market, a list that included wooden horses. Forty years later, during a witchcraft trial in Dalarna, the parish priest accused those on trial of using a “baror,” a magic wooden object in the shape of an animal (possibly a horse).
Despite these negative reactions to wooden horses, they seemed only to grow in popularity in the following years. In the 18th century, men working in the forests of Dalarna would carve wooden horses as a leisure activity and give them to children back in the village. By the 19th century, painted wooden horses were a common item of trade, often used by traveling salesmen as payment for room and board on their journeys. Created primarily in the villages around the town of Mora, these horses were painted with a floral design, reflecting the general decorative style of the time. This pattern of decoration eventually developed into the kurbits (or ripple) style of painting, which continues to this day.
Now produced only in the town of Nusnäs by two companies, the Dalahäst remains a popular icon of Sweden, often given as a gift (as when the Swedish Prime Minister presents them to foreign heads of state). Crafted from premium pine timber found in the forests surrounding Lake Siljan, the horses undergo a multi-step process, from felling the tree through hand carving, various stages of hand-painting, sanding, and varnishing. The finished product is stunning, a beautiful tribute to the long and intimate relationship between horses and humans in Sweden.
Why did nomads overpower the inhabitants of Sweden?
- Because they had deeper cultural significance.
- Because they had deeper religious significance.
- Because they had valuable assets.
- Because they were more powerful warriors.
A few years ago on a family trip to Europe, we had the chance to spend an afternoon in Geneva, Switzerland, and despite limited time, we hoped to see as many of the city’s iconic sights as possible. Alas, our timing was off : the European headquarters of the United Nations, the Palais des Nations did not accept visitors over the lunch hour (right when we showed up at the gates), and more surprisingly, the famous Jet d’Eau (“water-jet”), a fountain rising 140 meters from Lake Geneva, was closed for repairs. All was not lost, however, as we consoled ourselves with wine, chocolates, and souvenir shopping.
In 2003, two years after our visit to Geneva, the hours of operation for the Jet d’Eau were expanded, and it is now possible to see it in action all year long. This daily consistency calls to mind the Jet d’Eau’s nonmechanical predecessor, the geyser, which similarly releases water and steam at regular intervals. However, while the Jet d’Eau is the result of human ingenuity, geysers are the product of extremely rare circumstances, and once damaged, cannot be repaired so easily.
Although, like most people, I had heard of geysers before, it was not until I looked more closely at their workings that I realized how unique they are among geological formations. For a geyser to become active and stable, four conditions must be met. The first thing required is a geothermal heat source, most often provided by underground volcanic activity. Second, there must be a reservoir of water available. Third, a geyser requires a certain kind of rock, which when exposed to water, can develop the pressure- and water-tight seal that is necessary for the proper functioning of a geyser. The fourth requirement is a constriction in the geyser formation near the surface, which allows pressure to build up below it until the geyser erupts. The life cycle of a geyser begins when water seeps into the ground from the surface (because of rain) or from underground reservoirs, eventually sinking deep enough to reach a layer of hot rock. This water is slowly heated and gathers at the bottom of the geyser channel, while colder water enters the channel from above, and sits on top of the warmer water. The pressure of the cold water prevents the warm water from boiling, although it continues to become super-heated. When the pressure becomes too great, the hot water turns to steam and pushes the colder water out of the channel. This reduces the pressure further, producing even more steam. This whole cycle can take 500 years, which means the water rushing from a geyser today may have fallen as rain during the 16th century.
One of the most famous geysers in the world is Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park, which gets its name from its consistent schedule; it erupts on average every 91 minutes. Every geyser has its own schedule, based on its unique conditions. Even slight changes to the water supply or the rock formation can adversely affect the fragile balance of a geyser. Some are caused by natural processes, such as volcanic activity, but increasingly, geysers are threatened by human interference.
Of course, geysers can become dormant for many reasons, and their fragility is part of their rarity; it takes a lot to create a geyser, and just as much to keep it going. They are truly scientific marvels, and worthy of being protected as much as possible, not only for their entertainment value, but for what they tell us about long-term geological processes.
Two years after the author’s visit to Geneva …
- Jet d’Eau was not in action any longer.
- Jet d’Eau fountain was not mechanical.
- Jet d’Eau fountain worked for longer hours.
- Jet d’Eau worked in very rare circumstances.
Several years ago, a Swiss friend of mine told me excitedly about a new theme park that was under construction near the city of Interlaken. He sent me a magazine article about it, and even went so far as to buy me a stock certificate for the park, giving me some trivial sliver of ownership in this hot new property.
Ever since then, Mystery Park has been on my list of things to write about, but for one reason or another it had never managed to percolate up to the top of the list until now. Which is a pity: the park closed permanently on November 19, 2006, due to a shortage of visitors (and, therefore, money). Mystery Park was the brainchild of Erich von Däniken, a Swiss author perhaps best known for his 1968 book ‘Chariots of the Gods?’, which alleged that aliens visited Earth thousands of years ago, bringing with them the technology needed to create such artifacts as the Nazca lines, the Antikythera mechanism, the pyramids in Egypt, and the statues on Easter Island. Although the book was popular, no one with any scientific credentials took it seriously, and von Däniken was immediately pigeonholed as, shall we say, a fringe theorist.
The lack of credibility didn’t stop von Däniken from authoring more than two dozen additional books and selling tens of millions of copies worldwide. After a few decades as a bestselling author, von Däniken had some cash to play with, and he decided to design a theme park that would explore the world’s great mysteries. Not just any mysteries, of course, but those for which von Däniken implied the answer “aliens did it.” The park, built on the site of a former military air base, would be an interactive, hands-on way to spread his ideas in the guise of history, science, and entertainment.
The park, which was tiny as theme parks go, consisted mainly of seven pavilions or “theme worlds” arranged in a ring. An elevated sphere in the center of the park served as an observation tower.
Although von Däniken repeatedly asserted that the park’s goal was to provide questions, not answers, he certainly tried to steer visitors toward accepting his interpretations of things. He helped design the attractions, sold his books at the park, maintained an office on the premises, and regularly interacted with visitors. Critics pointed to his well-known biases as a reason the park didn’t draw more people; even to the extent that some of the exhibits were reasonably objective, skeptical would-be visitors frequently assumed they’d be getting a full dose of UFO mania and little more.
After trying unsuccessfully to stave off creditors for months, the park eventually declared bankruptcy and closed. Analysts blamed everything from an underperforming stock market to the fact that the exhibits never changed, discouraging repeat visits. But a large part of the reason for the park’s failure seems to have been that there’s only so much to say about von Däniken’s theories and so many people who will listen to them, no matter how entertaining the multimedia presentations may be for their kids. There’s still a chance, however remote, that the park may reopen at some point—under new management, presumably, and with significant changes.
As for the content, what can I say? I liked ‘The X-Files’; conspiracy theories and stories of alien visitors are nothing if not entertaining. But I enjoy those stories as fiction, and I hope I know enough to separate entertainment from reality. It sounds to me as though that’s exactly where von Däniken failed with his Mystery Park. Or it might have been sabotaged by aliens. You just never know.
The book ‘Chariots of the Gods?’ by Erich von Däniken …
- described the Nazca lines, the Antikythera mechanism, the pyramids in Egypt, and the statues on Easter Island.
- described how aliens had visited Earth many years ago.
- implied that many artifacts had been created by aliens.
- implied that many artifacts had been created by people using extraterrestrial technologies.