East African Rift is Growing Quickly

A large crack in the surface of the earth, several kilometres long,   has caused a highway to collapse in Kenya. The area lies on the East African Rift, where the Arabian and African plate meet.

The earth’s crust is broken up into several tectonic plates which are constantly on the move, gliding towards or against each other at various speeds. When these plates collide energy is set free, resulting in earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

The East African Rift stretches over 3000 km from the Gulf of Aden in the north to Zimbabwe in the south.  It consists of several valleys that are filled with long lakes. Because the two plates are moving away from each other Eastern Africa will be separated from the rest of the continent.

A rift is the first phase of a plate that is breaking apart. After millions of years, it can lead to the formation of a new ocean.  A well-known example is a separation of Africa and South America and the creation of the Atlantic Ocean.

Where the earth’s plates move away from each other magma plumes come up through the mantle and cause volcanic activity. Forces are so strong that the plate breaks apart and causes major earthquakes. In many cases, plates move slowly, at a rate of only  a few cm per year and most of the time we don’t notice these movements.

East African Rift from outer space
East African Rift from outer space – Image: Christoph Hormann

Words

  • at a rate = how fast something happens
  • collapse = fall apart; break down
  • collide = crash into each other
  • consist of = is made up of
  • constantly = always
  • crack = a line that you see when something starts to  break apart
  • crust = the hard, outer layer of the earth
  • forces = here: the power or strength of an activity
  • formation = when something new is created
  • earthquake = a sudden shaking of the earth’s surface that can cause a lot of damage and kill people
  • eruption = if something  breaks out suddenly
  • glide = move slowly and quietly
  • magma plumes = hot melted rock from the inner part of the earth which comes to the surface
  • major = here: very strong
  • mantle = part of the earth below the crust
  • notice = to see something happen; to be aware of something
  • resulting in = something that leads to something else
  • separate = divide, split apart
  • several = a few
  • stretch = to spread from one place to another
  • surface = here: the top layer of the earth
  • tectonic = about the movments of sheets of rock that form the earth’s surface
  • various = different

 

Winnie Mandela – South Africa’s Mother of the Nation

Winnie Mandela was a female South African activist who fought against Apartheid, together with her husband, South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela. She died at the age of 81  in her home in Soweto, Johannesburg after a long illness.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was born in 1936  in the Eastern Cape province, which at that time was the homeland of Transkei. In her early life, she was a social worker in a hospital.

In the 1950s she met Nelson and married him in 1958. When her husband was imprisoned in 1963 it was Winnie who led the movement against Apartheid. For over two and a half decades she campaigned for his release. During this period Winnie Mandela was her husband’s link to the outside world.

Winnie was a prominent member of the African National Congress and the head of its Women’s League. When Nelson Mandela was released from Robben Island, it was the “Mother of the Nation”, as she was often called, who marched with him to freedom.

Shortly afterwards, the couple separated and divorced in 1996, two years after Nelson Mandela had become South Africa’s first black president.

Winnie Mandela continued her political career and became a deputy minister in the first post-Apartheid government. She was a member of parliament for several years.

However, Winnie was also a controversial figure and involved in many scandals. During the final years of Apartheid, she was accused of violence and blamed for killing and kidnapping informers in Soweto. She was sentenced to six years in prison, which was later turned into a fine.

After her death on 2 April 2018, politicians and human rights activists from all over the world praised South Africa’s most famous woman. Former Archbishop Desmond Tutu admired her as a revolutionary figure in his country’s history. The African National Congress said that the party had lost an icon.

 

Winnie Mandela - South Africa's Mother of the Nation
Winnie Mandela – South Africa’s Mother of the Nation

Words

  • accuse = to say that someone committed a crime
  • activist = a person who fights for something they believe in
  • African National Congress = political group that fought for the rights of black people in South Africa. It’s most famous leader was Nelson Mandela.
  • Apartheid = political system in South Africa, in which only white people had rights and people from other races, especially blacks, had to live separately; it existed between 1948 and 1990
  • blame = to be responsible for something
  • continue = to go on doing something
  • controversial = here: not everyone liked her and she also did bad things
  • deputy minister = person who is directly below the minister
  • divorce = to end a marriage
  • fine = to pay money as a form of punishment
  • freedom = being free and not in prison anymore
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • homeland = separate areas within South Africa where black people had to live
  • human rights = rights that everyone should have, like the right to vote or the freedom to speak freely
  • icon = someone who is famous and admired by many people
  • illness = being ill
  • imprison = put into prison
  • informer = someone who secretly tells the police about things that are going on
  • movement = campaign ; fight for beliefs and ideals
  • post-Apartheid = the time after Apartheid
  • praise = to admire a person for what they have done
  • prominent = famous; well-known
  • release = set free
  • revolutionary = here: a person who wants to change the system
  • Robben Island = famous prison island off the southern coast of South Africa
  • sentence = punishment that a judge gives to  someone who is guilty
  • shortly afterwards = a short time later

Malala Yousafzai Returns To Pakistan

Malala Yousafzai, a 20-year-old female human rights activist, has returned to Pakistan for the first time since being shot by Taliban extremists. She was attacked and shot in the head on a school bus in 2012 because she had been demonstrating for western values and more education for girls. Malala kept a diary about girls’ life under Taliban rule. It was turned over to the BBC and made public.

Yousafzai’s arrival in Pakistan and her itinerary of the four-day visit was kept secret by Pakistani police. Ms Yousafzai said that it had been her wish to come back to Pakistan and speak with ordinary citizens there.

After the attack six years ago Malala Yousafzai was transported to the UK where a bullet was removed from her head. She recovered fully and is now studying at Oxford University.

In 2013 Yousafzai appeared before the United Nations, where she received standing ovations for her courageous action. In 2014 she became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Since then the young activist has been the figurehead of the Malala Fund, an organisation which raises money to help girls and young women in need of education.

Yousafzai’s return to Pakistan has not been welcomed by everyone. Although she has many supporters in her home country Pakistan, the country’s male-dominated society has criticized her for actively fighting for female rights.

Especially fundamentalists and conservative men are against her and have organised hate campaigns on the internet. Many say that women do not need education and should maintain their traditional role in the household.

 

Malala Yousafzai in 2015
Malala Yousafzai in 2015 – Image: Simon Davis/DFID

Words

  • actively = here: not just talking but doing something  or taking action
  • although = while
  • appear = here: to hold a speech
  • arrival = when you come to a place
  • attack = to hurt someone with a weapon
  • bullet = small piece of metal that comes out of a gun when you shoot
  • citizen = person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • courageous = brave
  • demonstrate = to protest for or against something in front of many people
  • especially = above all
  • figurehead = someone who is the leader of a movement or organisation
  • fully = completely
  • fundamentalist = someone who follows religious laws very strictly
  • extremist = someone who has very radical opinions about politics and society
  • hate campaign = things that a person does in order to harm someone they don’t like
  • human rights activist = a person who fights for basic rights that everyone should have
  • in need of = who need
  • itinerary = a list of things you want to do or places you want to visit
  • maintain = keep up
  • make public = publish; show to everybody
  • male-dominated society = country where men are more important than women and have more power
  • Nobel Peace Prize = prize that is given each year to a person who has done important work to make the world a safer and more peaceful place
  • ordinary = normal
  • raise = collect
  • receive = get
  • recover = to get well again
  • remove= take out of …
  • rule = government
  • secret = here: known only to a few people
  • standing ovations = people get up and clap their hands loudly to show that they like what you have said or done
  • supporter = person who wants to help you and shares your opinions
  • Taliban = group that took control of most of Afghanistan in 1997. They are known for following Islam very strictly.
  • traditional role = here: what they have always done
  • welcome = to be glad about something
  • western values = the way people in western countries live and what they think is good  or bad

 

 

 

MH370 – A Plane That Went Missing 4 Years Ago

One of the greatest mysteries of aviation history happened on March 8, 2014. Four years ago Malaysia Airlines MH370 went missing on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The plane left its programmed flight path and headed south towards the Indian Ocean. During the last four years, several search teams have tried to locate the missing plane, but up to now, it hasn’t been found.

The Malaysian Boeing 777 with 239 passengers on board disappeared from ground station radar screens but flew on for another six hours.  Nobody knows what happened during this time. The last known location of MH370 was somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean near Australia. A few parts of the plane were washed up on Africa’s east coast and on islands in the Indian Ocean

Australia, China and Malaysia have taken part in hi-tech search operations that covered a total area of 120,000 square kilometres and cost  $200 million. Now, another search is being conducted by an American firm.

Investigators speculate on what may have happened on board MH370. Some experts state that there may have been some kind of mechanical failure while others consider a sudden loss of oxygen in the cabin and cockpit. Officials do not rule out the possibility of the pilot crashing the plane deliberately in unknown waters.

Aviation inspectors say that it is important to find out what happened to MH 370 in order to prevent such an accident from happening again.

 

Search operation for MH370
Search operation for MH370 – Image: US Navy

Words

  • aviation = the science of flying an airplane
  • conduct = carry out
  • consider = think about
  • cover = stretch = reach from one place to another
  • deliberately = on purpose; if you really want to do something
  • disappear = here: to be lost; not seen
  • firm = company
  • flight path = the course an airplane takes
  • ground station = here: building that watches and has contact with planes
  • head = to go in a certain direction
  • inspector = person who checks to see if something is done the way it should be
  • investigator = person who has the job of finding out what caused the accident
  • hi-tech = with the best and most modern technology
  • locate = to find out where something is
  • loss = to lose something
  • mechanical failure = an object or a machine on board the plane did not work the way it should have
  • official = person in a high position in an organisation
  • oxygen = element that is in the air and which we need to breathe
  • possibility = here: something may have happened
  • prevent = stop from happening again
  • programmed = here: the course it should have taken, according to flight computers
  • radar = machine that uses radio waves to find where something is and watch its movements
  • several = some
  • speculate = to guess about the possible causes or effects of something without knowing all the facts and details
  • sudden = something happening quickly
  • unknown = not known
  • wash up = when something drifts from the open sea to the coast

4400 Year-Old Tomb Found Near Giza Pyramids

Egyptian archaeologists have discovered a tomb that dates back 4,400 years. Found near the famous pyramids at Giza, it probably belongs to a woman known as Hetpet, who was a female priest and closely connected to the royal family of the Fifth Dynasty.

Hetpet is well-known among ancient Egyptian archaeologists. Even though her mummy has not yet been found, some of her private belongings were discovered over a century ago.

The tomb found in the western part of the Giza necropolis is made out of mud brick and is in good shape. Its wall paintings show hunting and fishing scenes as well as animal offerings and monkeys gathering fruit.

Excavators unearthed 300 cubic meters of earth before they found the tomb. They hope there may be more discoveries to be made in what they call a very promising area of the cemetery. Even though much of the area has been thoroughly examined in the past centuries, modern technologies may still reveal new findings under the desert surface. Increased digging is also going on in Luxor and the Valley of the Kings

Authorities hope that the recent discovery will help boost Egypt’s tourism industry which has been declining since the Arab Spring of 2011.

 

The Giza Pyramid area
The Giza Pyramid area – Image: Ricardo Liberato

Words

  • animal offering = here: animals that are killed and given to God
  • Arab Spring = series of protests and revolutions in northern Africa and the Middle East in 2010 and 2011
  • archaeologist = person who studies old civilisations  and examines their buildings, tombs and what is left of that time
  • authorities = organisation within the government that is responsible for certain things
  • boost = improve ; make better
  • cemetery = area where dead people are buried
  • century = a hundred years
  • connect = link to; here: a close friend
  • decline = go down
  • desert = large area of dry land with rocks and sand
  • dig = to move the earth on the surface so that you can find something
  • discover = find for the first time
  • even though = while
  • excavate = to dig carefully in an area in order to find old objects like bones, cups or tools
  • examine = look at; observe
  • gather = collect
  • increased = more and more
  • mud brick = wet earth that is dried and used as a building material
  • mummy = a dead body that has been preserved  by wrapping it in cloth
  • necropolis = area of land where dead people are buried
  • priest = man or woman who does performs religious acts
  • private belongings = what belonged to her
  • promising = here: an area where archaeologists hope to make new discoveries  in the future
  • reveal = to find something that was not known at first
  • royal family = the king, his wife and children
  • surface = the top layer of something
  • technologies = methods of doing something
  • thoroughly = very closely; completely
  • tomb = stone structure  above or below the ground where a dead person is buried
  • unearth = to find something that has been buried in the ground
  • Valley of the Kings = area in central Egypt where kings and queens of ancient Egypt were buried between the 16th and 11th century B.C.

World’s Fishing Fleets Tracked From Space

For the first time, global fishing activity has been tracked from space. The data collected shows that 55% of the world’s oceans are used for commercial fishing, four times the area that is used for farming. In contrast, fish provides only 1.2% of the world’s food. 

According to the data, China is the world’s top fishing nation. In 2016 Chinese vessels spent 18 million hours catching fish on the high seas, travelling a total of 460 million km.

The fishing fleets of 5 countries (China, Spain, Taiwan Japan and South Korea)  account for more than 85%  of the world’s fishing.

Almost half of the total catch comes from the high seas, where industrial ships fish for tuna and shark. Smaller fleets stay near coastal areas.

The data was collected over a period of four years from 22 billion automated emergency radio signals of over 70,000 ships.  Although it is not totally accurate because smaller boats are not required to use tracking signals, it does show where most of the fishing takes place. Special software was used to generate maps that show where fishing is most intensive, such as the northern Atlantic and northwestern Pacific Ocean.

The study also shows that the biggest influences on fishing come from political and cultural activities. Environmental problems, seasonal differences or the changing of ocean currents do not affect fishing that much.

British fishing vessel
British fishing vessel

Words

  • according to = as reported by …
  • account for = to form a certain part of something
  • activity = things that people do
  • accurate = exact, perfect
  • affect = change
  • although = while
  • automated = here: created automatically
  • billion = a thousand million
  • catch = the fish that are caught at a certain time
  • coastal areas = near land
  • commercial fishing = here: ships catch fish and process them so that they can be sold to customers
  • data = information
  • emergency radio signal = every ship sends  signals to show where they are in case something happens to them
  • environmental = about nature and the world around us
  • fleet = the ships that belong to a country
  • generate = produce
  • global = worldwide
  • high seas = the parts of the ocean that are far away from land
  • in contrast = on the other side
  • influence = the power to affect or change something in a certain way
  • intensive = here: where most of the activity takes place
  • map = drawing of an area that shows where something is
  • ocean current = the movement of water in the world’s oceans
  • provide = offer, give
  • required = need to do or have something
  • seasonal = referring to the seasons
  • space = outside the earth; here: from satellites that orbit the earth
  • track = to follow the movements of an object
  • tuna = large sea fish caught for food
  • vessel = ship

 

New Measles Outbreak in Europe

According to the World Health Organisation, there was a new massive outbreak of measles in Europe last year. There were four times as many cases in 2017 than there were in 2016, a record low year. Across Europe, over 20,000 people fell ill and 35 died.

The outbreak affected 15 countries. Romania, Italy and Ukraine reported the highest number of measle cases. 

One of the reasons for the new outbreak is that more and more adults don’t want to get vaccinated. Most children in European countries are vaccinated at an early age, however, recently more and more parents have not wanted their children treated. Italy, for example,  reported that only 85% of all under two-year-olds are vaccinated.

Measles is an infectious disease that can be deadly if not treated. It starts with a runny nose, coughing and sneezing and is often accompanied by fever. Typical symptoms show a red-brown rash on various parts of the body. One in a thousand cases develops a swelling of the brain that may cause serious diseases and even lead to blindness.

Apart from Europe, measles has been on the decline worldwide.  For the first time in history, there were less than 100,000 measles deaths a year. About  85 % of the world’s children receive immunisation by the time they reach their first birthday.

The WHO has now put pressure on European countries to raise public awareness. Many are introducing measures to encourage parents to have their children vaccinated.

 

Measles on a person's skin
Measles on a person’s skin – Image : Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • accompany = together with
  • affect = here: happen in
  • apart from = except for
  • blindness = not being able to see anything
  • brain = organ inside your head that controls how you think, feel and move
  • decline = to go down
  • encourage = to get people to do something
  • however = but
  • infectious disease = illness that can be passed on from one person to another, especially through the air that you breathe
  • massive = very strong
  • measles = infectious disease in which you have a fever and small red spots on your body or face
  • measures = action; to do something
  • outbreak = here: an illness or disease that starts very quickly and affects many people
  • pressure= to try to make a person do something that you think is important
  • public awareness = to make more and more people know and understand something about a subject
  • raise = improve
  • rash = a lot of red spots on a person’s skin
  • receive = get
  • record = here: lowest ever
  • runny nose = when sticky liquid comes out of your nose, usually because you have a cold
  • swelling = a part of your body that becomes larger than normal
  • symptom = something wrong with your body that shows you have an illness
  • treat = to cure an illness by giving someone medicine
  • vaccinate, vaccination = to protect a person from an illness by giving them medicine that contains  a weak form of bacteria or the virus that causes the disease
  • various = different
  • World Health Organisation (WHO) = international organisation which helps countries improve their people’s health by giving them medicine and information about diseases

Scientists Come One Step Further in Creating Quantum Computers

The world of technology has got one step closer to creating quantum computers.  Dutch scientists have recently created a 2-qubit (quantum bitprocessor running on a silicon chip.

While standard computers work with bits of information that can have only two states, 0 or 1, quantum processors are based on the fact that bits can exist in both states at the same time. As a result, they have tremendous computing power and can do things that no classical computer can do. Quantum computers can be used for solving complex problems and can manage much larger number of calculations at once.

Scientists explain that they are still in the early stages of developing a real quantum processor. Hardware manufacturer IBM has already built a 50-qubit computer, but with superconductive materials that need extreme cooling. Putting a quantum processor on a silicon chip, which is already used in the computer industry, may be the first step toward mass production.

In such quantum processors, electrons can be in many states at once. This is called superposition. In the lab, scientists have managed to keep electrons between both positions at the same time, however, such electrons are not stable and quickly fall apart. By linking these electrons together on a silicon chip qubit hardware manufacturers could produce quantum processors for commercial use.

Design of a quantum computer chip
Design of a quantum computer chip – Image: D-Wave Systems, Inc.

 Words

  • bit = the smallest unit of information that a computer uses
  • calculation = when you use numbers to find out something
  • classical = here: normal; the ones we have today
  • commercial use = here: something that is produced so that people buy it
  • complex = very complicated
  • electron = very small piece of matter with a negative electrical charge that moves around the central part of an atom
  • hardware manufacturer = company that producers computers
  • however = but
  • lab = laboratory
  • link = connect with each other
  • manage = work with; succeed in doing something
  • mass production = products that are produced in factories in large numbers so they can be sold cheaply
  • processor = central part of a computer that deals with commands and the information it is given
  • quantum = unit of energy in physics
  • qubit= quantum bit = piece of information that can exist in two states at the same time
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • silicon chip = small piece of silicon  that has electrical connections and can store information
  • stable = steady; something that does not change
  • stage = phase, time during which something happens
  • superconductive = when electricity can flow through a material very easily, especially at low temperatures
  • state = condition that something is in
  • tremendous = very big, fast, powerful

Earth Hour 2018 – The World Goes Dark

Once again, the earth has gone dark.  Every year since 2007, thousands of public buildings and landmarks around the globe are switched off  for an hour to raise awareness for climate change. Earth Hour 2018 started in Samoa and spread to all continents.

Numerous sites, including Sydney’s Opera House, the Paris Eiffel Tower and Brandenburg Gate in Germany, went dark at exactly 8.30 pm local time. In addition, millions of private citizens joined in the event and turned off lights in their homes. 187 countries took part in this years Earth Hour , organised by the WWF.

In the past the Earth Hour movement has achieved breakthroughs in  many environmental fields. In 2014 Ecuador’s government banned the use of plastic bags on the Galapagos island. Solar-powered lights were  installed in remote villages in India and 17 million trees were planted in Kazakhstan.

According to the WWF, Earth Hour 2018 will concentrate on the preservation of forests and oceans, as well as wildlife protection. The organisation says that it hopes to raise awareness of global warming especially in the USA, where President Trump has vowed to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

 

 

 

Earth Hour 2012 in Berlin
Earth Hour 2012 in Berlin – Image : David Biene / WWF

Words

  • achieve = reach, get
  • according to = as said by …
  • agreement = document signed by two or more groups or countries
  • ban = forbid
  • breakthrough = here : to do something really important after trying for some time
  • citizen = person who lives in a country or city and has rights there
  • environment = nature and the world we live in
  • especially = above all
  • globe = world
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • in addition = also
  • including = also
  • join = take part in an event
  • landmark = something that is easy to recognise, like a famous building
  • movement = campaign ; a group of people who have the same ideas and want to work together to achieve things
  • numerous = many
  • preservation = to keep something in its original condition
  • public = place where everyone can go to
  • pull out = leave; not be a part of
  • raise awareness = to get people to see and understand a problem
  • remote = far away and hard to get to
  • solar-powered = operated by the sun
  • spread = move to
  • switch off = turn off
  • vow = promise
  • wildlife protection = to save and protect animals that live in the wild
  • WWF = the World Wide Fund for Nature

 

German Cities Plan To Start Free Public Transport

German cities are planning to start free public transport services. The German government has suggested this action after the country, together with 7 other EU member states, have not met EU air quality standards. Pollution, especially in large cities, has become a major problem.

Free public transport will be introduced in five cities including Bonn, Essen and Mannheim by the end of the year.

Some major cities have already experimented with free transport services.  In Estonia’s capital Tallinn, residents have been able to use buses, trams and trains in the city for free since 2013. Paris and Seattle have tried offering free public transport, but only for a short time.

Germany’s decision to provide free public transport could prove to be expensive for its taxpayers. Many transport services get up to half of their money through ticket sales. Thus, the federal government would have to subsidize free transport in cities heavily. Experts claim that it may cost up to 12 billion euros in extra money to run the system for free.

Critics of the proposal say such a measure could put too much burden on public transport systems in large cities. Berlin, Hamburg and Munich already have major problems during rush hours and experts state that inviting more people to use public transport would overload existing systems. As a result, even more money would be needed to expand the country’s public transport services.

In addition to making cities as car-free as possible, car-sharing schemes, low emission zones and incentives for buying electric cars are also measures that are being considered.

City bus in Leipzig
City bus in Leipzig – Image: Christian A. Schröder

Words

  • action =here: something that someone does or wants to do
  • burden = here: to cause problems for …
  • capital = the most important city in a country; where the government is
  • car-sharing scheme = plan in which two or more people travel to places using the same car
  • claim = to say that something is true
  • consider = think about
  • especially = above all
  • expand = make larger and better
  • federal = here: the central government of a country
  • government = people who rule a country
  • in addition = also
  • incentive = something that makes you want to do something
  • including = also
  • introduce = here: start
  • low emission zone = here: an area  in which dirty cars or trucks are not allowed to enter because they produce too much pollution
  • major = very important
  • measure = action, law
  • offer = give someone to use
  • overload = here: not manage
  • pollution = making air, water etc.. dirty
  • proposal = suggestion or plan
  • provide = give
  • public transport = buses, trains, trams etc.. that everyone can use
  • resident = here: a person who lives in a city
  • run = operate
  • rush hour = time of day when buses, trains and trams are full because people are travelling to or from work
  • service = here: help or work that a country gives to its people
  • standard = the level that you have to reach
  • subsidize = to pay part of the costs
  • taxpayer = person who pays money to the government according to the income he/she gets  from working
  • thus = that is why