Chocolate in Danger of Becoming Extinct

Chocolate may be in danger of becoming extinct by the middle of this centuryPests and fungal diseases have been found in cacao trees that may endanger the crop’s survival.

In addition, cacao is also under attack by global warming. Trees grow in a very small area about 20° north and south of the equator, where humidity and temperatures are the same all year round. By 2050 rising temperatures and drier weather will push cacao production up into mountainous areas, many of which are home to wild animals.

Scientists from the University of California are trying to save the plant. Together with researchers from the American food company Mars, they are trying to grow cacao seeds that are more resistant and can grow at higher altitudes.

Most of the world’s cacao production comes from two countries in western Africa, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. These areas may not be suitable for cacao production in the decades to come. Millions of farmers depend on cacao for a living.

 

Cacao tree
Cacao tree – Image: Luis Ovalles

Words

  • altitude = how high up something is
  • cacao = seeds from which chocolate is made
  • decade = ten years
  • endanger = to be a threat to something
  • equator = line around the middle of the earth
  • extinct = die out; not exist anymore
  • century = a hundred years
  • depend on = need
  • fungal disease= disease caused by  a simple plant that has no leaves  and grows in the ground or on other plants; mushrooms are a type of fungus
  • global warming = an increase in the world’s temperatures caused by growing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere
  • humidity = the amount of water that is in the air
  • in addition = also
  • mountainous = in the mountains
  • pest = a small animal or insect that can destroy crops and plants
  • researcher = person who studies a topic in order to find out more about it
  • resistant = here: it cannot be destroyed or damaged
  • rise = to go up
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • seed = small hard object from produced by plants, from which a new plant can grow
  • suitable = here: to be the ideal place to grow something
  • survival = existence ; staying alive
  • under attack = to be attacked by something

NASA Plans Mission to Alpha Centauri

NASA has announced that it plans to send a spacecraft to the nearest star outside the solar system, Alpha Centauri,  in 2069. The bold mission is scheduled to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the first manned lunar landing in 1969.

The announcement comes from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is responsible for planning new missions within the solar system and beyond.

Alpha Centauri is a system of three stars,  just four light years away.  Even at a tenth of the speed of light, which NASA experts say may be possible,  it would take a spacecraft 44 years to reach the constellation.

The technology for such a mission, however, does not even exist yet. Some form of laser-powered sails or a nuclear propulsion system would have to be created to reach such a speed.

 

NASA’s  first interstellar mission would concentrate on exploring one of the system’s exoplanets, Proxima Centauri b, which may be habitable.

Experts say that it would take half a century before such a mission could even be launched. As a result,  the spacecraft would probably not reach its destination before the beginning of the next century. In addition, considering cuts to NASA’s budget, the agency does not nearly have enough money to develop a spacecraft that could actually make the mission.

Currently, Voyager 1, launched in 1977,  is the farthest spacecraft and man-made object from earth.

 

The Alpha Centauri star system
The Alpha Centauri star system – Image: David Benbennick

Words

  • agency = organisation
  • anniversary = date on which something important happened in the past
  • announce = to say officially, in public
  • beyond =  here: outside the solar system
  • bold = exciting; not afraid of being difficult to do
  • century = a hundred years
  • coincide = be at the same time as
  • considering = if you look at or think about something
  • constellation =gourp of stars
  • currently = at the moment; now
  • destination  = place where you want to go
  • develop = plan, design and make
  • exoplanet =planet that is not in the solar system
  • explore = to travel to a place to find out more about it
  • habitable = a place with water and air, that allows you to live there
  • in addition = also
  • interstellar = between stars
  • laser = a narrow beam of light
  • light year = the distance light travels in one year = 9 500 000 000 000 kilometres
  • lunar = moon
  • mission = here: a trip to a faraway destination
  • nuclear propulsion system  = a system that uses nuclear energy to make a spacecraft  move forward
  • reach = get to
  • responsible = in charge of
  • scheduled = planned
  • solar system = our sun and the planets that go around it
  • spacecraft = object that can reach space and travel to the sun and other planets
  • technology = objects and machines to make something work

NASA Discovers Star System With 8 Planets

NASA has discovered the eighth planet of a star system, similar to our solar system. The star, Kepler-90  is over 2,500 light years away and larger and hotter than our sun. It is the first star known to have as many planets as our solar system.

The Kepler-90 star system is much more compact than our solar system. The outermost planet orbits the star at about the same distance as the earth orbits the sun.  its inner planets are small and rocky while the outer ones are larger and made up of gas

The newly discovered planet, Kepler -90i, is the third celestial object in the star system. It is probably rocky and similar to our earth, but because of its closeness to its home star has an average surface temperature of about 400° C. It moves around the star once every 14.4 days.

The discovery was made based on data provided by the Kepler space telescope. Launched in March 2009, the telescope has constantly been scanning certain sections of the universe in search of new stars and planetary systems. Up to now, over 2,000 new worlds have been discovered.

To help analyse the data NASA has been relying on artificial intelligence software supplied by Google.  This software examines weak signals of light when objects pass in front of a star.  The new way of examining data is expected to reveal even more new planets in the future.

 

Kepler 90 star system compared to our solar system
Kepler 90 star system compared to our solar system

Words

  • artificial intelligence = when computers do intelligent things  that only people can do, such as think and make their own decisions
  • average = normal, usual
  • based on = use
  • celestial = about the sky
  • closeness = being close to something
  • compact = here: the planets are closer together and near to the star
  • constantly = always
  • data = information
  • discover = to find something for the first time
  • distance = the amount of space between two objects
  • examine = look at something closely
  • launch = to send  an object into space
  • light year = the distance light travels in one year = 9,460,000,000,000 km
  • orbit = to go around
  • outermost = the farthest away from something
  • planetary system = star with planets moving around it
  • provide = give
  • rely = depend on; need
  • reveal = to show something that was not known before
  • rocky = covered with or made of rocks; here: a hard surface
  • scan = when a machine looks at things carefully but quickly
  • similar = like
  • solar system = our sun and the eight planets that move around it
  • surface temperature = temperature you get when you stand on the planet
  • weak = not strong

 

 

NASA Fires Voyager 1 Thrusters After 37 Years

Voyager 1 is the first man-made object to leave the solar system. 37 years after it was launched, NASA’s engineers fired the spacecraft’s backup thrusters. The primary thrusters have been getting weaker over the last few years. 

Voyager’s thrusters were fired for a few milliseconds from a distance of 13 billion miles in order to reposition the spacecraft so that the antennae would point towards earth.

Nobody at NASA knew if firing the thrusters would work after decades of inactivity. After 19 hours, the time which it took for the signal to get back to earth, it was confirmed that the thrusters had actually been fired. Voyager 1 will now be able to operate and send data back to earth for another 2 to 3 years.

As Voyager 1 software dates back to the 1970s,  scientists had to examine the software code to make sure the engines worked correctly.

Voyager 1 and its twin Voyager 2 were launched in 1977  to carry out a grand tour of the solar system. They passed Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. After that, the spacecraft kept on flying and passed the boundaries of the solar system. In the past decades, the two spacecraft made great discoveries, including active volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io and a methane atmosphere on Saturn’s moon Titan.

Although Voyager 2’s thrusters are in a better condition than it’s sister craft NASA also plans to fire them in the near future.

 

Voyager 1
Voyager 1

Words

  • although = while
  • backup = something that you use to replace something that doesn’t work
  • billion = a thousand million
  • boundary = where something ends
  • condition = shape
  • confirm = know for sure that something has worked
  • correctly = in the right way
  • data = information
  • dates back = here: is from a certain time in the past
  • decade = ten years
  • discovery = to find something for the first time
  • distance = the amount of space between two objects
  • engine = machine that makes something travel
  • engineer = someone whose job it is to design and build machines, rockets, bridges etc..
  • examine = look at something very closely
  • fire = here: to make something work
  • grand tour = here: a journey that takes you far away to all the planets of our solar system
  • inactivity = here : not in operation
  • launch = start into space
  • man-made = made by a person, not nature
  • methane = gas that you can not see or smell, but which is burned to give heat
  • near future = sometime soon
  • operate = work the way it should
  • primary = most important, main
  • reposition = here: to move it into a new position
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • solar system = our sun and the planets that go around it
  • spacecraft = object that can travel in space
  • thruster = small engine in a spacecraft that controls how it flies by  pushing out small amounts of gas
  • twin = here: built in the same way

World’s Largest Battery in South Australia

The world’s largest battery has gone into operation in Australia. American technology giant Tesla built the 100-megawatt lithium-ion battery for South Australia’s state government.

The battery was connected to the power grid only  2 months after Tesla and the Southern Australian government signed a contract. Tesla boss Elon Musk said that he could deliver the battery and make it operational within one hundred days. Tesla made the deadline easily.

According to the company, the battery can provide electricity for over 30,000 homes for an hour in case of an electricity blackout. It is also intended to help supply more energy during peak times.

The battery packs, about the size of a football field,  are connected to a nearby wind farm, 120 kilometres north of Adelaide.  They went into operation at the beginning of the Australian summer, when more energy is needed for air conditioning.

While many regions in Australia still rely on fossil fuels as their main energy source, South Australia gets a lot of its energy from renewable sources, especially solar and wind power.  However, backup energy is important for a region that has recently experienced severe storms.  The entire state witnessed a blackout in September 2016. 1.6 million people were left without electricity.

 

Tesla battery chargers in Adelaide Australia
Tesla battery chargers in Adelaide Australia – Image: Timeshift9

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • air conditioning = system that makes the air in a room cooler and drier
  • battery pack = several  batteries connected to each other
  • blackout = when everything  goes dark because there is no electricity
  • connect = link to
  • contract = official agreement between two parties
  • deadline = date or time by which you have to have something finished
  • deliver = to bring a product to a certain place
  • electricity = power that is carried in wires and cables  and is used for heating, lighting and to make machines work
  • entire = whole
  • especially = above all
  • experience = see, witness
  • fossil fuels = energy that is produced by dead plants and animals over millions of years; for example coal, oil and gas
  • however = but
  • intend = here: designed to work as …
  • lithium-ion battery = very powerful battery that can be used over and over again; it is used in laptops, cellphones, iPods etc..
  • make it operational = make something work
  • megawatt = one million watts
  • power grid = network of electrical wires that connect power stations
  • provide = give, deliver
  • recently = a short time ago
  • rely = depend on; need
  • renewable = here: energy that replaces itself naturally and never ends
  • sign = to put  your name on a document
  • severe = very strong
  • solar = from the sun
  • source = where something comes from
  • witness = experience, go through

Automation Could Cost Up To 800 Million Jobs

Up to 800 million people worldwide could lose their jobs because of automation. About half of them will have to learn new skills to get another job. In the United States alone, up to a third of the workforce could become unemployed within the next few decades. These are the results of a recent publication by McKinsey Global Institute.

Jobs that involve manual or factory work are the ones that are most at risk. People who work in social fields, the environment or management are less likely to lose their jobs. In countries with ageing populations, more jobs will be needed in health care.

The report says that there is no reason to panic because new job fields will emerge which will more than compensate the loss of traditional jobs. In addition, economic activity and rising productivity will also provide for more jobs.  However, workers will need to adapt to jobs more quickly than before and lifelong learning will be essential.

Artifical intelligence is already spreading quickly in some areas. Technological inventions, like self-driving cars, will become hugely popular within a decade. More jobs will be needed in the energy sector and people will find more work building modern infrastructure in cities.

However, governments around the globe will have to give support and spend money on programs to train workers for new tasks.

The report states that the situation today is similar to the beginning of the 20th century when agricultural societies became more and more industrialised.  The invention of the automobile contributed to this change. In the 1980s the computer revolution eliminated some jobs but created many others.

Automation in a German factory
Automation in a German factory – Image: KUKA Roboter Gmbh

Words

  • adapt = change; get used to
  • ageing = getting older
  • agricultural = farming
  • artificial intelligence = the study of how to make computers do intelligent things  that people can do, such as think and make decisions
  • automation = the use of computers and machines to do jobs that normally people do
  • century = a hundred years
  • compensate = replace
  • contribute = here: to play a major part
  • decade = ten years
  • economic activity = producing and consuming goods
  • eliminate = lose; do away with
  • emerge = come up, appear
  • environment = people and things that are around you in your life
  • essential = extremely important and necessary
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • health care = services that a country provides for its people
  • hugely = very much
  • in addition = also
  • infrastructure = the basic systems that a country or city needs, like railways, banks, schools etc..
  • invention = a useful machine that is created
  • involve = here: to be about
  • less likely = will probably not …
  • management = controlling and organising the work of a company
  • manual = with your hands and physical strength
  • productivity = the goods that are produced by workers in a certain time
  • provide =  give, offer
  • publication = when information is printed for everyone to read
  • recent = a short time ago
  • similar = like
  • skill = the ability to do something well
  • task = job
  • traditional = here: jobs that have existed up to now
  • train = here: prepare people for a new job
  • workforce = all the people in a country who can work
  • unemployed = without a job , out of work

 

Artificial Light Makes Our World Brighter

A new study of satellite images has revealed that our planet is getting brighter and brighter during the night. More and more artificial lighting may cause harm not only to humans and animals but whole ecosystems.

The study has found out that the quantity of light has increased by 2.2 % per year over the last decade. Much of that increase comes from the Middle East and Asia, while in Europe and the USA brightness has stayed about the same.  Only a few countries have actually seen a decrease in the amount of light. Among those are Syria and Yemen.

Artificial light on earth is growing because more and more towns and other settlements are being created in places that were once farmland, forests or wilderness. In addition, China and other booming economies are building whole cities in sparsely populated areas.

Even though large areas of land surface remain dark, there are places on earth where lights never go out, for example, shopping malls, dining districts or international airports.

The technology of artificial lighting is also changing. More and more LED lights are replacing older light bulbs. They are more energy-efficient and emit a brighter bluish-white light. As they are becoming cheaper people tend to buy more.

Doctors warn that too much artificial light can bear health risks. It can lead to shorter periods of sleep, insomnia and changes in a person’s biorhythm.

Scientists have claimed that increased light have an effect on animal habitats. More light near beaches may affect the turtle population that comes there to lay their eggs. Migrating birds that rely on stars to navigate can be influenced by light and travel off course.

 

Satellite image of the United States at night
Satellite image of the United States at night

Words

  • actually = in fact, really
  • affect = influence, change
  • artificial light = light that is produced by people or machines, not naturally by the sun
  • bear = have
  • biorhythm = changes in the way and speed that your body reacts at certain times
  • booming economy = country where business is growing very strongly
  • brightness = being bright
  • cause harm = be a danger
  • claim = to say that something is true, even if you cannot prove it
  • decade = ten years
  • decrease = to go down
  • effect = change
  • emit = send out
  • energy -efficient = here: an object that produces more light and uses less energy
  • even though = while
  • habitat = natural home of a plant or animal
  • image = picture
  • in addition = also
  • increase = to go up
  • influence = here: to change the way you travel
  • insomnia = not able to sleep
  • migrate = to travel regularly to other parts fo the world
  • navigate = to find out which way you need to go when you travel from one place to another
  • off course = away from the route you would normally take
  • quantity = how much of something
  • rely = depend on, need
  • remain = stay
  • replace = to use instead of something else
  • settlement = group of houses or buildings where people live, especially in areas where nobody has lived before
  • shopping mall = large area with a lot of shops
  • sparsely = here: with few people
  • study = piece of work that is done to find out more about a special subject
  • surface = the top layer of an object
  • technology = here: how something is done or produced
  • tend = here: will probably happen
  • wilderness = large area of land that has never been developed  or farmed

NASA Software Shows How Sea Level Rises Affect Cities

NASA scientists have created a new software program that can show how cities in coastal regions are endangered by flooding and sea level rise caused by global warming. The simulation shows how 300 coastal cities will be affected in the next century.

The software was developed by  NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It calculates which ice sheets and glaciers are melting and how the additional water influences coastal regions. It takes into consideration the rotation of the Earth as well as the influence of gravity. The results are surprising. Sea levels will actually decrease around cities closer to ice masses, while the biggest rises will occur through ice caps that are farther away.

New York, for example,  will be most affected by melting ice caps in northeastern  Greenland. Sydney, on the other hand,  will actually be influenced by parts of Antarctica that are far away from Australia’s city.

The software aims at helping city planners prepare for sea level changes within the next few decades and how to keep ocean water out.

A climate report published this week shows that, since 1900, global sea levels have risen by about 20 cm, with half of the rise occurring in the last 25 years. Projections show that by 2100 ocean levels will rise by an average of 1 metre, however, the rise will not affect all coastal areas in the same way.

 

Ice Sheet in Greenland -
Ice Sheet in Greenland – Image: Christine Zenino

Words

  • actually = in fact
  • additional = extra
  • affect = change
  • aim = here: what it wants to do and who it wants to help
  • average = here: evenly spread out across all oceans
  • calculate = here: find out how much something will change by using numbers
  • century = a hundred years
  • coastal = where land meets the sea
  • decade = ten  years
  • decrease = go down
  • develop = create , make
  • endangered = to be in danger
  • flooding = when land becomes covered with water
  • glacier = very large mass of ice which moves down a valley
  • global = worldwide
  • global warming =  the increase in the world’s temperatures by higher amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
  • gravity = force or power that causes something to fall to the ground and stay there
  • ice cap = large mass of ice
  • influence = change
  • NASA = National Aeronautics and Space Administration = American space agency
  • occur = happen
  • prepare = get ready for something
  • projection = calculation about what something will be in the future  based on the information we have now
  • publish = to make information for everyone to see
  • rise = to go up
  • rotation = the Earth’s spin  around its own axis
  • sea level = the average height of the sea
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • simulation = here: software that shows how something could happen in the future
  • take into consideration =  here: to use  certain factors when you run the programme

China Overtakes US in Number of Supercomputers

For the first time in history, China has overtaken the United States in the number of supercomputers.  Currently, China has a total of 202 of the world’s 500 fastest computers, up from 159 half a year ago. The number of US supercomputers has dropped to 144.

The world’s most powerful computer is located in China. The Sunway  TaihuLight ,  at Wuxi can do 93 quadrillion calculations per second. The fastest US computer, the Titan, is ranked fifth while Europe’s speediest computer is Switzerland’s Piz Daint, ranked third.

Supercomputers are machines that occupy entire buildings and use the combined power of thousands of processors. They are used to carry out special tasks that involve a huge number of calculations.  Among them are weather forecasts and climate studies, as well as strategic tasks like nuclear weapons simulations.

Chinese supremacy in the world of supercomputing reflects the country’s  investment in research and development. One-fifth of the money used on research and development around the world is spent in China.

On the other side, many Chinese systems have been created to earn money. Processing power is rented to other national and international companies.

For years the speed of supercomputers has steadily increased although since 2012 this increase has slowed down.

 

America's Titan2  - Supercomputers
America’s Titan2 Supercomputer – Image: Courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Words

  • although = while
  • calculation = here: a single task
  • combined = everything  put together
  • create = make
  • currently = at the moment, now
  • drop = go down
  • entire = whole
  • huge = very big; very many
  • investment = to use money for special things
  • involve = need
  • located = can be found
  • nuclear weapons simulation = here: software that tries to find out how nuclear bombs will affect the world and its population if they are used
  • occupy = use up; need
  • overtake = to be better than
  • processor = central part fo a computer that deals with commands and the information you give it
  • quadrillion= the number one followed by 24 zeros
  • ranked = position in a list
  • reflect = show, demonstrate
  • rent = let someone use something for money
  • research and development = to study special fields and use new ideas to create new things
  • speediest = fastest
  • steadily = slowly
  • strategic = here: about the military
  • supremacy = being number one or the best in the world
  • task = piece of work
  • weather forecast = a description of what the weather will be like in the next few days

Mysterious Chamber Discovered in Egyptian Pyramid

A mysterious chamber in an  Egyptian pyramid has been recently discovered by scientists. A special technique shows a  large void hidden in the Great Pyramid of Giza  near Cairo

The ScansPyramid project, led by the University of Cairo and the Egyptian government,  uses advanced technology to find out more about ancient structures. Scientists from Egypt, France and Japan installed special detectors which could detect small particles called muons. These are a type of cosmic rain which constantly falls down on the earth. Three separate teams have conducted the research and have found the same cavity in the pyramid.

The newly found chamber in the Egyptian pyramid is 30 metres long and about the size of the Grand Gallery which is a known passageway that leads to the King’s Chamber. However, nothing else is known about the new room. It is also impossible to reach the space as there is no passage that leads to it. Experts also warn against having great expectations about new discovery inside the cavity.  It is possible that the void does not have any meaning at all and was just left there for construction reasons.

The Great Pyramid, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu, was built at around 2650 BC. after the death of the pharaoh. It is the largest of the three remaining pyramids at Giza, which belong to the wonders of the ancient world.

The Great Pyramid at Giza -
The Great Pyramid at Giza – Image: Nina Aldin Thune

Words

  • advanced technology = modern and complicated machines and tools
  • ancient = old; from a long time ago
  • cavity = hole
  • chamber = room
  • conduct = carry out
  • cosmic = coming from space
  • detector = a machine that finds or measures something
  • discover = find something for the first time
  • expectation = here: what you think or hope you will find
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • however = but
  • mysterious = difficult to understand and explain
  • particle = very small piece of something
  • passageway = long narrow area in a building; corridor or hallway
  • pharaoh = king in ancient Egypt
  • recently = a short time ago
  • remaining = … which still exists
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • structure = any kind of building
  • technique = special way fo doing or finding  something
  • void = empty space in which nothing exists