Facebook Introduces Messenger Kids

Facebook has announced that it will release a new version of its popular app Messenger for children aged between 6 and 12. They do not need their own Facebook account to access the app, called Messenger Kids.

With Messenger Kids, parents will be able to control what their children see and who they are allowed to communicate with. There are no ads in the children’s version and Facebook has promised not to use a child’s information for other purposesIn addition, children’s names will not be integrated into Facebook’s search tool. At the moment, the app will only be available in the United States.

Facebook aims at getting children to become used to its product even if they are under the age required to get a normal account. As the company is losing younger customers to rivals Instagram and Snapchat, the company is trying to get young users to connect to their product before competitors do.

Messenger Kids will offer text and video chat as well as stickers and drawing tools. Special detection filters prevent children from sharing sexual content or violence online.

According to Facebook,  over 90% of all 8 to 12-year-olds have smartphones or tablets. Many use their parents’ Facebook account.The new app is intended to give children a feeling of having their own account, while parents are still in control.  Messenger Kids will not automatically be converted into a normal Facebook account when children reach 13.

 

Children can now use a special Facebook app to contact their friends.
Children can now use a special Facebook app to contact their friends.

Words

  • access = use
  • according to = as said by …
  • account =a service that allows you to  do or  see things on the Internet
  • ad = picture, words or a short film which is intended to make people buy a product
  • aim = wants, plan to
  • available = here: use
  • announce = to say officially in public
  • communicate = talk, chat with or write to
  • competitor = rival
  • content = comments, pictures video etc..
  • convert = change into, automatically become
  • customer = person who buys something
  • detection filter = here: a tool that is used to stop bad things from getting seen by children
  • in addition = also
  • intend = plan to
  • prevent = stop
  • promise = to say that you will  do something
  • purpose = here: other things
  • release = here: you can download and use it
  • required = needed
  • rival = a company that sells the same things as you do
  • share = exchange, swap
  • sticker = here: a frame with a picture or words; you can collect them

 

Texting Celebrates 25th Birthday

Short Message Service (SMS), also called texting, is celebrating its 25th birthday. The first text message was sent in Great Britain shortly before Christmas in 1992 in Great Britain. It was British engineer Neil Papworth who sent the first message from a computer to a  mobile phone on the Vodaphone network. At that time mobile phones could only receive messages, not send them.

In 1994, Nokia presented its first mobile phone that could actually send and receive messages.  It was the first phone that could produce more than an audio signal. Shortly afterwards the first commercial SMS service started in Finland. Text messages were limited to 160 characters.

25 years later text messaging is widely popular.  97% of all smartphone users send some type of text message regularly. About 25 billion are sent every day. Today there are more complex messaging services like WhatsApp, Facebook Messanger and iMessage.

Media experts regard texting as the first step towards today’s smartphones, which are basically pocket computers with countless apps.

Texting has changed the way we communicate. For the first time, you could send the same text to different contacts at the same time and it didn’t matter if the recipient was reachable or not. A new language has also emerged with abbreviations and short sentences.

Texting on a mobile phone
Texting on a mobile phone – Image : Helar Lukats

Words

  • abbreviation = short form of a word or phrase
  • actually = really, in fact
  • basically = practically
  • celebrate = to show that an event is important
  • commercial = here: something that you can make money with
  • communicate = exchange information or get into contact with each other
  • complex = advanced; with many different parts
  • countless = very many
  • emerge = develop, appear
  • engineer = person who designs and builds machines and other objects
  • limit = only allow
  • network = here: system of telephone lines that are connected to each other
  • reachable = here: speak to someone
  • receive = get
  • recipient = here: a person who receives a message
  • regard = think of something as…
  • widely popular = used by many people

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

Europe’s Muslim Population Will Continue to Grow

Over the next few decades, Europe’s Muslim population is expected to continue growing.  A study estimates that by 2050 the Muslim population could grow to 58 million, or 11 % of the total European population, compared to 5 % today.

The study conducted by Pew research, is based on census and immigration data from  30 countries. It created three scenarios. In the first scenario, Muslim immigration into Europe would come to a complete halt.  Even then, the Muslim population would rise to 7.4 %. This is because Muslims, on average,  are 13 years younger than Europeans and have a higher birth rate.

On the other side, a high migration scenario is based on the flow of refugees from 2015- 2016 and expects it to continue. If this happens, the total Muslim population in Europe will rise to 75 million, about 14% of the total population.

According to the Pew report, not all countries will be affected evenly by future Muslim immigration.  Germany and Sweden will see the biggest increases because these two countries accepted most asylum seekers during the 2015-2016 refugee crisis.

At the moment, Germany (5 million) and France (5.7 Million)  have the largest Muslim populations in Europe.

The recently published study is likely to cause more debate on immigration into Europe.  It cites instability in the Middle East and Northern Africa as well as the ongoing conflict in Syria as the main factors that drive people to European countries.  In the last 6 years seeking asylum in conflict regions was the most important motive for Muslims coming to Europe. Only few came to Europe for employment or education.

 

Migrants near the Hungarian-Serbian border during the 2015 refugee crisi
Migrants near the Hungarian-Serbian border during the 2015 refugee crisis – Image: Gémes Sándor/SzomSzed

Words

  • according to = as reported by …
  • affect = here: changed by the situation
  • asylum seeker = person who leaves their country because they are in danger, mostly for political reasons, and asks another country to let them live there
  • birthrate = the number of births for every 1,000 people in a year
  • census = official counting of a country’s population
  • cite = mention
  • compared = to look at two things in a similar way
  • conduct = carry out
  • data = information
  • debate = discussion
  • decade = ten years
  • employment = job, work
  • factor = reason
  • flow = steady movement of people
  • estimate = to calculate how big something will be  based on the information that you have
  • halt = stop
  • immigration = when you go to another country and plan to live there permanently
  • increase = to go up
  • instability = when the situation in a country is not stable because of war or other conflicts
  • is based on = use something as the starting point for your research
  • is expected to = will probably
  • motive = reason
  • ongoing conflict = here: conflict or war that is continuing
  • refugee = people who have to leave their home because of war or a natural disaster
  • rise = go up
  • scenario = situation that could possibly happen
  • study = piece of work that is done to find out more about a subject

Did the Indus Valley Civilisation Grow Without a River?

Many great civilisations in history developed along rivers.  Up to now, historians have assumed that one of the oldest civilisations grew on the banks of the Indus River and its tributaries. Now, scientists may have found proof that people settled in the region after the Indus River had changed its course.

Archaeologists and scientists who have been working the region took probes from dried up river beds.  They found out that water hadn’t run through the Indus Valley for over 8,000 years. That means that when people started settling in the area about 5,000 years ago there was no river.   In addition, some ancient sites were found in the old river bed, which would not have been the case if a river had been flowing through it.

According to experts, the people who lived during that time may have got their water from yearly monsoon rains. There may have also been underground water supplies that they accessed.

Other great cultures used the advantages of a river to bring water to their fields and as a means of transporting goods throughout the region. That happened in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.

Historians point out that civilisations do not necessarily need to be near a river in order to grow. In fact, not having a river nearby may have advantages as well because people would not have to deal with regular floods.

 

Archaeological ruins along the Indus River in Pakistan
Archaeological ruins along the Indus River in Pakistan – Image : Junhi Han

Words

  • access = use
  • according to = as said by …
  • advantage = good side of something
  • Ancient Egypt = old civilisation that grew along the Nile River thousands of years ago
  • ancient site = a place where something was built a long time ago
  • archaeologist = person who studies old societies by looking at what is left of buildings or the objects that people made at that time
  • assume = think that something is true although you can not prove it
  • bank  = land along the side of a river
  • course = path
  • deal with = handle a problem
  • develop = grow
  • flood = when an area of land becomes covered with water
  • goods = products
  • historian = someone who studies history
  • in addition = also
  • means of transporting = what you use to bring things from one place to another
  • Mesopotamia = area in western Asia along the River Tigris and Euphrates; in ancient times the world’s first cities were built andan advanced  civilisation developed there
  • monsoon = rainy season in India and southeast Asia; it lasts between April and October
  • not necessarily = when you don’t really need something in order for  something else to work
  • probe = rocks from an area
  • proof = facts, information or documents  that show that something is true or has happened
  • river bed = the ground at the bottom of a river
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • settle = to start living in a place for the first time
  • supply = something that you need and use every day
  • tributary = a small river that flows into a larger one

 

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

 

Moderate Coffee Consumption May Keep You Healthy

According to new research drinking coffee may actually be healthier than previously thought. Some health experts now say that a few cups of coffee a day could reduce the risk of certain illnesses including liver disease, cancerstrokedementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Coffee may contain substances that help fight these diseases. Caffeine is probably not one of them since people who drank decaffeinated coffee had the same benefits.

Although there is no real proof that coffee consumption will actually help you live longer, it seems to be safe to drink it. The research collected evidence from previous studies and showed that, compared with non-coffee drinkers, those who drink an average of 3 cups a day, experience a lower risk of some diseases.

On the other side, drinking too much coffee during pregnancy could be harmful to the unborn child. Health experts also say that coffee drinkers should avoid putting too much milk, cream or sugar in their coffee. In addition, doctors say you shouldn’t start drinking coffee if you haven’t done so before. 

Coffee is one of the world’s most popular beverages. Two billion cups are consumed every day.

 

A cup of coffee
A cup of coffee – Image : Julius Schorzman

Words

  • according to = as shown by …
  • although = while
  • avoid = not do something
  • benefits = good sides, advantages
  • billion = a thousand million = 1,000,000,000
  • beverage = hot or cold drink
  • caffeine = a substance that keeps you awake
  • cancer = very serious disease in which cells in one part of the body grow in an uncontrolled way
  • compared = if you look at …
  • consume = here: drink
  • contain = to have in them
  • decaffeinated = without caffeine
  • dementia = illness that affects the brain and your memory; it slowly makes you unable to think and remember things
  • evidence = facts that show that some things really are true or exist
  • experience = here: the effect that something has on you
  • illness = disease
  • in addition  = also
  • liver = large organ inside your body that cleans your blood
  • popular = common; liked by many people
  • pregnancy = situation in which you are expecting a baby
  • previously = before, earlier
  • research = studies about a special subject
  • stroke = a blood vessel in your brain suddenly bursts or gets blocked; you could die or be unable to move some muscles
  • studies = research work
  • substance = material; small parts of something

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

Era of Robert Mugabe Comes to an End in Zimbabwe

After being president for 37 years, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe has finally stepped down. At 93, he was the world’s oldest leader. Mugabe headed the country since its independence from Britain in 1980. In his letter of resignation, Mugabe said he would allow the peaceful transition of power to his successor.

Moments after the announcement, people started celebrating in the country’s capital Harare and elsewhere in the country.  While some see him as a great African hero and statesmen, a majority of the population regard Mugabe as a dictator who has economically brought down the southern African nation. He is criticised for using his power to crush opposition leaders and crack down on his political opponents.

After holding on to power for decades, Mugabe made his biggest mistake by trying to make his wife, Grace, instead of his Vice President his successor. In the days and weeks before finally stepping down, the military took control of the country and put Mugabe under house arrest.

When it became clear that the end was closing in, his own party, Zanu PF, removed him as party leader and started an impeachment process. After Mugabe’s resignation, opposition leaders are calling for quick and fair elections.

After Britain’s colony Southern Rhodesia became Zimbabwe in 1980, Robert Mugabe was the first, and only, black president. In sweeping economic changes, he nationalized white-owned private farms. Instead of being given to poor black people, Mugabe gave them to generals and his loyal followers. As a result, food production went down and the country’s people started suffering from hunger.

After independence, about 3 million people left the country for neighbouring South Africa. Those who stayed were left without work.  Today unemployment is estimated at 80%. Tourism has slowed down and industrial output has decreased. Zimbabwe’s diamond mines, the largest source of income, are now run by the army.

 

Zimbabwe's long time leader Robert Mugabe resigns
Zimbabwe’s long time leader Robert Mugabe resigns – Image : www.kremlin.ru

Words

  • announcement = official statement that can be heard by everyone
  • celebrate = to have fun and be happy
  • crack down on = here: to be strict with someone and punish them
  • crush = here: to stop someone from getting too powerful
  • decade =  ten years
  • decrease = to go down
  • economically =  about money, trade and business in a country
  • election = when people vote  to chose someone for an official position
  • estimated = thought to be …
  • head = to be the leader
  • house arrest = to be kept a prisoner by the government; you have to stay inside your house  rather than in prison
  • impeachment = when an important member of the government, often the president, has committed a serious crime and a special court decides if he can keep his job
  • independence = being free from the control of another country
  • industrial output = what factories can produce in a given time
  • loyal followers = people who admire and support him a lot
  • majority = most of the people
  • nationalize = when the government takes control of a private company
  • opponent = rival
  • opposition leaders = the people who were against him
  • peaceful = not violent
  • population = the people who live in a country
  • regard = think of someone as ….
  • remove = replace
  • resignation = to announce that you have decided to give up your job
  • source of income = where you get your money from
  • statesman =political leader who is respected  as being wise and fair
  • step down = to give up power and control of a country
  • sweeping = things that make a big difference
  • transition of power = when you give up power and another person takes over
  • unemployment = people who are out of work and don’t have a job