Category Archives: Science

“Worried About A Bleak Future, Climate Change Activists Hesitant To Have Kids”

“Standing before several dozen students in a college classroom, Travis Rieder tries to convince them not to have children. Or at least not too many.”J. Ludden, NPR

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Big Data Predicts Centuries of Harm if Climate Warming Goes Unchecked.

Excerpt: Should We Be Having Kids In The Age Of Climate Change? J. Ludden, NPR

“He’s at James Madison University in southwest Virginia to talk about a ‘small-family ethic’ — to question the assumptions of a society that sees having children as good, throws parties for expecting parents, and in which parents then pressure their kids to ‘give them grandchildren.’ Why question such assumptions? The prospect of climate catastrophe.

For years, people have lamented how bad things might get ‘for our grandchildren,” but Rieder tells the students that future isn’t so far off anymore.  He asks how old they will be in 2036, and, if they are thinking of having kids, how old their kids will be.

Population: climate change

‘Dangerous climate change is going to be happening by then ,’ he says. ‘Very, very soon.’ There’s also a moral duty to future generations that will live amid the climate devastation being created now.

‘Here’s a provocative thought: Maybe we should protect our kids by not having them,’ Rieder says…Scientists warn that a catastrophic tipping point is possible in the next few decades. By midcentury, possibly before, the average global temperature is projected to rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius, the point scientists and world leaders agree would trigger cataclysmic consequences.

Last year’s historic Paris climate agreement falls short of preventing that, so more drastic cuts in carbon emissions are needed. Adding to that challenge, the world is expected to add several billion people in the next few decades, each one producing more emissions… ‘It’s gonna be post-apocalyptic movie time,’ he says.

The room is quiet. No one fidgets. Later, a few students say they had no idea the situation was so bad.

Still. Even given the apocalyptic scenarios: Can you actually expect people to forgo something as deeply personal as having children? To deny the biological imperative that’s driven civilization?

Rieder and two colleagues, Colin Hickey and Jake Earl of Georgetown University, have a strategy for trying to do just that. Rieder is publishing a book on the subject later this year, and expects to take plenty of heat. But he’s hardly alone in thinking the climate crisis has come to this…Meghan Kallman is a co-founder of Conceivable Future. ‘I can’t count the number of times people have said, ‘Oh, my God, it’s so nice to know I’m not the only person that worries about this,’she says. In November 2014, Kallman and Josephine Ferorelli created Conceivable Future to make these personal struggles public.

CLIMATE ACTION TRACKER, UPDATED DECEMBER 2018

The group’s ultimate goal is ending U.S. fossil fuel subsidies, though its immediate role seems one of commiseration…For activists of childbearing age, Ferorelli says, climate change isn’t just an intellectual problem but ‘a heart problem.’

At the New Hampshire meeting, 67-year-old Nancy Nolan tells two younger women that people didn’t know about climate change in the 1980s when she had her kids. Once her children were grown, ‘I said to them, ‘I hope you never have children,’ which is an awful thing to say,’ Nolan says, her voice wavering. ‘It can bring me to tears easily.’

One woman looks a little stunned. She’s not a climate activist — just tagged along with a friend — and says she had no idea that deciding not to have kids because of the climate was even a thing.

Not everyone is as pessimistic about the future. Becky Whitley still plans to have a second child. She’s with the advocacy group Moms Clean Air Force and says becoming a parent is precisely what motivated her to care about the climate.

Back at James Madison University, Travis Rieder explains a PowerPoint graph that seems to offer hope. Bringing down global fertility by just half a child per woman ‘could be the thing that saves us,’he says.

He cites a study from 2010 that looked at the impact of demographic change on global carbon emissions. It found that slowing population growth could eliminate one-fifth to one-quarter of all the carbon emissions that need to be cut by midcentury to avoid that potentially catastrophic tipping point.

Rieder’s audience seems to want an easier way. A student asks about the carbon savings from not eating meat.

Excellent idea, Rieder says. But no amount of conservation gives you a pass. Oregon State University researchers have calculated the savings from all kinds of conservation measures: driving a hybrid, driving less, recycling, using energy-efficient appliances, windows and light bulbs.

For an American, the total metric tons of carbon dioxide saved by all of those measures over an entire lifetime of 80 years: 488. By contrast, the metric tons saved when a person chooses to have one fewer child: 9,441.

A student asks: ‘What happens if that kid you decided not to have would have been the person who grew up and essentially cured this?’

Again, great question, says Rieder, but the answer is still no. First, the chances are slim. More to the point, he says, valuing children as a means to an end — be it to cure climate change or, say, provide soldiers for the state — is ethically problematic.

So how do you persuade millions or billions of people around the world to sacrifice that? To avert climate disaster, the fertility rate would have to fall much faster than it has been. It would require more than educating women and expanding access to contraception, as aid agencies have been doing for decades.

Rieder and his Georgetown collaborators have a proposal, and the first thing they stress is that it’s not like China’s abusive one-child policy. It aims to persuade people to choose fewer children with a strategy that boils down to carrots for the poor, sticks for the rich.

Ethically, Rieder says poor nations get some slack because they’re still developing, and because their per capita emissions are a sliver of the developed world’s. Plus, it just doesn’t look good for rich, Western nations to tell people in poor ones not to have kids.

He suggests things like paying poor women to refill their birth control and — something that’s had proven success — widespread media campaigns.

For the sticks part of the plan, Rieder proposes that richer nations do away with tax breaks for having children and actually penalize new parents. He says the penalty should be progressive, based on income, and could increase with each additional child. Think of it like a carbon tax, on kids. He knows that sounds crazy.

‘But children, in a kind of cold way of looking at it, are an externality,” he says. ‘We as parents, we as family members, we get the good. And the world, the community, pays the cost.’

Of course, there are ethical concerns. Rebecca Kukla of Georgetown University worries about stigma, especially against poor and minority women. If cultural norms do change, she says, there could be a backlash against families with more children than is deemed socially appropriate.

Kukla appreciates that Rieder’s penalty on procreation would be progressive. But since it could not be so high as to be coercive, she says it would inevitably be unfair.

‘What that will actually translate into is it becoming much easier for wealthy people to have children than for other people to have children,’ Kukla says.

An even bigger hurdle is the sheer unlikelihood of it all. Rieder has no illusions. In fact, he says, some countries that have successfully reduced fertility rates have since reversed course, afraid that falling population will hurt their economies…‘The situation is bleak, it’s just dark,’ he says. ‘Population engineering, maybe it’s an extreme move. But it gives us a chance.’

Still, Rieder wonders: Is it really so crazy? Scientists have proposed incredibly risky schemes to geoengineer the clouds and oceans. They’re researching ways to suck carbon out of the air on a mass scale. Some have even called for overhauling the global system of free-market capitalismCompared to all that, Rieder says, bringing down the fertility rate seems downright easy.

‘We know exactly how to make fewer babies,’ he says. And it’s something people can start doing today.”

Additional Readings:

Prince Harry Just Made It Abundantly Clear How Many Kids He Wants to Have With Meghan Markle — By Raisa Bruner, Time

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex with baby Archie. credit- Time

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex may have just welcomed their first child together, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor — but Harry already has an idea of how he’d like to see his family evolve. And it has a lot to do with the state of the environment. In a lengthy and wide-ranging interview between Prince Harry and famous primatologist and environmental activist Jane Goodall, the two discussed being a steward of the environment even before having kids. Goodall suggested having “not too many!” The Duke’s response: “Two, maximum!”

ane Goodall hold hands as he attends the Roots & Shoots Global Leadership Meeting at Windsor Castle on July 23 in England. Getty images

 

“U.N. Forecasts 10.1 Billion People by Century’s End,” Justin Gillis and Celia W. Dugger discuss some of the reasons the United Nations revised its population forecast upward for 2100

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

KWL Chart

The K-W-L chart is used to activate students’ background knowledge of a topic in order to enhance their comprehension skills.

Directions: Have students use the KWL chart to list the information they already know about Climate change.  Later in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about the topic.

Advanced K-W-L chart.Intervention for Reading.

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Travis Rieder tries to convince them not to have children.
  2. Rieder talks about a small-family ethic.
  3. He questions the assumptions of a society that sees having children as good.
  4. There is the prospect of climate catastrophe.
  5. For years, people have lamented how bad things might get.
  6. Rieder arguments against having children are moral.
  7. Americans and other rich nations produce the most carbon emissions per capita.
  8. The average global temperature is projected to rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius.
  9. It’s going be post-apocalyptic movie time.
  10. One student says he appreciated the talk but found it terrifying.

 

 Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I

  1. One woman looks a little stunned.
  2. Shes’ not a climate activist.
  3. She just tagged along with a friend.

II

  1. U.S. birth rates plummeted during the Great Depression.
  2. The comments  are well-intentioned.
  3. Not  anyone is  pessimistic about the future.

III

  1. Rieders’ audience seems to want an easier way.
  2. To avert climate disaster, the fertility rate would have to fall.
  3. Rieder proposes that richer nations do away with tax breaks for having children.

Reading ComprehensionFill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentencestaken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

Of course, there are___ concerns. Rebecca Kukla of Georgetown University___ about___especially against poor and___women. If cultural ___do change, she says, there could be a ___against___ with more___than is deemed socially appropriate.

WORDLIST: families, minority,norms, ethical, stigma, backlash,children,worries,

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1.  The article states, “Scientists warn that a catastrophic tipping point is possible in the next few decades…Adding to that challenge, the world is expected to add several billion people in the next few decades, each one producing more emissions.” What does this mean?
  2. What are some of the reasons people give for wanting to continue having kids?
  3. What  years did the birth rates drop  in the U.S.? Why?
  4. Rieder  lists some strategies for both rich and poor people, to persuade each group from having more children. What are these strategies?
  5. After reading the article, do you  think that having less kids is a good idea or a bad idea? Provide reasons for your answers.

Extra Group Activities

Main Idea / Debate

Directions: Divide students into  two teams for this debate. Both teams can use the article  as their source of information or sources from the Web.

Team A will list and defend five reasons for continuing to have children during this dangerous climate change.

Team B will list  and defend five reasons against having more children during this dangerous climate change.

Each team will have time to state their points of view,  and the teacher decides which team made their points.  

Pros and Cons Chart by Freeology.

 

ANSWER KEY

Category: Science | Tags:

The Clever Rats In New York City!

“At a recycling plant in Brooklyn, fat, stealthy rats were more than a match for feral cats, scientists found.” By  N. Bakalar, The New York Times 

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Photo credit: Hiroko Masuike:The New York Times

Excerpt: Cats v. Rats? In New York, the Rats Win, Nicholas Bakalar, The NYT

“New York rats are big and bad. They sit calmly on the subway tracks, ignoring discomfited commuters on the platform. They stroll through Central Park as if they owned the place. They pretty much rule the East Village.

Scientist Mathew Combs- Among the rats captured in Combs’ research, the average adult weighed 200 to 250 grams.

And they do not have much to fear from cats, a new study suggests.

NYC cats are no match for the city rats-the Atlantic

In the report, published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, the authors first present some background. Cat predation of rats has been studied before: Researchers in New Zealand, for example, analyzed scat from 229 cats and learned that almost all of them ate rats. The felines even seemed to prefer rats to birds.

Difference between a mouse and a rat. ctrodentextermination.com

But New Zealand rats weigh an average of 150 grams, or about five ounces, whereas rats in the most recent experiment in New York were more than twice as large. Bulk, it turns out, is an obstacle for cats who might otherwise dine on city rats.

It was not easy for the scientists to find a place to do their research. The lead author, Michael H. Parsons, a research biologist at Fordham University, said property owners generally want their rats killed, not caught and then released for study

A cat with a rat is a rare sight in New York City. cosmos

But the team did eventually find a recycling plant in Brooklyn whose staff members were willing to let the rat detectives do their work. Dr. Parsons and his colleagues began with another aim: tracking the rodents’ activity at the plant and their reactions to various scents…But while the researchers were watching these rats, five feral cats took up residence at the plant, so the team seized the opportunity to study them, too. Dr. Parsons used motion-sensitive video cameras to record cat behaviors in the presence of rats…All the cats stalked rats, but over the entire period only two cats even dared to chase and attack a rat. Each made just one kill. When cats appeared on the scene, rats mostly just hid…Apparently New York rats are not only large and bold, but smart and stealthy.

Train kittens while they are young-photo-happycat world

In any case, the researchers concluded, cats — despite their reputation as rodent killers — are utterly ineffective in controlling urban rat populations.

‘A lot of people confuse rats with mice,’ Dr. Parsons said. ‘So they’ve seen their cat bring back a mouse, and assume their cat is a rat killer. It’s not.’

Predation, by cats or any other animal, will not reduce the rat population. Only cleaning up the garbage — the rats’ food — will do that.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. They stroll through Central Park.
  2. The report was  published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.
  3. Cat predation of rats has been studied before.
  4. Researchers in New Zealand, for example, analyzed scat from 229 cats.
  5. Bulk, it turns out, is an obstacle for cats.
  6. The team eventually found a recycling plant in Brooklyn.
  7. Five feral cats took up residence at the plant.
  8. All the cats stalked rats.
  9. cats are utterly ineffective in controlling urban rat populations.
  10. Rats have a high reproductive rate.

Grammar Focus: Identifying Prepositions

Directions: The following sentences are from the news article.For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.

Some Prepositions: at,as, across, around,by, during,for, from, in, into,of, on,to, over,off, through, up,with,

In the report, published___Frontiers___Ecology and Evolution, the authors first present some background. Cat predation ___rats has been studied before: Researchers___New Zealand, ___example, analyzed scat___229 cats and learned that almost all___ them ate rats. The felines even seemed___prefer rats___ birds.

 

Reading ComprehensionFill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentencestaken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

New Zealand___weigh an ___of 150 grams, or about___ounces, whereas___ in the most recent ___in New York were more than ___as large. Bulk, it turns out, is an___ for cats who might otherwise ___on city rats.

WORD LIST: dine, average obstacle, rats, five,rats, experiment, twice

 

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /WritingDirections: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1.   Where did scientist Michael H. Parsons and his team carry  out this study?
  2.  What were some of the problems the scientists faced?
  3.   How did the team begin the research?
  4.  Besides New York City where else has a study been conducted about feral cats and rats?
  5.  According to the article how do the cats in New  Zealand differ from the cats in New York City?

 

3-2-1-Writing

Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading,two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Science | Tags: ,

Space: The Final Frontier…For The Rich!

“In an era in which privileged individuals search constantly for the next experience to obsess over and post about on social media, space truly remains the final frontier, a luxury that only the one percent of the one percent can afford. Brad Pitt and Katy Perry are among those who have reportedly plunked down $250,000 for a ride on one of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic spaceships… Now a company called Axiom Space is giving those with piles of money and an adventuresome spirit something new to lust after: the prospect of an eight-day trip to space that is plush, if not entirely comfortable, and with a bit of the luster of NASA as well.”  S. Marikar, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Astronaut Gardner Holds A For Sale Sign Photograph by Everett

 

Excerpt: The Rich Are Planning To Leave This Wretched Planet By Sheila Marikar, The New York Times

“Circumambulating the floor of his gray carpeted office on a recent Wednesday, Mike Suffredini — NASA veteran, Houston native and the chief executive officer of Axiom Space — stopped in front of a wood compartment about as big as a telephone booth.

‘It’s no New York hotel room,’ he said with a shrug, as if apologizing for its size. ‘It pretty much is, actually!’ said Gabrielle Rein, Axiom’s marketing director. 

A rendering that screams open the pod bay doors. Credit: Axiom Space

It was an early mock-up of a cabin that will reside inside a commercial space station, among the first of its kind, that Axiom is building: a mash-up of boutique hotel, adult space camp, and NASA-grade research facility designed to hover approximately 250 miles above the earth. Axiom hired Philippe Starck, the French designer who has lent panache to everything from high-end hotel rooms to mass-market baby monitors, to outfit the interior of its cabins. Mr. Starck lined the walls with a padded, quilted, cream-colored, suede-like fabric and hundreds of tiny LED lights that glow in varying hues depending on the time of day and where the space station is floating in relation to the earth.

Mike Suffredini, left, with designer Philippe Starck, with their mockup.CreditTodd Spoth for The New York Times

‘My vision is to create a comfortable egg, friendly, where walls are so soft and in harmony with the movements of the human body in zero gravity,’ Mr. Starck wrote in an email, calling his intended effect ‘a first approach to infinity. The traveler should physically and mentally feel his or her action of floating in the universe.’

The Starck-designed station will supposedly open in 2022, but Axiom says they can start sending curious travelers into orbit as early as 2020. (Note: nearly everything space-related is delayed by years, sometimes decades.) They’ll just have to make do with the comparatively rugged accommodations of the International Space Station, which is working with Axiom in addition to other commercial space station outfits…Axiom’s station can house eight passengers, including a professional astronaut.

Photo- Veranda

Each will pay $55 million for the adventure, which includes 15 weeks of training, much of it at the Johnson Space Center, a 10-minute drive from Axiom’s headquarters, and possibly a trip on one of Elon Musk’s SpaceX rockets. Thus far, three entities have signed up for on-the-ground training, which starts at $1 million, Mr. Suffredini said, though he declined to name them. The inaugural trip will be only $50 million. ‘It’s a bargain!’ he said.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Many call the stay at Axiom glamping at 1,320,000 feet.
  2. Circumambulating the floor of his office Mike Suffredini stopped in front of a wood compartment about as big as a telephone booth.
  3. It was an early mock-up of a cabin that will reside inside a commercial space station.
  4. Some may suffer from Claustrophobia.
  5. They’re putting big inflatable space pods into orbit.
  6. These habitat and outpost companies are great.
  7. Passengers  take a medical exam, administered before the rest of training begins.
  8. The exam includes tests of mind and mettle.
  9. A tour guide quaintly referred to the onboard bathroom as a potty.
  10. He believes that Axiom is crucial to the survival of our species.

Color Vocabulary Map by Enchanted Learning

 

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: The following sentences are from the article. Choose the correct word for each blank space from the word list  or make up your own words.

Axiom ___will be ___to ___a NASA-grade ___for the rocket ride to and ___the station. (Features include a fiberglass___ and a___ tube for ___small sips of water. Also, a diaper.)

WORD LIST:  consuming, spacesuit,  torso,  required,  from, drink, wear,  guests,

Grammar Focus: Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

To understand/understood the grand/great  scale/scales of Axiom’s plants/plans, it helps to know that astronauts have, thus far, largely been roughing/rough it up there. The Johnson Space Center contains/contain a life-size mock-up of the ISS, whose drab, beige interior is lined with drab/dribble, gray/grey handholds to tether down things and people, necessary given the lack of gravity/gravy. A tour guide quaintly referred to the onboard/outboard bathroom as a ‘potty.’ There are no showers.

 

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions.

  1. Would you like to travel in a space ship? Provide reason why or why not.
  2. Do you think it’s fair that only very rich people can afford this experience?
  3. Compose a letter or note to a  person mentioned in the article telling her/him their thoughts on the topic. Share the letters as a class.

 

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Science, Technology | Tags:

Stephen Hawking’s Final Escape to the Stars…

Stephen W. Hawking, the Cambridge University physicist and best-selling author who roamed the cosmos from a wheelchair, pondering the nature of gravity and the origin of the universe and becoming an emblem of human determination and curiosity, died early Wednesday at his home in Cambridge, England. He was 76.” D. Overbye, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Stephen Hawking, one of the greatest physicists of our time, died on Wednesday. He is immortalized by his brilliant research, but also by his pop culture appearances. Photo by David Parry:Press Association,

Excerpt: Stephen Hawking Dies at 76; His Mind Roamed the Cosmos, By Dennis Overbye, The New York Times

“Not since Albert Einstein has a scientist so captured the  public imagination and endeared himself to tens of millions of  people around the world…Dr. Hawking did that largely through his book A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes, published in 1988…Scientifically, Dr. Hawking will be best remembered for a discovery so strange that it might be expressed in the form of a Zen koan: When is a black hole not black? When it explodes.  What is equally amazing is that he had a career at all. As a graduate student in 1963, he learned he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neuromuscular wasting disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was given only a few years to live.

Dr. Hawking took part in a zero-gravity flight aboard a plane that flies a roller-coaster trajectory to produce fleeting periods of weightlessness. Credit Steve Boxall:Zero Gravity Corporation

He went on to become his generation’s leader in exploring gravity and the properties of black holes, the bottomless gravitational pits so deep and dense that not even light can escape them. In a long and daunting calculation, Dr. Hawking discovered to his befuddlement that black holes — those mythological avatars of cosmic doom — were not really black at all. In fact, he found, they would eventually fizzle, leaking radiation and particles, and finally explode and disappear over the eons.

The discovery of Hawking radiation, as it is known, turned black holes upside down. It transformed them from destroyers to creators — or at least to recyclers — and wrenched the dream of a final theory in a strange, new direction…In 2002, Dr. Hawking said he wanted the formula for ‘Hawking radiation’ to be engraved on his tombstone.

In April 2007, a few months after his 65th birthday, he took part in a zero-gravity flight aboard a specially equipped Boeing 727, a padded aircraft that flies a roller-coaster trajectory to produce fleeting periods of weightlessness.  It was a prelude to a hoped-for trip to space with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic company aboard SpaceShipTwo.

‘What a triumph his life has been,” said Martin Rees, a Cambridge University cosmologist, the astronomer royal of England and Dr. Hawking’s longtime colleague. ‘His name will live in the annals of science; millions have had their cosmic horizons widened by his best-selling books; and even more, around the world, have been inspired by a unique example of achievement against all the odds — a manifestation of amazing willpower and determination.’

Paraphrasing Einstein’s complaint about the randomness inherent in quantum mechanics, Dr. Hawking said, “God not only plays dice with the universe, but sometimes throws them where they can’t be seen.”’

“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.” ~Stephen Hawking~

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

KWL Chart

The K-W-L chart is used to activate students’ background knowledge of a topic in order to enhance their comprehension skills.

Directions: Have students use the KWL chart to list the information they already know about Stephen Hawking. Later in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about the topic.

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Stephen Hawking endeared himself to millions of people around the world.
  2. Dr. Hawking developed a long and daunting calculation involving black holes.
  3. He found that they would eventually fizzle  and disappear over the eons.
  4. The discovery of Hawking radiation turned black holes upside down.
  5. Hawking wanted to show that people need not be limited by physical handicaps.
  6. What a triumph his life has been!
  7. Martin Rees was  Dr. Hawking’s longtime colleague.
  8. Stephen Hawking was an example of achievement against all the odds.
  9. Stephen was a mediocre student at St. Albans School in London.
  10. In school, Hawking rarely consulted a book or took notes.

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

The oldest of ___children, Stephen was a ___student at St. Albans School in London, though his innate ___was recognized by some ___and teachers.

Later, at University College, Oxford, he found his___ in ___and ___so ___that he ___consulted a book or took notes. He got by with a ___hours of ___in three years, or one hour a day, he estimated.

WORD LIST: work, easy, mathematics studies, thousand, classmates, physics brilliance, four, mediocre, rarely,

Grammar Focus: Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

He moved/mowed to Cambridge upon his graduation for/from Oxford. Before he could begin/begun his research, however, he was stricken/stuck by what his research adviser, Dr. Sciama, came to call “that terrible thing.” The young Hawking had been experience/experiencing occasional weakness/week and falling spells for several years. Shortly after his 21st birthday, in 1963, doctors tell/told him that he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

CHARTS

KWL Chart

Directions:  Have students  fill in the last column of the KWL chart if they used one in the pre-reading segment of this lesson.

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Ask/Answer  Questions

Directions:  Place students in groups and have each group list 3  questions they would like to ask Stephen Hawking. Have groups exchange questions. Each group tries to answer the questions listed. All responses are shared as a class.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class.

ANSWER KEY

 

Category: Science | Tags:

The 2017 Historic Flight of SpaceX’s Dragon Ship!

“For the first time in the history of commercial spaceflight, a used spacecraft has blasted off on a mission to deliver cargo to the International Space Station (ISS).” H. Weitering, Space.com

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with answer Key

The nine Merlin engines on the first stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket power the company’s Dragon cargo capsule toward orbit on June 3, 2017. Credit- SpaceX

 

Excerpt: SpaceX Successfully Launches Used Dragon Cargo Ship in Historic First, By Hanneke Weitering, Space.com

“After lightning strikes delayed the launch on Thursday (June 1), lingering storm clouds parted just enough for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to safely lift off from NASA’s historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida today (June 3).

The Falcon 9 rocket, topped with SpaceX’s first refurbished Dragon cargo craft, took to the skies at 5:07 p.m. EDT (2107 GMT). About 8 minutes after liftoff, the first-stage rocket booster returned to Earth to stick a landing at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. [Launch Photos: SpaceX’s 1st Reused Dragon Spacecraft]

A little over 10 minutes into the flight, the Dragon separated from the Falcon 9’s second stage, deployed its solar arrays and began its three-day trek to the ISS. On Monday (June 5), the spacecraft will dock at the space station’s Harmony module, delivering close to 6,000 lbs. (2,700 kilograms) of supplies and science experiments to the Expedition 52 crew.

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a used Dragon cargo craft blasts off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 3, 2017

Another historic 1st for SpaceX

Today’s mission is the latest in a series of historic firsts for SpaceX, the private spaceflight company founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk…With the ultimate (and highly ambitious) goal of being able to reuse all major components of their launch vehicles, SpaceX is now putting the Dragon to the test.

‘This whole notion of reuse is something that’s very important to the entire space industry and NASA as well as Space X and others,’ Kirk Shireman, manager of NASA’s ISS program, said in the briefing. ‘The idea of reuse is important for economic reasons as well as technical reasons.” [SpaceX Gaining Substantial Cost Savings From Reused Falcon 9]’

Science on board!

Along with food, water, clothing and other gear for the astronauts at the space station, the Dragon will deliver plenty of science experiments… The experiments on board will support about 220 investigations currently happening at the space station.

The Falcon 9 first stage touches down at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on June 3, 2017. Credit- SpaceX

A new, experimental type of solar panel is also flying to the space station on the Dragon. Called the Roll Out Solar Array (ROSA), these new solar arrays are smaller, lighter and more efficient than the current solar panels that power the ISS.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket stage is seen safely on its Florida landing pad with the trail of its fiery descent visible in this amazing long-exposure photo taken June 3, 2017 Credit- SpaceX

The Dragon also contains some live passengers, including 40 mice and thousands of fruit flies. For a project called Rodent Research-5, the mice will help researchers study a new drug for osteoporosis, or bone density loss. The fruit flies will help investigators study the prolonged effects of spaceflight on the human heart.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

KWL Chart

The K-W-L chart is used to activate students’ background knowledge of a topic in order to enhance their comprehension skills.

Directions: Have students use the KWL chart from Michigan State University to list the information they already know about the Space X Dragon ship. Later in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about the topic.

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. The lingering storm clouds finally parted.
  2. The  Falcon 9 rocket  was able to safely lift off.
  3. The Falcon 9 rocket carried SpaceX’s first refurbished Dragon cargo craft.
  4. The Dragon separated from the Falcon 9’s second stage, deployed its solar arrays.
  5. This is  the seventh launch for SpaceX this year.
  6. The private spaceflight company was founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk.
  7. Certain parts had to be replaced for a number of reasons, such as exposure to seawater during splashdown.
  8. Dragon has been in space before and has been docked to the station for a couple of weeks.
  9. This whole notion of reuse is something that’s very important to the entire space industry.
  10. The idea of reuse is  also important for economic reasons.

Reading Comprehension: Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

The Dragon will also delve/deliver  many science/scenes experiments. The experiments on board/broad will support about 220 investigations currently happening at the spice/space station. “They span a multitude/multiple of scientific disciplines, including biological research/reach, the physical sciences, the humane/human research that we’re doing with the astro/astronauts, the technology demonstration studying Earth and space from the ISS, and then last but not least, the educational activities/acts that students have an opportunity to participate in.

 Grammar Focus: Prepositions

Directions: The following sentences are from the news article.  For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.

Prepositions:  in, for, of, with, by,  on, at, to, as, into, across, around, over,  through, from, during, up, off,

___Thursday weather permitted SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket___safely lift___.

A little___10 minutes___ the flight, the Dragon separated___the Falcon 9’s second stage.

___Monday the spacecraft will dock at the space station’s Harmony module.

Hans Koenigsmann, vice president ___flight reusability___SpaceX, said “We are hoping ___stay___ this rate ____the rest ___the year.

III. Post Reading Activities

KWL Chart

Directions:  Have students  fill in the last column of the KWL chart if they used one in the pre-reading segment of this lesson.

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups  and  have each group compose a letter or note to a  person mentioned in the article telling her/him their thoughts on the topic. Share the letters as a class.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Science, Technology