IS THERE A NEW PLANET IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM?

[ENVIRONMENT ★★]

IS THERE A NEW PLANET IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM?

Planet Nine

(P1) You might have a REPLACEMENT, Pluto. There could be another planet in our SOLAR SYSTEM.

(P2) Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have found EVIDENCE in the outer solar system of an object that could be a real ninth planet.

(P3) Nicknamed Planet Nine, it “has a MASS about 10 times that of Earth and ORBITS about 20 times farther from the sun” than Neptune. That means “it would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the sun,” according to Caltech.

(P4) Researchers Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown haven’t actually seen the planet, but other research helped lead them to conclude that there is one. They discovered that certain objects in the Kuiper Belt — the field of icy objects and DEBRIS beyond Neptune — had orbits that pointed in the same direction.

(P5) Over time, mathematical modeling and computer simulation led them to the conclusion that a planet was EXERTING the GRAVITY necessary to shape these orbits.

(P6) Brown says, “There have only been two true planets discovered since ancient times, Uranus and Neptune, and this would be the third. It’s a pretty SUBSTANTIAL chunk of our solar system that’s still out there to be found, which is pretty exciting.”

(P7) Already, the Caltech researchers are confident that Planet Nine is large enough to rule out any debate about whether it’s a true planet — unlike Pluto, which GOT THE BOOT in 2006 for being too small.

(P8) Brown, who played a role in Pluto’s DEMOTION to a DWARF PLANET, says “all those people who are mad that Pluto is no longer a planet can be THRILLED to know that there is a real planet out there still to be found. Now we can go and find this planet and make the solar system have nine planets once again.”

(P9) Depending on where Planet Nine is, many ASTRONOMERS HAVE A SHOT AT finding it. Brown would love to find a planet he helped discover, “but I’d also be perfectly happy if someone else found it. That is why we’re publishing this paper. We hope that other people are going to get inspired and start searching.”

WORDS: 366

SOURCE: http://edition.cnn.com/2016/01/20/us/possible-ninth-planet/

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Notice that like many American newspaper and magazine articles, this article has many uses of informal language such as “got the boot” and “have a shot.” Is journalism in your country written in formal or informal language?
  3. How can scientists “discover” something that they haven’t actually seen, whether it is a space object or a SUB-ATOMIC PARTICLE? What evidence tells them that these things exist?
  4. Have you seen any of the recent space exploration movies like Gravity, Interstellar, or The Martian?
  5. Have you ever owned a TELESCOPE? Do you enjoy looking at the night sky?

EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:

What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Solar system
  • Get the boot
  • Dwarf planet
  • Have a shot at
  • Sub-atomic particle

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IT’S DIFFICULT TO RUN A BUSINESS IN MACAU

[BUSINESS ★]

IT’S DIFFICULT TO RUN A BUSINESS IN MACAU

Macau

(P1) Cafe owner Nicole Massa Helm says her workers keep disappearing.

(P2) She knows exactly where they have gone – to work in a CASINO.

(P3) Ms Helm’s business, Lax Cafe, is based in Macau, the tiny Chinese special administrative region, 60km (37 miles) west of Hong Kong.

(P4) A former Portuguese COLONY, Macau is one of the most crowded places on the planet.

(P5) It may have a population of just 643,000, but they are CRAMMED into an area of only 30.3 sq km (11.6 sq miles). This makes Macau the world’s most densely populated country or territory.

(P6) Towering over Macau’s economy are its huge casinos, which account for about half of its GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT (GDP), and employ one fifth of all working people.

(P7) A gambling town to PUT LAS VEGAS IN THE SHADE, it has 35 casinos, attracting gamblers from across Asia, and in particular from mainland China.

(P8) While the number of Chinese visitors has recently DIPPED as China’s economy has slowed, the casinos still do big business, and pay very good wages.

(P9) The average monthly salary for a full-time casino employee is 19,000 pataca ($2,363; £1,661), according to official figures. This compares with 12,000 pataca in the restaurant sector, and as low as 8,200 pataca for shop workers.

(P10) This means that small business owners such as Ms Helm find it difficult to find and retain staff who are tempted away by the higher WAGES on offer in the casinos.

(P11) Add high rents, and strict limits on the number of foreign workers, and running a small firm in Macau can be a difficult business.

(P12) Ms Helm, 33, who employs 14 people at her cafe, says: “The hardest part is retaining staff, especially locals.

(P13) “We can never compete with the big ones [the casinos]. The first thing locals judge is that you won’t be able to pay what they need.

(P14) “And, even if they accept the job, shortly after they disappear.”

(P15) While Macau’s businesses complain about the strict limits on workers from mainland China or foreign countries, the government responds that such immigration controls are necessary due to the region’s small size and POPULATION DENSITY.

(P16) The one exception is for people from Portugal, who have an easier time getting residency, thanks to the historical connection.

(P17) At the Lax Cafe, Ms Helm says that high rent is her other problem.

(P18) “It’s very tough, there’s no limit on increases,” she says.

(P19) Ms Helm adds that her rent has increased almost 3x over the past four years, and if it continues going up, she doesn’t think she will survive.

WORDS: 431

SOURCE: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-35351416

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Are rents high in your city?
  3. These days, are there many jobs available in your city, or not enough jobs?
  4. Have you ever gone to a casino? Do you enjoy gambling? What games do you prefer?
  5. Casino and café jobs involve a lot of contact with the public. Do you like that type of job or not?

EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:

What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Gross domestic product
  • Put in the shade
  • Population density

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AMERICAN FIGURE SKATING IS IN SERIOUS DECLINE

[SPORTS ★]

AMERICAN FIGURE SKATING IS IN SERIOUS DECLINE

Michelle Kwan

(P1) These are TROUBLED times for American figure skating, which was once so popular that it beat the men’s NCAA basketball tournament in TV ratings (10.1 to 8.8 in 1996).

(P2) TV ratings have PLUMMETED. Touring shows of Olympic skaters that used to stop in 80 to 90 cities have either DISBANDED or shrunk. American singles skaters, the superstars of the sport for generations, don’t win anything anymore. And more than a decade after the sport introduced a new judging system, no one has any idea what is happening on the ice.

(P3) You remember the 6.0 scoring system? The one with the numbers displayed with the flags of the judges’ countries? It was reality TV before there was reality TV. There were villains. There were heroes. You could scream at the TV.

(P4) But then the leaders of the sport decided to get rid of the 6.0 for a system that allows judges to remain ANONYMOUS and everyone else to have no idea what is going on.

(P5) Sit and watch an event at the national championships next to Olympic gold medalist Brian Boitano and you know you’re not alone in your confusion. “I look at the scores and kind of go, ‘huh,’ then lean over and ask (younger former competitive skaters) Michael Weiss or Ryan Bradley to explain it for me,” Boitano said with a laugh.

(P6) “The current scoring system leaves people BEWILDERED,” Dick Button, the two-time Olympic gold medalist and long-time announcer told me over the phone the other day.

(P7) Let’s remember how good it once was. Travel with me back to the glorious 1990s.

(P8) The women’s short program at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics received a 48.5 TV rating, making it the sixth-highest rated television show in history.

(P9) There was nowhere to go but down. But now we’ve hit ROCK BOTTOM.

(P10) Stars would have helped. But Michelle Kwan has been retired for almost 10 years now, and no one has taken her place. No one has broken through with an individual Olympic or world championship medal, leading to an UNPRECEDENTED nine-season DROUGHT for U.S. women at the worlds and Olympics.

(P11) Without reliable and consistent personalities, fans go elsewhere. There are too many injuries, too many falls, too many disappointments.

WORDS: 374

SOURCE: http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/columnist/brennan/2016/01/21/brennan-heres-why-us-figure-skating-has-fallen-so-far/79138476/

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Have you ever watched a figure skating competition on television?
  3. Is figure skating a popular sport in your country? Who are the most famous skaters?
  4. Several Olympic sports involve SUBJECTIVE judging – figure skating, GYMNASTICS, diving. Do you understand the scoring systems, or are they confusing to you?
  5. Why is women’s figure skating more popular than men’s figure skating? (Women’s gymnastics is also more popular than men’s gymnastics.)

EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:

What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Rock bottom

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WROCLAW IS 2016 EUROPEAN CAPITAL OF CULTURE

[CULTURE AND ENTERTAINMENT ★★]

WROCLAW IS 2016 EUROPEAN CAPITAL OF CULTURE

Wroclaw-Rynek-7.2005

(P1) Combining a long Polish and German HERITAGE, Poland’s western city of Wroclaw becomes one of the European Capitals of Culture in 2016.

(P2) Formerly known as Breslau and part of Germany before the end of World War II, Wroclaw will share the honor with the city of San Sebastian on Spain’s northern coast.

(P3) Poland’s fourth largest city with a population of 630,000, Wroclaw is an industrial centre and university town.

(P5) The central European MELTING POT was part of the Kingdom of Poland, Bohemia, Hungary, the Austrian Empire, Prussia, and Germany at different times over the centuries.

(P6) The city’s honor comes at a time of difficult relations between Poland and Germany.

(P7) But in Wroclaw there is no ILL WILL, according to longtime resident Amanda Rozanska: “We don’t have a problem with Germans.”

(P8) The culture capital celebrations begin this weekend, with dancers and musicians TAKING TO THE STREETS.

(P9) “I believe this may be the most important year in the post-war history of Wroclaw,” says Mayor Rafal Dutkiewicz on the city’s website about the many cultural events planned over the next 12 months.

(P10) “We want Wroclaw to be important on the map of Europe and the world.”

(P11) One way to look at the city’s history is to read about daily life in pre-war Breslau, depicted in detail by local writer Marek Krajewski in his detective novel series featuring policeman Eberhard Mock, which has been translated into 18 languages including German.

(P12) Soviet bombing destroyed 70 percent of the city in 1945 and most of the German residents left after the war ended.

(P13) Wroclaw was mainly repopulated by Poles from the city of Lwow — which became Ukraine’s Lviv after the war — and also attracted Jews and Greek immigrants.

(P14) In the 1980s, Wroclaw was an active location of the Solidarity TRADE UNION that worked for a peaceful end to communism in Poland in 1989.

(P15) Then came the “Flood of the Century” in July 1997, an event that united Wroclaw residents.

(P16) “Everyone came out to carry SANDBAGS to block the water,” said Grzegorz Roman, an advisor at the mayor’s office.

WORDS: 351

SOURCE: http://artdaily.com/index.asp?int_sec=11&int_new=84408#.VqF33PkrLIV

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Many cities in Europe, like Wroclaw/Breslau and Lwow/Lviv, have been parts of different countries at different times. Have the BORDERS of your country changed much, or have they remained the same?
  3. How does your city celebrate culture? Are there any regular events or festivals?
  4. Have there ever been any natural disasters such as floods in your city?
  5. Do you enjoy reading HISTORICAL NOVELS to learn about the past?

EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:

What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Melting pot
  • Ill will
  • Take to the streets
  • Trade union
  • Historical novel

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BLIZZARD HITS EASTERN UNITED STATES

[WORLD NEWS ★]

BLIZZARD HITS EASTERN UNITED STATES

Blizzard

(P1) A BLIZZARD covered the eastern United States in near-record amounts of snow Saturday, shutting down New York and Washington in a huge storm expected to affect more than 85 million people.

(P2) More than 4,400 flights were cancelled as the storm brought airports in New York, Philadelphia, Washington and Baltimore to a HALT.

(P3) Fifteen people died in Arkansas, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia, while more than 200,000 people were left without power.

(P4) METEOROLOGISTS said the storm would last into Sunday with two feet (60 centimeters) expected in Washington and more than 20 inches falling in parts of New York, making it one of that city’s five biggest blizzards in history.

(P5) State Governor Andrew Cuomo closed all roads in the city.

(P6) “Safety is our number one PRIORITY,” Cuomo told reporters.

(P7) Broadway plays cancelled performances, museums and shops closed.

(P8) Strong winds are causing coastal flooding concerns for a large portion of the East Coast, the National Weather Forecast (NWS) warned, with streets in some New Jersey towns filled with water and ice.

(P9) Thousands of motorists were STRANDED for hours on highways in the south.

(P10) SNOW PLOWS struggled to clear New York streets, where parked cars were buried under the snow.

(P11) Washington saw around 20 inches of snow, with winds creating massive SNOW DRIFTS. Reagan National and Dulles International airports were expected to remain closed through Sunday.

(P12) “We know that it is very rough outside, and in some cases, there have been reports of WHITEOUT conditions for the past two hours. VISIBILITY is extremely poor,” Washington mayor Muriel Bowser told reporters.

panda24n-1-web

(P13) One resident of Washington was having a great time, though – Tian Tian, a PANDA at the National Zoo. Footage of him playing outside quickly went viral.

WORDS: 292

SOURCE: http://news.yahoo.com/massive-blizzard-shuts-down-eastern-united-states-222902937.html

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Have you ever experienced a snowstorm?
  3. Have you ever experienced a long power OUTAGE (also known as a “blackout”)?
  4. What was the last severe weather event to happen in your city?
  5. Why do cute videos and photographs like the panda rolling in the snow “go viral”?
  6. Have you ever experienced whiteout conditions when you couldn’t see while you were driving (from snow, rain, FOG, dust, etc.)? Was it scary?

EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:

What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Snow plow
  • Snow drift

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LIVE VIRTUAL REALITY IS NOT READY FOR THE MARKET

[TECHNOLOGY ★★]

LIVE VIRTUAL REALITY IS NOT READY FOR THE MARKET

samsung-gear-vr-realidad-virtual-oculus.jpg

(P1) Ah, virtual reality. Put your smartphone inside a pair of goggles, strap them to your head, and — PRESTO! — you’re transported to a computer-generated world, whether it’s a starship or a Sherpa village in the Himalayas. At least, that’s the promise of VR games and films.

(P2) But what about live VR streaming, which is being made available in your living room or anywhere else you happen to have your goggles? Some companies are already testing this technology, and it won’t be long before you’ll have to pay a PREMIUM PRICE to receive these streams.

(P3) At the CES conference in Las Vegas, I had a chance to find out what it’s like. After strapping a Samsung Gear VR headset to my face, I was transported to a courtside seat at the United Center in Chicago to watch a basketball game between the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls.

(P4) At least, that’s what I think I was watching. The video was so BLURRY I couldn’t see players’ jersey numbers, find a scoreboard, or read the shot clock. I was also lost without TV commentators and graphics to help me understand what was happening. I watched the game from the best seat in the stadium, but after 20 minutes I realized I didn’t enjoy it at all.

(P5) The episode demonstrated VR’s SHORTCOMINGS. When the technology works well, it makes you feel as if you’re standing in front of a DINOSAUR. Or it gives you VERTIGO as you look over the edge of a SKYSCRAPER. When it doesn’t work well, though, you’re just annoyed and confused.

(P6) David Cole, co-founder of NextVR, which streamed the game, admitted a few problems still have to be worked out. He also said he’s not out to create a highly produced TV stream in VR, with rich graphics and shot-by-shot commentary. He wants to make you feel like you’re there.

(P7) “It will be a huge value for fans,” he said. People who love sports and wish they had a great seat at a game will love it, he added.

(P8) I’m one of those people who would probably be bored sitting courtside at a real game anyway, since I’m not an AVID basketball fan.

(P9) Despite criticism about poor visuals, NextVR, of Laguna Beach, California, is pushing ahead with plans to build a near-daily channel of live events, all streamed to VR headsets. In the next few months, the company plans to insert ads into its streams and test charging for admittance. Cole wouldn’t say how much the service will cost.

WORDS: 436

SOURCE: http://www.cnet.com/news/live-vr-not-ready-for-the-prime-time/

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Are you very interested in virtual reality, or not so much?
  3. Are 3D movies, video games, and other forms of ENHANCED visuals pleasing to you, or do they give you headaches?
  4. Why do companies bring technologies to market before they are ready?
  5. Do you feel that you are spending too much money on technology now, or are you willing to pay more?

EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:

What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Premium price

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I CAN’T SLEEP AT NIGHT

[LIFE ★]

I CAN’T SLEEP AT NIGHT

sleep-disorder-insomnia-therapy-gold-coast

(P1) Dear Mariella:

(P2) I am a 34-year-old woman who lies awake until 2 or 3am most nights. There is a stream of thoughts, images, and SCENARIOS running through my mind. I think about moving to a new house, all the things we don’t have, and how I pretend to like change when really I don’t. I think about the man at work who would have an affair with me if I said yes. I tell myself I should be a better mother, and then wonder if I have time to have another child. I don’t know what to do to break this cycle of thoughts that keep me awake. I am very tired.

(P3) Mariella replies:

(P4) Aren’t we all? All my female friends seem to have this same problem of nighttime ANXIETY. We lie awake at night FRETTING about everything.

(P5) The topics that you’re thinking about are interesting. There’s clearly a lively, questioning mind at work, looking for answers. That’s all good news, but an INQUISITIVE mind like yours can easily become depressed.

(P6) Lack of sleep is very bad for your mental and physical health. Dealing with this might require the help of your doctor, who can decide whether to put you on MEDICATION or not.

(P7) I have personal experience of INSOMNIA. The less you sleep, the more you worry, so the less you sleep. Medication might help you, but you also need to change the way you deal with your thoughts.

(P8) Talk to your spouse or friends about your worries. Write them down in a JOURNAL.

(P9) Approach the night a little differently. Relax and WIND DOWN before bedtime. A hot bath, a relaxing nighttime tea, a chapter of a good book – and plenty of exercise and fresh air during your waking hours – will all help you get ready for a nice sleep.

(P10) There are no instant cures for your problem, but all of these ideas could be helpful!

WORDS: 322

SOURCE: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/jan/17/how-can-i-break-my-cycle-of-worried-thoughts-at-night-mariella-frostrup

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Have you ever suffered from insomnia? What did you do about it?
  3. Do you think that you get enough sleep at night, or not enough?
  4. Do you worry about many things, or not too much?
  5. What do you like to do before you go to sleep at night – read, watch TV, or something else?

EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:

What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Wind down

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