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Hi light


DESTINATION MARS As you read this, Curiosity, NASA’s latest Mars rover is preparing to land on the Red Planet. Its mission: to look for signs of Martian life! In the time it takes to drive to the supermarket, the spacecraft will change shape like a Transformer six times, slowing down and landing using 76 mini rockets, ropes, knives and the largest parachute ever built. As with all other missions to the red planet, Curiosity won’t have any people on board. It’s just not possible right now to send people to Mars. So NASA sent the next best thing: tough, smart robots that can tell us a lot without risking people on a long and difficult trip. The life it’ll look for is actually long dead and gone. So don’t expect any pictures of little green men! If there was ever any life on Mars, it probably never went past microscopic life — things like the germs that you wash off your hands after being outdoors all day.


Humans have been obsessed with Mars since they first laid eyes on it. The Egyptians used to call Mars: ‘Har dècher’, meaning the Red One. The Babylonians called it Nergal, which translates to Star of Death. This may have been because they thought the planet was covered in blood! Similarly, the Greeks and Romans named the planet after their respective gods of war, Ares and Mars. They even believed that the Earth was the centre of the universe and that Mars was one of the five travelling stars that revolved around it. Crazy, huh!

TARGET: MARS You must be asking yourself, why Mars? Why is it so interesting that we have launched more than 45 spacecraft just to take pictures of it? Well, Mars is a lot like Earth, though instead of blue oceans and green land, Mars is covered with a mineral called iron oxide that gives it its red colour. The planets are similar in so many ways that it’s almost hard to believe we haven’t found anything alive there. But, don’t forget that there are many differences too. Without these differences, Mars wouldn’t be such an interesting planet to study. Mars has both North and South polar ice caps, much like Earth. Also like Earth, both ice caps are made mostly of frozen water. With so much water frozen in the ice caps of Mars, some scientists think that life could have once existed there.

MARS FACTOIDS A year on Mars is almost twice as long as a year on Earth (1 year and 320 days) but the length of a day there is almost identical. A Martian day is 24 hours and 39 minutes long, less than an hour longer than a day on Earth.

Did you know that the month of March is named after Mars?

During a Mars winter, the air freezes!

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If you were driving your car at a 100 kilometres an hour, it would take you 271 years and 221 days to get to Mars from Earth,

Only 1/3 of spacecrafts sent to Mars have been successful, leading some scientists to wonder if there is a Martian “Bermuda triangle” or a “Great Galactic Ghoul” that likes to eat spacecraft.

Mars has seasons just like Earth. These seasons are much longer than Earth seasons because Mars is so much farther from the sun.

LOST IN TRANSLATION In 1877, Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli, looked at Mars and saw that there was a network of lines on it. He called them “canali,” which is Italian for “channels.” But the English-speaking world translated “canali” as “canals”, suggesting that aliens had built them. This mistake in translation, led everyone to believe that Martians had built these canals to water their crops. The matter wasn’t settled until NASA sent a camera to Mars in the 1970s. The camera photographed almost the entire surface of Mars at close range, and it became clear that the canals did not exist. Curiously, the photographs also revealed what look like dry riverbeds formed by water (or at least liquid), although little water is to be found on the planet now. How these channels came to exist, nobody knows.

LIFE ON MARS So we know that Mars is a cold, bleak wasteland, with very thin air that we Earthlings could never breathe. In fact if you were to walk on Mars without a spacesuit, you would lose consciousness and the oxygen in your blood would literally turn into bubbles, killing you immediately. After reading all of that, I’m sure you’ll be wondering why we are obsessed with the planet. Well, because of the similarities between Earth and Mars, it is quite possible that one day humans will live on Mars. They will not need space suits because of a science called Terraforming. This is when you change a planet to make it Earth-like. This may sound like science fiction, but it is an actual science, and it is actually possible today. It just takes a long time to accomplish the task. Imagine that, living on Mars! You could probably go climb the face of the giant man on Mars! What, you don’t know about him?


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Twenty five years ago something funny happened around Mars. NASA’s Viking 1 spacecraft was circling the planet, snapping photos of possible landing sites for its sister ship Viking 2, when it spotted what looked like a human face. An enormous head nearly two miles from end to end seemed to be staring back at the cameras from a region of the Red Planet called Cydonia! Although very few scientists believed the face belonged to a giant alien, photographing Cydonia became a priority for NASA. On April 5, 1998, when the Mars Global Surveyor flew over Cydonia for the first time, it snapped a picture ten times sharper than the original Viking photos. You know what they discovered? The face was a natural landform; there was no alien monument after all! It was just a normal hill that looked like a face because of shadows.

MARS ATTACKS Have you ever heard of War of the Worlds by H.G Wells? Well, the book was about Martians invading the Earth and it became so popular that filmmaker Orson Welles decided to adapt the book into a radio show. Why radio? Well, this happened in 1938 and television was still not that popular. Imagine just listening to your favorite shows instead of watching them! Well, Orson Welles did such a great job with the show that people actually thought that Martians were invading! Some listeners had heard only a portion of the broadcast and took it to be an actual news broadcast. People actually ran away from their homes and hid in the hills, afraid that the Martians were going to blast them with death rays! Later, one man complained he had spent the money he had saved for shoes to escape the Martians. Welles insisted the man be paid, because apparently shoes were really expensive back then!

TICKET TO MARS! Are you excited about tomorrow? Well, we sure are! And guess what! The Mars One project plans to send 10 people on a trip to the Red Planet by 2023. There’s just one problem: it’s a one-way trip. Think you’re up for it? The project plans to establish a human settlement on Mars and film the entire experience like a television show. Next year, Mars One will hold a worldwide lottery to select 40 people to train to be astronauts. That group will be sent to live in a desert simulation for three months, after which the 10 astronauts will be chosen for the trip. By 2023, this group will be sent to Mars to form the first permanent human settlement. Think you could spend the rest of your life living on a barren planet, with no guarantee of ever coming home?

MARS FACTOIDS Mars’ moon Phobos (“fear”) rises in the west and sets in the east—twice a day. Deimos (“panic”), on the other hand, takes 2.7 days to rise in the east and set in the west. The moons are named after the twin gods who accompanied Ares (or Mars) into battle.

Phobos orbits remarkably close to Mars and is gradually sinking into the Red Planet. In about 50 million years it will either crash into Mars or break up and form a small ring around the planet.

Mars has less than half the gravity that Earth has, this means that a 100-pound person on Earth would weigh only 38 pounds on Mars and could jump three times as high.

Mars is home to the highest peak in the solar system: Olympus Mons. This towering peak is 24 kilometres high, that’s three times higher than Mt. Everest!


Activity Corner

4 Homemade Hourglass

Supplies needed: Instructions:

• 2 Plastic bottles • 1 Bottle cap/lid • Coloured sand • Clear tape • Jute twine • Clock

Step 1

Make a small hole in the centre of the bottle cap/lid

Pour coloured sand into one bottle and screw on the cap. Place the second bottle on top of the lid and wrap the securely with several layers of clear tape.

Step 3

Use a clock to figure out how much time your hourglass measures. To adjust the time, peel off the tape, add or remove sand, then replace the tape and time it again.

Finally, wrap the jute twine around the tape to hide it.

Remember kids, always get permission from your parents before you start. It’s always a good idea to have a helper nearby.

Step 2

Step 4


World wide weird

Get your weekly dose of the unusual and funny from across the globe!

Smoke machine This is a picture of Tori. Tori is an orangutan. An orangutan is kind of like a very distant cousin of humans. And like some humans, Tori has a smoking problem. That’s right, an orangutan who smokes. Sounds pretty unusual, right? Apparently it’s not as uncommon as one might think. For the past decade or so, Tori has impressed visitors at the Satwa Taru Jurug zoo in Indonesia with her smoking habit. The 15-year old great ape apparently picked up the habit from imitating zoo patrons and picking up their discarded cigarette butts. Now, the zoo is intervening and plans to cut Tori off, cold turkey. Zookeepers have moved the orangutan out of visitors’ sight so she’ll no longer smoke lit cigarettes people regularly throw into her cage. Zoo spokesman Daniek Hendarto said that Tori and her male companion, Didik, were moved Wednesday to a small island within the zoo. There are four endangered orangutans at the zoo in the Central Java town of Solo. The 15-year-old Tori has been smoking for a decade. She mimics humans by holding cigarettes casually between her fingers while visitors watch and photograph her puffing away and flicking ashes on the ground. Hendarto said recent medical tests show the four primates are in good condition. The two other orangutans will be moved later to another island. SOURCE: THEJAKARTAPOST.COM

Unlikely tenants A studio apartment is typically suited for one occupant. But Dylan Baumann has been forced to coexist with about 40 lodgers in his small living space in Omaha, Nebraska. Even worse, the new tenants are potentially deadly recluse spiders. “I saw them crawling across my walls, crawling along my floorboards and saw it crawling by my foot,” Baumann told a local television channel. The brown recluse spiders are rare in Omaha but have been spotted with more regularity, particularly since the area experienced an unusually short winter. It was recently reported that while there are more than 40,000 known species of spiders, that number may be less than half of all the different types of spiders currently living around the world. Still, even with the near-constant threat of venomous spider bites, Baumann has decided to stay in his apartment until his lease is up in September. “It’s mainly just learning to cope with them,” he said. “Pushing your bed away from the wall, pulling out your bed skirt, making sure nothing is touching the walls, shaking off your clothes before you put them on, after you get out of the shower, shake out your towel, knock out your shoes at night. It’s just kind of learning to not get bit.” SOURCE: HUFFINGTONPOST.COM

Rise of the apes


Ever questioned your intelligence? Well, these gorillas can surely put one to shame with their ability to find and dismantle traps set by poachers. They are on an unstoppable mission to protect their clan and won’t let anything get in their way. This was first witnessed by John Ndayambaje, a tracker from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund’s Karisoke Research Centre, who saw two young gorillas from the Kuryama gorilla clan perform the act. One broke the tree branch while the other dismantled the noose and the two then quickly moved on to destroy another trap that the tracker had missed. Gorilla experts, although excited by the news weren’t surprised by their intelligence. Veterinarian Mike Cranfield, executive director of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, said “Chimpanzees are always quoted as being the tool users, but I think, when the situation provides itself, gorillas are quite ingenious.” SOURCE: NEWS.YAHOO.COM

A smashing affair Imagine that you’re at a theme park expecting a day packed with fun but as soon as you sit on the roller coaster something smashes into your face! What is it? A bird! That’s exactly what happened to a 12-year-old boy as he was riding the Kingda Ka roller coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. The collision occurred as the coaster was returning to the station Thursday. Park spokeswoman Kristen Siebeneicher informed the press that the boy was taken to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries to his face and neck. She says it’s unclear what type of bird it was, but characterized it as small, and says its carcass is being handed over to the Ocean County Health Department. The 45-story Kingda Ka coaster, which reaches speeds up to 128 mph, was shut down for 30 minutes. SOURCE: ABCLOCAL.GO.COM

Hands off Remember the phrase ‘biting the hand that feeds you’, well here’s a very good example. Sixty three year old Wallace Weatherholt, a Florida airboat captain, was attacked while he was giving an Indiana family a tour of the Everglades. The family said Weatherholt had hung a fish over the side of the boat and had his hand at the water’s surface when the alligator attacked. The 9-foot alligator bit off the airboat captain’s hand! And guess what? Weatherholt now faces charges of feeding the animal! Collier County Jail records show that he was charged with the unlawful feeding of an alligator. While, wildlife officers tracked and captured the gator and Weatherholt’s hand was found, it could not be reattached. SOURCE: ABCNEWS.GO.COM

Cat nap

Biblical proportions

Imagine a small animal stowed away amongst the massive amounts of cargo on a freight ship. It seems impossible for one to survive, especially on a 6,500 mile journey from Shanghai to California, but a three month old kitten did just that. The baby female cat was discovered when the container she was trapped in was delivered to a Compton business. Subsequently, she was taken to Carson Animal Centre. Although she suffered through the trip without food or hydration, the kitten is under care now and will be put up for adoption once she is vaccinated. The kitten was retrieved from the container at a Compton-area business where it was delivered. Animal Control Director Marcia Mayeda says the kitten ate and slept well at the Carson Animal Care Center. She woke up alert and responsive. The kitten is quarantined, which is standard procedure after entering the US from another country. When she recovers, gets her shots and is fixed, the shelter will look for foster and permanent homes. SOURCE: GLOBALPOST.COM

We’re sure you must have read about it, but now you can even see and board an authentic replica of Noah’s Ark that opened a few weeks ago in the Netherlands. The ark was designed by a millionaire contractor and creationist Johan Huibers, to be as close to the original biblical description of Noah’s vessel as possible. This wooden recreation, four years in the making, is the second one he’s built. In 2004, he built a half-scale version that he sailed around his native country’s canals. Huibers envisioned building the model 20 years ago when he had a dream that the Netherlands was submerged in a flood like the Old Testament destruction. There are some concessions to modernity, or at least to animal rights. Instead of two of each kind of animal, there are only a few live chickens on the boat and an exhibit of life-size plastic animals such as giraffes, elephants and donkeys. SOURCE: HUFFINGTONPOST.COM


Did you know?


ou y g n i h t d o o g a It’s . . . n a t ’ n were Aztec So you may think you have a tough life, what with school, homework and your parents nagging you to eat healthy and sleep on time BUT believe me, it could be a LOT worse! For example: Aztec parents had high expectations for their children. They expected them to be both hard-working and dutiful. Younger children were assigned simple tasks like fetching fire wood or carrying water while the older boys learned to farm and fish from their fathers. Girls learned domestic skills like cooking and weaving from their mothers. Parents would routinely punish children if they didn’t behave or do their chores. Pretty normal, right? Wait till you hear the rest! While some parents merely beat their children, others would stab them with cactus spines or even force them to inhale hot pepper fumes. Then there was also the matter of sacrificing children. While the Aztecs primarily sacrificed war captives from other tribes, a small number of children were also sacrificed.

Word Origins To get off scot free If you get off scot free you avoid punishment for doing something that deserves punishment. For example, “Although the police caught him red-handed, the judge said there wasn’t enough evidence and he got off scot free”. The word scot in this sense has nothing to do with Scotland or Scotsmen, however. Scot is believed to be an old German word that is related to the words shot and shoot. In medieval England the scot was a tax paid by the members of a village or town. All the inhabitants had to pay it. Some people avoided the scot because their houses were built in unfavourable places such as hills with no water or places prone to flooding. Such people were described as scot free and the term has now come to describe anyone who avoids a punishment.

Cool facts The sailfish can swim at the speed of 109 km/h, making it the fastest swimmer. The crocodile’s tongue is unmovable, as it is attached to the roof of its mouth. Goats are quite agile creatures and in some cases they can jump over 5 feet. The colour red doesn’t really make bulls angry; they are colour-blind. A herd of unicorns is called a blessing. The oldest recorded elephant lived for 82 years. According to records there are 50 million monkeys in the world! Dog nose prints are as unique as human finger prints and can be used to identify them.



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