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Vol 4 , Issue 1

Think Plus, Think Better

How Much of the World Needs To Be Covered in Solar Panels To Power Earth? Learning To Code How Do We Estimate the Age of the Earth? Gigabit Internet

WAS THE FIFTH EXTINCTION CAUSED NOT BY AN ASTEROID BUT BY

VOLCANIC ERUPTIONS ?


Dear Readers, We now map our articles to the lower secondary Science curriculum. An outline of the curriculum is shown below. Lower Secondary Science Curriculum 1. The Scientific Endeavour a. Study of science 2. Diversity a. Exploring diversity of matter by its physical properties b. Exploring diversity of matter by its chemical composition c. Exploring diversity of matter using separation techniques d. Understanding the diversity of living things 3. Models a. Model of cell – the basic units of life b. Model of matter – the particulate nature of matter c. Model of matter – atoms and molecules d. Ray model of light 4. Systems a. Transport system in organisms b. Human digestive systems c. Human sexual reproductive system d. Electrical systems 5. Interactions a. Through the application of forces b. Energy and work done c. Transfer of sound energy through vibrations d. Effect of heat and its transmission e. Chemical changes f. Interactions within ecosystems Secondly, we’ve also begun writing our articles in different writing styles, coded A, D, E or N. AG (Argumentative): Provide reasons for or against a matter; usually contains author’s opinions DS (Descriptive): Describe a character, an event or a place in great detail EP (Expository): Furnish relevant facts and figures, exclude opinions NR (Narrative): Author places himself as the character and tells you a story Editorial Board Managing Editor Dr Henry Toi

Writers Corrine Lin Erick Ngibuini Njagi (Kenya) Jack Yu Phoebe Choo Vlad Igolnikov (USA) Vinay Kumar Rai

Advisory Editors Prof Arthur Costa Dr Bena Kallick Editor Vinay Kumar Rai

Publishing Executive Jason Ong Cover: © Ilkin Guliyev | Dreamstime.com

Material in this issue may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without prior permission from the publisher. In Singapore, contact Nurture Craft International Pte Ltd. Think Science is published by Nurture Craft International Pte Ltd in collaboration with The Institute for The Habits of Mind (USA). +

©2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. PRINTED IN SINGAPORE

Contents Vol 4, Issue 1

04 Was the Fifth Extinction Caused AG Not by An Asteroid but by Volcanic Eruptions?

We now have another culprit for the extinction of the dinosaurs

03 Numbers The Sun

04 Science & Tech News 10 Da Vinci Global Report

EP

How Much of The World Needs to Be Covered in Solar Panels to Power Earth?

12 HOMTM Focus Managing Impulsivity

14 Primal Science

EP

How Do We Estimate the Age of the Earth?

16 Think+ Heroes

DS

An Wang (1920-1990)

18 Growth Mindset My Brain Never Stops Growing

20 Technology

DS EP

Gigabit Internet

22 Insights / Hacks

DS

Learning to Code

24 Funny Think 26 HOMTM Fun

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Numbers

The Sun 4.6: The age in billion years of the sun. Many scientists believe that the sun and the rest of the solar system formed from a giant, rotating cloud of dust and gas known as the Solar Nebula. 5: The length of time in billions of years that the sun is still expected to be around. The sun has already burned up half of its store of hydrogen and once the supply is over in 5 billion years it is expected to continue for about 130 million more years burning helium. 5500: The surface temperature in degrees Celsius of the sun. The energy produced by the sun’s surface temperature is what we see as sunlight. The sun’s inner core can reach up to 15 million degrees Celsius. 3: The number of layers that the sun has. These are the photosphere, the chromospheres, and the corona. 8: The length of time it takes light, travelling at around 300,000 kilometres per second, from the sun to reach the earth.

Š Tetiana Kozachok | Dreamstime.comDreamstime.com

70: The percentage of the sun made up of hydrogen. Helium, the other main gas in the sun, makes up around 28 percent. 99.86: The mass of the sun as a percentage of the mass of the entire solar system. 1,392,684: The diameter in kilometres of the sun. The sun is 109 times wider than the earth and 330,000 times as massive. If the sun were hollow, 960,000 Earths would fit in it. 150: The average distance in million kilometres of the earth from the sun. The distance between these two bodies, however, changes throughout the year as the earth travels in an elliptical orbit around the sun. 220: The speed in kilometres per second that the sun is travelling at. It takes approximately 225 to 250 million years for the sun to complete one orbit of the centre of the Milky Way.

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Science & Technology News

New ‘Smart Toy’ Offers Autistic Children New Ways to Learn eka is a new gadget that is more than just a trivial distraction for children; it is a compact robotic educational companion developed for children with special needs, particularly children with autism. According to Leka CEO and co-founder Ladislas de Toldi, research suggests that autistic children respond well to robots. Leka’s primary function is playing educational games: it can be personalised to alter the amount of stimulation and the degree of interaction for children with different needs. The Leka robot is shaped like a ball, has a lovable face that changes expressions, and uses light, sound and colours to interact with users through fun games designed to improve the child’s motor and cognitive skills. Educators and caregivers can program the toy to guide children with developmental disabilities Leka, an interactive robot designed for children with special needs such as autism and other developmental disabilities, is seen during a press event for CES 2017.

through a wide range of activities that help them to better communicate and learn how to connect with their environment. The robot is controlled via Bluetooth and programmed through an app available for Android and iOS.

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Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Smart Bed That Automatically Adjusts to your Sleep Position

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fter a long day of stressful activity there’s nothing we love to see more than our bed. Our beds help us to re-charge our batteries for the next day. Now imagine if your bed could do more than just lie there. Well, Sleep Number, a company with its headquarters in the US, just made sleeping more fulfilling. This bed, called ‘The 360 Bed’, has features such as automatically adjusting your sleep position to make you more comfortable and elevating your head when it detects that you are snoring. It even collects data — your breathing patterns, heart rate, tossing and turning

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— as you sleep to find out how well you slept. Cold feet can be a buzzkill for your sleep so the bed even comes with foot warmers. This smart bed is basically divided into three layers: the bottom layer which has the mechanics that make the bed move up and down; the air chamber which adjusts to your sleeping position; and the cushion layer which makes the bed all cosy. The air chamber also has the ability to detect where your body is on the mattress and adjust accordingly. If you have trouble waking up, I don’t recommend this bed.


This Wood Is Stronger than Steel

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Annual rings of a tree stux/Pixabay.com (CC0 1.0)

ood served our forefathers as great building material. Unfortunately, it is not that strong; sometimes, people prefer or have to make their structures with stronger material like concrete, steel and marble. In an interesting development, scientists have invented a new ‘super wood’ that could potentially stop a speeding bullet. This is not the first time that scientists have engineered wood. Wood such as fibreboard, particleboard, and plywood used in our houses are all made by compressing smaller pieces of wood into a single piece that is tougher than its composite parts. The method of manufacture makes plywood the strongest of the three. The new kind of wood is made a little differently. First you boil the wood in a solution of sodium sulphite and sodium hydroxide so as to remove a great deal of the wood’s hemicelluloses and lignin. These are the polymers (large molecules) that stiffen a plant’s cell wall. One polymer, cellulose, is left intact. The wood is then subjected to enough pressure that the cell walls collapse completely. The heat is then turned up a bit to keep the pressure going. This makes the hydrogen atoms of the cellulose, now unrestricted by the cell walls, to form powerful chemical bonds with their neighbouring atoms. The wood then becomes 10 times harder to break, 20 times stiffer, and 50 times more resistant to compression. It is now stronger than steel.

The Sleep Number 360 smart bed, which senses and automatically adjusts comfort to keep both partners sleeping soundly all night, is seen during a press event for CES 2017. Alex Wong/Getty Images

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Cover

AG

Was the Fifth Extinction Caused Not by An Asteroid but by Volcanic Eruptions? We now have another culprit for the extinction of the dinosaurs

Background: skeeze/Pixabay.com (CC0 1.0)

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E

xtinction — referring to the loss of species on Earth — is part and parcel of the evolutionary process. Mother Earth has met with at least five mass extinctions (and several minor ones) in the last 444 million years. These are the OrdovicianSilurian extinction (444 million years ago), Devonian (372 million years ago), Permian (252 million years ago), End-Triassic (201 million years ago), and Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) extinction (66 million years ago). Indeed, extinctions are so common they can be considered an integral characteristic of life on Earth. Mass extinctions are so called because of their scale: the annihilation of enormous proportions (50-96%) of the species existing at the time of the extinction. Scientists have put forth many reasons, all involving catastrophic events, for mass extinctions: global cooling and warming, asteroids or comets striking the earth, movement of tectonic plates, volcanic eruptions, etc. While there can be several reasons for any one extinction event, scientists generally hold that there must be a primary cause for an event of the nature of a mass extinction. In the case of the Ordovician-Silurian and Devonian extinctions, global cooling is thought to be the primary cause. For the Permian and End-Triassic extinctions, glaciations (the process of covering with glaciers) followed by global warming, volcanic eruptions and bolide impact (a large meteor or asteroid striking the earth) are thought to be the primary factors.

K-T Extinction The K-T extinction, the fifth mass extinction, occurred at the ‘K-T boundary’: the gap between the end of the Cretaceous period (145-66 million years ago) and the beginning of the Tertiary period (66-2.6 million years ago). K-T is ranked third in severity among the five mass extinctions:

Indeed, extinctions are so common they can be considered an integral characteristic of life on Earth.

about 80% of existing species were lost. After K-T, environmentally-sensitive creatures like snakes, turtles and lizards survived, a fact that is still an unsolved riddle for many biologists. Many flowering plants and birds underwent a drastic evolution after the event. What the K-T extinction event is most famous for, however, is the loss of almost all the dinosaurs. Assorted reasons — asteroid impact, widespread diseases, global cooling, global warming, the movement of tectonic plates, etc — have been offered as the cause of the disaster. For some time now, the mainstream scientific view has been that an asteroid impact was the primary cause of the K-T extinction.

The impact created a gigantic crater and caused an enormous amount of dust particles to be released into the atmosphere, blocking out sunlight for many months or years.

Asteroid Theory The asteroid theory was proposed by Walter Alvarez and Luis Alvarez, two American scientists. As per the theory, the K-T extinction occurred when a huge asteroid or comet struck the earth at high speed. The impact created a gigantic crater and caused an enormous amount of dust particles to be released into the atmosphere, blocking out sunlight for many months or years. Without sunlight, photosynthesis stopped, green plants died and the food chain got disrupted. The rock record contains much evidence of this hypothesis. Palaeontologists (scientists who study forms of life existing in former geologic periods, as represented by their fossils) found two craters from that period: a huge crater 180 kilometres in diameter near Chicxulub, Mexico, and another crater at Boltysh, Ukraine, suggesting there were two impacts. Apart from these craters, huge deposits of tektites (black glassy particles formed from asteroid impacts) and iridium (an element

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 Artist impression of an asteroid that created Chicxulub crater NASA (CC BY 2.0)

found only deep in the earth’s mantle and in extra-terrestrial rocks) have been found in more than 100 locations around the earth as a layer immediately above the layer of Cretaceous fossil deposits.

Volcanic Eruption Theory Gerta Keller, a well-known palaeontologist from Princeton University, and her team believe they have disproved the asteroid theory. They assert — for example, by providing evidence that the Chicxulub crater was created about 100,000 years before the K-T extinction, far too early to have caused it — that volcanic eruptions in the Deccan Trap were responsible for the K-T extinction. The Deccan Trap is a region in the westcentral part of India formed by colossal volcanic eruptions that occurred 65 million years ago, resulting in enormous basalt lava flows. These lava flows exist as flat-lying regions, today cover an area of about 500,000 square kilometres, and are over 2 kilometres thick in places! The eruptions in the Deccan Plateau likely lasted ‘only’ 750,000 years, but the eruption rates were at least 30 times the rate of Hawaiian eruptions today. Most importantly, the eruptions began just before the K-T boundary, when the K-T extinction event occurred. (The Deccan volcano is still active. Its hot spot

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now lies under the volcanic island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean.) Keller believes that any mass extinction event must have been preceded by extraordinary environmental damage. For her, volcanic eruptions were the most promising angle: each of Earth’s four previous mass extinctions are

Deccan Plateau, India

© User:Nichalp / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0


… the debate on the cause of the fifth mass extinction has taken on critical importance because Earth is now in the middle of the sixth extinction, one that may result in the extinction of humanity itself.

The dry, hilly Deccan terrain in late winter © Max5128 | Dreamstime.com

linked with enormous volcanic eruptions, each lasting about one million years. Both a volcano’s absolute size and rate of eruption make the eruptions cataclysmic. The earth is able to recover from large environmental disruptions provided those disruptions are paced out. Monstrous eruptions that occur too quickly together will overwhelm the planet’s ability to return to an equilibrium. Keller and collaborators have found evidence of their theory. The Deccan Trap’s largest, most lethal eruptions began only 40,000-60,000 years before the mass extinction. Studying the fossils of single-celled marine organisms named foraminifera — widely used to indicate the severity of prehistoric disasters because of the organisms extreme sensitivity to changes in nutrients, oxygen, salinity and temperature — in the Deccan Trap, they found that the populations declined not all at once but over time, 300,000 years before the asteroid struck, indicating a single event wasn’t responsible for their disappearance.

Conclusion While Keller’s volcanic-eruption theory looks

more compelling, we must remember that two catastrophic events occurred at the period of the K-T boundary: an asteroid impact, at some point during the boundary, and the Deccan Traps (gigantic volcanic eruptions), straddling the boundary. Indeed, that’s why there is a boundary: geologists have defined the end of the Mesozoic Era based on a large extinction of creatures on land and in the sea. Both an asteroid impact and a series of gigantic eruptions would have had extreme global effects on the weather and the atmosphere. Therefore, until more evidence is found, we must keep an open mind. Finally, the debate on the cause of the fifth mass extinction has taken on critical importance because Earth is now in the middle of the sixth extinction, one that may result in the extinction of humanity itself.

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Point(s) to Ponder What are the major arguments of each theory?

Sources / Further Reading 1. The History, Origins, and Causes of Mass Extinctions| ResearchGate, www. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

researchgate.net/publication/253584386_The_History_Origins_and_ Causes_of_Mass_Extinctions K-T Boundary | Universe Today, www.universetoday.com/39801/k-tboundary/ K-T Extinction | Encyclopaedia Britannica, www.britannica.com/science/ K-T-extinction The K-T Extinction | UCMP, www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/education/events/ cowen1b.html The Nastiest Feud in Science | The Atlantic, www.theatlantic.com/ magazine/archive/2018/09/dinosaur-extinction-debate/565769/ Down to Earth with Paleontologist Gerta Keller | Earth, www. earthmagazine.org/article/down-earth-paleontologist-gerta-keller Exploring Extinction: An Interview with Gerta Keller | Owlcation, www. owlcation.com/stem/Exploring-Extinction-An-Interview-with-GertaKeller Massive Volcanoes, Meteorite Impacts Delivered One-Two Death Punch To Dinosaurs | Princeton University, www.princeton.edu/ news/2011/11/17/massive-volcanoes-meteorite-impacts-delivered-onetwo-death-punch-dinosaurs

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Da Vinca Global Report

E

How Much of The World Needs to Be Covered in Solar Panels to Power Earth? An area the size of Spain or South Africa might be all it takes.

Multiple solar cells form a solar panel and multiple panels form a solar array.

 An Indian worker conducts routine checks of solar panels at ‘Shakti Sthala’, the 2,000 Megawatt solar power park about 150 km from Bangalore, on 1 March 2018. Covering 13,000 acres by the time it’s completed, Shakti Sthala will be the world’s largest solar park. MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP/Getty Images

S

olar energy is known to cause much fewer negative effects on the environment compared to energy derived from burning fossil fuels. In addition, as the energy is generated from sunlight, it is renewal and sustainable. So, is it possible for Earth to be powered solely by solar energy? How much of the world needs to be covered in solar panels for this to happen?

The Move Towards Solar Energy The world’s total energy usage, driven primarily by increasing population and rapid industrialisation, has increased significantly over the years. However, solar energy represents only a small fraction of total energy consumed. In the United States, for example, this renewable energy represented just over 1.9% of all electricity generated in 2017. Although this was nearly double the figure in 2015, there is still lots of room for growth. Solar energy is the electrical energy derived from the sun’s radiation. Photons released from a continuous nuclear fusion process in the sun hit solar cells on Earth, causing electricity to be generated. Multiple solar cells form a solar panel and multiple panels form a solar array. Solar arrays capture large amounts of sunlight which are then used to generate electricity. Theoretically, if we place enough solar arrays around Earth, we should be able to generate enough electricity to meet global energy demands.

How Much Space Do Countries Need to Meet Their Electricity Requirements? There are two factors to consider when dealing with solar energy generation: The amount of sunlight each country gets and the country’s energy usage.

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It has been estimated that 87% of all countries in the world can be self-sufficient in power generation by allocating less than 5% of their land areas to house solar panels.

Powering the Entire Planet An estimation done by Land Art Generator, a nonprofit organisation that showcases sustainable energy infrastructure, noted that solar panels covering an area of 496,805 square kilometres of land — about the size of Spain — could completely power Earth. In a separate study, it was estimated that 1.1 million square kilometres of space was required. This is almost equivalent to the size of South Africa. While these figures seem to suggest that not a lot of space is required to generate electricity, many hypotheses and assumptions are used in

© Serdiukigor | Dreamstime.com

It has been estimated that 87% of all countries in the world can be self-sufficient in power generation by allocating less than 5% of their land areas to house solar panels. For example, given the United Kingdom’s current electrical consumption, 12.3% of its land or 29,690 square kilometres, needs to be covered with solar panels for it to generate enough electricity to meet its own needs. Going across the Atlantic to Canada, only 0.3% or approximately 24,010 square kilometres of Canada’s land area will be needed. Elon Musk, the co-founder of Tesla, the manufacturer of electric cars, has his own idea about solar energy power. He once said that “you only need about 100 miles by 100 miles of solar panels to power the entire United States”. Compared to larger countries, some small nations will require areas much larger than their own sizes to site solar panels on. This is because of their high population densities and levels of urbanisation, both of which have a direct impact on their electricity consumption. For instance, Singapore would need 830% of its land covered with solar panels to provide sufficient electricity for its own needs! Its close cousin, Hong Kong, would require 213%. Unless land elsewhere is available, these figures make it completely impractical for these countries to rely solely on solar energy.

SOLAR PANEL

Process of converting sunlight to electricity in a solar panel

these calculations. We would need to move beyond mathematical calculations to actual installations, done on massive scales, before we can be sure.

Is Earth Ready to Go On Solar? The sun radiates Earth with 430 quintillion (1018) joules of energy every hour. Such an abundant energy source, if harnessed efficiently, will likely be able to supply the planet with all the power it requires. I look forward to the day when this is made possible.

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Point(s) to Ponder Would all the countries of the world agree to use a single solar energy source? If they do, how would such a system be funded? Which country would it be located in?

Sources / Further Reading 1. A World Powered By Solar Energy Is Within Our Reach | Digital Journal, 2. 3. 4. 5.

digitaljournal.com/tech-and-science/technology/we-can-power-theworld-with-solar-using-a-tiny-amount-of-land/article/520625 Elon Musk: How Many Solar Panels Does the World Need? | Green Optimistic, greenoptimistic.com/solar-power-generation-elon-musk/ Here’s how many solar panels we’d need to provide power for the entire planet | Digital Trends, www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/solar-panelspain-energy/ Surface Area Required To Power The World | Land Art Generation, landartgenerator.org/blagi/archives/127 Here’s How Much Of The World Would Need To Be Covered In Solar Panels To Power Earth | Business Insider, www.businessinsider.com/mapshows-solar-panels-to-power-the-earth-2015-9

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HOMTM Focus

Managing

Impulsivity The sign of intelligent people is their ability to control emotions by the application of reason. Marya Mannes Tikwa/Pixabay.com (CC0 1.0)

D

o you ever find yourself just blurting out what comes to mind, then regretting it later? Or jumping in to do some work before you read the directions? Do you observe people who jump to conclusions without considering what the impact might be? These behaviours all point to the need to manage our impulsivity. The main purpose of your brain is survival, and many of the structures in the brain are involved in making certain you do just that. Originally these structures were designed to survive attacks from wild beasts or enemies. In contemporary society, the dangers are often not physical but social. However, the brain doesn’t differentiate between the two; the same mechanisms are at play whether the threat is real or perceived. When a person believes a situation to be threatening, a number of changes occur in the brain. This biological response is commonly called the ‘Fight, Flight or Freeze’ (often abbreviated to Fight or Flight) response. All these changes occur in the neo-cortex of the brain where rational thinking and problem solving take place. It is also where one manages impulsivity. During a time of perceived threat, the neo-cortex becomes less efficient. (Think about a time when you

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were insulted and couldn’t think of a good retort until later!) The upside of the Fight or Flight response is that after the initial reaction, we have a choice of ways to respond. Suppose someone says something you don’t like. Your immediate internal reaction is to become angry — the Fight or Flight response is activated. But seconds later you send a message to your brain saying,

What is the difference between those who have learned to manage their impulsivity well and those who have not? “I don’t think either Fight or Flight is an appropriate response here.” In this case you have the ability to manage your initial impulsive reaction. Not everyone manages his or her impulsivity well. Examples are all around us: ‘road rage’, gang violence, fights, etc. What is the difference between those who have learned to manage their impulsivity well and those who have not? • Age: The neural pathways in the brain that lead from the rational neo-cortex to the emotional centre of the brain and give us some control


over our reactions are not in place at birth. As the child matures, these pathways become more efficient and the child’s responses become more appropriate. Full biological maturation of these pathways often does not occur until people are in their mid-20s. • Experience: If the only response to anger a child experiences is lashing out, then it is likely that the child’s brain will become ‘wired’ to lash out. For example, if children learn or are taught they cannot get everything they want, they are unlikely to do the first thing that comes to mind. The brain, however, can be easily shaped or moulded: we can continue to learn ways to manage our impulsive behaviours throughout our lifetimes. Following are some strategies to help manage your impulsivity:

STAR

Stop: Count to 10. Take a deep breath. Take a walk. Think: What is it about this situation that’s causing my feelings?

The brain, however, can be easily shaped or moulded: we can continue to learn ways to manage our impulsive behaviours throughout our lifetimes.

Act: What actions can I take to relieve these feelings? Reflect: Was this a good solution? What insights have I gained?

SODAS

Situation: What, where and why is this happening that produces my feelings? Options: What are my options for actions to take? Disadvantages: What disadvantages are there with each of these options? Advantages: What advantages are there with each of these options? Solutions: What is the best solution for me to take?

Name It, Reframe It, And Tame It

iClipart (2)

1. Name It: Identify situations where your buttons might be pushed and what is the root cause for your anger 2. Reframe It: Believe that you can change the way you react when others push your buttons, seeing it as an opportunity to learn about yourself, what troubles you and how you can avoid these situations in the future. 3. Tame It: Use one of the following strategies to keep your emotions under control: • Buy time by leaving the situation for a while • Count to 10 • Take a deep breath • Rewind the tape

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Primal Science

EP

How Do We Estimate the Age of the Earth?

Zircon crystals, the oldest mineral element on Earth

Like many other scientific endeavours, dating our planet has been a journey of constant evolution, constant improvement.

Introduction For a long time, Earth’s age has been a question of considerable interest within the scientific and religious communities. Many answers — some nothing more than assertions based on literal interpretations of religious texts — have been provided, but science has come to the rescue, providing increasingly more precise answers. In 1898, Marie Curie discovered the phenomenon of radioactivity: the fact that unstable atoms lose energy or decay by emitting radiation in the form of particles or electromagnetic waves. In 1904, Ernest Rutherford, a physicist, used the decay process as a clock to date old rocks. Around the time, Arthur Holmes was studying geology at the Imperial College of Science in London. He came up with the ‘uranium-lead’ method of dating rocks. Using this technique, Holmes dated his oldest rock and proposed that Earth was at least 1.6 billion years old. Over the last 400 years, scientific methods to date the planet have used the time it took for the earth or the sun to cool to their present temperatures, changing sea

Harry Taylor/Getty Images

[R]adiometric dating [is] the dating of geological specimens by comparing the measured amount of a naturally occurring radioactive element and its decay products, assuming a constant rate of decay termed half-life. levels, and the salinity of the ocean, but these methods have subsequently proven to be unreliable.

Study the Rocks Scientists then turned to studying the rocks that cover Earth’s surface. However, plate tectonics regularly modify the structure and constituents of the Earth’s surface. This means that Earth’s first rocks have been recycled, melted down, and renewed into new and different forms of rocks. The early 20th century saw improvements in the science of radiometric dating: the dating of geological specimens by comparing the measured amount of a naturally occurring radioactive element and its decay products, assuming a constant rate of decay termed half-life. Background: WikiImages/Pixabay.com (CC0 1.0)

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Study our Neighbours To improve the precision of their results, scientists started to look at other ways of determining Earth’s age. They studied the other heavenly bodies in the Solar System to try to find out more about the planet’s early history. The moon, being the closest body to the earth and not having gone through the same geological upheavals as the earth, naturally made the most sense to study. Scientists figured rocks from early lunar history ought to be present on the moon. The Apollo and Luna missions provided rock samples that were between 4.4 and 4.5 billion years old, further narrowing the age of the earth.

What about the Visitors? Meteorites, small rocky visitors to our planet, can also be used to determine how old our planet is. Scientists have studied meteorites that fell on Earth ages ago to approximate the age of these rocks and, by extension, predict how old Earth is. Radiometric dating has been used to calculate the ages of over 70 of the meteorites that have fallen on our planet; the highest numbers

Manfred Schmid/Getty Images

For example, scientists could analyse a sample from Earth’s crust, determine the amounts of uranium and lead (whose half-lives are known), then compute the age of the rock in which they were found, and, by extension, the youngest possible age of the earth. Over the 20th century, that number kept rising: scientists made tens of thousands of radiometricage measurements. Earth’s age crept up to at least 3 billion years, at least 3.5 billion years and finally at the minimum 3.8 billion years. On 24th February 2014, Australian researchers found the oldest mineral elements on earth: zircons (zirconium silicate crystals), dated to be approximately 4.3 billion years old. Although we haven’t yet found the source rocks of these crystals, the zircon crystals set a lower limit on Earth’s age — clearly, the planet must be older than anything that is present on its surface.

Meteorites displayed on 18 June 2013 during the handover of moon rocks from NASA Apollo Missions 15 and 17 at the Natural History Museum in Vienna, Austria.

found (ie, the oldest ages measured) are 4.4 billion to 4.5 billion years. As of today, science tells us that we have found some zircons — the oldest datable materials we have found thus far — in very old rocks formed at least 4.404 ± 0.008 billion years ago, meaning that Earth is clearly considerably older than this. For comparison, the Milky Way galaxy that contains our solar system has been dated to about 13.2 billion years old, while the universe itself is 13.8 billion years old.

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Point(s) to Ponder What can you conclude about the scientific method from this article?

Sources / Further Reading 1. How Old is Earth | Space, www.space.com/24854-how-old-is-earth.html 2. How is Earth’s Age Calculated? | Live Science, www.livescience. com/32321-how-is-earths-age-calculated.html

3. How do scientists figure out Earth’s age? | EarthSky, earthsky.org/earth/ how-old-is-the-earth

4. Do you believe that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old according to science, or 6000 years old according to the Bible? | Quora, www.quora.com/ Do-you-believe-that-the-Earth-is-4-5-billion-years-old-accordingto-science-or-6000-years-old-according-to-the-Bible/answer/GaryWalker-10

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Think+ Heroes

DS

A

n Wang was a Chinese–American computer engineer and inventor, developer of the basic concept of the magnetic core memory, and founder of Wang Laboratories, a company which developed one of the first general-purpose desktop computers. Born in Shanghai, China, Wang started his formal education at age six when he entered the third grade in a private elementary school. His grandmother tutored him diligently in Confucianism, a Chinese philosophy that embodied the principles of moderation, patience, balance, and simplicity — attributes that he later concluded were important to success in business. When Japan invaded China during World War II, Wang was a teaching assistant at Chiao Tung University in Shanghai. He joined a team that provided radios for the Chinese Nationalist troops. He was in charge of scrounging and scavenging parts and improvising the designs to build radios for military use. After WWII, Wang, then a young engineer, flew to Harvard University in the US to study applied physics. He worked in the Harvard Computation Laboratory after completing his PhD to assist research fellow Howard Aiken in building electronic computers. Within a day or two of starting work, Aiken asked Wang to develop a way to store and retrieve data in a computer using magnetic devices. Wang studied the magnetic properties of small doughnut-shaped rings of materials that could become highly magnetised, and soon developed a process by which one could read the information stored in a ring by passing a current around it. This simple and elegant concept became Wang’s greatest technical achievement; it would be applied to all magnetic-core memories that would be developed subsequently. It could be mass-produced at low cost, making it the most important innovation in the

“Development of reliable, high-speed ferrite core memories that could be mass-produced at low cost was probably the most important innovation that made stored-program computers a practical, commercial reality.” Emerson W Pugh, 1984

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skeeze/Pixabay.com (CC0 1.0)

Wang’s idea of using small doughnut-shaped rings to store data was critical to the development of hard disks. Here is a hard disk from a personal computer. Hard disks are rigid non-removable magnetic disks used for storing information in a computer.

development of computers in the 1950 to 1970 period. These cores remained a basic part of computers into the 1970s. It has been said, “Development of reliable, highspeed ferrite core memories that could be massproduced at low cost was probably the most important innovation that made stored-program computers a practical, commercial reality.” (Emerson W Pugh, 1984). Wang considered hard and long whether to patent his design. At the time, there was a feeling at some universities that patents were evil and should not be taken out on inventions made by academics. Wang did file for a patent and subsequently earned substantial royalties (money earned from sales) from IBM and other computer manufacturers who used magnetic-core memories. He would go on to hold about 40 patents in total. In 1951, Wang left the Computation Laboratory and used his life savings to start his own electronics company, Wang Laboratories. In the mid-1960s, he invented a method to perform arithmetic calculations electronically at high speeds and relatively low cost. His desktop calculators quickly became popular, replacing traditional calculators that used mechanical parts in schools, scientific laboratories, engineering firms, and other businesses. As the business landscape evolved, Wang was confronted with the need to find new products to keep


Wang was awarded 23 honorary degrees in his lifetime. his company competitive. He started manufacturing word processors and small business computers. Business boomed In the 1970s and early ’80s, Wang Laboratories was one of the most successful US high-technology companies. By 1986, it was a US$3 billion enterprise employing 30,000 people working in factories and offices throughout the world. In 1982, Wang passed management responsibilities to his son and other managers, while he devoted more time to educational activities. He served as an adviser to several colleges and as a member of the Board of Regents of the University of Massachusetts. In the 1990s, Wang’s company started to falter, so he sold his software business to Kodak, and began working with Microsoft. The reorganisation enabled the company to prosper once again. Wang ascribed to Confucianism his belief that a sense of satisfaction comes from service to one’s community. In his later years, he donated generously to education, the arts, and the medical field.

Wang was awarded 23 honorary degrees in his lifetime. He was given the United States Medal of Freedom in 1986 and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1988. Wang’s engineering insight and business success is an inspiration to young entrepreneurs worldwide. Success is more a function of consistent common sense than it is of genius. An Wang

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Point(s) to Ponder In your opinion, which Habits of Mind did Wang apply to his business to ensure its prosperity over the years?

Sources / Further Reading 1. An Wang | Computer Society, history.computer.org/pioneers/wang.html 2. An Wang Biography | Encyclopedia of World Biography, www. notablebiographies.com/Tu-We/Wang-An.html

3. An Wang | Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Wang 4. An Wang | Britannica, www.britannica.com/biography/An-Wang 5. An Wang Biography | The Famous People, www.thefamouspeople.com/ profiles/dr-an-wang-692.php

An Wang

1920-1990

Bettmann/GettyImages

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Growth Mindset

My Brain Never Stops Growing ‘Growth Mindset’, introduced in the September 2018 issue of Think+ Perspective, is a set of underlying beliefs that our abilities for, for example, skill acquisition, learning achievement, professional success, and personal relationships, can be developed through hard work and effort. Several studies have shown that your mindset can have a profound effect on many aspects of your life.

R

esearch has conclusively shown that with committed effort and practice we can make enduring, previously-unimaginable changes to our brain throughout our lifetime. Our brain’s ability to change itself, to rewire itself to adapt to a situation, is called neuroplasticity or brain plasticity. The best way of understanding this is to look at the brain as a muscle. Exercising and lifting weights makes our muscles stronger; similarly, exercising our brain makes it stronger. Scientists have found that

learning new things makes our brain denser and heavier. For example, the Journal of Neuroscience published a study in 2012 showing that the brains of people who had been born deaf had rewired: the portion of the brain usually associated with processing sound was now processing touch and vision. In his book The Brain: The Story of You, neuroscientist David Eagleman recounts an amazing story. When four years old, Cameron Mott had half her brain removed to try to treat a rare disease. After the surgery, Cameron’s brain rewired itself and became practically indistinguishable from those of her classmates. It has been found that, because London cab drivers had to remember over 25,000 city streets to pass the city’s cab-licensing examination, their hippocampi — the part of the brain responsible for memory — had enlarged because of the practice. How do we explain these three cases?

When four years old, Cameron Mott had half her brain removed to try to treat a rare disease. After the surgery, Cameron’s brain rewired itself and became practically indistinguishable from those of her classmates

When happens when you diligently practice a skill, eg guitar playing, and correct your mistakes is that you are building and strengthening pathways between neurons. And now we know this can happen at any age. Free-Photos/Pixabay.com (CC0 1.0)

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© Designua | Dreamstime.com

Our brain contains approximately 86 billion neurons (nerve cells). When you use your brain — which is pretty much all the time — electrical signals travel through an axon (pathway), are received by dendrites (tiny finger-like structures that branch out from neurons), and are delivered to the body of another neuron. Here, the signal can be sent out again to another neuron.

Strong pathways between neurons in the brain mean greater and faster signals between them — exactly like the bandwidth of your Internet connection. The more learning you do the more pathways you create between neurons. The more a pathway is travelled the stronger it gets. Strong pathways between neurons in the brain mean greater and faster signals between them — exactly like the bandwidth of your Internet connection. All this ultimately translates to more learning (more pathways) and better and faster recall (stronger pathways). Everyone’s brain has the capability to make connections and grow; the trick is to keep learning and practising. There’s a good metaphor for this: imagine you live

in the middle of a jungle, and every day you walk from your home to a little river. The first time you do this you probably have to create a path through the undergrowth for you to walk. The next day, it is a little easier because of the path you cleared earlier. Do this every day and over time you will have created a well-worn path that you can easily and quickly follow to get to the river from your home. Knowledge, skills and habits are exactly like this path you frequent, except that they exist as connections in the brain. Learn something new and you have to create a new path; do something over and over and it becomes easier and easier because you’re constantly using the same neuronal paths. We are not born stupid or smart. Some of us will naturally be better at some things than others; that’s the way things are. But the people who have risen to the top of their fields — whether they are professors or sportspeople — got there because they treated setbacks, challenges, mistakes, etc, as opportunities to learn. And their biggest learning (and the most significant brain growth) happened when they made a mistake. Embrace challenge as a natural part of learning. Be as concerned about the working as the answer, about the process as the solution. The measure of intelligence is the ability to change. Albert Einstein

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Technology

DS EP

H

ave you ever wondered how the Internet gets from the provider to your house? Or why some places have fast Internet while others have a really slow connection? Sure, you just connect your phone or computer to the local Wi-Fi signal, but how does that signal get there in the first place?

Internet Connections An Internet service provider (ISP) is like a phone company for the Internet. They both have a physical network of cables, or towers and satellites, or both, which are used to relay information around the globe. When a phone is connected by a cord to a building, it uses what is termed a ‘landline connection’. The signal from the phone travels through the phone cord to the outside of the building where the thick black phone lines and power lines are connected. From there it travels down the network of phone lines to the phone company’s location, where it gets directed to whomever is on the other end of the call. Most people these days use mobile phones, not landline phones. There is no need for a phone cord or a network of phone lines, since the signal travels over a system of radio towers and satellites instead. The Internet can be connected in both these ways as well. The Wi-Fi signal in a building comes from a Wi-Fi router, a small box that uses radio waves to transmit data. If you look at the back of most routers, you’ll notice that they’re connected to the wall using a phone cord. This “landline” Internet is called Ethernet, and the data travels over a physical network of wires just like with a landline phone. You can also access the Internet without using Wi-Fi or Ethernet. The same towers and satellites that are used by mobile service providers to transmit phone calls are used to deliver an Internet connection to your mobile phone as well.

You may have noticed that the Internet works much faster when you use an Ethernet connection compared to using your mobile service.

Gigabit

Internet

blickpixel/Pixabay.com (CC0 1.0)

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Internet Speed You may have noticed that the Internet works much faster when you use an Ethernet connection compared to using your mobile service. Since Ethernet is a physical connection, the signal strength is usually very strong, allowing for faster Internet speeds. Internet speed is measured by the amount of data that can be transferred in one second. The data is measured in megabits, and Internet speed is in megabits per second (mbps). Before data can be sent over the Internet, it needs to be converted into binary, the language of ones and zeros used by computers. A bit is one of those ones or zeros, and a megabit is 1,000,000 bits. (This is the telecommunications definition; the computer definition of a megabit is 220 bits, or 1,048,576 bits.) Singapore has some of the fastest Internet on the planet, with an average fixed broadband (Ethernet) speed of 180 mbps and average mobile speed of 44 mbps (compared to global averages of 50 mbps for broadband and 23 mbps for mobile). At those speeds, in Singapore it would take around one minute to download a full-length movie over Ethernet, or around four minutes over mobile. Some companies have begun building new networks of advanced cables that can transmit data even faster. At 1,000 megabits (or 1 gigabit) per second, gigabit Internet would allow you to download that same movie in just 10 seconds!

Wireless Gigabit Internet Until recently, ultra-fast gigabit Internet has been available only over Ethernet connections, and only in cities where the necessary network of special cables has been built. If your town doesn’t have the right cables, it wouldn’t be possible to get such a fast Internet connection. A new company called Starry has developed technology that can provide gigabit Internet wirelessly, so it doesn’t matter if your town doesn’t have the cables yet. The big difference between Starry and standard mobile providers is in the frequency of waves used to transmit data. Most Wi-Fi signals are sent over the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz radio bands (think radio stations). Millimeter waves are sent over 30 GHz to 300 GHz bands. The higher frequency means a higher speed of information,

© Vichai Laorapeepornthong | Dreamstime.com

Mobile phone towers for 3G, 4G and 5G systems, successively faster cellular technologies for mobile communications.

allowing for speeds of 1,000 mbps (1 gbps). The drawback of millimeter waves is that they don’t travel as far, requiring Starry to also develop a global network of routers to pass the signal along. As the amount of data that gets transferred over the Internet gets bigger, faster connections become more important. Wireless Gigabit Internet will bring super-fast Internet to more places around the world.

Sources / Further Reading 1. Gigabit Ethernet | Techopedia, www.techopedia.com/definition/7407/ gigabit-ethernet-gbe

2. What Is Gigabit Ethernet? | Lifewire, www.lifewire.com/definition-ofgigabit-ethernet-816338

3. Speedtest Market Report – Singapore | SpeedTest, www.speedtest.net/ reports/singapore/

4. Gigabit Internet over the air is coming | TechRepublic, www.techrepublic. com/article/starry-launches-bid-to-deliver-gigabit-Internet-over-the-airwith-new-technology/ 5. Technology | Starry, www.starry.com/technology 6. The founder of Aereo is promising to bring gigabit Internet to every home | The Verge, www.theverge.com/2016/1/27/10841600/starrywireless-gigabit-Internet-project-from-aereo-founder

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screengrab (2)

Insights / Hacks

I

f you don’t know how to code yet, it’s time to learn. Digital technologies are underpinning developments in every industry, from banking to transport to telecommunications. In Singapore, the Government has started to prepare future generations by distributing more than 100,000 pocket-sized, codable computers called “micro:bits” to schools and communities to help children and adults master basic coding. Here are some resources that could help you to find a place in the new digital economy.

Learn Coding, the Digital Way

If you want to pick up coding in your spare time, consider taking an online course. The NTUC Learning Hub recommends five specific ones: The Web Developer Bootcamp, Accelerated JavaScript Training, Learn Bootstrap Development, Complete Python Web Course, and Unity Android Game Development. The Web Developer Bootcamp is for those who want to learn a bit of everything, including the programming languages HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. More than 350,000 people have enrolled in the course, which includes exercises, readings and more than 10 projects.

Learning

to Code Coding is an essential skill in the new digital economy.

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The Accelerated JavaScript Training course, on the other hand, focuses on the JavaScript programming language, one of the most widely-used for web development. In the Learn Bootstrap Development programme, students are familiarised with Bootstrap, a digital framework used to design websites and web applications, and tasked to complete 10 projects with it. These include setting up an e-commerce template, a corporate website, and a photo gallery. The Complete Python Web Course offers a similar hands-on approach to learning the Python programming language, while the Unity Android Game Development classes aim to enable people to build Android-based games.

Attend Classes for Coding

If you want to learn coding in physical classes and alongside real-life people, there is no shortage of coding

If you want to learn coding in physical classes and alongside real-life people, there is no shortage of coding schools in Singapore.


schools in Singapore. At the Early Coders Academy, teenagers aged 12 to 18 can take web development courses, for complete beginners, that cover HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and other programming languages. The academy also has mobile-app development classes where students are taught basic user-experience design and interface design, and learn how to create an app and upload it to Google Play. The First Code Academy, for its part, has two programmes for teenagers. The First Code Creator programme, for ages 12 and up, spans foundational lessons in computer science concepts, and applied ones in developing apps. In the more challenging First Code Entrepreneur course, for those 15 and older, students design and code solutions for local non-government organisations. The school has partnered with the Fair Employment Agency and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in the past. The SG Code Campus offers two types of coding classes for those aged 13 to 18. One is for teenagers who want to learn Python, while the other, more advanced option is to prepare students who are going to take computer science as part of their International Baccalaureate syllabus. At the Computhink school, the popular Minecraft game is used to teach students 11 and older how to program using Python. You can also take classes at the Coding Lab, where the curriculum is divided into three phases: a foundational one that covers programming languages; an applied one where students develop algorithms and create the basic building blocks of applications; and an elective one where they can choose from modules that include game programming, data processing, computer modelling and simulations, and artificial intelligence.

If you don’t know how to code yet, it’s time to learn.

Code in the Community

To ensure that underprivileged teenagers have an opportunity to learn coding too, technology giant Google has sponsored an initiative called Code in the Community to bring free coding classes to 3,000 young Singaporeans, aged 8 to 15, from lower-income families. Visit www.codeinthecommunitysg.com to find out more. With so many ways to equip yourself with coding skills, there’s no better time to start than now.

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Point(s) to Ponder Why is learning how to code important?

Sources / Further Reading 1. Top 5 Programming Course For People With No Coding Experience | 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

NTUC Learning Hub, www.ntuclearninghub.com/top-5-programmingcourses-people-no-coding-experience/ Early Coders Academy, www.earlycoders.com First Code Academy, www.firstcodeacademy.com/en/city SG Code Campus, www.sgcodecampus.com/ Computhink, www.computhink.com.sg/ Coding Lab, www.codinglab.com.sg/ Code in the Community, www.codeinthecommunitysg.com

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Funny Think

Riddles

Quotes

Q: Sometimes, I leave you with “mixed” feelings. More times than not, I teach you a lesson. I give what I didn’t create. What am I? A: A book

Comedy is a tool of togetherness. It’s a way of putting your arm around someone, pointing at something, and saying, “Isn’t it funny that we do that?” It’s a way of reaching out. Kate McKinnon

Q: I am a battle of wits. The battle is fought by two sides, with each taking turns in stratagem. Each side has an army to do its bidding. For one to win the leader of the other must die. What am I? A: A game of chess

I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. Arthur Conan Doyle

Q: I am an instrument that you can hear, but you cannot touch or see me. What am I? A: Your voice Q: When I’m born, I stay in the sun a little time, and I make crazy. When I’m old, I can be worth a fortune. What am I? A: Wine Q: What type of drum are you not able to play? A: Conundrum

Jokes

Student Bean

A teacher asked her students to use the word “beans” in a sentence. “My father grows beans”, said one girl. “My mother cooks beans”, said a boy. A third student spoke up, “We are all human beans.”

Tasty Question

A boy asks his father, “Dad, are bugs good to eat?” “That’s disgusting. Don’t talk about things like that over dinner”, the dad replies. After dinner the father asks, “Now, son, what did you want to ask me?” “Oh, nothing”, the boy says. “There was a bug in your soup, but now it’s gone.”

Learning About Letters

“I would like vitamins for my son”, a mother said. “Vitamin A, B or C?” the pharmacist asked. “It doesn’t matter”, the mother replied. “He can’t read yet.”

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You know, it wasn’t even that I’m a funny guy, I just loved stand-up comedy and I wanted to do it. It was one of the few things in my life that I knew I was going to be able to do, and I also felt as though I’d be able to do it the way I wanted to do it. Bill Burr I got a lot of support from my parents. That’s the one thing I always appreciated. They didn’t tell me I was being stupid; they told me I was being funny. Jim Carrey Do not worry about avoiding temptation. As you grow older it will avoid you. Joey Adams

Puns The popularity of hot-air riding is ballooning. I listen to the radio with such frequency that my ear Hertz. What do you call the medical condition where your feet go to sleep? Coma-toes. When deciding between climbing up or using a tool, choose the ladder. I have a seamstress friend whose job is hanging by a thread and yet is wonderful at keeping her sense of humour. She is sew funny she always has me in stitches.


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HOMTM Fun

Match It First read the article “Was the Fifth Extinction Caused not by an Asteroid but by Volcanic Eruptions?”, then, using the material below, match the descriptions on the right to one of the two theories on the left.

Asteroid theory *

Volcanic Eruption theory *

studying fossils of single-celled marine organisms

enormous basalt lava flows in the Deccan Trap

huge craters found near Mexico

proposed by two American scientists

cataclysmic volcanic eruptions

finding huge deposits of extraterrestrial rocks

True or False Read the article “Gigabit Internet” and answer “True” or “False” for the statements below. 1. “ISP” stands for “Internet Service Provider”.

4. Megabit is the unit for the amount of data that can be transferred in

T/F T/F T/F T/F

one second. 5. Ethernet is the fixed broadband internet connected by physical wires. 6. Ultra-fast gigabit Internet is only available over Ethernet connections.

T/F T/F

2. The ISP has a physical network of cables, or towers and satellites. 3. A Wi-Fi router uses radio waves to transmit data.

Word Scramble Re-arrange the words below to see the key concepts from the article “How Do We Estimate the Age of the Earth?”. RATIODVACTIIY

R __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

DAECY

D __ __ __ __

GOGLOEY

G __ __ __

DANTIG

D __ __ __ __ __

ELNMEETS

C __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

MONO

M __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

MEEOTERITS

M __ __ __ __

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HOMTM Fun

What Pushes Your Buttons? Are you someone who gets triggered easily? Are there certain actions that trigger you more than others? Look through the list below and consider carefully exactly which acts or circumstances set you off? •

Being told “no”

Being bumped into

Waiting

Loud noises

Hunger

Losing a game

Too much to do

Rumours or gossip

Being late

Being ignored

Being criticised

Being left out

Being tired

Being interrupted

Not understanding what to do

Being touched

When things do not go as planned

Others: ______________________

Observing and knowing yourself is the first step to finding out the root cause of your emotions running wild. Choose some coping strategies listed below and practice them. Have fun and learn to manage your emotions at the same time! •

Read a book or magazine

Ride a bicycle or scooter bike

Hug a tree (or just look at it)

Create origami

Write it down

Cook something

Doodle it

Talk to someone you trust

Take a walk

Get a hug

Drink water

Clean the room or de-clutter

Make and play with slime

Listen to music

Take a shower

Kick, bounce or throw a ball

Blow bubbles

Others: ______________________

Volcanic Eruption theory: studying fossils of single-celled marine organisms/ enormous basalt lava flows in the Deccan Trap/ cataclysmic volcanic eruptions Asteroid theory: huge craters found near Mexico/ proposed by two American scientists/ finding huge deposits of extra-terrestrial rocks

Answers 27

RADIOACTIVITY / DECAY / GEOLOGY / DATING / ELEMENTS / MOON / METEORITES 1. T, 2. T, 3. T, 4. T, 5. T, 6. F


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