Snowed-under School Tells Students to Work at Home
November 12, 2014
Minnesota students worked from home recently when a snowstorm closed their high school for a day. Rather than write off the day as a snow day, the principal of St. Cloud Cathedral high school ordered students to use laptops, tablets, and other electronic means of learning to do their school work. It was a one-day test, but the principal was so pleased with the results that the school is likely to adopt the policy going forward. Teachers had uploaded their lesson plans and student assignments to the school's online portal by 10 a.m. The students, in grades 7-12, logged on and got to work.
Magna Carta Original on Display at Library of Congress
November 12, 2014
The Library of Congress is now displaying an original copy of Magna Carta, the historic 1215 charter in which King John agreed to limit his power. Four original copies survive. The British Library has two. Salisbury Cathedral has one. Lincoln Cathedral has the other. And it is the Lincoln Cathedral copy that has been loaned to the Library of Congress. The British Library is commemorating the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta with a three-day display of all four original copies in June 2015. Before then, however, the Lincoln Cathedral copy will be the centerpiece of a 10-week exhibition titled "Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor." The exhibit closes on January 19, 2015.
More New Entrants to Toy Hall of Fame
November 9, 2014
The new members of the National Toy Hall of Fame have floated, fought, and puzzled their way in. Joining the 53 other members of the Hall of Fame are soap bubbles, little green army soldiers, and the Rubik's Cube. Examples of all will be on permanent display in the Strong's National Toy Hall of Fame museum, in Rochester, N.Y. The three new members span many decades of fun for children of all ages. Soap bubbles have been around since at least the 19th Century. Estimates are that today's retailers sell more than 200 million tiny bottles of soap bubbles each year. The tiny green soldiers seized control of the toy scene in 1938. Sales of the toy soldiers have varied through the years since then, with annual sales of the multiple millions. The Rubik's Cube, invented in the early 1970s, continues to puzzle and thrill children and adults, with estimated in the hundreds of millions in the 40 years since.
Locally Grown Food, Nutrition Videos among School Lunch Strategies
November 9, 2014
In the ongoing campaign to improve students' nutrition, schools in two states have started serving locally grown food and broadcasting nutrition-friendly programming at mealtimes, respectively. A total of 15 school districts in Northern and Southern California have begun serving fresh food grown nearby, not shipped from other states or other countries. Meanwhile, in one large school district in Florida, students who eat breakfast and lunch in the school cafeteria will have access to large-screen televisions broadcasting fitness facts, dietary information, and even short videos, all promoting the need to eat healthful food. The broadcast information will be dispatched from a central broadcast center, in a partnership between the state's Food and Nutrition Services and the state's Dairy Council.
Postal Service to Deliver on Sunday
November 9, 2014
Seeking to make up for lost time and money, the U.S. Postal Service will add Sunday delivery to its offerings from November 17 to the end of Christmas Day. The advent of seven-day delivery will take place in major cities and high-volume areas, the Postal Service said.
Antarctic Thaw Reveals Century-old Notebook
October 30, 2014
Thawing ice and snow in Antarctica have revealed yet another century-old artifact, this one a notebook from the expedition of Robert Falcon Scott. The notebook belonged not to Scott but to George Levick, who was both a surgeon and a photographer. In the notebook, Levick kept notes about he photographs he had taken at Cape Adare, in 1911, photos that are now in the Scott Polar Research Institute.
A 96-year-old Shrine to a Soldier Who Never Came Home
October 26, 2014
The soldier isn't coming home, but his bedroom is still ready for him. Hubert Rochereau, a French soldier, died on the World War I battlefields of Flanders, when he was 21. His parents kept his bedroom the way it was when he left. It still looks the same. Rochereau, born in the manor house in 1896, died at the battle of Loker, on April 26, 1918. Since that time, the owners of the French manor house in Belabre, where Rochereau and his parents once lived, have kept up their end of the bargain, fulfilling the terms of the 1936 contract of owning the house by maintaining the young soldier's bedroom intact.
Oakland's Cat Cafe a First in the U.S.
October 26, 2014
America has a cat cafe. It's called the Cat Town Cafe, and it's in Oakland, Calif. The downtown cafe is a combination of food and drink purveyor and feline rest area. Human customers are, of course, allowed to bring their cats with them. Cats can lounge on their humans' laps in a special area decked out for cats' pleasure, including models of some of the city's well-known buildings, including the iconic Tribune Tower. Murals of the San Francisco Bay Area cover the walls.
Park Avenue Apartments Tower above the Hemisphere
October 19, 2014
If you are planning your home address to be 432 Park Avenue in New York City, you will be living in the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere. At 1,396 feet tall, it is taller than the Empire State Building (by 144 feet) and the Statue of Liberty (by a lot more, 1,089 feet). The $1.3 billion tower has 96 storeys and is the second-tallest building in the city, trailing only One World Trade Center.
N.Y. Serves Up Yogurt as State Snack
October 19, 2014
Yogurt is now the official snack of New York State. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill that emphasized the state's status as the production leader of the dairy food. Estimates are that New York produced 741 million pounds of yogurt in 2013 alone, accounting for 16 percent of the nation's total. (California produced the second-most, at 591 million pounds.) Cuomo signed the bill to coincide with the second New York State Yogurt Summit, in Ithaca. The first such summit took place in 2012. The idea for the bill came from a fourth-grade class at Byron-Bergen Elementary School, in Bergen, N.Y. Students traveled to the state Capitol, in Albany, earlier this year to support the bill.
Cave Paintings Dated as World's Oldest
October 9, 2014
Redating of a trove of ancient images has sparked a debate over the world's oldest cave art. A recent study has concluded that people on Sulawesi, an Indonesian island, created stencils of their hands on cave walls nearly 40,000 years ago. If that dating is valid, it would make the cave art the oldest in the world.
Eiffel Tower Upgrades to Glass Floor
October 7, 2014
As part of the 125th anniversary of its unveiling, the Eiffel Tower now sports a glass floor. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo cut the ribbon to open a celebration of the newly renovated first floor on the iconic monument. Visitors can now look through the glass floor a total of 187 feet to the ground below. The Eiffel Tower is 1,063 feet tall. Most of the visitors head straight to the viewing platform near the top of the tower. Paris officials hope that many of those visitors, estimated at nearly 7 million each year, will stop on their way up or down to enjoy the looking-glass view.
Pyramids Theory Points to Wet Sand
May 1, 2014
Wet sand was the key to helping the ancient Egyptians build the Pyramids, new research suggests. A study out of the University of Amsterdam has put forth the hypothesis, based on modern evidence, that the Egyptians transported a large number of giant stones on wooden sleds, helping pave the way by wetting the sand.
Google Announces First Success with Driverless Cars on Busy Streets
April 29, 2014
The self-driving car is inching closer to a reality on busy streets. Google, the search engine giant known for branching out into any number of other enterprises, has announced that its driverless cars have traveled more than 700,000 miles on roads in and around northern California. The primary avenue for testing has been freeways near Google headquarters, in Mountain View. But Google recently added to its focus the navigation of city streets.
Endangered Record Album to Highlight Tigers' Plight
April 27, 2014
A disposable record is serving to illustrate the plight of endangered animals.The Smithsonian National Zoological Park and Conservation Biology Institute has released a record made of polycarbonate (a special kind of plastic equivalent) that will begin to disintegrate after a few playings. The Institute produced 400 of the records, to match the number of Sumatran tigers left in the world, and sent the records to well-known people in the music and media business, with strict instructions to "rip," or make digital copies of the content on the record, and to post information about the song on social media.
3-D Pandas Go Microscopic for Magazine Cover
April 27, 2014
Swiss scientists have used a very small chisel to create the smallest magazine cover in the world, a version of the March 2014 cover of National Geographic Kids that is so small that 2,000 of the covers would fit into one grain of salt. The precise measurements are 11-by-14 micrometers. The chisel is a relatively new invention and required a silicon tip 100,000 times smaller than a sharpened pencil to be heated up to an incredibly high heat in order to do the "chiseling." The result was something like a 3D image, but on a microscopic scale.
It's Game on Again for Atari's E.T.
April 27, 2014
E.T. is still looking for a final release. Acting on an informed tip, a construction crew gathered in a desert in southeastern New Mexico to dig under a concrete-covered landfill, in hopes of finding up to 1 million copies of an Atari videogame that flopped. They found a few cartridges.
Moment of Silence, Sadness Marks Third Anniversary of Tsunami
March 11, 2014
Most people in Japan stopped for a moment of silence on the third anniversary of the twin disasters in 2011. The 9.0 Sendai Earthquake and consequent tsunami triggered a wave of destruction that is still being felt. In Fukushima, one of the hardest-hit areas, 2,000 lit candles were arranged to read "Fukishima 3/11." The Fukushim Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant went into meltdown after the tsunami breached the plant's defenses, resulting in the spreading of radiation into the surrounding land and water and the death of nearly 16,000 people and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of others.
London to Trial 'Smart' Pedestrian-friendly Traffic Lights
March 12, 2014
London has taken the lead in exploring new technologies to improve pedestrian safety. Mayor Boris Johnson, together with Transport for London, have announced a trial of advanced sensors that can adjust the timing of traffic signals according to the number of pedestrians waiting to cross. If a huge crowd has gathered, the lights will favor the pedestrians long enough for the entire crowd to cross safely.
New Amelia Earhart to Trace Namesake's Round-the-world Path
March 10, 2014
Amelia Earhart will take flight again. The namesake of the famed missing aviatrix will take off in June 2014 on a round-the-world flight, echoing what the first Amelia Earhart had set out to do before she disappeared in 1937. The current Amelia Earhart will fly in a Pilatus PC-12 NG turboprop plane, making 14 stops in 14 days and covering more than 24,000 nautical miles on her trip, recreating the famed aviatrix's takeoff in Oakland and then returning there two weeks later. Her co-pilot will be Arkansas-based Patrick Carter.
Youngest Iditarod Winner Does It Again
March 10, 2014
The youngest is still the best. Dallas Seavey, the youngest-ever winner of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in 2012, has won the 2014 event, setting a record time in the process. Seavey, now 27, put in a furious final push and raced from third place to the win, crossing the finish line in Nome in 8 days, 13 hours, 4 minutes. Seavey was in third place with 77 miles to go but passed four-time winner Jeff King and then Aliy Zirkle, again denying her a victory. Zirkle finished second for the third straight time, this time just 2 minutes, 22 seconds behind the winner.
Iditarod Off and Mushing
March 6, 2014
It's off to the races for 69 mushers and their dog teams in the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The 975-mile race, which alternates between two starting points, began this year in Willow, Alaska, about 50 miles north of Anchorage. Competitors dawdled through Anchorage a day earlier in an 11-mile cermonial appearance. Stages range from 18 to 85 miles and wind through 21 other Alaska villages, as well, as lots of frozen snow. Competitors are required to take three separate rest stops, one of 24 hours and two of eight hours. The winner is expected to reach the finish line, in Nome, in as few as nine days.
Stonehenge 'Musical,' Study Suggests
March 6, 2014
The giant bluestones of Stonehenge might have had sonic significance, according to a new study. Researchers at the Royal College of Art in London have found evidence that several of the stones at the famous giant circle were struck in ancient times. The researchers conducted their own striking tests, on stones in the Preseli Hills, source of some of Stonehenge's bluestones, and among their observed results was a series of tones, some that sounded like deep bells. Different rocks produced different sounds, along a range of metallic sounds from bell-like sounds to gong-like intonations.
Big Changes Ahead for College Entrance Exam SAT
March 5, 2014
The SAT is changing, for the first time since 2005. Administrators of the popular university entrance exam College Board have announced major changes, among them making the essay portion of the exam optional and offering another option, that of taking the test using a computer. The new exam will appear in 2016. Reading, writing, and mathematics skills will continue to be the focus. Questions in those areas will focus more heavily on analysis, College Board officials said. In math specifically, calculators will be allowed on only a select number of questions, and overall math questions will focus more on skills with real-world application.
Mexican Pyramid Could Crumble, Scientists Say
March 5, 2014
One of Mexico's largest pyramids is in danger of collapse, scientists say. The Pyramid of the Sun, in the lost city now known as Teotihuacan, has a dry side and a wet side, as discovered by 3D imaging carried out by a group of researchers from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. The 3D scans showed that one side of the pyramid was 20 percent less dense than the other, meaning that the dry side was in danger of crumbling. The scientists said that the risk of collapse was not imminent but was very real if some sort of repairs were not made. The phenomenon, the scientists said, was the same as that observed in Mexico City, which was built on what used to be a lake, and which sinks a few inches every year. The scientists differed in their support of repair theories, with some preferring structural repairs to the stones and others preferring to shore up the earth-filled interior.
Dates Announced for Indian Elections
March 5, 2014
India has announced dates for its national elections. Voters in the world's largest democracy will vote for candidates for the 543-member parliament in nine phases from April 7 to May 12. Four days of vote-counting later, elections officials will announce results. Turnout is expected to be high. About 814 million adults are eligible to vote in India, an increase of 100 million over the same figure available for the previous national election, which took place in 2009.
Fruits, Vegetables More Popular with U.S. Students
March 4, 2014
American students are eating more fruits and vegetables, a study has confirmed. The study, from the Harvard School of Public Health, offers findings that support one of the main assertions of the authors of the new federal standards for school nutrition, launched in 2012. Those standards, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, required students to make more healthful choices for their school meals, primarily in the area of fruits and vegetables. Other changes in the standards were to make whole grains more available and to remove trans fats. In addition, limits were stipulated for sodium levels and total calories. The study surveyed more than 1,000 students in four schools, both before and after the introduction of the new standards and found a 23-percent increase in the consumption of fruit and a 16-percent increase in the consumption of vegetables. The study also found no marked increase in food waste.
Tunnels Discovered Under Alcatraz Prison
March 3, 2014
Scientists have discovered a series of tunnels under Alcatraz, the fabled prison situated on an island off San Francisco. The scientists, from Texas A&M University, found the 150-year-old tunnels using ground-penetrating radar to perform a scheduled scan of the former prison's recreation yard. But the tunnels were not a planned escape for gangster Al Capone or any of the other famous residents of Alcatraz. Rather, the tunnels, made primarily of dirt but reinforced in places with concrete, were a holdover from before the days of the prison, when the island was a military fort.
Nepal to Require Everest Climbers to Bring Back Others' Trash
March 3, 2014
The Government of Nepal has announced what amounts to a new trash tax on anyone who climbs Mount Everest. The new rules, which begin in April with the start of the climbing season, require all mountaineers and support staff who climb above Everest base camp to bring back 17 pounds of trash that is already on the mountain or pay a stiff fine. Government rules already require climbers to bring back their own trash or risk losing the $4,000 deposit that they pay before being granted passage upward. To get that money back, climbers have to present their own trash when they return down the mountain. A similar arrangement will presumably accompany the new rules.
Sesame Street Promotes Healthy Eating
January 23, 2014
Sesame Street is onboard with a message of healthy eating, including a message from Cookie Monster to cut back on the cookies. Ernie, Bert, Cookie Monster, and other familiar characters from television's long-running Sesame Street will focus even more on eating healthy foods, after the completion of a three-year project in Colombia helped young children there lead more healthy lives.
Morsi to Face Three Separate Trials
January 22, 2014
Former President Mohamed Morsi, along with 35 co-defendants, will face charges of spying for which, if convicted, they could face the death penalty. The espionage trial will begin on February 16. The defendants are accused of collaborating with Hamas, a Palestinian freedom organization, and with Hezbollah, a militant movement based in Lebanon.
Three Years after Revolution, Egypt Still Divided
January 22, 2014
The revolution that ousted Egypt's Hosni Mubarak after decades in power began with a large protest in Cairo's Tahrir Square, on Jan. 25, 2011. Three years later, the landscape looks, to many people, not much different. Mubarak is no longer the leader of the country. He stepped down as president on Feb. 11, 2011, and is in a military hospital, awaiting a retrial, his ill health a constant reminder of his advanced years. He is 86. The protests that overpowered Mubarak's influence were largely driven by a combination of Islamists, like the members of the long-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, and unaffiliated youths, who saw an opportunity to change their country's political landscape in the wake of related revolutions in neighboring countries, notably Tunisia. Both the Brotherhood and large amounts of the country's otherwise affiliated young voters approved of the country's 2012 constitution and subsequent election of Mohamed Morsi as President and of an Islamist majority in Parliament. But the judiciary, filled with Mubarak appointments, has been a powerful check on the expansion of the Islamist agenda.
Egyptians Overwhelmingly Approve New Constitution
January 19, 2014
Egyptian voters have approved the country's draft constitution by a massive 98.1 percent, the election commission has announced. During the two-day referendum, just 38.6 percent of the country's 53 million voters cast their votes. Many Islamists, who featured prominently in the previous government, did not participate. The most prominent Islamist organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, called for a nationwide boycott and vowed to continue protests against the interim government. Members of the Brotherhood also criticized the government for curtailing anti-constitution protests in the days leading up to the voting.
Russian Olympics Officials Unveil 11 New Venues
January 12, 2014
Organizers of the 2014 Winter Olympics have built from the ground up, literally. Unlike many previous cities, Sochi, a Black Sea town not far from Russia's border with Georgia, had no set of stadiums to expand. The last Winter Olympics, in Vancouver, Canada, in 2010, utilized some venues that had been around for awhile and built only two new facilities, one for curling and the other for long-track speed skating. Sochi, on the other hand, has built new. The site of the Opening Ceremonies, Closing Ceremonies, and medal presentations will be Fisht Olympic Stadium (right), in what is known as the Coastal Cluster, a grouping of venues in and around Sochi. The 40,000-seat stadium was designed to allow those seated inside to have views to the south of the Black Sea and to the north of the mountains, one of which is Fisht Mountain. One of five new venues within walking distance of one another, Fisht Stadium sits atop a tall hill, in Adler Olympic Park, near Adler Arena. Nearby are twin 12,000-capacity venues, the Bolshoy Ice Dome, home to ice hockey, and the Iceberg Skating Palace, which will house figure skating and short-track speed skating.