Jun 9, 2021 Episode 50
Venus mission, Jupiter moon, worms in space, kites on Mars, Sri Lanka ship disaster, EV battery break-through, mine-sniffing rat retires
OPENING STING – LEELA: “New, new, newsy – Newsy Jacuzzi!”
Hello and welcome to our 50th episode of Newsy Jacuzzi. I know, I know! Soon we’ll be – OMG – one year old! But more on that later.
I’m your host, Leela Sivasankar Prickitt and I’m joined by the big story explainer and sound effects finder… my Mama…
MAMA: Hello, hello – I’m Lyndee Prickitt.
LEELA: This week on Newsy Jacuzzi…
We have a HUGE dose of space news – from new missions to the hot planet and a fly-by of a cold moon, to worms being launched into space and kites on Mars.
Sad news for the environment as a plastic pollution disaster unfolds in the Indian Ocean after a ship sinks off the coast of Sri Lanka.
But good news for the environment too as scientists in Finland discover a better way to make batteries for electric vehicles.
And, Mighty Mouse, I mean The Hero Rat is retiring – listen till the end to find out more.
But first, let’s blast off for…
BIG NEWS STORY STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “The big news story of the week!”
LEELA: Space? You want more space? Here, let me move over then.
MAMA: No. Well, kinda. I mean, this week there’s so much space news, we could do the entire episode on it.
MAMA: But we don’t have the, well, you now, space.
LEELA: Ha ha! I get ya now. Should we talk doubly fast, Alvin and Chipmunk style?
MAMA: Now there’s an idea. But maybe, well, an annoying one though. Let me just be as succinct – or compact and brief – as possible. OK.
LEELA: Alright. You got this. On your mark, get set… Go!
MAMA: First up, NASA has announced two new missions to study the “lost habitable” world of Venus, our nearest neighbor, sometimes called “Earth’s evil twin.”
LEELA: Yikes, why?
MAMA: Well, it’s now one of the hottest, most inhospitable places in our solar system. Yet it has so many characteristics similar to Earth. Scientists reckon it may have been the first habitable world in the solar system. The new billion-dollar missions could set out as early as 2028 to find out how Venus became an inferno.
LEELA: Awesome. What’s inferno?
MAMA: Ah – a big nasty fire!
LEELA: Ooh, geeze. Anyway, What’s next?
MAMA: Yep, so they’ll be monitored to see exactly what molecules cause muscle decline in space and whether targeting these with medicine or other interventions will help.
LEELA: Well, that makes sense. Anything else?
MAMA: Oh, yeah. It’s not just NASA news – the European Space Agency, known as “eesa,” also have big plans. First up – they’re sifting through hundreds of applicants with significant physical disabilities in a big drive to broaden its talent pool for space exploration.
LEELA: Oh, cool, like they’ll get to go up into space?
MAMA: Possibly. But no specific mission or launch date has been determined just yet.
LEELA: Whew. That’s a lot of space news.
MAMA: And we haven’t even gotten to the best one yet.
MAMA: Well, let’s cut to Jackson Hosking our tech correspondent in England, who’s closer to the story.
LEELA: OK, Jackson – what do the ESA have in mind?
JACKSON: Well, Leela, ESA, recently held a competition to explore ways to create renewable energy on Mars – because if astronauts were to ever set up a camp on Mars, they would need a constant energy source that wouldn’t run out, right?
JACKSON: So scientists all over Europe got their thinking caps on. Since Mars is further from the sun than our planet Earth, solar energy is clearly not the best solution. These researchers banked on something else instead. Something that Mars has plenty of… and that is….
SFX OF WIND!
JACKSON: Gusts of wind. Yeah, apparently, it is very windy on the Red Planet! Who knew?!
LEELA: Ah, I got it Jackson! The solution would be.. wind turbines on Mars!
JACKSON: Not a bad idea Leela – but they would be too heavy to transport on…
SFX OF ROCKET
JACKSON: … a rocket to Mars. Think about it. What’s relatively light in materials and great in the wind?
LEELA: Oooooh…. Sails, like on a yacht!
SFX OF OCEAN AND WIND
JACKSON: Very close!!! Now think of something even lighter. Something you may have flown on the beach…
LEELA: A kite…?
JACKSON: Yes! That’s it! The researchers at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands came up with the idea of MASSIVE kites with a surface area of 50 square meters. That’s like the size of three-and-a-half parking spaces.
And here’s the really fun bit – these kites will be CONTROLLED BY ROBOTS!
They’ll have cables attached to spindles, or drums, and as they unspool, they turn, creating energy.
Teamed with other solar energy sources, could create enough energy for a small Martian base camp.
So there you go, Leela. Proof that with a bit of clever thinking, and inspired by the things around us – there is no limit to what we can achieve – even beyond our own planet!
LEELA: Love it, Jackson. This proves that expression, “the sky’s the limit!”
MAMA: That’s true. Thanks a lot, Jackson.
MAMA: And now we have some sad news closer to home for us here in India.
LEELA: It’s sad for the whole world.
MAMA: That’s true. When there’s an environmental disaster, like the one off the coast of Sri Lanka –
LEELA: The island nation at the bottom of India.
MAMA: Yep. It impacts the whole region.
LEELA: And hurts Mother Earth!
MAMA: Sadly, yeah. So let’s cut across to our environment correspondent, Ananya Kazmin, who has the story.
LEELA: Take it away, Ananya.
ANANYA: Thanks, Leela. As you know, Sri Lanka is one of the most beautiful islands in the whole world.
I know – I’m lucky enough to have gone there twice!
But Sri Lanka’s stunning beaches and blue waters have been hit by a serious environmental
catastrophe when a cargo ship off the coast caught on fire, which led to a huge explosion.
The Sri Lankan navy tried to tow the ship out to deeper waters, away from the shore, but couldn’t.
Unfortunately the ship was carrying tons of plastic pellets AND toxic chemicals.
Plastic pellets, also known as beads or nurdles, are the building blocks for making just about every plastic product on earth.
Well, millions of the pellets have washed ashore on a long stretch of the island’s west coast, near the capital Colombo.
Marine biologists are warning that fish and other sea creatures could eat these pellets
People are trying to clean up the beaches as fast as they can, but the pellets just keep coming.
That’s not all.
There could be more trouble waters as the sunk ship is still thought to have tons of oil that could start leaking.
It’s a catastrophe and a big reminder of the price we pay for our overuse of plastic.
In New Delhi, I’m Ananya Kazmin, reporting for Newsy Jacuzzi.
LEELA: Thanks a lot for bringing us this story, Ananya.
WORLD WRAP STING – LEELA: “What’s that? I’ll tell you what. That’s the halftime bell! Which means… it’s time to hear what’s making news around the rest of the world. Hold on tight, it’s around the world in 80 seconds.”
MAMA: Head’s up everyone in the northern hemisphere. On the tenth of June wake up at sunrise to see a stunning “ring of fire,” otherwise known as a solar eclipse. Since it is an annular, and not a total, eclipse, the Sun’s edges will be visible around the Moon, making it appear as a “ring of fire,” or as some say, looking like the infamous “death star” on Star Wars.
In business news – France fines the tech giant Google €220 million euros (that’s nearly $270 million dollars) over advertising abuse. France’s business regulators said Google has been promoting its own online advertising services to the disadvantage of its rivals.
More news on a possible vaccine patch – yep, we could be saying goodbye to needles for our COVID19 vaccines thanks to a “game changing” discovery by Australian scientists at the University of Queensland. If successful, it could be available within two years.
And cheetahs – declared extinct in India in 1952 – are on their way back. The world’s fastest land animal used to roam freely in India before it became extinct due to hunting and loss of its natural habitat and prey. But the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has started the process of creating an enclosure for around 10 cheetahs on their way from South Africa.
LEELA: Thanks a lot for that whippity-whappity wrap of world news, Mama. Now we need to rev up.
TECH STING – LEELA/MAMA: “It’s time for…. Technology News, technology news, tech news!”
MAMA: More good news for EVs.
LEELA: Electric vehicles, in case you didn’t know.
MAMA: In case you missed our special, revved-up episode on electric vehicles at the beginning of the year. Or any of the recent news stories about car maker after car maker –
LEELA: From Jaguar to GM.
MAMA: Predicting they’ll only make electric vehicles in the coming years.
LEELA: We’re a fan of cleaner cars – but even EVs aren’t totally clean. There’s still quite a lot of energy used – and pollutants created – when the cars are actually made or manufactured.
MAMA: And there’s a small matter of what to do with the old, spent batteries.
LEELA: Actually, a big, or should I say, heavy matter – remember, these batteries weigh as much as a baby grand piano.
MAMA: And they’re made with precious metals that the earth is running out of.
LEELA: But there’s good news coming from Finland.
MAMA: Which means we need to cut across to our Finland correspondent, Ameyaa Kohli.
LEELA: Take it away, Ameyaa.
AMEYAA: Thanks, Leela.
I’m also a fan of electric vehicles.
In fact my parents drive a hybrid car, which is powered by both electricity and petrol.
But, yes, the batteries are a problem because they’re made of precious raw materials, like cobalt and lithium, which are in short supply.
So battery makers are trying to recycle these batteries, by crushing and melting them down.
SFX OF CRUSHING
But it’s not very efficient, because some of the raw materials get lost in the process.
But now – thanks to researchers here in Finland’s Aalto University – the batteries can be recycled without all that crushing and melting, saving valuable raw materials.
The science is a little complicated, but simply put: they can replenish the old, spent lithium by using
something called an “electrolysis process.”
Doing this means the cobalt compound can be directly reused.
This could make it a lot easier, and more efficient, to recycle lithium batteries.
I’m Ameyaa Kohli, reporting for Newsy Jacuzzi.
MAMA: Thanks, Ameyaa. And, did you know, that lithium batteries are used in smart-phones and laptops too? So this is good news for everyone!
LEELA: Good news indeed! Thanks a lot for that report, Ameyaa. And now it’s time for…
STING: Step right up, step right up… Have a go at the lucky dip machine… What’s it gonna be today, eh? An oddball, no doubt!
LEELA: Well, an odd update in fact. About a heroic animal that’s about to retire.
MAMA: Oh, should we run the top-up-time sting?
LEELA: Well, not jussssst yet. You see, I thought it would be fun to rerun the original story first – since it was aaaages ago that we introduced our listeners to this tale. Annnnd we have so many new listeners, I think it’s worth playing again.
MAMA: Alright then – let’s do it.
SFX OF WHISTLE BLOWING THEN REWINDING
LEELA: Move over mighty mouse… this story is about a hero rat. But first, Mama – you’re gonna have to explain a few things, please.
MAMA: Sure, whatcha got?
LEELA: First, what is a landmine?
MAMA: Oh, crickey! That’s a serious question. Well, it’s a bomb that’s hidden in or under the grass. Usually meant to be used against enemy tanks rolling into an area.
LEELA: During wars?
MAMA: Yes. But the problem is they’re hidden so well, that people easily forget where they are… even after a war.
LEELA: Ah ha. OK. Got it. That explains this oddball then: a rat that’s received a gold medal… for bravery.
LEELA: Well, over the past five years, a large rat called, Magawa, has saved hundreds of lives sniffing-out landmines in Cambodia.
MAMA: Ahhh… Cambodia – not far away from us here in India. A country that was torn apart by civil war – that’s when people within the same country fight each other. But that war ended almost 50 years ago, Leela.
LEELA: That’s the thing, Mama. I’ve been told there are still loads of leftover explosives that can be anywhere – even parks and playgrounds!
MAMA: Ewww! That’s scary, isn’t it? I don’t like to imagine that!
LEELA: Well, then you’re not going to like this nugget of news: over 60 million people live in fear of landmines and old explosives from past wars… going poof!
MAMA: 60 million – that’s practically like everyone in the UK!
LEELA: Yeah. And without any warning… poof!
But… enter… a troop of African giant pouched rats… to save the day!
They have superior sniffing skills to identify the chemicals in landmines.
So they’re better at finding them… than basic metal detectors, that have to be held by a human – I would not want that job!
And they beep at any old piece of metal, which might not even be a bomb.
The rodents, however, are easy to train – AND they’re so light they don’t set off the explosives, even if they mistakenly crawl across one.
MAMA: Hurray for the African giant pouched rats!
LEELA: And the best on of all is… six-year-old Ma-gawa, who has sniffed out 67 explosives in Cambodia.
LEELA: That’s why she’s the first rat ever to receive a medal from the British animal charity, the PDSA.
MAMA: I can see why!
LEELA: Although I’m not really sure what a rat will do with a gold medal.
MAMA: I’d like to say this will make me look at rodents a bit differently, but… I’d be lying…
SFX OF BACKWARDS WHISTLE THEN FORWARD WHISTLE
MAMA: What a lovely story that was.
LEELA: Well there’s more. Play the sting, Mama.
TOP-UP TIME STING – VARIOUS VOICES: ”Go on give me a top up, please? It’s top-up time. Top-up time! Top-up time! Top-up time! Top-up time! Top-up time! Now? Yeah, now. It’s top-up time.”
LEELA: Magawa, the hero rat, is hanging up her work-boots, as they say, in other words – she’s retiring from the mine-sniffing business for good.
MAMA: Oh, no!
LEELA: Waaaa – we love you, Magawa! Anyway. She’s apparently slowing down with age.
MAMA: Don’t we all. I see. Well, who’s going to replace her?
LEELA: Well the Belgium charity (Apopo) that trains these mine-sniffers said a new batch of young rats have been interviewed –
MAMA: Ah, interviewed? Really?
LEELA: OK – “assessed.” And they’ve passed “with flying colours” as they say. So the work continues. Meanwhile Magawa is celebrating her retirement with a special meal.
MAMA: Oh, that’s nice. A big slab of cheese, I suspect?
LEELA: No… Mice-cream and cake, of course.
FAB FACTS STING – LEELA: “And it’s time to wrap up the podcast with the top five fab facts heard today. Here goes…”
MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 1 – NASA has announced two new missions to study the planet Venus, our nearest neighbor which has many characteristics similar to Earth. True or false – scientists believe it may have been the first habitable world in our solar system.
That is true.
LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 2 – But now Venus burns like an inferno (which is a large nasty fire), making it one of the of the hottest and most inhospitable places in our solar system. What’s its nickname?
“Earth’s evil twin.”
MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 3 – South of India in the island nation of Sri Lanka an explosion in a cargo ship, carrying plastic pellets and oil, is causing an environmental disaster. Plastic pellets are the building blocks for making just about every plastic product on earth. What else are they called?
Plastic beads or nurdles.
LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 4 – In Finland they’ve discovered a better way to recycle the lithium batteries that power many electric vehicles. But this is good news for other industries too. Because what else are lithium batteries used in?
They power most of our smart-phones and laptops too.
MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 5 – Magawa, the African giant-pouched rat that’s helped sniff out dozens of landmines left around after the war in Cambodia, is retiring. How many people still live in fear of landmines and old explosives left behind from past wars?
60 million people.
And don’t forget, if you want to test yourself later on, then go to the Lucky Dip page of our website, newsyjacuzzi.com, and take this quiz online!
LEELA: And that almost brings us to the end of this episode of Newsy Jacuzzi!!!!!
But first – OMG – we’re just about to complete a year of Newsy Jacuzzi!!!
MAMA: I think a birthday bash is in order.
LEELA: Oh my goodness – cake?!
MAMA: Oh, yeah. And tropical punch. And balloons. And a party dress.
MAMA: And we want YOUR help.
LEELA: Please, oh pretty please, tell us your top five favorite stories you’ve heard us cover on Newsy Jacuzzi. It could be from any of our segments.
MAMA: Or even just some of the funny sounds we’ve created!
LEELA: Or both! Leave us a comment (here) or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. And, of course, we’ll give you a shout-out for doing so! So whatcha waiting for?
Alrighty then… See you next week in the whirling-swirling Newsy Jacuzzi!