Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on May 14, 2020 in Stuff You Should Know

Ireland Pays Back an Old Favor

One of the silver linings to the global COVID-19 pandemic is all of the stories of strangers reaching out to help one another. One great example of this is the country of Ireland, which has provided nearly $1.5 million in donations to the Navajo Nation to assist Navajo and Hope families who have been affected by the pandemic. Why such generosity? Turns out, they are repaying a 173-year-old favor.

In the late 1840s, when the Irish were suffering through the Great Potato Famine, the Choctaw tribe donated $170 (equivalent to $5,351 today) to Ireland to help. This gift was especially generous because of the fact that it was given in the wake of the Trail of Tears, the forcible march of many Native American tribes thousands of miles across the United States to reservations. Thousands of Native Americans died during the Trail of Tears, and this made survivors sympathetic to the struggle the Irish were facing. Now, the Irish have remembered that gift and are doing what they can to support the tribes in return.

Tribal communities have been hit especially hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Their infection rate is high (22 people out of 100,000), largely because Native Americans often live in intergenerational homes, have limited access to running water, and have a high rate of diabetes.

Dig Deeper TV personality Fred Rogers once famously said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Since then, “Look for the helpers” has become a common phrase. Write a short paragraph about “helpers” you have witnessed during this pandemic.

Murder Hornets” Arrive in the U.S.

As if 2020 isn’t already bad enough, how about something new to worry about: murder hornets? That’s right: scientists say that Asian giant hornets have now arrived in the United States. These inserts are much larger than normal hornets–queens can grow to be up to two inches long!–with an extremely painful sting. The hornets usually kill about fifty people per year in Japan, but the bigger threat is to our normal bee pollinators. Murder hornets have been known to decimate entire beehives in just a few hours, tearing off the bees’ heads and then taking the thoraxes home to feed their young.

How do you know if you’ve seen an Asian giant hornet? Obviously, they are unusually large. They also have teardrop-shaped eyes, orange and black stripes like a tiger, and large wings like a small dragonfly. You’ll also know it immediately if you get stung: the stingers, which are about six millimeters long, can penetrate even through beekeeping suits and can be deep enough to draw blood. The sting will cause dramatic swelling and pain that can last a whole day. Even worse, these hornets also prefer to attack in groups, and receiving a lot of stings all at once can be fatal to humans. Luckily, they tend to avoid humans and other large animals, and generally only attack if they feel threatened or if their nests are disturbed.

So far, the Asian giant hornets have been spotted in Washington State and in Canada, where the wet, cool weather is ideal for them to build their nests. Experts agree that the time to act is now. They worry that if action isn’t taken quickly–within the next year or two–it will be impossible later to eradicate the hornets.

Dig Deeper Honeybees have a unique way to fight back against the murder hornet. Use Internet resources to learn more. Write a short paragraph about what you discover.

Sing a Song

Being told to stay at home is giving many of us the opportunity to pay attention to things we may not have noticed before–such as the chirping of birds. In fact, some people have even begun to wonder if maybe there is something happening biologically that is making the birds louder this year than ever before.

But scientists say this isn’t the case. If anything, the birds are singing more quietly this year. So what’s the deal with the loud birds? Likely it’s the fact that the world is quieter than before, with much less traffic, which is making the birds’ sounds more noticeable. This is true even though the birds are singing more quietly now that there aren’t as many other sounds to compete with, the same way that you would raise your voice in a noisy restaurant and then lower it again in a quieter location. Actually, this has always been the case, though probably you haven’t noticed it before: scientists have shown that birds sing more quietly on weekend mornings than they do during the morning rush hour on weekends. Similarly, birds tend to sing more loudly when a plane is flying overhead.

Coronavirus pandemic aside, birds are always louder this time of year. That’s because they are using their songs to communicate with one each another: they are announcing that they have returned from their winter migration, and they are trying to attract a mate. This “bird chorus,” as it’s called, is always loudest early in the morning and during the early part of the spring. Chances are, you were just too busy before to notice.

Dig Deeper So, bird singing volume hasn’t changed after all. Use Internet resources to learn about how the global pandemic has affected the behavior of other animal species around the world.

Filming on Location . . . in Space?

Movies about space, or which take place in space, are nothing new. These films–you can probably name a dozen right off the top of your head–have captured our imagination for generations. But none of these movies have actually been filmed in space, of course . . . until now.

Actor Tom Cruise has started talks with NASA and Space X (owned by billionaire Elon Musk) about filming an action-adventure movie that takes place in actual outer space. The plan is for the actor to take Space X’s Dragon 2 spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS), where filming will take place. One concern is that Dragon 2 has never been manned before. Another is that Cruise, who is 57 years old, is much older than a regular astronaut would be in real life (with the one historical exception of John Glenn). But Cruise is in excellent physical shape and willing to do his own stunts. In fact, he’s often done many of the stunts for his action movies himself, occasionally resulting in injury.

Is NASA concerned about actors and film crews messing around in space? Far from it. According to a recent tweet, NASA is excited about the idea. NASA hopes that the movie will inspire young people to grow up to become the next generation of scientists, astronauts, and engineers.

What Do You Think? In the past, movies about space have been shot on elaborate sets meant to look like space. If Cruise’s film goes ahead as planned, it will be the first movie to actually be shot away from Earth. Why do you think Cruise and the film’s directors might want to take on this challenge?