Tag Archives: interesting

Did You Know #65: How Much Of The Amazon Rainforest Has Been Destroyed?

Scientists fear the Amazon Rainforest is closer to a tipping point where it will enter an irreversible cycle of collapse known as a dieback. Between 15 and 17 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been lost, and if the amount of cleared forest land reaches 25 percent, there won’t be enough trees cycling moisture through the rainforest. That will cause the rainforest to dry out and degrade into a savanna.

Mysterious Phenomena #4: Frozen Methane Bubbles, Canada

They look otherworldly, like flying saucers that dropped into the water and froze, or ancient, ice-encapsulated jellyfish. In fact, these icy circles are frozen methane bubbles – pockets of gas that, when trapped underwater and frozen, form a spectacular landscape.

Found in winter in high northern latitude lakes like Lake Abraham in Alberta, Canada, these gas bubbles are created when dead leaves, grass and animals fall into the water, sink and are eaten by bacteria that excrete methane. The gas is released as bubbles that transform into tens of thousands of icy white disks when they come into contact with frozen water, Quora user Mayur Kanaiya explains.

It’s a stunning, but potentially dangerous sight. This potent greenhouse gas not only warms the planet, but also is highly flammable. Come spring, when the ice melts, the methane bubbles pop and fizz in a spectacular release – but if anyone happens to light a match nearby, the masses of methane will ignite into a giant explosion.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20160725-where-nature-plays-magic-tricks

Did You Know #62: What Are The Hardest Languages To Learn?

“1. Mandarin Chinese

Interestingly, the hardest language to learn is also the most widely spoken native language in the world. Mandarin Chinese is challenging for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the writing system is extremely difficult for English speakers (and anyone else) accustomed to the Latin alphabet. In addition to the usual challenges that come with learning any language from scratch, people studying Mandarin must also memorize thousands of special characters, unlike anything seen in Latin-based languages.

But writing isn’t the only difficult part of learning Mandarin. The tonal nature of the language makes speaking it very hard as well. There are several Chinese dialects, including Cantonese — spoken primarily in southeastern China, as well as in Hong Kong and other parts of Southeast Asia — which have different written characters and pronunciations, and are also very difficult to learn. Mandarin Chinese (the most common dialect) has four tones, so one word can be pronounced four different ways, and each pronunciation has a different meaning. For instance, the word ma can mean “mother,” “horse,” “rough” or “scold” — depending on how you say it.

2. Arabic

Next on the list of the hardest languages to learn for English speakers is Arabic, which is also in the top five most spoken world languages. For starters, there are dozens of varieties of the Arabic language — generally classified by the region or country in which they’re spoken — that can be radically different from one another. So the first step is to choose which dialect you want to pursue, but that’s the easy part.

Arabic is another language with a non-Latin alphabet. Its 28 script letters are easier for English speakers to comprehend than the thousands of Chinese characters, but it’s still an adjustment to become familiar with a new writing system. The thing that makes reading and writing in Arabic particularly challenging for beginners is the exclusion of most vowels in words. Ths mks rdng th lngg vry dffclt. Arabic is also written from right to left instead of left to right, which takes some getting used to.

There are also characteristics of spoken Arabic that make it hard to learn. Some of the sounds used don’t exist in other languages or are simply unfamiliar to English speakers, including sounds made in the back of your throat. The grammar is challenging too; verbs tend to come before the subject, and you have to learn a dual form of words in addition to the singular and plural forms.

3. Polish

From this point forward, the hardest languages to learn get less difficult but are still quite challenging. Polish got the number three spot on our list.

Spelling and grammar are a couple of areas in which Polish can give English speakers a hard time. Words are loaded with consonants, which makes them difficult to spell and pronounce. For example, szczęście means “happiness” and bezwzględny means “ruthless.” Ruthless, indeed. In terms of grammar, there are seven cases: it’s like German on steroids.

On the bright side, Polish uses a Latin alphabet, so the letters are much more familiar to English speakers than those used in Chinese, Arabic and other non-Latin languages. In addition, being able to speak Polish as a second language puts you in a coveted group, considering Poland’s developing status as a major economy in Europe.

4. Russian

Ranking fourth on our list of hardest languages to learn, Russian uses a Cyrillic alphabet — made up of letters both familiar and unfamiliar to us. But speaker beware: some of the Cyrillic letters may look familiar but make a different sound than the Latin letter they resemble. For instance, “B” in the Cyrillic alphabet makes a “V” sound.

Grammatically, Russian is not as difficult as Polish but pretty darn close. Polish has seven cases, while Russian has six. Also, Russians omit the verb “to be” in the present tense, which can throw beginners for a loop when they try to form basic sentences. In Russian, “I am a student” would simply translate to “I student.” Like Polish, Russian uses a lot of consonants clustered together, which makes spelling and pronunciation a challenge.

Despite its difficulty, Russian might be worth the extra effort to learn. It’s an extremely politically and culturally relevant language, opening the door to numerous career and leisure opportunities.

5. Turkish

Here’s a new word for you: agglutinative. Turkish is an agglutinative language, which basically means prefixes and suffixes are attached to words to determine their meaning and indicate direction, rather than using separate prepositions. This results in extremely long verbs, like konuşmayı reddediyorlar (“they refuse to talk”).

Turkish also features a concept English speakers may find confusing: vowel harmony, where vowels are changed or endings with vowels are added to make a word flow more smoothly. A large number of unfamiliar vocabulary words, of Arabic origin, add to the difficulty of what we’d consider to be one of the hardest languages to learn.

The good news for Turkish learners is that there are relatively few grammar exceptions in comparison to other languages, spelling is straightforward to master, and it’s a cool way to explore a rare agglutinative language (linguistics nerds assemble!).

6. Danish

Which of these is not like the others? Yes, we have crowned Danish as the least hard of the hardest languages to learn. If you read our article on the easiest languages, you may remember that the Germanic languages from Scandinavia largely dominated that list. In fact, Norwegian and Swedish took the top two spots. And like those languages, Danish has relatively simple grammar concepts and shares plenty of cognates with English.

So why is Danish on this list of hardest languages to learn? Pronunciation. Words sound nothing like the way they are spelled, which can be quite off-putting for a beginner. For example, mit navn er (“my name is”) is pronounced “meet now’n air.” Mastering Danish pronunciation takes a good deal of practice, making it a significantly harder language to learn than its Germanic counterparts.”

Source: https://www.babbel.com/en/magazine/6-hardest-languages-for-english-speakers-to-learn

Opening the CIA’s Can of Worms

“The CIA and the media are part of the same criminal conspiracy,” wrote Douglas Valentine in his important book, The CIA As Organized Crime.

“This is true. The corporate mainstream media are stenographers for the national security state’s ongoing psychological operations aimed at the American people, just as they have done the same for an international audience.

We have long been subjected to this “information warfare,” whose purpose is to win the hearts and minds of the American people and pacify them into victims of their own complicity, just as it was practiced long ago by the CIA in Vietnam and by The New York Times, CBS, etc. on the American people then and over the years as the American warfare state waged endless wars, coups, false flag operations, and assassinations at home and abroad.

Another way of putting this is to say for all practical purposes when it comes to matters that bear on important foreign and domestic matters, the CIA and the corporate mainstream media cannot be distinguished.

For those who read and study history, it has long been known that the CIA has placed their operatives throughout every agency of the U.S. government, as explained by Fletcher Prouty in The Secret Team; that CIA officers Cord Myer and Frank Wisner operated secret programs to get some of the most vocal exponents of intellectual freedom among intellectuals, journalists, and writers to be their voices for unfreedom and censorship, as explained by Frances Stonor Saunders in The Cultural Cold War and Joel Whitney in Finks, among others; that Cord Myer was especially focused on and successful in “courting the Compatible Left” since right wingers were already in the Agency’s pocket.”

Source: https://countercurrents.org/2021/02/opening-the-cias-can-of-worms/

Did You Know #61: What Is The Black Sun Spectacle In Denmark?

It is the most famous natural spectacle in Denmark. Hundreds of thousands of starlings (Common starling = Sturnus vulgaris) turn the sky black when they are circling around creating fascinating formations in the air before they land at dusk in an area covered with reeds.
The Black Sun, or ‘Sort Sol’ as the Danes it call it, occurs in southwestern Jutland in Denmark during autumn from August until the end of October, and in spring from the middle of March to the middle of April – when the starlings returning to the north make a stop at Wadden Sea National Park’s marshlands to rest and find food.

Did You Know #56: What Happened To Tibet?

Tibet has had a tumultuous history, during which it has spent some periods functioning as an independent entity and others ruled by powerful Chinese and Mongolian dynasties.

China sent in thousands of troops to enforce its claim on the region in 1950. Some areas became the Tibetan Autonomous Region and others were incorporated into neighbouring Chinese provinces.

In 1959, after a failed anti-Chinese uprising, the 14th Dalai Lama fled Tibet and set up a government in exile in India. Most of Tibet’s monasteries were destroyed in the 1960s and 1970s during China’s Cultural Revolution. Thousands of Tibetans are believed to have been killed during periods of repression and martial law.

Philosophy #9: Free Will

Free Will is the ability of agents to make choices free from certain kinds of constraints. Historically, the constraint of dominant concern has been the metaphysical constraint of determinism. Two prominent opposing positions within that debate are metaphysical libertarianism, the claim that determinism is false and thus that free will exists (or is at least possible); and hard determinism, the claim that determinism is true and thus that free will does not exist. These positions are described as incompatibilism – the position that free will and determinism are logically incompatible, and that the major question regarding whether or not people have free will is thus whether or not their actions are determined. Compatibilists maintain that determinism is compatible with free will. It may, however, be more accurate to say that compatibilists define free will in a way that allows it to co-exist with determinism. Compatibilists believe freedom can be present or absent in a situation for reasons that have nothing to do with metaphysics. Compatibilists define free will as freedom to act according to one’s determined motives without hindrance from other individuals. Compatibilists argue that determinism does not matter; what matters is that individuals’ wills are the result of their own desires and are not overridden by some external force.

Philosophy #8: Existentialism

Existentialism is a school of 20th-century philosophers who shared the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject – not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living, human individual. In existentialism, the individual’s starting point is characterized by what has been called “the existential attitude,” or a sense of disorientation and confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world. A central proposition of existentialism is that existence precedes essence, which means that the actual life of the individual is what constitutes what could be called his or her “essence” instead of there being a predetermined essence that defines what it is to be a human. Thus, the human beings – through their own consciousness – create their own values and determine a meaning to their life.