Lethal Leaves

In the last couple of decades, a fungal disease called Ash Dieback has been killing Europe’s ash trees. The Forestry Commission in Britain has turned to a high-tech solution to keep the disease in check. They have developed an app so the general public can help monitor the spread of the fungus.

If something is kept ‘in check’ it is being watched and controlled.

Ash Dieback is caused by the fungus Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus, which was first described in 2006. However, it is believed the infection started in 1992 in Poland, having since spread across Europe. The fungus attacks living ash trees. The origin of the fungus is unknown, though scientists think it could have come from Asia since the ash trees in Asia are immune to it.

The fungus has been shown to attack a number of ash species: the European ash, the Narrow-leafed ash and Manna ash as well as North American species such as the Black ash and Green ash. Infection first appears as dark spots on leaves and branches. Over time the fungus causes leaf loss and eventual death. Forestry commissions take the disease seriously because of its potential to ravage forests. In Denmark the fungus has destroyed between 60 to 90% of ash trees.

The banks of a river are its sides, the land next to the water.

Ash trees are very important to the local ecosystem. Their large root systems help to stabilize the banks of rivers and streams. The trees also provide a home for a number of insect and bird species. An article by Marco Pautasso et al states that the full number of species which depend on ash trees is not completely known. However, they say that certain species of fungus are definitely specific to the ash. These species may provide food for other species so the loss of ash trees could have a wider impact on European ecology.

‘To stem’ something is to stop it.

Given the threat of this disease, it is understandable why the UK Forestry Commission wants to stem the spread of the disease. The app is a good weapon in this fight.

“Our Tree Alert app and on-line reporting form are proving an effective tool for monitoring suspected cases of Chalara ash dieback and, now, other pests and diseases of trees in Great Britain,” said a Forestry Commission spokesperson.

“It enables us to engage a larger number of ‘eyes and ears’ around Britain to report possible cases to us than if we relied on professional surveyors alone. It also gives the public an opportunity to feel personally involved in helping to protect Britain’s trees, woods, forests and natural heritage. We are continuing to develop Tree Alert in the light of experience to maximise the quality of the reports sent to us.”

Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

Moving to the Music

It is 18 metres tall and 30 metres by 36 metres across. It can hold 500 people, but can be taken apart to fit in a truck. The Ark Nova Movable Concert Hall promises to bring orchestral music to wherever the building can be built and inflated. The Movable Concert Hall was the idea of Arata Isozaki and Anish Kapoor. They had the idea after the 2011 tsunami in Japan. They wanted something that could bring inspiration to the people affected by the tragedy. The Word spoke with Ryo Makino, a representative from Isozaki and Associates to learn some more about this unique structure.

The inflatable design presented some problems for the architects. In fact the wish to have an inflatable music hall required a structure completely opposite to a concert hall’s purpose.

Spheres make terrible concert halls. The sound is reflected back to a single focal point. In a real concert hall, the audience is usually all around the space, not only in the middle.

To tackle a problem is to deal with it in an intense and focused way until it is solved.

“Kapoor and Isozaki jointly tackled this problem and what is called the “arm” by Kapoor was proposed and introduced. This helped in mitigating the focusing of reflected sound,” he said.

Despite these adaptations, the covering continues to present acoustic issues. But Ark Nova’s purpose was more than hosting music.

“Ark Nova’s main aim is to be a demountable and movable concert hall, but was never intended to compete with the Musikvereinssaal,” Mr Makino said, referring to Vienna’s famed concert hall, also known as the Golden Hall. The creators also designed an inflatable acoustic cloud. This acts as a reflector, sending sound back out to the audience.

If something is unconventional it is unusual, and perhaps odd, but typically in a good way.

The unconventional structure does mean that performances are different from typical concert halls. According to Mr Makino, the acoustics may be weaker and you can hear differences in the sound of the performance in different parts of the concert hall. However, Mr Makino believes that the remarkable nature of the Ark Nova Concert Hall presents an experience unlike any other.

“Apart from those drawbacks, you could sense the transition of time from the changes of light that penetrates through the membrane, or the air that moves the shadows of trees cast on the exterior shell,” he said. “There is no other concert hall that allows you to feel you are a part of the surroundings.”

Audio Button Moving-to-the-Music-Audio.mp3

Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

The Writers’ Room

The first writers’ museum I ever visited was the one in Edinburgh. Their permanent exhibition only has information about three Scottish writers: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson, but it is well-worth a visit for literary lovers. Years later, I visited the Dublin Writers Museum. It covered a wide range of Irish literature. It was more serious but had a lot of information. Many cities have literary heritages they are proud of – UNESCO has even started a Cities of Literature program, which Edinburgh and Dublin have both been awarded.

Compound noun: Writers museum: Because the museum is about writers as opposed to belonging to writers, no apostrophe is used to show possession. The name of the museum is a compound noun.

Many American writers have influenced global literature and readers, yet there is no American Writers Museum. Many cities have museums for famous local writers, but no nation-wide institution exists. An Irishman may change that.

Malcolm O’Hagan is the main force behind the push to develop the American Writers Museum. Inspired by the Dublin Writers Museum, he was surprised to find there wasn’t a museum celebrating American writers and decided to do something about it.

“I have a love of literature and an appreciation of the vital contribution that writers made to our culture and history,” he said.

Mr O’Hagan launched a non-profit organization to begin raising money and gathering supporters. The initial planning is complete.

Phrasal Verb: Settle on: To finally decide

“With the help of leading consultants we have prepared the business plan and the conceptual plans for the museum. We have settled on Chicago as the preferred location and we are building the necessary base of support there,” he said. “The museum will be developed in stages. The initial phase called The First Edition is scheduled to open by the end of 2015. The budget for this phase is ten million USD and we are just about to launch the fundraising campaign.”

The museum will include a history of American literature from its beginnings to the present. Special exhibits will cover Nobel Laureates, censorship, American literary critics, ethnic literature and beat poets. They plan to have a place for book groups to gather and a literary café called Scribblers featuring famous dishes mentioned in novels, plays and poems.

The Hall of Writers will be an introduction to major people in American literature; a special gallery will honor the Chicago writing scene and the Creating American Literature gallery will discuss the evolution of American writing. There will be a special gallery for American western, crime, science fiction and fantasy genres and one showing the writings of American politicians.

Realizing this project is important to Mr O’Hagan for a number of reasons.

“Because reading is important and we are in a time when young people are less inclined to read,” he said. “We need to highlight the importance of reading and writing, and we need to help young people understand the fundamental role of literature and also need to get them to look to writers as role models in addition to the traditional sports, music and movie star role models.”

Audio Button The-Writers-Room-Audio.mp3

Original article by Jacy Meyer – Phoenix, Arizona. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

Thrill Seekers Need Apply

Are you an adrenaline junkie? Why do you think that is? People who love to bungee jump, parachute or do other death-defying activities in the name of fun always seem to be looking for the next thrill. Matthew Barlow, Tim Woodman, and Lew Hardy from Bangor University decided to find out why.

Slang: Adrenaline junkie: Typically the word junkie is used to refer to someone addicted to drugs. Nowadays, the word is often used for someone who must do something, so an adrenaline junkie must do dangerous sports.

Past research on why people decide it would be a good idea to jump out of an airplane has centered on sensation seeking. But the three men thought there was more to it and set about doing some interrelated studies to challenge that theory. They came up with three motivations: sensation seeking, emotion regulation and agency scale. Emotion regulation is a person’s ability to understand and accept their emotional experiences and engage in appropriate behavior. Agency scale is how a person thinks about their experience.

Once they had increased the number of motives based on the results from their first study, they applied this new idea to two different thrill-seeking activities: skydiving and mountaineering. They chose these because while they are both thought of as high-risk, they are very different. Skydiving is an example of the sensation seeking model while mountaineering is concerned with the emotion regulation and agency model.

The study involved mountaineers, sky-divers and a low-risk control group – people who had regularly participated in a low-risk sport such as golf, basketball or running. The participants were then given a survey to fill out before, during and after participating in an activity. As the researchers had thought,  skydivers  showed  a greater need for sensation (before), a greater experience of sensation  (during)  and  a  greater  satisfaction  of  sensation  need  (after) than both mountaineers and the low-risk group. The latter groups were not so different on the sensation seeking factors. When it came to emotion regulation, no groups displayed major differences before the activity, however, both mountaineers and skydivers reported greater emotion regulation during the activity.

The greatest takeaway from this study is what the researchers discovered about the mountaineers. They believe they have greater emotion regulation and agency expectation in everyday life which is a new consideration in understanding the motivation that drives individuals who repeatedly go looking for bigger and better achievements.

Human enterprise: In this collocation, human enterprise means human activity.

The authors’ stated goal was to challenge the view that all high-risk activities are the same and motivated simply by sensation seeking. They hope researchers will re-evaluate risk takers as a homogenous sensation-seeking group and begin reflecting on risk taking as a potential model of human enterprise.

Original article by Jacy Meyer – Phoenix, Arizona. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

Air Grievances

China’s horrible air pollution has made news the past few months. The thick smog, the people with masks on their face, the news an 8-year old girl had been diagnosed with lung cancer, due to air pollution.

Collocation: To diagnose with: The preposition for the ailment or problem is ‘with’. ‘He was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition.’

In October, the International Agency for Research on Cancer said outdoor air pollution could cause cancer. Air pollution is already connected to or known to increase a person’s risk for a number of other diseases including respiratory ones. Studies indicate that in recent years exposure levels have increased a lot in some parts of the world, particularly in countries with large populations which are developing industry quickly. According to the IARC’s most recent data in 2010, worldwide, there were 223,000 deaths from lung cancer connected to air pollution. The study that led the IARC to name air pollution as a cause of cancer didn’t look at specific pollutants, just air in general, so whether it is due to diesel engines or industrial waste wasn’t important to this study. Dr Rena R. Jones, postdoctoral fellow at the Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute in the US told The Word that air pollution can contain a number of harmful components, and that it varies by region.

“Outdoor air pollution is a complex mixture composed of many different chemicals, including particles and gases like ozone, benzene, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, among others,” she said. “Sources of outdoor air pollution include vehicles, industrial and agricultural emissions, power generation, residential fuel burning for heating and cooking, and even natural sources, such as sea salt.”

Dr Jones noted that in the past the IARC has named diesel exhaust, smoke from coal-burning and benzene as substances, which cause cancer in people.

But it isn’t just lung cancer, or simple warnings not to spend extended periods of time outside on ‘bad pollution’ days. As Dr Jones notes, there are many other diseases air pollution can cause.

“In general, outdoor air pollution has been linked to risk of several respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, including asthma, heart attack and stroke,” she said. “Exposures to high levels of outdoor pollution may also lead to increased risk of certain negative birth outcomes, such as low birth weight and preterm birth.” And the problem is growing.

Collocation: Rapid growth: Rapid means fast but it is often collocated with words like growth or change.

“Pollution levels have been rising in areas of the world with rapid growth and industrialization, including Asia and Mexico, but routine monitoring of air pollution is a fairly new and developing process for lesser-developed parts of the world,” Dr Jones said.

Original article by Jacy Meyer – Phoenix, Arizona. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team