Category Archives: Technology

736. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells [Part 3] Learn English with Stories

The final part of this series in which I am reading from the classic story The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, while explaining and clarifying the English which comes up. Full transcript available and YouTube video version too.

Audio Version

Small Donate Button

[DOWNLOAD AUDIO]

Video Version

Full Transcript

Please watch parts 1 and 2 before watching this. Links in the description.

Click here for part 1

Click here for part 2

Recap of the story so far

Without realising it, the people of earth have been attacked by an aggressive alien species from Mars, with the intention of colonising our planet while escaping their home planet which has become uninhabitable.

The Martians are vastly superior to us in terms of their intelligence and technology. They are also unfriendly. Very unfriendly. Humans are now reduced to mere animals or insects in the presence of these things.

Human society has quickly turned to chaos and destruction as the Martians begin their campaign to take our planet.

The aliens first landed in a cylinder which fell from space with a green flash. After the cylinder opened, revealing the visitors to be awkward and clumsy in our atmosphere, their technology proved to be devestatingly powerful. They are armed with a heat-ray which they have used to clear out all life surrounding the fallen cylinder.

The narrator of the story witnessed the Martians emerging from their cylinder and the ruthless destructive power of their heat ray, but still does not yet realise the full scale of the invasion. He decides to escape the area and travel in the direction of London.

During the night, he sees another cylinder landing, and then sees the first Martian tripods striding over the countryside. These are the vehicles the Martians use and they are colossal and formidable. Suddenly the clumsy Martians are mobile and far more physically powerful than in their normal, naked form.

Reading an extract from chapter 12 (action packed stuff)

Summary of Chapter 11 (next part of the story)
From the upstairs window of his study the narrator observes the destruction of his village and the fires all around the common, as well as the outlines of three creatures moving in the pit, which he can see from a distance.

He hardly recognizes his surroundings. The narrator begins to comprehend that the creatures from the cylinder operate the tripods, comparing them to a human-driven steam engine.

He invites a soldier outside the house to hide inside. The man recounts the futile military efforts against the Martians, who easily destroyed both companies and their weaponry before emerging as tripods from the pit and destroying the railway station and a train. The artilleryman managed to escape.

The two men look again from the window to see three tripods at the pit. As the sun comes up the narrator sees destruction “so indiscriminate and so universal” as to be unprecedented in human warfare.

HG Wells describes the horrific feeling of realising that these Martians are far more powerful than humans. Each cylinder contains at least three tripods, and each tripod is armed with a heat ray. Later we learn more about the martians and their technology as the narrator manages to observe them more, but they are still completely mysterious.

Meanwhile, people have become like refugees from a warzone and there is general chaos as people attempt to escape, get resources, look after themselves etc.

Shepperton Station has become a target for the Martians in their tripods and they have been destroying it, the railway lines and trains. This is especially poignant because they are targeting our infrastructure and our technology seems infinitely primitive to that of the Martians, and we are often compared to animals, insects, bugs or even microorganisms in comparison to our alien visitors.

HG Wells makes a point of observing how society reacts to a moment like this and how fragile it is, while also contrasting the familiar cosy surroundings of the English home counties, with the bizarre, grotesque and strange images of these very bad aliens from Mars.

The narrator and the soldier he met choose to leave the house. The soldier wants to go to London and the narrator wants to go back to his wife in Leatherhead.

They end up in Weybridge which a town just on the river Thames, with London to the east and the Thames Valley to the west.

This is a place where the Thames meets The Wey, another river. It’s a sort of port where you can get a ferry across to the other side. Crowds of people are gathered there, hoping to get on a ferry. The army have placed rows of large artillery guns behind some trees as they expect the tripods to come from a nearby town that is currently under attack. This all happens close to the edge of the water and is full of really precise and specific vocabulary to describe the action that takes place.

XII.
WHAT I SAW OF THE DESTRUCTION OF WEYBRIDGE AND SHEPPERTON. (extract)

We remained at Weybridge until midday, and at that hour we found ourselves at the place near Shepperton Lock where the Wey and Thames join. Part of the time we spent helping two old women to pack a little cart. The Wey has a treble mouth, and at this point boats are to be hired, and there was a ferry across the river. On the Shepperton side was an inn with a lawn, and beyond that the tower of Shepperton Church rose above the trees.

Here we found an excited and noisy crowd of fugitives. As yet the flight had not grown to a panic, but there were already far more people than all the boats going to and fro could enable to cross. People came panting along under heavy burdens; one husband and wife were even carrying a small outhouse door between them, with some of their household goods piled thereon. One man told us he meant to try to get away from Shepperton station.

There was a lot of shouting, and one man was even jesting. The idea people seemed to have here was that the Martians were simply formidable human beings, who might attack and sack the town, to be certainly destroyed in the end. Every now and then people would glance nervously across the Wey, at the meadows towards Chertsey, but everything over there was still.

Across the Thames, except just where the boats landed, everything was quiet, in vivid contrast with the Surrey side. The people who landed there from the boats went tramping off down the lane. The big ferryboat had just made a journey. Three or four soldiers stood on the lawn of the inn, staring and jesting at the fugitives, without offering to help. The inn was closed, as it was now within prohibited hours.

“What’s that?” cried a boatman, and “Shut up, you fool!” said a man near me to a yelping dog. Then the sound came again, this time from the direction of Chertsey, a muffled thud—the sound of a gun.

The fighting was beginning. Almost immediately unseen batteries across the river to our right, unseen because of the trees, took up the chorus, firing heavily one after the other. A woman screamed. Everyone stood arrested by the sudden stir of battle, near us and yet invisible to us. Nothing was to be seen save flat meadows, cows feeding unconcernedly for the most part, and silvery pollard willows motionless in the warm sunlight.

“The sojers’ll stop ’em,” said a woman beside me, doubtfully. A haziness rose over the treetops.

Then suddenly we saw a rush of smoke far away up the river, a puff of smoke that jerked up into the air and hung; and forthwith the ground heaved under foot and a heavy explosion shook the air, smashing two or three windows in the houses near, and leaving us astonished.

“Here they are!” shouted a man in a blue jersey. “Yonder! D’yer see them? Yonder!”

Quickly, one after the other, one, two, three, four of the armoured Martians appeared, far away over the little trees, across the flat meadows that stretched towards Chertsey, and striding hurriedly towards the river. Little cowled figures they seemed at first, going with a rolling motion and as fast as flying birds.

Then, advancing obliquely towards us, came a fifth. Their armoured bodies glittered in the sun as they swept swiftly forward upon the guns, growing rapidly larger as they drew nearer. One on the extreme left, the remotest that is, flourished a huge case high in the air, and the ghostly, terrible Heat-Ray I had already seen on Friday night smote towards Chertsey, and struck the town.

At sight of these strange, swift, and terrible creatures the crowd near the water’s edge seemed to me to be for a moment horror-struck. There was no screaming or shouting, but a silence. Then a hoarse murmur and a movement of feet—a splashing from the water. A man, too frightened to drop the portmanteau he carried on his shoulder, swung round and sent me staggering with a blow from the corner of his burden. A woman thrust at me with her hand and rushed past me. I turned with the rush of the people, but I was not too terrified for thought. The terrible Heat-Ray was in my mind. To get under water! That was it!

“Get under water!” I shouted, unheeded.

I faced about again, and rushed towards the approaching Martian, rushed right down the gravelly beach and headlong into the water. Others did the same. A boatload of people putting back came leaping out as I rushed past. The stones under my feet were muddy and slippery, and the river was so low that I ran perhaps twenty feet scarcely waist-deep. Then, as the Martian towered overhead scarcely a couple of hundred yards away, I flung myself forward under the surface.

The splashes of the people in the boats leaping into the river sounded like thunderclaps in my ears. People were landing hastily on both sides of the river. But the Martian machine took no more notice, for the moment, of the people running this way and that, than a man would of the confusion of ants in a nest against which his foot has kicked.

When, half suffocated, I raised my head above water, the Martian’s hood pointed at the batteries that were still firing across the river, and as it advanced it swung loose what must have been the generator of the Heat-Ray.

In another moment it was on the bank, and in a stride wading halfway across. The knees of its foremost legs bent at the farther bank, and in another moment it had raised itself to its full height again, close to the village of Shepperton.

Forthwith the six guns which, unknown to anyone on the right bank, had been hidden behind the outskirts of that village, fired simultaneously. The sudden near concussion, the last close upon the first, made my heart jump. The monster was already raising the case generating the Heat-Ray as the first shell burst six yards above the hood.

I gave a cry of astonishment. I saw and thought nothing of the other four Martian monsters; my attention was riveted upon the nearer incident. Simultaneously two other shells burst in the air near the body as the hood twisted round in time to receive, but not in time to dodge, the fourth shell.

The shell burst clean in the face of the Thing. The hood bulged, flashed, was whirled off in a dozen tattered fragments of red flesh and glittering metal.

“Hit!” shouted I, with something between a scream and a cheer.
I heard answering shouts from the people in the water about me. I could have leaped out of the water with that momentary exultation.

The decapitated colossus reeled like a drunken giant; but it did not fall over. It recovered its balance by a miracle, and, no longer heeding its steps and with the camera that fired the Heat-Ray now rigidly upheld, it reeled swiftly upon Shepperton. The living intelligence, the Martian within the hood, was slain and splashed to the four winds of heaven, and the Thing was now but a mere intricate device of metal whirling to destruction. It drove along in a straight line, incapable of guidance. It struck the tower of Shepperton Church, smashing it down as the impact of a battering ram might have done, swerved aside, blundered on and collapsed with tremendous force into the river out of my sight.

A violent explosion shook the air, and a spout of water, steam, mud, and shattered metal shot far up into the sky. As the camera of the Heat-Ray hit the water, the latter had immediately flashed into steam. In another moment a huge muddy tidal wave, almost scaldingly hot, came sweeping round the bend upstream. I saw people struggling shorewards, and heard their screaming and shouting faintly above the seething and roar of the Martian’s collapse.

For a moment I heeded nothing of the heat, forgot the patent need of self-preservation. I splashed through the tumultuous water, pushing aside a man in black to do so, until I could see round the bend. Half a dozen deserted boats pitched aimlessly upon the confusion of the waves. The fallen Martian came into sight downstream, lying across the river, and for the most part submerged.

Thick clouds of steam were pouring off the wreckage, and through the tumultuously whirling wisps I could see, intermittently and vaguely, the gigantic limbs churning the water and flinging a splash and spray of mud and froth into the air. The tentacles swayed and struck like living arms, and, save for the helpless purposelessness of these movements, it was as if some wounded thing were struggling for its life amid the waves. Enormous quantities of a ruddy-brown fluid were spurting up in noisy jets out of the machine.

My attention was diverted from this death flurry by a furious yelling, like that of the thing called a siren in our manufacturing towns. A man, knee-deep near the towing path, shouted inaudibly to me and pointed. Looking back, I saw the other Martians advancing with gigantic strides down the riverbank from the direction of Chertsey. The Shepperton guns spoke this time unavailingly.

At that I ducked at once under water, and, holding my breath until movement was an agony, blundered painfully ahead under the surface as long as I could. The water was in a tumult about me, and rapidly growing hotter.

When for a moment I raised my head to take breath and throw the hair and water from my eyes, the steam was rising in a whirling white fog that at first hid the Martians altogether. The noise was deafening. Then I saw them dimly, colossal figures of grey, magnified by the mist. They had passed by me, and two were stooping over the frothing, tumultuous ruins of their comrade.

The third and fourth stood beside him in the water, one perhaps two hundred yards from me, the other towards Laleham. The generators of the Heat-Rays waved high, and the hissing beams smote down this way and that.

The air was full of sound, a deafening and confusing conflict of noises—the clangorous din of the Martians, the crash of falling houses, the thud of trees, fences, sheds flashing into flame, and the crackling and roaring of fire. Dense black smoke was leaping up to mingle with the steam from the river, and as the Heat-Ray went to and fro over Weybridge its impact was marked by flashes of incandescent white, that gave place at once to a smoky dance of lurid flames. The nearer houses still stood intact, awaiting their fate, shadowy, faint and pallid in the steam, with the fire behind them going to and fro.

For a moment perhaps I stood there, breast-high in the almost boiling water, dumbfounded at my position, hopeless of escape. Through the reek I could see the people who had been with me in the river scrambling out of the water through the reeds, like little frogs hurrying through grass from the advance of a man, or running to and fro in utter dismay on the towing path.

Then suddenly the white flashes of the Heat-Ray came leaping towards me. The houses caved in as they dissolved at its touch, and darted out flames; the trees changed to fire with a roar. The Ray flickered up and down the towing path, licking off the people who ran this way and that, and came down to the water’s edge not fifty yards from where I stood. It swept across the river to Shepperton, and the water in its track rose in a boiling weal crested with steam. I turned shoreward.

In another moment the huge wave, well-nigh at the boiling-point had rushed upon me. I screamed aloud, and scalded, half blinded, agonised, I staggered through the leaping, hissing water towards the shore. Had my foot stumbled, it would have been the end. I fell helplessly, in full sight of the Martians, upon the broad, bare gravelly spit that runs down to mark the angle of the Wey and Thames. I expected nothing but death.

I have a dim memory of the foot of a Martian coming down within a score of yards of my head, driving straight into the loose gravel, whirling it this way and that and lifting again; of a long suspense, and then of the four carrying the debris of their comrade between them, now clear and then presently faint through a veil of smoke, receding interminably, as it seemed to me, across a vast space of river and meadow. And then, very slowly, I realised that by a miracle I had escaped.

Summary (AKA – what the hell just happened?)

The two men reach a chaotic scene in Weybridge as people crowd the railway station and the ferry in an effort to leave.
Suddenly they hear gunfire and a large explosion, and four tripods come into view across the river.
The narrator hides in the river.
Six guns hidden in the woods fire on the nearest tripod.
One shell strikes the tripod and gruesomely kills the Martian inside.
Unguided but still moving, the tripod smashes into a church and falls into the river.
The other Martians come to the fallen tripod, shooting their Heat-Rays at the village and destroying the opposition.
The Heat-Ray from the fallen tripod heats the water in the river and scalds the narrator before he manages to escape.

Final comments and analysis

It’s possible to see various interpretations of this story, or subtexts to the story.

Here are some.

The complacency of humans
As the dominant species on earth for hundreds of thousands of years, we have become complacent about our position in the natural hierarchy, and this is a mistake. Humans could easily be removed from this dominant position by things we aren’t even aware of. In the story this means intelligent creatures from another planet. In reality this could be something like the coronavirus or just something else we don’t usually think about.

How would human society cope with a crisis like this?
This is a common theme in disaster movies, zombie films, science fiction etc. All it takes is for something to disrupt our carefully organised society and things can descend into chaos quite easily, and this often brings out the worst in people. Normal citizens can quickly become immoral and do bad things, when the structure of society collapses and we end up having to fight for our survival.

Treatment of Animals
The story makes us think about the way we treat animals, which are below us in the power hierarchy on earth. Perhaps we should be more compassionate and kind to animals. In fact this is one of the only conclusions the narrator reaches in this story, as he suddenly understands what it means to be ruled over by a superior species.

The bigger they come, the harder they fall.

Microorganisms and viruses might be the most powerful forces on earth.

More themes here including technology, fear, power, and Familiar versus Strange
www.coursehero.com/lit/The-War-of-the-Worlds/themes/

A sample from coursehero.com
Technology
The benefits, possibilities, and potential threats of technology—represented in the Martian tripods—make technology a pervasive theme in the novel. Following the Industrial Revolution, technology changed society dramatically—from travel, to work, to communication. Virtually no part of life was untouched by new inventions. The benefits provided by these new machines meant people could accomplish tasks faster, easier, and often independently.

But as ever with modern science fiction stories, there is an element of fear regarding advancements in technology and how we may ultimately be surpassed by technological innovations.

This is where we’re going to stop.


I seriously hope you enjoyed this!

If you’re still listening or watching, then “hello”. Thanks for sticking with this. I guess it must mean you’ve been enjoying it.

I’m sure it’s been challenging at times, but to be honest I also feel this is difficult to follow when I read it. There’s a sense that things are just beyond your imagination, and that your mind has to do quite a lot of work to understand the fairly complex descriptions being given. This is not quite the same as watching a film where everything is shown. Or maybe it’s like watching a really well-directed film where you never quite see clearly what is happening, and this adds to the drama and excitement.

Anyway – thank you for sticking with this and listening all the way through.

Let me know what you think of this, and I highly recommend reading the rest of the story. There’s a lot more action and a few more close encounters with the Martians and their tripods, and of course the ending is very clever. I won’t spoil it. The book is better than the film though, I assure you!

In terms of English, I hope you have found it interesting to hear some samples of old fashioned English from the 19th century. I would say it is broadly modern English, but with a more formal style. It’s really enjoyable though. I love the descriptiveness and the general command over the language is a joy to behold.

Don’t forget you can get the full text for this episode printed right there on the page for this episode, and there’s the YouTube video version as well to enjoy where you can see text on the screen as you read it.

Listen to LEP wherever you get your podcasts. Don’t forget to like and subscribe.

Leave a positive review on iTunes and check out my free app.

And consider signing up to LEP Premium to get specific lessons on vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar. teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

Thanks for listening.

All the best,

Bye bye bye bye

734. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells [Part 1] Learn English with Stories

Luke reads extracts from The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. This is a classic bit of science fiction writing from the Victorian era, with some thrilling passages and scary descriptions. It’s one of my favourite books of all time and I hope you enjoy it too and learn some English from it. Full transcript available and YouTube version too.

Audio Version

Small Donate Button

[DOWNLOAD AUDIO]

Video Version

Click here for part 2

Click here for part 3

Full Episode Transcript (starts after the jingle)

Hello listeners,

It’s story time in this episode because I’m going to tell you a classic English science fiction story.

The story is called War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells the classic storyteller who also wrote The Invisible Man and The Time Machine, and you have probably heard of War Of The Worlds because it is definitely one of the most famous and most influential science fiction stories ever written.

Now, I know that science fiction is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I do hope you stick around and listen to this story because I think this is just particularly good writing and the story is very exciting, immersive and memorable so it should be a really enjoyable way to pick up some more English.

I won’t be reading the whole book of course but I will be reading some selected extracts and giving you a summary of the key details in the first part of the story.

The aims of this episode

To entertain you with a really engaging story in English.
Stories are a great way to get more English into your head and if they are exciting and immersive, then that’s even better.

To show you a slightly old-fashioned version of English, which is really rich in descriptive language and more formal in style than today’s English.
It’s good to be exposed to diverse versions of the language.
Old fashioned English is much more like modern formal English, so it’s a good lesson in style.
This can really strengthen your English in various ways.

To help you notice some nice bits of vocabulary along the way.
Having a broad range of vocabulary is essential in achieving truly advanced English. This story is very rich in descriptive language.

To inspire you perhaps to read the rest of the book.
Reading is such an important thing to do for your English, and maybe you’re looking for interesting books to read. You could consider this one. It’s not too long.

This is also available as a video episode on YouTube and if you watch you can see me recording the podcast with the text on the screen next to my face. So you can listen and read at the same time and see me telling the story.

You can read the entire text I am reading from on the page for this episode at teacherluke.co.uk.

Context of the story and the writing style

War of the Worlds has been adapted lots of times – in films (most famously the 2005 Stephen Spielberg film with Tom Cruise – which you might have seen) and another film version in the 1950s set in Los Angeles, an audiobook musical version read by Richard Burton and an infamous dramatised radio series by Orson Welles.

This is the original alien invasion story. This book was one of the very first stories to ever explore these themes and to describe these kinds of things in such a realistic way.

This is the one that has inspired so many others and in my opinion, none of the other versions of this story or copies of this story can compare to this original version from 1897.

The writing is very realistic and journalistic in style, written from the first person perspective of a guy just experiencing the events as they happened and describing everything in great detail.

A note about the language and the writing style

The language is pretty old fashioned (1897) but it’s really well written and it should be interesting for you and useful for your English to explore another version of this language. Exposure to different types of English makes your English stronger I think.

As we go through this I will point out particular words or phrases as we go and perhaps compare this to normal modern plain English.

Comparing the styles of languages actually gives you more perspective on normal modern English and how formal written English today still retains some aspects of old fashioned language.

There is quite a lot of language you might find in legal documents or other very formal situations.

Words like therein, hereby, forthwith and things like that are quite common, as well as certain structures, longer sentences and choices of words which mark this out in a particular style.

This is very descriptive literary language from over 100 years ago. It’s more complex than today’s English, more formal than today’s English and very specific in its descriptions.

This will probably be a challenge for you but I’m here to help and I will explain things as we go.

This is quite scary stuff

I have to add actually, that having re-read some of this story in preparation for this episode, I hadn’t realised just how terrifying this story is.

Personally I really enjoy the thrills you get from a story like this, but if you are feeling a bit force-sensitive today you might want to get a pillow or hide behind the sofa or something.

Useful Links & Sources

Here are a couple of links I have found useful in making this episode.

Project Gutenberg
I have several paperback copies of this book, but I also found it on www.gutenberg.org – a website which shares stories and books which are now in the public domain.

Link to War of the Worlds html version
www.gutenberg.org/files/36/36-h/36-h.htm

CourseHero Study Notes
Also there’s a website called coursehero.com which has useful summaries of the story and other useful information.
www.coursehero.com/lit/The-War-of-the-Worlds/

Summarising the opening chapters

These are the opening paragraphs of the book, which set the scene in which the events take place. Note the sombre tone and specific choice of language.

Main Character

The story is told by an unnamed narrator.

He is a middle-class educated man who writes philosophical papers and is interested in science. That’s all we know. The story is written in the past tense, as if he is looking back on those events and has written a full account of what happened.

I.
THE EVE OF THE WAR.

No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. [one sentence!]

With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same.

No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable.

It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most, terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise.

Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.

And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.

Summary of the story up until Chapter 4: The Cylinder Opens

That opening chapter describes how a species of intelligent creatures on Mars had been observing us for many years before the events of this story. The opening chapter goes on to explain that the Martians were planning to invade earth because their home planet was steadily getting cooler year after year due to the fact that it is further from the sun than the earth. They faced extinction on their own planet, and so they set their sights on their nearest neighbour – Earth – with its warmer atmosphere and closer position to the sun, and with their superior mathematical knowledge and technology they decided they would colonise earth in order to survive. They spent years observing us and planning the invasion.

Note: I am using present tenses from now on to describe this story. This is a normal way to retell the plot of a book, film, or play. It’s because the events of the story are permanent because they never change, they are written that way. So we can use present tenses to summarise the story of a book or film.

Ogilvy the Astronomer

The narrator has a friend called Ogilvy who is a respected astronomer. He has a telescope and uses it to observe the night sky, including the surface of Mars, our nearest neighbour.

So Ogilvy is our friend and he’s an astronomer.

6 years before the main events of the story Ogilvy invites the narrator to an observatory to study Mars after another astronomer reported a dramatic explosion of gas on the surface of the planet, which seems to be directed toward Earth. The narrator observes a similar explosion as he watches through the telescope.

Ogilvy doubts the existence of life on Mars and speculates the phenomenon may be related to meteorites or volcanoes. Many other people witness the phenomenon, which repeats itself at midnight over a total of 10 days.

Nobody at the time is concerned or worried about the explosions on Mars.

6 years later some people see a falling star – a meteorite which flies through the night sky with a bright green flash and lands nearby on Horsell Common – a large area of grass, meadows and trees. Again, nobody assumes there is anything weird going on. Ogilvy the astronomer is interested in the meteorite and finds it on the common.

As it has landed it has formed a large crater of sand. So the object is lying at the bottom of a kind of large sand pit in the middle of an open area of grassland surrounded by buildings and trees.

The meteorite that he finds is quite odd. It’s in a cylindrical shape – like a long can of coke, but he thinks its made of rock as it is covered in a kind of crusty layer. It’s also extremely hot and he can’t get near it, but he notices there are weird sounds coming from inside it. He assumes these are noises caused by the object cooling, but as he continues to observe it he realises that something funny is going on.

The crusty layer is slowly falling off as the object cools, revealing a kind of metallic surface underneath, and even weirder than that, the end of the cylinder appears to be turning, as if it is unscrewing very slowly. Ogilvy suddenly assumes that the cylinder has people inside it and decides to get help, but nobody believes him.

Eventually he finds a journalist who is willing to check the cylinder. A crowd of people begins to gather as word spreads about “men from space stuck inside a cylinder on the common”. People don’t quite realise what’s going on but they are incredibly curious. Normal life continues, with people stopping by to have a look at the object in the sand pit, before continuing their normal routines.

The narrator goes down to Horsell Common to check out what’s going on. A larger crowd has gathered there. He manages to squeeze through the crowd which is getting more and more excited and agitated. A small group of scientists, including the narrator’s friend Ogilvy are in the pit attempting to work out what is happening.

The narrator observes what is going on and comments on how most people are not really educated about this kind of thing and they haven’t worked out what’s going on, but he assumes that the cylinder must be extra-terrestrial. He observes the end of the cylinder moving and as it turns it’s revealing a kind of shining metal thread.

The next chapter describes what happens when the end of the cylinder finally drops off, revealing what is inside.

Reading chapters 4 and 5 with comments and explanations

The narrator approaches the pit containing the cylinder.
Crowds of people are all around the pit, trying to see what’s happening. They’re pushing each other a bit, and things are quite tense. (You know, when a large crowd forms, people start pushing and shoving and it’s stressful)
Ogilvy and some other scientists are in the pit.

IV.
THE CYLINDER OPENS.
The crowd about the pit had increased, and stood out black against the lemon yellow of the sky—a couple of hundred people, perhaps. There were raised voices, and some sort of struggle appeared to be going on about the pit. Strange imaginings passed through my mind. As I drew nearer I heard Stent’s voice:
“Keep back! Keep back!”
A boy came running towards me.
“It’s a-movin’,” he said to me as he passed; “a-screwin’ and a-screwin’ out. I don’t like it. I’m a-goin’ ’ome, I am.”
I went on to the crowd. There were really, I should think, two or three hundred people elbowing and jostling one another, the one or two ladies there being by no means the least active.
“He’s fallen in the pit!” cried some one.
“Keep back!” said several.
The crowd swayed a little, and I elbowed my way through. Every one seemed greatly excited. I heard a peculiar humming sound from the pit.
“I say!” said Ogilvy; “help keep these idiots back. We don’t know what’s in the confounded thing, you know!”
I saw a young man, a shop assistant in Woking I believe he was, standing on the cylinder and trying to scramble out of the hole again. The crowd had pushed him in.
The end of the cylinder was being screwed out from within. Nearly two feet of shining screw projected. Somebody blundered against me, and I narrowly missed being pitched onto the top of the screw. I turned, and as I did so the screw must have come out, for the lid of the cylinder fell upon the gravel with a ringing concussion. I stuck my elbow into the person behind me, and turned my head towards the Thing again. For a moment that circular cavity seemed perfectly black. I had the sunset in my eyes.
I think everyone expected to see a man emerge—possibly something a little unlike us terrestrial men, but in all essentials a man. I know I did. But, looking, I presently saw something stirring within the shadow: greyish billowy movements, one above another, and then two luminous disks—like eyes. Then something resembling a little grey snake, about the thickness of a walking stick, coiled up out of the writhing middle, and wriggled in the air towards me—and then another.
A sudden chill came over me. There was a loud shriek from a woman behind. I half turned, keeping my eyes fixed upon the cylinder still, from which other tentacles were now projecting, and began pushing my way back from the edge of the pit. I saw astonishment giving place to horror on the faces of the people about me. I heard inarticulate exclamations on all sides. There was a general movement backwards. I saw the shopman struggling still on the edge of the pit. I found myself alone, and saw the people on the other side of the pit running off, Stent among them. I looked again at the cylinder, and ungovernable terror gripped me. I stood petrified and staring.
A big greyish rounded bulk, the size, perhaps, of a bear, was rising slowly and painfully out of the cylinder. As it bulged up and caught the light, it glistened like wet leather.
Two large dark-coloured eyes were regarding me steadfastly. The mass that framed them, the head of the thing, was rounded, and had, one might say, a face. There was a mouth under the eyes, the lipless brim of which quivered and panted, and dropped saliva. The whole creature heaved and pulsated convulsively. A lank tentacular appendage gripped the edge of the cylinder, another swayed in the air.
Those who have never seen a living Martian can scarcely imagine the strange horror of its appearance. The peculiar V-shaped mouth with its pointed upper lip, the absence of brow ridges, the absence of a chin beneath the wedgelike lower lip, the incessant quivering of this mouth, the Gorgon groups of tentacles, the tumultuous breathing of the lungs in a strange atmosphere, the evident heaviness and painfulness of movement due to the greater gravitational energy of the earth—above all, the extraordinary intensity of the immense eyes—were at once vital, intense, inhuman, crippled and monstrous. There was something fungoid in the oily brown skin, something in the clumsy deliberation of the tedious movements unspeakably nasty. Even at this first encounter, this first glimpse, I was overcome with disgust and dread.
[It’s a bit like if you spend any length of time staring at a nasty looking insect, or even just staring at a picture of one]
Suddenly the monster vanished. It had toppled over the brim of the cylinder and fallen into the pit, with a thud like the fall of a great mass of leather. I heard it give a peculiar thick cry, and forthwith another of these creatures appeared darkly in the deep shadow of the aperture.
I turned and, running madly, made for the first group of trees, perhaps a hundred yards away; but I ran slantingly and stumbling, for I could not avert my face from these things.
There, among some young pine trees and furze bushes, I stopped, panting, and waited further developments. The common round the sand-pits was dotted with people, standing like myself in a half-fascinated terror, staring at these creatures, or rather at the heaped gravel at the edge of the pit in which they lay. And then, with a renewed horror, I saw a round, black object bobbing up and down on the edge of the pit. It was the head of the shopman who had fallen in, but showing as a little black object against the hot western sun. Now he got his shoulder and knee up, and again he seemed to slip back until only his head was visible. Suddenly he vanished, and I could have fancied a faint shriek had reached me. I had a momentary impulse to go back and help him that my fears overruled.
Everything was then quite invisible, hidden by the deep pit and the heap of sand that the fall of the cylinder had made. Anyone coming along the road from Chobham or Woking would have been amazed at the sight—a dwindling multitude of perhaps a hundred people or more standing in a great irregular circle, in ditches, behind bushes, behind gates and hedges, saying little to one another in short, excited shouts, and staring, staring hard at a few heaps of sand. A barrow of ginger beer stood, a queer derelict, black against the burning sky, and in the sand-pits was a row of deserted vehicles with their horses feeding out of nosebags or pawing the ground.

Summary of Chapter 4

As the sun sets, the narrator returns to the pit, where a few hundred people have gathered.
A boy warns the narrator that the end of the cylinder has unscrewed itself, and the narrator forces his way to the front of the crowd to get a better view.
Ogilvy warns the people to stay away and reminds them of its unknown contents.
One man is pushed into the pit by the jostling of the crowd.
The end of the cylinder comes off and falls into the pit.
The narrator and the crowd are horrified by the grotesque octopus-like appearance of an alien who slowly and painstakingly emerges from the cylinder. They seem heavy and struggling to breathe in the atmosphere.
The narrator and the crowd run away from the pit, but many, including the narrator, stop to watch the aliens from the nearby tree line.
The sun sets, leaving enough light to just see the silhouette of the shopkeeper as he tries and fails to get out of the pit alive.

To be continued in part 2…

676. David Crystal: Let’s Talk – How English Conversation Works

Professor David Crystal returns to talk about his latest books, and more. The first book is all about the art of conversation in English, and the second one is a spy thriller inspired by real events. David Crystal is one of the world’s leading linguists and an expert on the English language. He is also a national treasure and it’s a treat to be able to talk to him in this episode. Video version also available on the Luke’s English Podcast YouTube channel.

[DOWNLOAD]

YouTube Video Version

Recommended books

Some of his most popular books include:

  • The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language
  • The Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary
  • The Story of English in 100 Words
  • You Say Potato: The Story of English Accents (written with his son Ben)
  • Wordsmiths and Warriors: The English-Language Tourist’s Guide to Britain (Written with his wife Hilary)
  • Txting: The Gr8 Db8
  • Pronouncing Shakespeare: The Globe Experiment – a fascinating project investigating how English was pronounced by the original actors in the Globe Theatre when Shakespeare was alive
  • Spell It Out: The Curious, Enthralling and Extraordinary Story of English Spelling
  • Just A Phrase I’m Going Through: My Life in Language (which is both his autobiography and a highly accessible introduction to the field of linguistics)
  • Making Sense: The Glamorous Story of English Grammar

Many of those titles can be purchased as ebooks from David Crystal’s website – www.davidcrystal.com or from any good bookseller. There are also audiobook versions which are read out by the man himself.

Previous LEP episodes with David Crystal

teacherluke.co.uk/2017/05/31/454-david-crystal-interview-part-1-professor-of-linguistics/

teacherluke.co.uk/2017/06/06/455-david-crystal-interview-part-2-questions-from-listeners/

teacherluke.co.uk/2017/06/09/456-conclusions-about-language-learning-from-the-david-crystal-interview-part-1/

618. The Climate Crisis Explained in 10 Charts (with Cara Leopold)

A conversation with Cara Leopold about the climate crisis including descriptions of key charts, graphs and data. Notes and transcripts available.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

Introduction Transcript

Hello folks and welcome to the podcast.

It’s International Podcast Day today, which is nice! Monday 30 September 2019.

Luke rambles about International Podcast Day for a couple of minutes… www.internationalpodcastday.com

The Climate Crisis Explained in 10 Charts

So, what about this episode of the podcast which is called “The Climate Crisis Explained in 10 Charts”?

In this one I am joined by English teacher Cara Leopold from Leo-Listening.com to talk about what must now be the number 1 issue facing the world, and that is the climate crisis. It’s bigger than Brexit, bigger than the latest scandal involving Trump or other leaders, it’s bigger than the fact that you’ve just made a cup of tea but there’s no milk in the fridge. This is bigger than all those things.

The title “The Climate Crisis Explained in 10 Charts” is actually the title of an article on The Guardian’s website which is all about certain key facts and figures explaining the climate crisis.

www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/20/the-climate-crisis-explained-in-10-charts

In order to get a bit more specific and look at some data on the subject Cara and I decided to go through this article which contains various graphs and charts illustrating the way climate change is happening and what the likely knock-on effects are. There are also charts about the growth of green energy and other possible solutions.

In terms of learning English, there is language here to look out for. Obviously there’s the language we use to talk about the climate, changing weather systems and the other aspects of this issue. But also you’re going to hear us using language to describe data, charts and graphs, which is very useful language if you have to write reports in English or when you write the Writing Part 1 task in the academic version of IELTS.

So listen out for descriptive verbs and other terms for describing changes and trends.

My guest for this episode is Cara Leopold from Leo-Listening.com

Here’s some info about Cara

Cara helps intrepid travellers and adventurous expats improve their English listening skills through movies and TV shows so they can understand native speakers, even when they talk fast. Her website is Leo-listening.com. She has been on this podcast before, talking about learning English from TV and films in episode 523.

523. Tips for Learning English with Films & TV Shows (with Cara Leopold)

In this episode, first Cara and I talk about our personal experiences of recent changes in the weather and our concerns for the future and then we get stuck into the article. You’ll find a link to that article on the page for this episode on the website. You can hear us describing the charts, and discussing the significance of the data.

So, let’s get started. All you have to do is keep up with the conversation and spot the useful bits of vocab.

I’ll speak to you again on the other end of this conversation. But now, here we go…

Notes & Links from Cara

The Drilled podcast is all about climate denial and the fossil fuel industry. 

This is the theory (and I guess this as well) I mentioned about why we haven’t come into contact with aliens. I first heard about it on the Sam Harris podcast. 

This article by George Monbiot explains the environmental impact of meat and dairy really well. 

This explains the CO2 impact of flying really well.

Ending

So there you have it. Just a conversation about the climate crisis.

I’m not sure what else to add here so I would like to throw it over to you and to invite you to make comments in the comment section for this episode.

What do you think?

Have you noticed changes in the climate where you are living? How are these changes having an impact on people’s lives?

Have there been any climate crisis marches, strikes or other events where you are?

What is the political climate regarding climate change where you are?

Are there any things that you’re doing these days in an effort to play your part in the fight to reverse climate change?

And generally, what are your thoughts? I would very much like to know.

Leave your comments below. Share your thoughts on this subject.

564. The Collins Words of the Year (Part 4)

More trending vocabulary and issues of the moment, this time focusing on topics like working conditions in the gig economy, the pros and cons of instagram and a true story about a unicorn riding a bike in London. Transcript available.

[DOWNLOAD]

PART 4 Transcript – 99% complete

Welcome back to this series about The Words of the Year. In the last 3 episodes I’ve been working my way through this list published by The Collins Dictionary online of 10 words which were used a lot in 2017. So far I’ve talked about fake newsantifa, Corbynmania, cuffing season, echo chamber, fidget spinner and gender-fluid. It’s been a bit of a tightrope for me to talk about some of those fairly controversial political topics and manage to cover the different aspects of the debates surrounding these concepts. But hopefully you’ve been finding it interesting and you’ve noticed lots of vocabulary – more than just the words of the year.

Most of what I’m saying in this series is written on the pages for these episodes on the website. I started preparing these episodes last year when Collins published their list and just never got round to recording it, but I’ve added more notes and ideas to this over the last 12 months and I’m happy to be finally putting my thoughts on record in these episodes. So do check out the pages for these episodes published on my website. If you go through all the stuff I’ve written, and perhaps try to read along as I’m speaking, it will make it easier for you to pick up bits of vocabulary that you’ll hear me using.

Generally, in episodes like this, I hope you are trying to notice little bits of language as we go along. That’s basically the point. I’m trying to provide you with a meaningful context in which you can discover or notice vocabulary which you can attempt to pick up and use yourself. The notes and scripts on the website should really help you to do that, as you can check spelling and paste new words and expressions into your word lists if you keep them. So I hope you use episodes like this as a chance to expand your vocabulary as you listen.

I’ve got 3 more words from the 2017 list to deal with and I think I’ll get that done in this episode, which is part 4 of the series. Then after this, it’s time to move onto the Collins Words of the Year for 2018! But thankfully I’ll have the help of my friend Amber Minogue (who, of course you know because she is a regular guest on the show). But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, let’s finish the word list from 2017 first.

Remember these are words or phrases which were used a lot in 2017 and which Collins selected also because they represent big issues that people were talking about or reading about in the media during 2017. All these issues are still relevant and significant today, except perhaps fidget spinners from the last episode, which I think are now old news and probably just a trend that peaked in 2017.

OK let’s carry on.

(the) Gig economy

noun: an economy in which there are few permanent employees and most jobs are assigned to temporary or freelance workers.

This is all about the current job market in the UK (and elsewhere of course). It’s an economy – or employment market in which permanent work is getting more and more rare – I’m not really sure why.

Instead it’s more and more common to just have a series of temporary jobs, being employed on a freelance basis. The expression gig economy is used to refer to this situation in which people might just move between different temporary jobs, or perhaps work a number of little jobs at the same time. This is to be contrasted with the old idea that in your career you find just one permanent job with a company that employs you for life, or at least until you retire.

Nowadays there seems to be less job security, or perhaps just more flexibility than there used to be.

We’ve got a bit of vocabulary here about types of job, or types of contract and then we’ll break down the expression “gig economy” as well, which basically means just explaining what a gig is.

Let’s look at the difference between a permanent job and a freelance or temporary job.

“Hey, I got a new job.” Your friend might say. How do you respond?

“Oh, cool. Is it a permanent contract?”

“No, just temping” or “No I’m freelancing still, but it’s for 6 months, which isn’t bad”

  • A permanent job / A permanent contract
  • A temporary contract / Temping
  • Freelancing

The advantage of a permanent job is that you get more security. You’re certain to have work and to be paid every month, but you’re committed to that job. With freelance or temporary work you have a bit more flexibility. You can probably say to employers “Hey, I’m not free for the month of April” or something and you can do whatever you want in April because there are no strings attached. But, why would you want to do that? You still need to pay the rent. You need to keep working, right? Usually temporary contracts are just not as good as permanent ones, unless for some reason you only want to work for a short period – like maybe you just want to work for the next 3 months before you go travelling or something.

The downside of temporary or freelance work is that because there’s not permanent contract, your employer can just say, “Oh, we’ve got no work for you next week, sorry” and you say “Oh, any idea when you will need me?” and they say “We’ll let you know” and then you’re facing a period of no work, and no money to pay the rent. It’s uncertain. What happens then is that in this situation you end up going around doing lots of little temporary jobs, perhaps doing different types of work, some part-time stuff, anything so you can pay the rent and pay for your mobile phone connection and your supply of basic essentials like food, water, shelter, clothing, wifi and hipster coffee. The gig economy refers to this situation, in which there are fewer permanent jobs and everyone’s just rushing around doing little gigs here, little gigs there.

Some more bits of vocabulary

a Gig – a ‘one-off’ job. It’s usually used to refer to a comedy show or a music show, by comedians or musicians. “I did a gig last night” or “You’ve been gigging a lot recently” or “What’s the worst gig you’ve ever done?” or “we went to a great gig last night” or “I’ve got a gig tonight”.

It’s also used more and more to refer to other types of work, e.g. just one-off temporary contracts. “I’ve got a gig at a startup company in town, doing their website. It’s a pretty good gig actually.”

The gig economy (collinsdictionary.com)
In July 2017 the UK prime minister, Theresa May, made a speech promising to support the increasing number of workers in the ‘gig economy’, where the flexibility of short-term and part-time working comes at the cost of having little job security and none of the employment benefits enjoyed by permanent members of staff.

Really, this refers to the fact that instead of doing one single permanent job these days, more and more people are doing multiple part-time jobs at the same time.

OK, so you get the idea.

This doesn’t mean that everyone is doing temporary work, it’s just that’s it’s more and more common. On the one hand this means we have a flexible workforce, but on the other hand it’s a situation in which there’s less and less job security.

What about where you live? Is there a gig economy there?

Zero-hours contracts

If you’ve spent any time in the UK and read any papers or listened to the news recently, you must have come across this expression. 

This from the BBC’s website https://www.bbc.com/news/business-23573442

Q: What are zero-hours contracts?

A: Zero-hours contracts, or casual contracts, allow employers to hire staff with no guarantee of work.

They mean employees work only when they are needed by employers, often at short notice. Their pay depends on how many hours they work.

Some zero-hours contracts require workers to take the shifts they are offered, while others do not.

Sick pay is often not included, although holiday pay should be, in line with working time regulations.

Q: Why are they controversial?

A: There is concern that zero-hours contracts do not offer enough financial stability and security.

The ONS found that employees on such a contract worked an average of 25 hours a week.

However, about a third of those on zero-hours contracts want more hours – mostly in their current job – compared with just 10% of other people in employment.

The CIPD research found that 16% of zero-hours workers said their employer often failed to provide them with sufficient hours each week.

The ONS said that zero-hours workers were more likely to be women or in full-time education and aged under 25 or over 65.

Employees on zero-hours contracts also do not have the same employment rights as those on traditional contracts, and critics are concerned that the contracts are being used to avoid employers’ responsibilities to employees.

So the issue is that zero hours contracts just let employers have all the control and power.

They’re really awful for workers’ rights.

Co-working spaces – these are rather cool and groovy spaces where you can go and work. They’re often populated by young people doing freelance work, or perhaps people who need an office for a short period and don’t have one, so they use co-working spaces as flexible alternatives to having an office. The rise of co-working spaces shows us that the job market is changing and is becoming more temporary in nature. They’re cool spaces, but they can be a bit noisy and expensive long term. They’re one of the parts of the gig economy.

Some gigs you might need to do if you’re struggling to find a permanent contract: waiter, barman, barista in a coffee shop, cleaner, clerical worker (doing basic office work like filing or data entry) or just a job in Starbucks, Uber driver, Deliveroo cyclist, and many more…

These are all jobs that you might take if you’re a gig economy worker, perhaps doing several jobs at the same time during your working week, while also taking some kind of academic course in an attempt to get an edge in the job market.

It’s probably a slightly insecure and confusing way of life, being all these things at the same time. Perhaps it’s cool to have so much flexibility too. There might be a sense of freedom in it, but I wouldn’t want that kind of lifestyle as the father of a child… but maybe I do actually have that lifestyle. I teach part time at the British Council and the rest of my time is spent working mostly alone on my online English teaching projects, while also doing stand-up comedy in the evenings and taking odd little extra jobs on the side, like sometimes I do voice-over work, sometimes I do bits of comedy writing, sometimes some acting… Maybe I am a gig economy worker. If it wasn’t for the permanent contract at the B.C. I would feel a bit more insecure I think (although LEP Premium is starting to make it possible for me to have more financial security and I’m lucky enough that my wife also contributes to our family budget).

Collocations with gig economy
A gig economy worker
One in three gig economy workers juggle at least two jobs at the same time, according to a study by one of the world’s biggest insurance companies. (Independent)

Gig economy companies
More than a million workers in Britain’s gig economy risk losing more than £22,000 each from being wrongly labelled as self-employed, according to research that shows the dangers posed to people in fragile employment.

The insurance firm Zurich said forcing gig economy companies to classify their workers as employees rather than self-employed would mean automatic enrolment in a workplace pension. Under these rules, it estimates a typical worker aged 25 and earning £25,000 a year would receive a total of £22,000 in employer contributions by the time they retire. (The Guardian)

Gig economy practices (practices = things that are done, and the way they are done)
UK government delays possible reforms to gig economy practices
The Guardian-Dec 5, 2017
Reforms to the gig economy expected to improve rights for up to 1.1 million people have been delayed until next year, in the latest sign that Brexit negotiations are hampering domestic policy.

Do you know any examples of this?
Are you a gig economy worker?

Insta

Adjective (slang): of or relating to the photo-sharing application Instagram

Some collocations/examples of ‘insta’ used as an adjective
insta friends
insta brand
insta trainer

Meet ‘Agent 00Fitness’: The unstoppable rise of the ‘Insta-trainer’
CNN-Dec 18, 2017
The most prominent American athlete to have picked up on the Insta-training trend is LeBron James, who has been posting workout clips for the past few years to his nearly 34 million Instagram followers.

Your Favorite Insta-Brand Just Launched Knits
Refinery29-10 hours ago
Welcome to our new bi-weekly column, Insta-Bait, where we highlight the brands taking over our feeds right now — because Instagram isn’t just a place where we DM memes to our friends and double-tap our style icons’ most on-point outfits, it’s where we discover new labels on the regular.

Do you use instagram?
Is it good for people’s mental health?

Instagram and mental health
Here is a reputable report about mental health and social media

qz.com/988765/instagram-fb-is-the-most-harmful-social-network-for-your-mental-health-but-youtube-goog-has-a-positive-effect-a-new-report-says/

Unicorn

noun:
(1) an imaginary creature depicted as a white horse with one long spiralled horn growing from its forehead, regarded as symbol of innocence and purity
(2) a recently launched business enterprise that is valued at more than one billion dollars

Unicorns aren’t new, but their popularity on the Internet (and of course everywhere else now too) is a pretty recent development. This ancient mythical creature is enjoying a renaissance of its own right now, both in images created by amateur computer users and for products sold in stores. Are you seeing unicorns pop up on a daily basis across your Twitter feed, Tumblr dashboard, or Facebook page, and in reality just in front of your actual face in the real world that you can touch? (unicornsrule.com)

We know what a unicorn is, but why are they so popular and prevalent these days?

Examples:
Unicorn t-shirts
Images of unicorns and rainbows
Memes featuring unicorns and rainbows and stuff

What is a unicorn? It’s a mythical animal
What do they represent? (purity, strength, honour, freedom, being fabulous, rarity (they’re rare), beauty, innocence, things which are hard to come by these days – idealism of identity, freedom to be whoever or whatever you want to be, the knowledge that it’s impossible to find)
Sometimes they appear on flags – e.g. they’re actually the symbol of Scotland, appears on the UK royal coat of arms (chained up because they were thought to be dangerous if free – quite sad isn’t it? Or maybe they’re chained up because Scottish kings were so awesome that they were even capable of catching unicorns, so now they’re in chains to represent the awesomeness of Scottish kings)
Appearance in some films – Blade Runner, Legend
Sexual connotation – in the LGBT community – because they often appear with rainbows, they’re used as symbols of activism. You might see them being used in marches promoting the rights of the LGBT community.
There’s also some slang too – apparently a unicorn can mean a single, attractive, healthy, bisexual female who wants to have a relationship with a couple. So hard to find that they’re considered as rare as a unicorn.

In finance: A unicorn is a startup company valued at over $1 billion. A new company that is immediately valued really highly. The term was coined in 2013 by venture capitalist Aileen Lee, choosing the mythical animal to represent the statistical rarity of such successful ventures. According to TechCrunch, there were 223 unicorns as of March 2017.[6] The largest unicorns included Uber, Xiaomi, Airbnb, Palantir, Dropbox and Pinterest.[7]

Discussion Questions
Do you think they were ever real?
What is it about unicorns that captures people’s imaginations?
Why are they popular now?
Unicorn start up companies: Uber, Airbnb, Dropbox – do you use any of these?

A message from a LEPster featuring a unicorn riding a bike in London

Message:

Hi Luke,

I’ve often thought of writing to you or leaving you a comment on Facebook but a. I’m not much of a “social”/“public” person b. I didn’t feel like it, honestly.

Until now.

Two things have happened to make me write to you. I’ve currently moved to London and:
1. I saw your name in a tower of “missing” letters (or whatever they are) at the front gate of my new residence here and I find it funny.
*mental note: check how common the name Luke and the last name Thompson are in England
2. I saw a cycling unicorn.

Could sound weird but it’s London, you know. (I hope you do because it is my first time in London. I’ve been here just since late August and I’m still, happily, freaking out many times in a day.)

Well, long story short… Let’s get to the unicorn.

Friday. 16th November. 10:00 am. Near Hackney Central.
I was on the sidewalk [Luke: pavement, surely?] trying to cross the road when a man dressed up as a unicorn cycled past. I smiled, of course, (I’m quite expressive). What a happy moment, a unicorn on a bike. In the morning. Lovely. Suddenly, a woman (she didn’t look crazy although she probably was…) came up to me, quite angry, shouting:
– “Are you laughing at that unicorn?????”
Here is when you come in. At that moment I remembered one of your marvellous podcasts dedicated to Alan Partridge when you made the difference between “laughing at” and “laughing with” (thanks Luke. The same in Spanish but still thanks because many times it’s just the opposite. And mainly thanks for the English comedy you bring to our lives) So I said:
– “Not at, with…” (Quite shy…or scared…)
And the woman said (still shouting and in an angry mood):
– “Oh, good. Because if a cycling unicorn doesn’t cheer you up you are MISERABLE!!!”
And she was gone, like very offended… THE END.

I don’t know whether it’s been “life-live comedy” or what, but it did feel like a comedy sketch.

That’s all. I’ve just received a notification of a new Luke’s English Podcast episode (how appropriate! I’m glad you’re back) so I’m now going to do another thing that cheers me up apart from seeing a cycling unicorn: listen to your podcast. THANKS.

Dictionary definitions – Collins English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers

Parts 5 & 6 with Amber coming soon (Words for 2018)

563. The Collins Words of the Year (Part 3)

More vocabulary explanations & discussion of big issues, including how social media affects our worldview, the pros and cons of fidget spinners and debates about gender identity, including thoughts on the new female Doctor in Doctor Who. Transcript available.

[DOWNLOAD]

Part 3 – Transcript (99% complete)

Welcome back to part 3 of this series I’m doing about the Collins Dictionary Words of the Year. I’m going through the list of words from 2017 and then the plan is to move onto the words for 2018 and talk about them with Amber. She’s coming round here tomorrow morning actually.

So the Words of the Year – Collins select these lists of words every year, based on which words they’ve noticed being used a lot in this 12 month period. They’re not necessarily new words, and they might be phrases made from existing words. The main thing is that these words have risen in use significantly during the period and as a result they tap into issues, events and feelings that are very current.

Talking about the words of the year on the podcast is both a way for me to explore some vocabulary and also just talk about some issues of the moment.

Check the page on the website for this episode in order to see a lot of the things I’m saying written there, as transcripts and for other information.

Talking about these words, and discussing them also involves using various other useful bits of vocabulary that you can learn from me. Listening to episodes of this podcast can help you raise your level of English, starting with your listening skills – but the benefits to your English can be many, including developing your awareness of pronunciation, expanding your vocabulary, noticing aspects of grammar and all of this helps you with your speaking skills too. That’s the plan. Certainly, listening regularly, listening for longer periods and listening to something that I hope holds your attention – this is all really healthy for your English, so let’s keep going.

I have 6 words/phrases to deal with in this episode, so let’s not hang about.

In part 1 of the series I talked about how Collins uses data to make its dictionaries and other language reference books and I talked for quite a long time about the phrase fake news which topped their Words of the Year list for 2017.

Then in part 2 I talked about other words in the list for 2017, including antifa, corbynmania, and cuffing season. 

I’ve got 6 words left. Let’s see if I can deal with them all in part 3 here. Let’s go.

Echo chamber

noun: an environment, especially on a social media site, in which any statement of opinion is likely to be greeted with approval because it will only be read or heard by people who hold similar views .

The concept is, that if you live in an echo chamber, you only ever hear your own opinions coming back to you.

Echo (a verb and a noun) is when you make a sound and it travels away from you and then bounces off a surface and comes back to you. It’s like if you’re in a huge hallway and you go “hello!” and you then hear your own voice coming back to you, saying “hello!”

Hello hello hello ? ? ?

Echo echo echo ! ! !

So the echo chamber idea – when you live in a world in which you only ever hear or read your own ideas.

Nowadays there is so much media content out there, including news and just different opinions and comments about the world, and we have the ability to filter out certain things.

Eventually, if you only choose to see or hear things that you like, you’ll never hear about any conflicting opinions, you’ll never face disagreement, contradiction, challenge or other points of view. This can be quite dangerous. It makes you soft and unprepared for your ideas to be challenged. It can make you small minded because you only get a blinkered view of the world – you don’t get exposed to different opinions and it makes you unaware of what’s really going on in the world. It’s like living in a bubble. When something big happens, it can seem totally shocking and unbelievable.

Weirdly, in this super connected world, we are less and less connected and more and more divided, as we put ourselves into these more carefully defined personal categories and only receive information that fits with that category, we become more separated from the experiences of other groups of people.

That’s the theory behind the expression, echo chamber. Generally, this expression is a buzz word for this whole phenomenon.

Filtering out opposing viewpoints and living in a bubble.

These circumstances can push us away from each other, and make it harder to understand different opinions.

The results of the Brexit referendum and US presidential election in 2016 were both greeted with disbelief and shock by some people. The people on the losing side could not understand how their opponents refused to have their opinions changed by apparently reasonable arguments, while the winners remained convinced of the rightness of their own cause.

Basically, we were surprised and shocked by the existence of other points of view. Experts said that this situation was due to many people living in an ‘echo chamber’, where they only hear the views of people who share and reinforce their own opinions. This is increasingly possible when people form online communities that exclude any voices that challenge or threaten them.

For example, a lot of people no longer read newspapers or get their news from the TV. Instead they perhaps just look at Twitter to see what’s going on, but on Twitter you choose each and every account that you follow so you cherry pick the content, rather than just receiving the same information as everyone else.

Also it’s quite common to block people who disagree with you or argue with you. The result is an echo-chamber. And it’s not just for people who didn’t vote for Trump or Brexit. There are right-wing echo chambers too, including social media sites that welcome the types of opinions that are not really accepted by more conventional social media. So everyone is capable of living in an echo chamber.

The term ‘echo chamber’ originally referred to a room that scientists constructed to create echoes for use in sound recording or experiments.

Echo chambers are used to create real echoes which can be used for music or sound recording, instead of relying on digital echo (delay) effects.

Often the best echo chambers for music are bathrooms because they have those shiny ceramic tiles that let the sound bounce around nicely. That’s one of the reasons it’s nice to sing in the shower. Your voice echoes off the tiles and it sounds pretty good!

The idea of an environment where you can hear your own voice repeated back to you made this a perfect metaphor for the world of social media, where many people only talk with those who agree with them, thus creating a rather distorted picture of what the world is really like.

Do you live in an echo chamber?

A real echo chamber in a music studio. Actual echo chambers are used to create genuine echo and reverb effects. Check it out! What a cool studio!

Fidget spinner

noun: a small toy comprising of two or three prongs arranged around a central bearing, designed to be spun by the fingers as means of improving concentration or relieving stress.

This is so 2016/2017. I don’t know if people still use them or talk about them. Perhaps kids these days have moved on and talking about fidget spinners is not cool at all.

They look a bit like little wheels and you hold them between your fingers, flick them and they spin around and around quite satisfyingly. They’re fun to just fidget with, and fidgeting with them is quite addictive.

So, it’s just a fun toy that spins in your hand, right? No arguments and politics here, right? Nope – even fidget spinners divide people too!

Let’s look at the for & against.

For
It’s fun!
People say they’re good for kids with ADHD and autism.

From iheisthmus.com www.theisthmus.com.au/2017/06/fidget-spinners-the-for-the-against-the-important/

The biggest argument from the pro-spinners side is that they are a useful tool for kids with ADHD, autism, anxiety, and other similar conditions. Occupational therapist Sandra Mortimer said “It can help with emotional regulation for children feeling anxious, worried and nervous.”

While there is no academic research about fidget spinners in particular, fidget tools (such as putty and stress balls) have long been known to help with this. The lack of specific academic research is to be expected though– fidget spinners are only a few months old, and research takes literally forever (well, a really long time at least).

There are some pretty cool creative uses for it (although as far as I can see this just means letting them spin in different places). E.g. balance a spinner on your fingers, make them spin on a table and see how long it spins, throw them between your hands while they spin, spin them and switch them onto different fingers, spin it and put it onto your nose, etc…

Against
As a fidget tool – it’s not a very good one. It’s big, it requires hand eye coordination so kids have to look at it – so it’s actually very distracting. It’s hard to just spin it in your hand and not look at it. So you can’t use it while working for example, or just have it in your pocket. It tends to use all your concentration.

It’s just an annoying trend and they’ll probably be forgotten in a few years until they come back as the latest nostalgia toy.

Have you ever used one?

Do your kids have them?

Gender-fluid

adjective: not identifying exclusively with one gender rather than another

So, it means when people don’t feel they have a fixed gender. They might feel male sometimes and female at other times and perhaps even feel like they belong to some other gendered category that we don’t even really have the language to describe.

Oh no, we’re back on difficult territory again! This is another minefield of a topic.

Now I remember why I kept putting off doing this episode! Too many trigger warnings, potential problems and complexity! But it’s a big subject at the moment, so let’s have a look…

This word relates to people who don’t identify as having a fixed gender.

Noun: gender fluidity

Some quick examples from a Google News search for “gender fluid”.

Pearl Mackie: It’s 2017- the Doctor is gender fluid
PinkNews-Dec 15, 2017
Outgoing Doctor Who star Pearl Mackie has responded to the backlash against a female Doctor, saying that the Doctor is gender fluid and the gender of the actor doesn’t matter.

Loki will be pansexual and gender-fluid in new Marvel novel
Washington Blade Dec 13, 2017
Marvel is releasing a series of three novels focusing on anti-heroes in 2019. One novel will focus on Loki, Thor’s adopted brother and nemesis. Author Mackenzi Lee took to Twitter to answer questions about the project and informed fans that Loki is “canonically a pansexual and genderfluid character.”

Men in skirts: gender-fluid fashion is no longer a novelty
Times LIVE-Dec 14, 2017
The ancient Egyptians, Romans, Zulus, Scots and countless others didn’t wear trousers and no one thought of them as effeminate. [Luke: I challenge anyone to find a bunch of Scottish men in kilts and to tell them they are effeminate! Ha! Good luck with that pal.] The same could be said of jewellery and many other fashion items. We spoke to a couple of experts to find out why gender-fluid fashion is trending.

Some people see this as progress, others see it and just get really angry. They get ‘triggered’ by it, using that expression again from part 1 of this series.

I’m just not going to get into it at great length because I exhausted myself with “fake news” and “antifa” and I’m going to take a pass on this one.

Do you have an opinion on this?

It’s complex. It’s not just – do you mind that people define their identity outside the traditional binary gender roles. It’s not just that. It’s also things like how this affects various changes in society. Some people think it’s all progress, others are really losing their minds about it, other people are just putting their foot down and saying “wait, I don’t mind how you identify – you’re free to be whoever you want, but don’t force me to change my world” – that type of thing.

Gender-fluid people or transgender people are saying “Hey, it would be really nice and respectful if you could just acknowledge my identity and perhaps make a few changes to make me feel like I belong in this world – like maybe you can use different language to make me feel accepted – in fact, we’re working on making it illegal to refuse to do so”, and those who disagree are saying “you can’t force me to do things like use certain language by law”  – and then other people are far less respectful and reasonable in their dialogue, and there’s just a lot of abuse and hate speech flying around too. And then there are people like me who are going “what? Sorry, what? Who said… wait? Who’s right? What’s going on? What year is it???”

Oh, it’s probably worth mentioning Doctor Who again.

The 13th Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker

So, as you may know, Doctor Who is a British science fiction TV show that’s been on television longer than a lot of people have been alive. I think it has the record as the longest running TV series ever, having started in 1963 and still going strong today.

In a nutshell, Doctor Who is about a time-travelling alien (who looks human and speaks English and everything) who travels around in a blue police box, generally saving the earth. It’s a lot of fun and is very inventive, creative and funny and many generations of people in the UK grew up as children watching the show. My parents grew up with it, my brother and I grew up with it, our nieces and nephews are growing up with it.

The character, called The Doctor, has actually died lots of times, but every time the Doctor dies – usually when he comes to the end of his current life-span, he regenerates in a new form.

Basically, at the end of a season the Doctor dies and then is reborn but with a new actor in the next season (or series as we usually say in British English actually!)

It’s a really cool way of keeping a TV series going. Each new incarnation of the Doctor is different in that they have a certain look, they have certain characteristics – brought by the different actor in the role each time, but also the Doctor always maintains certain core characteristics like charisma, leadership, strength, courage, eccentricity, humour, love for the humans and a desire to protect us, certain human companions and the blue spaceship or TARDIS (actually a craft that travels through both space and time).

There have been loads of actors playing the doctor over the years, and millions of us are very affectionate towards this character and the actors who have played him (or her).

Then this year, the producers of the show decided that the new Doctor would be played by a woman. Jodie Whittaker was chosen – a good British actress. So now, The Doctor is a woman. It turns out, the Doctor is a gender-fluid character. She doesn’t always regenerate as a man, she can regenerate as a woman too. Naturally, a lot of people were really pissed off, saying things like “The Doctor is not a woman! You’ve ruined this character and my memories of childhood! Stop this PC nonsense from infecting everything! This is just the loony left at the BBC trying to infect everything with poisonous feminism! Leave our TV characters alone!”

I read some comments saying things like, “It’s The Doctor, not The Nurse – he should be a man!” A lot of it is just sexism. I understand that people don’t like change, and this character is very close to people’s hearts, but there’s actually no reason why The Doctor can only be male. It’s a fictional time travelling alien from another planet, that changes shape when it dies. I think it can turn into a woman, that’s fine!

I haven’t actually seen any of the episodes in their entirety. I must admit that these days whenever I watch Doctor Who, I’m just completely confused! It’s great and there’s something very comforting about the fact that the show still going after all these years, but the storylines always confuse me completely. I have seen clips of the new Doctor Who with Jodie Whittaker and it looks good. She’s funny and a bit weird and charismatic and that’s the spirit of the character. I personally don’t mind that the doctor is a woman at the moment. I think the writers can do whatever they like with the character.

As long as the writing is still good, the acting is good, the general hallmarks of Doctor Who are still the same, I think it’s ok.

I’d be more upset if the writers of Doctor Who changed something more important about the character – like deciding she now shouldn’t have a sense of humour, or that she should stop caring about people, or that she loses the Tardis or something like that. That would be worse. The Doctor becoming a woman – doesn’t really change the spirit of the character that much and if anything it brings something fresh to the role, and it looks like Jodie Whittaker is great and loads of fun, like the Doctor should be.

So, female Doctor Who – why not?

But I don’t think this really counts as proper gender fluidity actually, because it’s a fictional alien character. I think gender fluidity is more likely to impact our lives in more real ways than this. Like for example how it is affecting language and conversations about language.

For example, what pronouns do we use to refer to people who have different gender identities, like people who identify as neither a woman nor a man, or some other gender which is a combination of both somehow. People might say “I feel that I am neither a man nor a woman” “I’m both and the language doesn’t have the words to reflect that, so we need to introduce some new words to include us, because if we’re not included in the language, then the culture is extremely prejudiced against us.” Also, trans-gender or gender-fluid people can feel very rejected or unrepresented or offended when their identity isn’t recognised by people, specifically when the wrong pronouns are used.

Pronouns – words like he, she, her, his and so on.

So some people want to introduce new pronouns to reflect the diversity of gender identities out there and they want to introduce new laws which say it’s technically a hate crime to use the wrong pronouns. 

I don’t know if this kind of thing has ever happened before and there are several debates combined in this. There’s the “Do people have the right to change their gender if they feel that way?” and in my opinion I kind of think, well, why not I think people should be allowed to do what they want. But a second debate is, “Do they get to legislate what language we can and can’t use?”

Forcing people to use certain forms of language by law – I just don’t know what to think about that. That does seem a bit like controlling people’s freedom to use language, but this whole thing exists in a very fuzzy and grey area involving freedom of speech and also the problem of hate speech and so on… It’s a moral maze.

And so, that’s where we’ll leave this subject. I’d like to think it’s ok for me not to have an opinion on some things. That’s my “I have rights” card here – I claim the right to just not have an opinion, thanks very much. I’m not ready to decide what I think about it all yet, and that’s ok. I’m allowed to do that, and so are you.

I know, you’re not even asking for my opinion, right? And I have no duty to give you my opinion.

Anyway, it’s interesting and you’re hearing all the words I’m using to talk about it, right?

This is the end of part 3! This series is longer than I expected. Part 4 coming soon…

Dictionary definitions – Collins English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers

546. Death by Meteor

This episode is called Death By Meteor and it’s all about asteroids, space, science, maths, astrophysics and the end of the world! Transcript available.

[DOWNLOAD]

Transcript

I’m talking about asteroids and meteors and the possibility that one might strike the earth and what would happen in that situation, or perhaps what will happen in that situation because it is highly likely sooner or later, hopefully later.

There will be lots of English of course! Watch out for vocab on all those topics coming up in the episode, which I will be clarifying for you as we go, because I’m nice like that.
In fact, first of all, here’s a bit of vocab straight off the bat.

What’s the difference between an asteroid and a meteor, a comet and a shooting star?

Oxford dictionary en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/meteor

Asteroid = A small rocky body orbiting the sun. Large numbers of these, ranging enormously in size, are found between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, though some have more eccentric orbits.

Meteor = A small body of matter from outer space that enters the earth’s atmosphere, becoming incandescent as a result of friction and appearing as a streak of light.

Shooting star = A small, rapidly moving meteor burning up on entering the earth’s atmosphere

Meteorite = A piece of rock or metal that has fallen to the earth’s surface from outer space as a meteor. Over 90 per cent of meteorites are of rock while the remainder consist wholly or partly of iron and nickel.

Comet = A celestial object consisting of a nucleus of ice and dust and, when near the sun, a ‘tail’ of gas and dust particles pointing away from the sun.

Originating in the remotest regions of the solar system, most comets follow regular eccentric orbits and appear in the inner solar system as periodic comets, some of which break up and can be the origin of annual meteor showers. They were formerly considered to be supernatural omens.

There’s a lot of talk about what’s going on here on earth relating to the political situation – lots of squabbles going on between people.

It looks like we’re facing a pretty troubled time, and maybe we’re going to spoil everything for ourselves by blowing each other to smithereens, crashing the economy or just ruining the lives of most ordinary people to the point that the world becomes a post-apocalyptic wasteland where the super-rich 0.1% live in protected biodomes in space or something.

Like T800 says in Terminator 2 “You are humans. It is within your nature to destroy yourselves”

However, perhaps before we manage to do that, we might in fact go the way of the dinosaurs, and end up being wiped out by environmental factors, and this includes the very real threat of climate change and how that can affect the careful balance of life on earth, or by some geological event like the eruption of a supervolcano or even a threat from space.

I’m not talking about aliens here. I’m talking about the possibility of the earth being struck by a meteor. And it really could happen within our lifetime. There’s something to look forward to.
This is a real threat to us and makes our petty disputes on earth seem pretty pointless and trivial.

Fairly large asteroids hit the earth on quite a regular basis. The latest one I can remember hearing about was in Russia on 15 February 2013 when an unknown object exploded high above Chelyabinsk, with 20–30 times the energy of the Hiroshima atomic bomb. Apparently it flew through the sky at 20 miles per second.

The light from the meteor was brighter than the Sun, visible up to 100 km (62 mi) away. It was observed over a wide area of the region and in neighbouring republics. Some eyewitnesses also felt intense heat from the fireball.

The danger from things like a collision with an asteroid is very real, although it might be possible to do something about it – and protect ourselves, if we manage to work together.
The following is from the PAN STARRS website – a site dedicated to observing the sky for large objects that could collide with earth. An important project!

Since it formed over 4.5 billion years ago, Earth has been hit many times by asteroids and comets whose orbits bring them into the inner solar system. These objects, collectively known as Near Earth Objects or NEOs, still pose a danger to Earth today. Depending on the size of the impacting object, such a collision can cause massive damage on local to global scales. There is no doubt that sometime in the future Earth will suffer another cosmic impact; the only question is “when?” There is strong scientific evidence that cosmic collisions have played a major role in the mass extinctions documented in Earth’s fossil record. That such cosmic collisions can still occur today was demonstrated graphically in 1994 when Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 broke apart and 21 fragments, some as large as 2 km in diameter, crashed into the atmosphere of Jupiter. If these fragments had hit Earth instead, we would have suffered global catastrophes of the kind that inspire science fiction movies.

project.pan-starrs.ifa.hawaii.edu/public/asteroid-threat/asteroid_threat.html

General threat – I did a bit of googling.

‘There’s an asteroid with our name on it’: Brian Cox warns a space rock could wipe out humanity (if robots don’t get there first)

  • Professor Cox says we recently had a ‘near-miss’ with a large asteroid
  • No one knows when next one could be. It ‘could be tomorrow,’ says Cox
  • Engineers are working to mitigate threat, but progress has been slow
  • As well as asteroids, threats to humanity include AI and climate change
  • ‘It’s human stupidity we need to worry about,’ claims Professor Cox
  • He says threats can be prevented through research and education

www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2740010/There-s-asteroid-Brian-Cox-warns-space-rock-wipe-humanity-robots-don-t-first.html

So, asteroids and the asteroid threat to earth!

There are tens of thousands of objects in space that have an orbit around the sun and their orbits cross the orbit of earth. Apparently it’s only a matter of time until there’s a collision. One of these objects, a large asteroid, could collide with the earth at a massive speed. This would cause huge earthquakes and tidal waves. It would also throw massive amounts of dust, gas, molten rock and ash very high into the atmosphere – enough to envelop the entire world in burning hot ash and lava, not to mention various noxious natural gasses and possibly dangerous chemicals from the asteroid itself. The burning ash and lava would probably destroy a lot of life on the surface, like a huge explosion. But also the resulting ash and dust would probably fill the sky above earth, blocking out the rays of the sun and basically turning the whole planet into a nuclear winter wasteland. Lovely!

As far as I know, this is pretty much what happened to the dinosaurs when an asteroid hit the earth near the Gulf of Mexico a very long time ago. Apparently there may also have been volcanic eruptions at around the same time (well, about 250,000 years before the asteroid) that had already filled the atmosphere with ash and gas, making life pretty difficult already (for 250,000 years!) and then as if that wasn’t enough, a huge space rock or two smacked into the earth and that was that. The majority of life on the planet was wiped out, but not all of it of course.

We know this because the evidence is written into the earth itself. All you need to do is explore the carbon records and you can actually see the layers of different types of matter which correspond to the different events occurring, even the remains of living things, the ash, the lava rock and so on – it’s all in layers in the ground. It’s all there.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson – Death by Meteor

Neil DeGrasse Tyson talks about the real possibility of us being struck by an asteroid that scientists have been watching very carefully.

DeGrasse Tyson is one of the world’s most famous astrophysicists. He is the director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York and is generally a very media-friendly science guy who is very entertaining on all manner of scientific subjects, especially space.

Listen to DeGrasse Tyson’s predictions with some questions beforehand

Questions
Why is the asteroid called Apophis?
How do we know where Apophis is going to go?
What’s going to happen in 2029?
What are the conditions for it hitting the earth the next time it arrives?
If it does hit the earth, what exactly will happen?

Script

Death by Meteor – Neil DeGrasse Tyson

There is an asteroid, discovered in December 2004, called Apophis. Named for [after] the Egyptian god of death and darkness. It was named only after its trajectory was identified to intersect that of Earth. Had that not been the case we would not have named it Apophis. Could name it like Tiffany or something or Bambi. You know, something not threatening.

This one was headed towards Earth. Apophis.

Alright once you discover an asteroid you’ve got to wait a little while to get enough of a segment of its orbit to calculate what the full orbit will be, to know if it will come in harm’s way. So we did that… we the community… I wasn’t the one do it. We got ‘peeps’ who do this, okay?

So, ‘peeps’ if you’re over 30 means people. Okay.

Forgive me but, saying you got “peeps”, it’s people. It’s actually a loving phrase.

Right. It’s not little yellow marshmallow. (I assume they have marshmallows in USA called Peeps) Do not write.

So we get the orbit. [It] turns out in the Year 2029, the month of April, the 13th of April, a Friday. Thanks. Apophis will come so close to Earth that it will dip below our orbiting communication satellites and it is the size of the Rose Bowl. It will be the largest, closest thing we have ever observed to come by earth. Now of course a much bigger asteroid took out the dinosaurs but we weren’t around at the time so this is in the era of observing the cosmos with technology. This will be the closest biggest thing we’ll ever see come by.

Now the orbit we now have for it is uncertain enough, because these things are hard to measure and hard to get an exact distance for. The orbit is uncertain enough so we cannot tell you exactly where that trajectory will be. We know it won’t hit earth. We know it will be closer than the orbiting satellites.

There is a range – a 600-mile zone we call it the keyhole. If the asteroid goes through the middle of that keyhole it will hit the earth, thirteen years later, it will hit the earth, 500 miles, sorry 500 kilometres due west of Santa Monica.

So it doesn’t matter where it goes through that keyhole.

Now that’s if it goes through the center. If it goes through other places within that keyhole then the contact point shifts further into the Pacific or closer towards North America, yes okay.

But if it goes through the center it hits the Pacific Ocean, plunges down into the Pacific to a depth of three miles, at which point it explodes, cavitating the Pacific in a hole it’s three miles wide, three miles deep that will send a tsunami wave outward from that location that’s 50 feet high, five stories.

Oceans don’t like having holes in them, so this three mile high wall does what? [An audience member says something] You say that so timidly sir. It collapses! It’s a three mile high wall of water! Thank you, fall back into the hole sloshing against itself with such ferocity that it rises high into the atmosphere and falls back down to the ocean cavitating the ocean again.

So now you make a cavity a second time. This cycle takes about 50 seconds. You can calculate it okay? So here comes the first tsunami and 50 seconds later comes another tsunami. So there you are on the beaches of Malibu. [A] tsunami comes in. Now, unlike the tsunami in Indonesia which was one wave that went deep into the shore, this first wave needs a supply of water to exist so that the next wave actually sucks back on it to create itself. So this tsunami will only go in about a quarter of a mile. [Someone in the audience makes a noise] We have the sound effects person there [in the] upper row there.

So it only goes into quarter mile before it gets sucked back out for the next wave to come. Here’s the problem. Whatever was there on the coastline is now brought back out to sea and the next tsunami brings it back to the shore. All the million dollar homes in Malibu, they get taken out to the sea and then back. But this time they’re in a slightly different shape, okay?

And so what happens is all of them… all the artificial stuff, all the houses, the factories, they get churned into this ablative force that sandblasts the entire west coast of North America clean. So, have a nice day!

I’m sorry I said 13 years after 2020 I misspoke it’s April 13 2029 and if it threads the keyhole it will hit Earth April 13th 2036. So it’s a it’s a seven year [period].

Repeat what he said.

Highlight some of the language

Jimmy Carr talks to Prof Brian Cox about asteroids. Brian talks about Apophis

07:35

(Wikipedia)
99942 Apophis (/əˈpɒfɪs/) is a near-Earth asteroid that caused a brief period of concern in December 2004 because initial observations indicated a probability of up to 2.7% that it would hit Earth on April 13, 2029. Additional observations provided improved predictions that eliminated the possibility of an impact on Earth or the Moon in 2029. However, until 2006, a possibility remained that during the 2029 close encounter with Earth, Apophis would pass through a gravitational keyhole, a small region no more than about 0.5 miles wide, or 0.8 km[9][10] that would set up a future impact exactly seven years later on April 13, 2036. As of 2014, the diameter of Apophis is estimated to be approximately 370 metres (1,210 ft).[3] Preliminary observations by Goldstone radar in January 2013 effectively ruled out the possibility of an Earth impact by Apophis in 2036. [12] By May 6, 2013 (April 15, 2013 observation arc), the probability of an impact on April 13, 2036 had been eliminated.[3] Using observations through February 26, 2014, the odds of an impact on April 12, 2068, as calculated by the JPL Sentry risk table are 1 in 150,000.[3] As of March 2018, there were seven asteroids with a more notable cumulative Palermo Technical Impact Hazard Scale than Apophis.[13] On average, one asteroid the size of Apophis (370 metres) can be expected to impact Earth about every 80,000 years.[14]

So, Apophis isn’t going to strike the earth in 2036, thank goodness, but there’s a slim chance that it will hit the earth in 2068, but we’ll all be dead by then so who cares? (will we?)

Still, the threat remains, doesn’t it? Every 80,000 years? I think we’re probably due one again.

What can we do? Call Bruce Willis?

How NASA would deal with the problem

www.indy100.com/article/nasa-apocalypse-earth-asteroid-armageddon-plan-7826791

So, when you think about all this it makes you realise or perhaps remember that despite all our petty troubles on earth, it could all be wiped out by an unexpected collision with an asteroid. Scientists can’t always see them coming.

For me this makes me think that I should just live every day and stop sometimes to just enjoy what I have and be grateful.

So, after listening to this, take a moment to think about all the good things in your life. Even if you’re not happy these days for whatever reason. Just think about any good thing you have and think about how grateful you are for it.

Perhaps call a friend or someone you care about and tell them how you feel and say thank you for something. It might just be a good way to appreciate all of this while it lasts.

523. Tips for Learning English with Films & TV Shows (with Cara Leopold)

Talking to a fellow English teacher about advice for using TV shows and films to learn English, both with and without subtitles.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

Intro Transcript

Today on the podcast I’m talking to Cara Leopold who is an English teacher from the UK, living in France – like me.

Cara is an online teacher, who has her own podcast and other resources for learners of English on her website leo-listening.com.

One of the main things she focuses on is learning English through listening – especially using TV and films as a resource.

She’s got some tips to share on that subject – many of which come from her personal experiences of learning French, and so I’d like to talk to her about that,

But first I’d like to just get to know Cara a bit because we’ve never actually spoken before. So listeners, instead of hearing me talking to someone I already know (which is the way it normally goes on this podcast) you can now hear me having a conversation with someone I haven’t met before – so you can hear how that might happen in English.


Cara’s Website

www.leo-listening.com

Films and TV shows mentioned

Red Dwarf
BBC TV Comedy

The Orville
Seth MacFarlane
Based on Star Trek

Thor: Ragnarok
Directed by Taika Waititi, who also directed Flight of the Conchords.


Learning English with Films & TV – Summary of Advice Given

Here’s a summary of the main points made about using TV and films for learning English, with and without subtitles.

  • There are no hard and fast rules about using subtitles.
  • Using subtitles can help you understand what you’re hearing, especially when you realise that spoken English and written English can be very different. Subtitles can help bridge the gap between how words and sentences sound, and how they are written.
  • But be aware that only watching with subtitles might not help you develop real listening skills, because you’re basically just reading while you watch. Experiment with switching the subtitles on and off.
  • You can watch a film several times, especially if you enjoy it or already know it. Some films improve with multiple viewings. So, try watching certain films several times, perhaps first with subtitles in your language, then in English and then with no subtitles at all.
  • You can alternate between watching episodes of your TV show with and without subtitles.
  • Using TV and films for learning English is not just a simple or easy way to learn. In your first language you might just switch on a film or show and then kind of veg out while watching it – without really concentrating. This won’t work in English. Be prepared to focus and perhaps be more active while watching.
  • Watch certain scenes several times, with and without the subtitles.
  • Test yourself on what you heard and check with the subtitles.
  • Search for certain new bits of vocabulary when they come up.
  • Don’t worry too much about certain specific cultural details.
  • Try transcribing certain scenes – especially if you thought it contained really cool dialogue.
  • Then watch again with the subtitles to check your transcription.
  • Before you watch a film or TV show, check online reviews or summaries to help prepare yourself.
  • Be a little selective in your choice – pick stuff that you’d normally enjoy, and remember that films and TV shows can contain very “mumbly” dialogue, and even just “grunting” during long fight scenes. Try to pick films that are pretty simple and perhaps comedies that focus on the dialogue.
  • Don’t worry too much if you don’t understand 100%. Even in our first languages we don’t always understand what’s going on in films. So, don’t beat yourself up if you’re not able to understand it all.

517. Professor Stephen Hawking (An Obituary)

I woke up this morning to the news that Stephen Hawking had died and I thought – I really must talk about this. He was a British scientist who must be considered one of the most significant people of recent years – a brilliant mind who contributed so much to our understanding of the nature of reality itself while also struggling against some extreme personal difficulties and for those reasons he’s a great inspiration to many people around the world.

In this episode I’m just going to talk about him, his life, his achievements and how he will continue to be an inspiration to people for many years to come. Let’s learn some English along the way. Vocabulary list & links available below.

[DOWNLOAD]

BBC Obituary

www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-15555565

Adversity, challenge or difficulty can somehow focus you and force you to concentrate your energy in one direction. It must have been tough, but it’s almost like he thrived on the adversity.

Hawking’s popularity in China

Hawking was popular and inspirational all over the world, but according to a BBC News report he was particularly loved and respected in China.

www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-43395650

Hawking talks about depression

As well as contributing so much to our understanding of the universe, he also was an inspiration to people struggling against difficulty of various kinds – both physical and mental.

Stephen Hawking Has a Beautiful Message for Anyone Suffering From Depression

A scene from The Theory of Everything

Hawking interviewed by John Oliver (Hawking obviously had a sense of humour)

Monty Python – The Galaxy Song

This is a song written by Eric Idle, for Monty Python’s film “The Meaning of Life”.
Hawking agreed to record a version of this song for Monty Python’s recent live shows.
It’s all about how we should remember that in the context of everything, our problems are actually rather small and insignificant, and by extension we should realise that there are no frontiers in our minds and we should realise that many limitations that we feel inside ourselves are actually imposed on us by ourselves.

Lyrics & ukulele chords: stewartgreenhill.com/ukulele/TheGalaxySong.html

Vocabulary which came up in this episode

  • motor neurone disease
  • he was left almost completely paralysed
  • a tracheotomy
  • a layman’s guide to cosmology
  • He was reportedly offered a knighthood in the 1990s but later revealed he had turned it down over issues with the government’s funding for science.
  • He was renowned for his extraordinary capacity to visualise scientific solutions without calculation or experiment.
  • Undeterred by his condition, he continued his work
  • his condition inevitably made him dependent on others
  • Police questioned several people about allegations that he had been subjected to verbal and physical abuse
  • He was known to be an erratic, almost reckless driver of his electric wheelchair
  • the first quadriplegic to experience weightlessness on board the so-called “vomit comet
  • “I believe that life on Earth is at an ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster”
  • aliens might just raid earth of its resources and then move on
  • Stephen Hawking: China’s love for the late physicist
  • the world mourns Prof Stephen Hawking, who has died aged 76
  • His 2006 visit to China was covered with breathless excitement
  • the adulation and respect he has always commanded in China is perhaps in another universe altogether
  • a role model ideal for the Chinese state to champion emerged.
  • the Chinese government preaches that scientific prowess is crucial to the country’s future power
  • he didn’t let it deter him from doing his best to live fully and passionately
  • If you are disabled, it is probably not your fault, but it is no good blaming the world or expecting it to take pity on you
  • My disabilities have not been a significant handicap in my field

483. A Rambling Chat with Moz

The second part of my conversation with my friend Moz, this time covering subjects such as podcasting vs YouTube, bathing naked in a Japanese spa, sharing personal information online (like a story of bathing naked in a Japanese spa), the role of artificial intelligence & social media, murdering mosquitoes and meeting a crack addict on the streets of London. Vocabulary list and quiz available below.

[DOWNLOAD]

Introduction Transcript

Hi everyone, Here’s the second part of my conversation with my friend Moz that was recorded a few weeks ago.

After talking about murder in the last episode, Moz and I kept talking for about another 45 minutes, just rambling on and going off on a few tangents and you can listen to that conversation in this episode as part of your ongoing mission to improve your English by listening to real conversations that actually happened, between actual people who actually said some actual things and actually recorded them and uploaded them for you to actually listen to.

Things that we actually talked about (in the form of questions)

  • What goes into making and publishing a podcast?
  • Who is my audience and where are they (that’s you)?
  • What’s it like to meet members of my audience?
  • What’s the difference between doing audio podcasts and making videos for YouTube?
  • Should native speakers adapt their speech when talking to non-native speakers of English?
  • Does the word ‘cack’ in English relate to similar words in other languages?
  • What does ‘cack’ mean? (it means poo, by the way)
  • How much of our personal information should we be sharing online?
  • How much of my personal information should I be sharing in episodes of this podcast?
  • Should you post pictures of your children on social media?
  • What are the effects of social media and artificial intelligence on our lives? How might this change in the future?
  • How could you fight against a robot invasion using an umbrella and software updates?
  • How much do we hate mosquitoes and what happens when you kill them?
    and
  • How can you identify different drug addicts that you might meet on the streets of London, just based on how they smell?

I think they all sound like perfectly good questions for discussion, don’t you? I can even imagine some of them cropping up in the speaking section of a Cambridge English exam. Some of them. Maybe not the one about cack, or the one about drug addicts, but who knows?

Listen on to find out how we talk about all of those points.

If you’re a vocabulary hunter, check the page for this episode on my website because there you’ll find a list of words and phrases that come up in this conversation.

That list is available in order to help you to use this episode to expand your vocabulary and to develop a more natural form of English.

There is a bit of rude language and some slightly graphic content in this conversation. Just to let you know…

But now it’s time for you to hear the rest of my chat with Moz.

And here we go.


Vocabulary List

  • These days I’m a lot more devoted to it than I used to be
  • When the inspiration struck me
  • I try to be a bit more organised and rigorous about it
  • There are some teachers on YouTube who are getting phenomenal views
  • There are also various young, hip, fresh-faced YouTubers
  • I’m sticking with podcasting because it works for me
  • Technology has moved on so fast that we can do these things ourselves
  • A digital SLR with a boom mic attached to it (or a shotgun mic)
  • Those are the ingredients for making a hit youtube channel
  • Libsyn is my hosting site and I’m about to sign up with iTunes
  • I had to replace all of the embedded players on my website
  • A ‘hell of a lot of stuff’ that had to be done
  • Libsyn have various different filters that they apply to the data
  • The internet is basically this huge network with all these different sub-stations
  • My podcast is big in Wisconsin. It is the home of Ed Gein, the murderer
  • A lot of internet servers are based in that part of America
  • There’s some sort of internet sub-station or routing station in Virginia
  • If people are using VPNs or proxy servers that counts as coming from the USA
  • I’m trying to use an element of scepticism when I’m reading my stats
  • Lots of people are getting my podcast from bit-torrenting sites
  • I tell you what, a good way of working out how many listeners you get…
  • Every now and then someone comes out of the woodwork
  • I used to have the word ‘whittle (down)’ in my tour
  • You get a piece of wood but you slowly etch away pieces of wood to make it into something else
  • People whittle a stick down to a spike or something
  • You whittle the evidence down until you get the bare bones of the case
  • It’s helped me work out the kind of phrases that only English people use
  • Some aspects of our pronunciation or idioms are a barrier to the global community
  • Communication is a two-way street
  • I’ve just come away from dog-sitting with my brother [your brother is a dog??]
  • They were brummie (from Birmingham)
  • Their brummie was so strong that I couldn’t understand my own language
  • It was only when she came nearer that I could grasp what she was talking about
  • Do you curb your language, or do you hone the way that you speak on this podcast?
  • If they’re not careful they swing too far in the other direction and it becomes unnatural
  • It’s a balancing act between trying to be understandable and trying to be natural
  • “Oui, oui” = “yes, yes” in French
  • Wee wee = unrine (pee pee in French)
  • Poo poo = excrement
  • “Caca” = “poo” in French
  • Cack (another English word for poo)
  • Input = just the language you hear when listening
  • Intake = the language you are really focusing on when listening
  • The more personal they (podcasts) are, the more I get engaged
  • Stiff upper lip and all that, hopefully the lip will be the only thing that’s stiff
  • The pianist stops playing
  • I felt like everyone broke off their conversations
  • Naked guys lounging around, chatting
  • The first guy who walks past me is a midget
  • It did occur to me to check him out and see if it was in proportion
  • I don’t necessarily want to open up the doors of my house
  • We don’t really want to post lots of pictures of the baby on Facebook
  • She has remained true to her word

How much of the vocabulary can you remember from the list?

Take the quiz below to find out. Not all the vocabulary is in the quiz, just a selection.

[os-widget path=”/lukethompson2/vocab-quiz-for-483-a-rambling-chat-with-moz” of=”lukethompson2″ comments=”false”]

That’s all folks!

Don’t forget – Moz’s podcast, called “Murder Mile True Crime Podcast” is available now on iTunes and at www.murdermiletours.com.

Moz’s links:

www.murdermiletours.com

www.murdermiletours.com/podcast