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Topic Reading-Vol.3046-8/13/2020

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Covid-19 is taking elevator anxiety to the next level. This Indian tech company has a solution
Touching something that is touched by others, like elevator buttons and touch panels, now makes you feel unsafe. Some study has found that there are more bacteria on elevator buttons than toilet seats. But when you ride an elevator, you need to push or touch the button of the floor you want to go to unless it is already lit. How do you do that? Do you always wear gloves when you go out or put ones on when you have to touch something? Do you use something to push or touch, or spray disinfectant on the button before you touch it? This is a very serious issue for those who live in a tall apartment or work in a multi-floor office building as they need to use an elevator multiple times a day. But when there is a problem, there are solutions. You could use a toothpick to press a button. At a shopping mall in Bangkok, foot pedals are installed to choose the floor with a foot. In some buildings, touchless buttons have replaced conventional buttons. Whichever the way it might be, you want to avoid touching an elevator button even after the coronavirus pandemic.
Read the article and think if you want to bring something to get on an elevator next time.


Topic Reading-Vol.3045-8/12/2020

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Going back to work or school? An algorithm may warn you to keep your distance from others
Companies and businesses used to encourage their people to interact with each other in person until the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe. They set up offices and “campuses” in high-rent cities like New York and Tokyo with caf├ęterias and game rooms. Now, they are moving in the opposite direction. Companies want their employees to keep social distancing, wear facemasks/shields, and avoid interactions at work.
You might have heard of or used a contact-tracing app to stay away from potentially coronavirus infected people. In some offices, factories, and warehouses, there are numbers of cameras that are monitoring if people are far enough apart and wearing facemasks. Such AI-powered surveillance systems are being used in large companies like Amazon, and managers are warned if their social distancing guidelines are not followed.
Do you feel protected or intimidated to be monitored all the time at your workplace?
Read the article and think about what makes you feel safer to work and live under the new normal.


Topic Reading-Vol.3044-8/11/2020

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
This village in India plants 111 trees every time a girl is born
The male-to-female sex ratio at birth is slightly biased towards the male, at around 105 or 106, which means that there are 105 males for every 100 females at birth on average. Since males die younger than females, the sex ratio for the entire world population is very close to even, 101 males to 100 females. However, in some countries like China and India, boys are much more preferred than girls by parents. And some of them take artificial measures to produce/raise boys, such as selective pregnancy termination, abortion, and … even after birth. As a result, male-to-female sex ratios in these countries are very uneven. For example, it is estimated that the sex ratio at birth is 1.11 and 1.17 under the age of 24 in China, and 1.11 and 1.14 in India, where traditionally and culturally boys are favored. Also, there is a costly dowry system, which the bride’s family is obligated to give to the bridegroom and his family as a condition of marriage.
However, villagers in Piplantri, a village located in Rajasthan State in northern India, have been planting 111 trees every time a girl child is born in the village. They also ensure these trees survive and attain fruition as the girls grow up. In fact, they’ve planted over 350,000 trees, which represents 2,700 baby girls over time! It seems that the girls, women, and trees have brought fruits to the community.
Enjoy watching the video to learn about a fruitful tradition in a small village in India.


Topic Reading-Vol.3043-8/10/2020

Dear MEL Topic Readers,

Explorer's mission to photograph a century of climate change in Patagonia
How much warmer is it now compared with 100 years ago? Can you imagine the impacts of a one-degree difference in Celsius on nature? You know sea levels are rising as ice sheets melt in Antarctica, Greenland, Arctic Sea, and glaciers around the world. But how much?
Here is a photographer who takes photos of the same remote locations at the same time of year as the photos were taken a century ago to show the changes in nature in Patagonia, a sparsely populated region at the southern end of South America, shared by Argentina and Chile. There used to be massive glaciers that covered the surface, but they disappeared completely or receded more than 10 kilometers. Where have then gone? The answer is so clear.
Though the newly taken photos look so beautiful, they also show nature is changing at a dangerously fast speed.
Read the article and compare the before-and-after photos to learn the changes in Patagonia.


Topic Reading-Vol.3042-8/9/2020

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
The long road to returning first-ever samples from Mars
Is it worth spending billions of dollars to collect dirt samples from Mars’s surface and bring them back to Earth? It seems so. Since Mars has no tectonic or volcanic activities, not to mention the meteorological or aquatic influences like Earth, things and traces of potential lives once might have existed on the surface billions of years ago are expected to be preserved. So, NASA recently launched a rocket to send Perseverance rover to Mars to collect samples on an ancient lade bed and river delta, where lives might have existed three to four billion years ago. Five years after Perseverance’s landing on Mars, NASA and European Space Agency will cooperatively launch the Mars Ascent Vehicle lander and rocket to fetch the samples. It seems like a very complicated and nail-biting mission. First, the samples collected by Perseverance will be transferred to the ascent vehicle. Then, the vehicle will be launched to rendezvous with an ESA spacecraft orbiting Mars in 2028. Once the ESA orbiter catches the samples, it will head back toward Earth and pass the samples to an entry vehicle that will be orbiting Earth. The sample containers will finally land on Earth in 2031. And that’s not the end. Some of the samples will be preserved for scores of years to be better analyzed in the future when more advanced analysis will be made. What a long-scope project it is!
Enjoy reading the article and learn a mission that is cooperated by many and in the future.


Topic Reading-Vol.3041-8/8/2020

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
US firearms purchases skyrocket during pandemic, according to FBI records
In America, any adult can buy firearms if they pass the background check that is conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI. Therefore, this firearm background check is a good indicator to show how many firearms are being purchased. And the FBI saw a record 3.9 million firearm transactions in June alone and 3.6 million in July, nearly 80% more than the previous year. Why are Americans buying more guns in such a time of difficulty? They tend to buy more guns when a deadly shooting incident occurs, maybe because they want to protect themselves more or stock up their guns before stricter gun regulations take place. This year, gun sales also sparked in March to 3.7 million. It seems that Americans are buying more guns when the coronavirus infections surge. Indeed, their lives are threatened by an agent, but are Americans trying to protect themselves by guns instead of face masks or social distancing? Has the $600 weekly Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance been boosting gun sales?
Read the article and think if it is effective to protect yourself with firearms when hundreds of people have been dying each day by the novel virus.


Topic Reading-Vol.3040-8/7/2020

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
A massive asteroid shower hit Earth and the moon 800 million years ago, study says
When was the last time you took a shower? Unless you’ve been hospitalized for some time, it probably was hours or a day before. Then, when do you think our planet and the moon took an asteroid shower? It is believed that about 66 million years ago, a meteor the size of a mountain slammed into Earth, filling the atmosphere with gas, dust, and debris that drastically altered the climate, which made dinosaurs went extinct while some mammals, birds, small reptiles, fish, and amphibians survived. You probably have known this presumption, haven’t you?
But some scientists now believe that our planet and the moon were hit by a massive asteroid shower about 800 million years ago and it might have initiated the ice age by the massive impact. How do they find such traces? Those researchers study the moon and asteroid to find what happened so long ago because they hold a more original state than the earth, where volcanic activities, geologic processes like erosion, and weathering erase the trace of the past incident. That’s one of the reasons rockets are sent to the moon and asteroid to bring back the sample of the ancient trace.
Enjoy reading the article and learn about how the earth was impacted by asteroids.


Topic Reading-Vol.3039-8/6/2020

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Hackers post fake stories on real news sites 'to discredit Nato'
In Florida, a teenager was charged for hijacking the Twitter accounts of multiple high-profile figures, including former President Barack Obama, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, entrepreneur Elon Musk, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden. The 17-year-old hacker put false tweets on their accounts requesting for Bitcoin donations.
In Europe, hackers broke into real new websites and posted fake stories for their cause to stir up the anti-NATO sentiment. It is suspected that Russian interests are behind the hacking to stop NATO to deploy its forces in Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland, each of whom was a former member or ally of the Soviet Union.
If such popular and trusted accounts or websites are hijacked so easily, what can be trusted, especially before elections or polls? Since anything could go viral so quickly and widely, readers and viewers seem to be required to judge what is authentic or not.
Enjoy reading the article and think if you keep a critical eye on what’s shown on the web.


Topic Reading-Vol.3038-8/5/2020

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
How Covid-19 could destroy indigenous communities
According to a UN factsheet, there are over 370 million indigenous people spread across 70 countries in the world. Indigenous peoples and communities that still keep their historical continuities that were developed in the pre-invasion and pre-colonial era. They practice unique cultures, lifestyles, traditions, languages, and beliefs of their own that are distinct from the surrounding societies. Among the indigenous peoples are those of the Americas, such as the Navaho in the USA, the Mayas in Guatemala or the Aymaras in Bolivia, the Inuit, and Aleutians of the circumpolar region, the Aborigines of Australia and the Maori of New Zealand. They are more isolated than those in the same country in many ways such as jobs, income, education, information, and access to medical services. So, when the whole world has been shaken by the coronavirus pandemic, indigenous people are actually more vulnerable. How are they trying to survive such a difficult time?
Read the article and learn about how peoples of indigenous descent are coping with the outbreak of Covid-19.


Topic Reading-Vol.3037-8/4/2020

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
A landmark study shows what makes a successful relationship
What makes a good and lasting partner relationship? Does it depend on what your personal qualities are and who your partner is? The answers seem to change after a year, a relatively short period for married couples, from what they predict the quality of relationships before the study to what measures they would best predict that. A study in Canada found that how the couple perceives and values each other and their relationship as a whole seems to attribute more than an individual’s characteristics. In other words, it is the dynamics of the relationship that is built by many parts. If that is the case, relying on apps that find an ideal partner is just an illusion? Neither love at first sight nor a perfect couple guarantees a lasting relationship?
Maybe an arranged marriage is as practical and endurable as a marriage for love because it is based on the assumption of a forever lasting relationship.
Enjoy reading the article and learn about how couples predict what makes them united.


Topic Reading-Vol.3036-8/3/2020

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Virgin Galactic's rocket plane will use 16 cameras to capture space tourists' every move
A space trip is surely an exceptionally extraordinary experience. Even if the time duration could be just a few minutes to a few days, pretravel research, planning, and inspiration are invaluable. Also, post-trip memories are irreplaceable, not to mention the time you enjoy experiencing micro-to-zero gravity and a spectacular view of Earth and space. So, all-in-all, the $250,000 ticket price for a 2.5-hour space trip on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, from liftoff until the touchdown including a six-minute weightlessness time, may not be overly expensive for some people. Each of the six passengers will sit in a custom-designed seat, enjoy the magnificent view through round-shaped windows, and see themselves floating in microgravity. Want to check the interior of the spaceship now?
Enjoy watching the video about the experience worth more than a quarter-million dollars.


Topic Reading-Vol.3035-8/2/2020

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
'I was too fat,' Boris Johnson says in UK launch to tackle obesity
Born in 1964, he was 55 when he was hospitalized for Covid-19 infection this past April, where he learned a lifelong lesson. He had been overweight. Now the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, wants others to follow his suit to lose weight. This is a 180-degree turn from his previous criticism on previous governments’ proposal to similar moves. However, having spent in an intensive care unit for a few days wandering between life and death, he is now determined to promote healthier Britain. Indeed, over 60% of British adults are either overweight or obese. Also, 20% of children aged 10-11 are obese, which could pose a higher risk of diabetes and heart diseases in the future.
So, in order to endorse the government’s action to encourage people to lose weight, he posted a video to his Twitter account about his own determination and action.
Yes, anyone can change his or her mind, but it’s not easy to change others’.
Enjoy reading the article and watch the video to learn about once overweighed and coronavirus-infected prime minister’s message.


Topic Reading-Vol.3034-8/1/2020

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Beethoven 250: The ultimate song of health after illness
This is supposedly a big year for Western music history. Beethoven’s 250th anniversary. Indeed, Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany in 1770. He was taught composition when he was ten and published his first work in 1783. He moved to Vienna in 1792 and was acquainted with famous composers like Joseph Haydn, a renowned violinist Ignaz Schuppanzigh, and Beethoven’s life-long financial supporter, Prince Lobkowitz, all of whom gave their part of the influence on Beethoven’s works. He wrote most of his famed works before 1812 despite his deafness and The French invasion of Vienna. Then he went into a difficult emotional period until 1822. During his final years between 1823 and 1826, he composed his most acclaimed works, including the ninth symphony and his late string quartettes, one of which is Opus 132, string quartet #15 in A minor. The third movement of the quartet, Molto adagio – Andante (F Lydian), is accompanied by his note, "Heiliger Dankgesang eines Genesenen an die Gottheit, in der Lydischen Tonart" (Holy song of thanksgiving of a convalescent to the Deity, in the Lydian mode. What kind of music is it?
Enjoy reading the article about what this holy song of thanksgiving by Beethoven is.

For those who aren’t familiar with this movement, try this first; Eschner String Quartet