The English Learners' Blog

A blog for English learners and their teachers everywhere, initiated in 2010 with the contribution of students from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. More about me on the On-line Profile below. Welcome!

Introducing: Physics Students

Some of my Physics Students at the Jagiellonian University: Piotr, Krzysztof, Karol, Lila, Pawel, Mariusz, Szymon, I, Pawel & Krzysztof. Behind the camera: Przemek.


Time has come to present to you, global English learners, some pieces of writing signed by some of my Physics students. As this blog develops I am glad to include as many such scientific pieces as possible.

Here’s an interesting paper signed by Piotr (the first on the left-hand side in the photo, barely visible).

Read the essay below, his take on ways of dealing with toxic waste.

Enjoy!


Nuclear Waste

By  Piotr Czarnik


Radioactive waste is probably one of the most feared types of waste. One of the reasons why this situation is a common belief is that radioactivity is a phenomenon occurring only as the result of human activity. In fact, radioactivity is a natural property of some substances, and as such, it is quite common. It is connected with the instability of atomic nuclei (only a part of which have this property) which could emit particles capable of the damage to or even the destruction of cells. Radioactive nuclei, which are called radioactive isotopes by physicists, naturally occur in rocks, the walls of our houses, in food, and, eventually, even in our bodies. UNSECAR calculated that in 2000 natural radiation (measured by effective dose per capita) absorbed by our bodies was 6 times larger than the radiation produced by man-made sources. Among them the most significant were diagnostic medical experiments. The effective dose coming from radioactive waste was less than 1 percent of the total effective dose. In spite of its small impact on our health, which is a result of high standards of security used during process of their storage, its utilization poses a severe problem.

Radioactive waste, which has the highest level of radioactivity, is produced by nuclear reactors in nuclear plants. The nuclear fuel used contains a high percentage of radioactive isotopes of uranium or plutonium. After some time it becomes unsuitable for use because of the toxic byproducts of the reactor. Nevertheless, it is still highly radioactive, just like the toxic byproducts themselves, which have a large half-life span. The term half-life refers to the time period in which half of the nuclei in an isotope will decay. Because the reactor produces isotopes with a long half-life, it was estimated that the waste produced would be potentially dangerous even after a million years. Moreover, this waste contains a lot of plutonium, which is a basic material used to construct an atomic bomb. The extraction of plutonium from this waste is a very difficult and dangerous task, one that requires advanced technology. However, it is possible.

The properties of nuclear waste described above make the process of storage or utilization of waste extremely important. Before beginning the process of the storage in its final destination, it should be transformed into a form which could not react with the environment. There are propositions as to how this process should look, but there is not a common agreement on which of them should be commonly used and if they are sufficiently safe. One of them is a process of synthetic rock (Synrock) production during which radioactive isotopes become minerals. After that process nuclear waste should be stored in a safe place. One of the most realistic propositions is storing it in geologically inactive formations, 500 – 1000 meters below the surface of the ground, in old mines or drills made for that purpose.  Another very interesting proposition is storing it in subduction zones in which tectonic plates sink into the Earth’s mantle, which could provide its permanent removal from our environment. Another possibility is its storage in outer space, but it is temporally impossible because of the high rate of rocket launches failure. Another interesting approach dealing with nuclear waste is its transmutation into non-radioactive isotopes in specially designed reactors. This method provides its total utilization.

The question of how to deal with radioactive waste efficiently and safely is still unanswered. Continous progress in science and technology and a lot of interesting ideas which was proposed give us hope that an answer will be found in the near future. Paradoxically, dealing with this kind of waste, because of its special character, could be much easier than dealing with more common types of pollution, which, are in fact, causing more casualties than nuclear waste.

______________________________________

Filed under: 6►THEME CHEST, ■ Physics, ■ Science & Technology, ■ Writing Samples

Strong Marks & Tough Characters in the Wild

How do you leave your mark on

the world surrounding you?

SIGHT, TASTE, TOUCH, SMELL,


HEARING?


There are a lot of  signatures in the wild, many more than on paper. That is because animals can sign on wood, earth, even  underground, through air or water, in a nutshell, by channels that may involve any of and all the senses.

The wildlife surrounding us is extraordinary! That’s why I’d like to thank my biology students for the great presentations they had this semester.

This post was inspired by an Animal Planet documentary on the smelliest animals on Earth. Have fun reading it!

Here are some photos of ten of the most odiferous animals. Take a look & choose the top three that can leave the strongest smelliest signatures ever known.

ALASKA ZOO Musk-ox Calf

The musk ox is a large hoofed mammal with up-turned horns, a massive body and a short tail. They live in social groups, where the adults work together to defend and nurture the young. When threatened by a polar bear or wolf, the adults form a protective circle around the younger members of the herd.


Beluga/Baluga

Beluga whales are often found around the Arctic seas, and migrate when the sea freezes over. They often travel in groups, also known as pods, and live mainly in shallow waters which sometimes are barely deep enough to completely cover them.

Beluga whales are almost forty percent blubber which insulates them in the cold Arctic waters. This blubber also helps to streamline their body which enables them to move more quickly through the water. Also, when Beluga whales dive, their blood circulation decreases, allowing them to conserve body heat.

Beluga whales are also known as “sea canaries” because they are very vocal. They make sounds that range from clicks and high pitched whistles to bell-like sounds. These sounds can be heard above water.

Red Fox Cubs

Adult red foxes usually live alone except during the mating season in January and February and when raising young.
Instead of sleeping in a den, an adult fox usually curls up with its fluffy tail over its nose and feet to protect itself from the cold. In the winter, sometimes the snow will cover them in a blanket which insulates them from the wind and cold weather.


Wolverine

Wolverines are fierce and entirely under-estimated predators. Read more on these animals on Deleene’ blog, Wild Muse. I was pleased to discover that this blog was a finalist in the run for the Research Blogging awards 2010, so it’s worth checking if you’re a wild life fan. 🙂

Sockeye-salmon


The North Pacific is home to five species of salmon and steelhead, a migratory form of trout. Each kind of salmon is known by different names: Chinook (king), sockeye (red), coho (silver), chum (dog), and pink (humpback). All are commercially valuable, but the Chinook were the prize of the Columbia River system. On the Water is the site where you can read more about the Columbia river salmon.

Stink-Bug

Stink bugs have 5-segmented antennae and shield-shaped bodies.

Some stink bugs are pests of cultivated plants, and their feeding not only damages the plants, it also damages or disfigures fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds and helps spread plant diseases.

Stink bugs get their name because if handled or otherwise disturbed, a stink bug will release a stinky odor from glands on its thorax.

Skunks

Skunks are legendary for their powerful predator-deterrent — a hard-to-remove, horrible-smelling spray. A skunk’s spray is an oily liquid produced by glands under its large tail. To employ this scent bomb, a skunk turns around and blasts its foe with a foul mist that can travel as far as ten feet (three meters).

Skunk spray causes no real damage to its victims, but it sure makes them uncomfortable. It can linger for many days and defy attempts to remove it. As a defensive technique, the spray is very effective. Predators typically give skunks a wide berth unless little other food is available. (Info taken from the National Geographic site)

American Beaver


Beavers are more than intriguing animals with flat tails and lustrous fur. American Indians called the beaver the “sacred center” of the land because this species creates rich habitats for other mammals, fish, turtles, frogs, birds and ducks. Since beavers prefer to dam streams in shallow valleys, much of the flooded area becomes wetlands. Such wetlands are cradles of life with biodiversity that can rival tropical rain forests.

Besides being a keystone species, beavers reliably and economically maintain wetlands that can sponge up floodwaters (the several dams built by each colony also slows the flow of floodwaters), prevent erosion, raise the water table and act as the “earth’s kidneys” to purify water. The latter occurs because several feet of silt collect upstream of older beaver dams, and toxics, such as pesticides, are broken down in the wetlands that beavers create. Thus, water downstream of dams is cleaner and requires less treatment.

Tasmanian Devil

As comical as it is, the familiar Looney Tunes portrayal of a Tasmanian devil as a seething, snarling, insatiable lunatic is, at times, not all that far from the truth.

Tasmanian devils have a notoriously cantankerous disposition and will fly into a maniacal rage when threatened by a predator, fighting for a mate, or defending a meal. Early European settlers dubbed it a “devil” after witnessing such displays, which include teeth-baring, lunging, and an array of spine-chilling guttural growls.


Porcupine

Many animals come away from a porcupine encounter with quills protruding from their own snouts or bodies. Quills have sharp tips and overlapping scales or barbs that make them difficult to remove once they are stuck in another animal’s skin. Porcupines grow new quills to replace the ones they lose.

Hyena Pup

Wherever you go on safari in Africa, don’t be lulled into thinking these animals are like domestic dogs! If you stick your arm out your vehicle window, a hyena is capable of snapping it off with one bite. They have powerful jaws and teeth specially adapted to splintering and crushing bones.

While a lion or leopard is unlikely to enter your safari tent, hyenas have been known to take a bite out of sleeping tourists.

Every living creature can find itself in situations in which it can leave strong marks in its environment.

Choose the strongest olfactory marks the animals above are known to leave.

And last, but not least, what are the strengths that make you noticed?

Filed under: 6►THEME CHEST, 6▼ Questionnaires, ■ Biology, ■ Perfumes

Networking – A Useful Tool

Here’s an extract

from

the Harvard Business Review blog

on

How to Make Your Network

Work for You

by Ariana Green

Many people turn to networking when they’re looking for a job, but the best time to build your network is before you need something; and the best time to keep that network strong is always. But what is the best way to do that? Simply collecting business cards and attending events may expand your number of contacts, but does not increase the likelihood that those contacts will benefit you in the future. To reap the benefits of networking when you need them, you must know how to make your network work for you, and how you can work for your network.

What the Experts Say

The most universally agreed upon networking tip is this: Offer to help others first, and they will return the favor. “You should always ask new contacts to tell you about a business challenge they are confronting,” says Dr. Ivan Misner, PhD, lead author of Networking Like a Pro: Turning Contacts into Connections, and chairman of global networking organization BNI International. “That way, you might know someone who can help, and that’s the start of a relationship.”

Misner teaches his clients to focus on gaining credibility, which grows, he says, when they keep appointments, act on promises, verify facts, and render services. “Failure to live up to expectations — to keep both explicit and implicit promises — can kill a budding relationship before it breaks through the ground,” he warns.

Networking well makes for a brighter future, so Misner advises people to think beyond a current need. “People tend to forget about the importance of long-term credibility because they’re so focused on making an immediate sale,” Misner says. “But with that approach, you only eat what you kill that day.” Focus on becoming known and trusted instead; a long-lasting relationship is more beneficial to both parties.

Lillian Bjorseth, author of Breakthrough Networking: Building Relationships That Last, reminds her clients to share information. “One of my favorite follow-up methods is to send someone a relevant article, photo, anecdote, marketing tip, or other resource via email,” she says. Follow-through on seemingly unimportant promises or casual conversations can be just as integral to business success as delivering a reliable product.

Make People Know You

It’s not enough to be an expert on something if nobody knows you well enough to think about calling you. Creating an inviting image for yourself can generate business and opportunities. “Our research shows that people are much more likely to call if someone is not just an expert but also has initiated some sort of social exchange to make others comfortable,” says Noshir Contractor, professor of behavioral sciences at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, who has done research on social and knowledge networks.

While Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other online networking sites can become time drains, online networking is useful for strengthening connections. By posting Facebook or Twitter links to relevant articles, you can provide value to your virtual friends and show your engagement with pertinent business issues. Writing original articles or posting commentary keeps you on other people’s minds and enables them to see how involved you are in your industry. It is an efficient way to continue a relationship with those you know.

But online communication is not enough, especially for newer contacts. The true benefit is that it often leads to in-person contact because people feel more comfortable initiating a meeting with someone they “know” electronically. It’s especially important to seek and accept face-to-face meetings with newer contacts because technology can never match a human connection. In-person check-ins are useful for contacts you already know too, but given people’s busy schedules, it is most pressing to push for personal meetings with contacts you haven’t spent much time with outside of a group gathering.

Think About How People Feel

Understanding psychology — your own and other people’s — should factor into your strategy. “Some people are really busy and harried, or they’re not quite as affable,” says psychologist James Waldroop, an author and CEO of Career Leader, an internet-based career assessment used by corporations and business programs worldwide. “The point is to read your audience and know to make contact with some people less frequently.”

But, Waldroop points out, even the most curmudgeonly contact appreciates genuine offers of help. It’s important to make emails and phone calls feel personal. For example, you could send an email saying, “I know your kids are getting out of college soon, so please let me know if I can be of help to them, even remotely.” Or else something like, “I was thinking about you and remembering the time that we did such and such, and it made me laugh.” Or perhaps, “I’ve heard through the grapevine that your business is having trouble, and as you know, I’ve dealt with this before, so please do call me if you want to vent or strategize or anything else.” In addition, he suggests that an appropriate level of humor is a great way to emphasize that you are being genuine or to make people feel comfortable.

Waldroop also offers that in certain cases it may be best to call after hours when you know the person won’t be in the office to pick up the phone. That way you can leave a message, which is less intrusive, and you won’t get interrupted before saying what you need to say.

Grow and Maintain the Network

In building your network, Professor Contractor believes that it’s vital to reach out to a diverse pool of people. Those who come from different fields, different socio-economic backgrounds, and different countries can offer creative solutions and contacts that a colleague in the neighboring cubicle cannot.

Contractor has his students engage in the following exercise to assess how well a person maintains her network: Students come up with a list they call their Board of Directors, a roster of people they know whom they can call up on important professional matters. Contractor then prompts his students to write out who introduced the people on the roster to the student. “They will discover that, often, there are just a handful of people who introduced them to the most important people in their lives,” he says. “These are people who ought to be cultivated because they are helping to broaden a network. One must make sure to continue to connect with those people.”

Some of Contractor’s students go through this exercise and find that they have been introducing themselves to their most valuable contacts. “That’s not a good sign,” Contractor says. “That means you’re not using your network well and you’re not tapping into the virtuous cycle.”

Principles to Remember

Do:

  • Be genuine to gain credibility and keep long-term relations
  • Feed the network (via Twitter, Facebook, emails, etc.) to pass on useful information and show you are engaged
  • Offer to help using humor and tact

  • Don’t:

  • Focus on getting something from a new contact immediately
  • Hide behind technology and avoid face-to-face networking
  • Forget to read your audience and provide a personal approach

You can read the two case studies posted on the Harvard Business Review blog at the given address above (click on the article title).

Filed under: 8►BUSINESS, ■ Harvard Business Review

The_New_Media_Landscape

Can you imagine a completely “unplugged” daily routine for yourself?

With no Internet, mobile phone or digital music players?

A Day Without Media is a research conducted by ICMPA and students at the Phillip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland (College Park, USA) that investigates the possibility of “surviving” without media for a day.

What is your comment on “going unplugged“?

How would you and/or the average young man or woman in your country respond to this challenge?

If you are interested in learning more about the media landscape change in recent years you can watch this video posted last September on YouTube by the Economist magazine. Start with answering the quizz below, then watch the video to check the answer.

By the way, how often do you text your acquaintances and friends per month?

Filed under: ■ Science & Technology

Vocabulary Quizz

Took the poll already? Click here for the answer!

Filed under: 1►TO DO, 6▼ Questionnaires

“A crazy little thing called ‘the comma'”

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

The Days with No Commas

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

are long gone.

However, unfortunate sentences without commas or sentences with commas that have been misplaced still haunt the world of writing

to this day.

I believe people invented commas for a reason – a good one,

as a matter of fact.

This post is meant to redirect your attention to the little details such as commas, that help readers understand the message of our written sentences.

One example, to start with.

Do you see any difference between the two sentences below?

  • Comma: Besides, eating cuisine specialties fulfills the whole journey!
  • No comma: Besides eating cuisine specialties fulfills the whole journey!

  • If you do, let’s try another one.

Are the commas in these sentences in the right position (that is do they help you understand the meaning of the sentences they are in)?

Someone writes:

  • (1a) My room is covered with different scripts and sheets of paper with notes connected to the subject, I’m preparing to.

instead of

  • (1b) “My room is covered with different scripts and sheets of paper with notes connected to the subject, (sic)… and here there are multiple options, such as:
  • I’m preparing for.”
    … I’m preparing myself for.”
    … I’m preparing my notes (etc) for.”

    and so on.

And may continue like this:

  • (2 a) But in fact, I don’t find it disturbing, because each item has its own place on the floor and this, what someone would call a mess, helps me organize my learning time.

Let’s re-read this last sentence, 2a, like this:

  • (2 b) But in fact, I don’t find it disturbing, because each item has its own place on the floor and what someone would call a mess, (sic) helps me organize my learning time.

In sentence 1a the innocent little comma separates an object and its verb.

In sentence 2a it separates the subject from the verb.

NOTA BENE: A comma should never separate either the verb and its object or the subject and its verb in a sentence – in English, at least.

The symbol (sic) means:  so or thus. It is usually written parenthetically to denote that a word, phrase, passage, etc., that may appear strange or incorrect has been written intentionally or has been quoted verbatim: He signed his name as e. e. cummings (sic).

To use  or not to use a comma? Where, when and why?

These seems to be the questions…

If you’ve stumbled upon misplaced commas,

or any other misused punctuation marks,

bring them to the foreground and give the sentences they haunt another chance for survival!

Filed under: ■ Punctuation Marks, ■ They write... & what they mean is...

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