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!

11 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Airplanes

Planes have changed a lot since the days of the Wright Brothers (or, perhaps more accurately, Brazilian inventor Alberto Santos). Those first wood-and-cloth contraptions are an entirely different species than the sleek Boeing Dreamliners of today.

With the continual advancements in aerospace technology, it’s hard to keep up with all the amazing things planes today are capable of doing (and withstanding). Below, 11 things you didn’t know about airplanes and air travel.

Airplanes are designed to withstand lightning strikes

Planes are designed to be struck by lightning—and they regularly are hit. It’s estimated lightning strikes each aircraft once a year—or once per every 1,000 hours of flight time. Yet, lighting hasn’t brought down a plane since 1963, due to careful engineering that lets the electric charge of a lightning bolt run through the plane and out of it, typically without causing damage to the plane.

There is no safest seat on the plane

The FAA says there is no safest seat on the plane, though a TIME study of plane accidents found that the middle seats in the back of the plane had the lowest fatality rate in a crash. Their research revealed that, during plane crashes, “the seats in the back third of the aircraft had a 32 percent fatality rate, compared with 39 percent in the middle third and 38 percent in the front third.”

However, there are so many variables at play that it’s impossible to know where to sit to survive a crash. Oh, and plane crashes are incredibly rare.

Some airplanes have secret bedrooms for flight crew

On long-haul flights, cabin crew can work 16-hour days. To help combat fatigue, some planes, like the Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliners, are outfitted with tiny bedrooms where the flight crew can get a little shut-eye. The bedrooms are typically accessed via a hidden staircase that leads up to a small, low-ceilinged room with 6 to 10 beds, a bathroom, and sometimes in-flight entertainment.

The tires are designed not to pop on landing

The tires on an airplane are designed to withstand incredible weight loads (38 tons!) and can hit the ground at 170 miles per hour more than 500 times before ever needing to get a retread. Additionally, airplane tires are inflated to 200 psi, which is about six times the pressure used in a car tire. If an airplane does need new tires, ground crew simply jack up the plane like you would a car.

Why cabin crew dims the light when a plane is landing

When a plane lands at night, cabin crews will dim the interior lights. Why? In the unlikely event that the plane landing goes badly and passengers need to evacuate, their eyes will already be adjusted to the darkness. As pilot Chris Cooke explained to T+L: “Imagine being in an unfamiliar bright room filled with obstacles when someone turns off the lights and asks you to exit quickly.”

Similarly, flight attendants have passengers raise their window shades during landing, so they can see outside in an emergency and assess if one side of the plane is better for an evacuation.

You don’t need both engines to fly

The idea of an engine giving out mid-flight sounds frightening, but every commercial airplane can safely fly with just one engine. Operating with half the engine power can make a plane less fuel-efficient and may reduce its range, but planes are designed and tested for such situations, as Popular Mechanics reported. Any plane scheduled on a long-distance route, especially those that fly over oceans or through uninhabited areas like the Arctic, must be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for Extended-range Twin Operations (ETOPS), which is basically how long it can fly with one engine. The Boeing Dreamliner is certified for ETOPS-330, which means it can fly for 330 minutes (that’s five and a half hours) with just one engine.

In fact, most airplanes can fly for a surprisingly long distance with no engine at all, thanks to something called glide ratio. Due to careful aeronautical engineering, a Boeing 747 can glide for two miles for every 1,000 feet they are above the ground, which is usually more than enough time to get everyone safely to the ground.

Why there are ashtrays in the bathrooms

The FAA banned smoking on planes years ago, but eagle-eyed passengers know that airplane lavatories still have ashtrays in them. As Business Insider reported, the reason is that airlines—and the people who design planes—figure that despite the no-smoking policy and myriad no-smoking signs prominently posted on the plane, at some point a smoker will decide to light up a cigarette on the plane. The hope is that if someone violates the smoking policy, they will do so in the relatively confined space of the bathroom and dispose of the cigarette butt in a safe place—the ashtray, not a trash can where it could theoretically cause a fire. If you do smoke in the bathroom, expect a massive fine.

What that tiny hole in the airplane window does

It’s to regulate cabin pressure. Most airplane windows are made up of three panels of acrylic. The exterior window works as you would expect—keeping the elements out and maintaining cabin pressure. In the unlikely event that something happens to the exterior pane, the second pane acts as a fail-safe option. The tiny hole in the interior window is there to regulate air pressure so the middle pane remains intact and uncompromised until it is called into duty.

Why airplane food taste so bad

Airplane food has a bad reputation, but the food itself isn’t entirely to blame—the real fault lies with the plane. A 2015 Cornell University study, reported by Time, found that the environment inside an airplane actually alters the way food and drink tastes—sweet items tasted less sweet, while salty flavors were heightened. The dry recycled air inside the plane cabin doesn’t help either as low humidity can further dull taste and smell making everything in a plane seem bland. According to a 2010 study from the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics in Germany, it’s about 30 percent more difficult to detect sweet and salty tastes when you’re up in the air. Next time you fly, skip the meal, and maybe try a glass of tomato juice instead.

About those oxygen masks

The safety instructions on most flight include how to use the oxygen masks that are deployed when the plane experiences a sudden loss in cabin pressure. However, one that thing that the flight attendants don’t tell you is that oxygen masks only have about 15-minutes worth of oxygen. That sounds like a frighteningly short amount of time, but in reality that should be more than sufficient. Remember, oxygen masks drop when the airplane cabin loses pressure, which means the plane is also losing altitude. According to Gizmodo, a pilot will respond to that situation by donning an oxygen mask and moving the plane to an altitude below 10,000 feet, where passengers can simply breathe normally, no extra oxygen required. That rapid descent usually takes way less than 15 minutes, meaning those oxygen masks have more than enough air to protect passengers.

Why planes leave trails in the sky

Those white lines that planes leave in the sky are simply trails of condensation, hence their technical name of “contrails.” Plane engines release water vapor as part of the combustion process. When that hot water vapor is pumped out of the exhaust and hits the cooler air of the upper atmosphere, it creates those puffy white lines in the sky. It’s basically the same reaction as when you see your breath when it’s cold outside.

This article originally appeared on TravelandLeisure.com

Filed under: ■ Senses, ■ The World

1, 2, 3, Think, Read, Speak!!!

Like most students, Millenials or otherwise, mine love to stay current & be able to discuss the latest trends, so here’s a Think & Read three-pack I came up with to help the discussion flow & connect present to future technologically as well as linguistically. The texts below are taken from Content Loop, one of our latest favourites here at the ELB.

Have a fab Feb and keep your mind well fed with valuable information!

(Further reading suggested:

click the numbers pics 4 extra reads on senses, skating & L o V e <3.)

1

No.

 THINK about your TOP 3 most annoying habits people have connected with technology in your opinion (like spending time checking the phone during face-to-face meetings) and think of ways people should/could change those habits.
READ this article on technology etiquette for the emerging generation, write down any tricky words, phrases & questions you might have for further discussion.

2

 No.THINK about the specific traits of our generation, the Millennials. (In what ways are we different from other generations?)
READ this article on  how to grab the attention of Millenials via email and compare your ideas against the ideas presented in the text. Would you read mails written in the styles suggested in the text? Which style(s) would you find more appealing? Why? Why not? Be ready to speak your mind on the issues you find most relevant to you, your life & living today.

 3

No.THINK about the type of content/topics/styles/genres you like to read about and describe it/them briefly. Then try to analyse why  you are attracted to these types of content?
READ this text about the link between viral content and emotional intelligence. What do you agree and disagree with, and why?

Filed under: 1►TO DO, 2►READ, 3►SPEAK▼, ■ Communicate, ■ CONTENT LOOP, ■ Generations, ■ Inspiration, ■ Physics, ■ Relation ships, ■ Science & Technology, ■ Technology & Our Generation, ■ The W W WEB, ■ The World, ■ Thinking Space

On Erasmus in Barcelona

The essay below was written especially for the ELB readers by Nina Romanska, one of my former students. I would like to thank her very much for her insights and I would like to wish her “Happy Birthday!!!”, as she is celebrating her birthday on this very day. 🙂 🙂 😉 🙂 🙂 

The Erasmus Experience

in

Barcelona. 

A Student’s Account

Erasmus is a popular student exchange programme nowadays. As many other students, I decided to take part in it because I had studied abroad before and I knew that it would be an amazing experience. I love Spanish, so Spain was an obvious choice for me. I didn’t have any doubts about the city either, I knew that Barcelona would be a perfect place for me. It’s a big city, the capital of Catalunya, definitely one of the most interesting places in Spain. I had never been there before, but I simply trusted my intuition, the view of the city from “The Shadow of the Wind” written by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, and “L’Auberge Espagnole,” known as the “Erasmus movie,” which describes the Erasmus experience of a French student in Barcelona.

However, my beginnings in that beautiful city were like from some comedy-drama. I remember my first day there. I arrived in Barcelona at about 2 o’ clock at night, tired after the bus ride from the airport in Reus. It was really hot, but I was wearing the coat and pullover that I didn’t have place for in my luggage. I took the metro to a district nearby the Sagrada Familia, where my friend was living. The escalators were out of order, and I could’t find any elevator either, so, with no Spanish prince on a white horse to come to my rescue, I had to carry my suitcase and my backpack all the way… Finally, I saw the Sagrada Familia. I stopped for a while to admire it and then went to look for the direction of my friend’s place. I was really impressed with the church at first sight, but the truth is that I was more concerned with being robbed at the time, as I was carrying all my jewellery, and had the money to rent a room on me.

Next day I woke up at 6 and started to look for a room to rent. The experience was totally horrible. Even if, on the outside, the old buildings in Barcelona are very beautiful, inside I came across dirty rooms and flats, strange people of all ages (renting is really expensive there, so not only students share flats), old guys with propositions, loads of insects, lack of sunshine, funny smells. All of these at an incredibly expensive price. Until I found a suitable flat I decided to share a room with another Polish student. She lived with the owner of the flat, a guy from Morocco who was walking half naked in flat, wearing just pants and a DJ cap, so I felt like I needed to hide myself. He worked as a bodyguard in club, so I could go back to the flat after 11pm, when he went to work.

After six days of looking for a flat from 8 am to 11pm, I found my room and started my true Erasmus life. My new flat mates were three Erasmus students from Romania, Finland and Germany. My room was really small and without any windows, but somehow I got used to it. 😉

Once I got time more time on my hands to explore, I realised that Barcelona is a really great city. There are a lot of really interesting places to see. Thanks to Gaudi (the Catalan Modernist), no other city can be compared to Barcelona. This Catalan architect gave Barcelona a really beautiful gift: an originality and style that made me feel that buildings of his project were taken out of some kind of fairytale kingdom.  Barcelona has everything; we can lose ourselves in the narrow streets of the Barrio Gothic and Raval, admire the elegant buildings of Gracia, walk on the beach or go to a match of FC Barcelona at Camp Nou.

There are, however, some bad points of living in the city. Loads of turists… almost everywhere you look, and this results in high prices and robberies. Barcelona is a really cosmopolitan city, so I felt more Spain in Madrid or Sevilla.

Somehow, Catalan wasn’t a big problem for me. It’s something between Spanish and French, so I had no trouble understanding most of it.

Even though I really loved Barcelona as a city and my newly-found home, the best part of my exchange program there were the people. I met a lot of great people from all over the world. The community of international students became my family, which is something that I really miss right now. Meeting people of different cultures, religions, beliefs and from different continents is a beautiful experience and made me more open-minded. Poland is a country of one nation, one religion, so my friendships with other Erasmus students helped me realise that many stereotypes about particular nations and countries were totally wrong.

As a nation, the Spanish are really cheerful compared to the Polish. They don’t care so much about exams, money, or the perfect look. I would like to follow that joy and optimism in my life.

I studied at the Faculty of Law of the University of Barcelona. The lectures were quite interesting. They gave the students interested in international law a wide range of study opportunities. 

 I also took part in the special programme ‘Introduction to Spanish Law,’ which was organised for international students. The teachers were friendly and much less formal than in Poland. Half of the available courses were in Spanish, and the other half in Catalan.

I would recommend taking part in an Erasmus programme to any student out there. It’s a great adventure, one impossible to forget! 😉  

Filed under: ■ Erasmus, ■ Good Old Student Life, ■ Movies, ■ Nationalities and Stereotypes, ■ Spain, ■ The World, ►12.OFF THE MAP▼

“Where are you?”

According to a study mentioned by Eric Weiner in his TED talk held in Bucharest last year, this is the question that comes up, in various forms, in 80% of all phone conversations.

Here are some more points Eric Weiner makes in his talk that you can watch below.

The quality of a society is more important

than your place in it.

(from The World Database of Happiness)

There are more words to describe unhappy states of mind than happy ones,” as a result of which new words are necessary, like the one he coins in order to describe the Swiss: conjoyment (contentment + enjoyment).

Better to fail for the right reasons than to succeed for the wrong ones.

(heard from an Icelandic)

Should more countries use the GNH (the gross national happiness policy in use in Bhutan) to supplement the GDP (gross domestic product)?

Happiness is 100% relational.

(heard from a Bhutanese)

The genuine smile of the Thai is in their eyes.

Beware of the fact that “You think too much“; it may come against your happiness.

What would you conclude after reading all of the above?

To answer the question in the title, I am now in Poland, in the beautiful city of Krakow. Do I currently live in a society I am pleased with? Is it any different than the society I was raised in? Are there happier places for me to be in? Not entirely – and I am thinking again of the Polandia series of interviews that show Poland through the eyes of foreigners of different ages, races, and religions; not really, with the note that living in a foreign country allows me to choose freely my version of reality within its borders, which I like; and probably.

I believe  that happiness happens. Most often unconsciously. It fills us with that beautiful, inexplicable joy that comes out from within to meet the happiness that lies outside ourselves (in people’s eyes, in smiles and first times), and in that meeting the feeling, the memory and the future of happiness that stay with us are born.

Do I have the words to describe happiness or the lack of it? Of course! Do they come easy? They rarely do. That’s why we cherish finding the voice of happiness. That’s why people sing, invent songs, write prose and poetry, or find themselves in other people’s words – a few among so many ways of being happy.

Eric Weiner’s advice: crush envy, do NOT win the lottery, get connected, lower your expectations, and, best of all, in my opinion,

approach happiness sideways.

More about Eric Weiner:

Eric Weiner is a long-time correspondent for the National Public Radio (NPR) and author of the book “The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World”.
For as long as he can remember Eric Weiner wanted to be a foreign correspondent. So he could hardly believe his good fortune when, one day in 1993, NPR dispatched him to India as the network’s first full-time correspondent in that country. Weiner spent two of the best years of his life based in New Delhi, covering everything from an outbreak of bubonic plague to India’s economic reforms, before moving on to other postings in Jerusalem and Tokyo.

Over the past decade, he’s reported from more than 30 countries, most of them profoundly unhappy. He traveled to Iraq several times during the reign of Saddam Hussein and he was in Afghanistan in 2001, when the Taliban regime fell.

He’s also served as a correspondent for NPR in New York, Miami and Washington. D.C. Weiner is a former reporter for The New York Times and was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University. He was part of a team of NPR reporters that won a 1994 Peabody award for a series of investigative reports about the U.S. tobacco industry.

His commentary has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Slate and The New Republic, among other publications. After travelling the world, he has settled, quasi-happily, in the Washington area, where he divides his time between his living room and his kitchen.

His book, The Geography of Bliss, is a travelogue of ideas in search of answers to some pressing questions: What are the essential ingredients for the good life? Why are some places happier than others? How are we shaped by our surroundings? Why can’t airlines serve a decent meal?

At TEDxBucharest 2010 Eric Weiner talks about what really makes us happy and where exactly we should think about moving to.

Filed under: ■ Conference Speakers, ■ Geo. of Bliss, ■ Happiness, ■ Nationalities and Stereotypes, ■ Polandia, ■ Races, ■ Talks & Conferences, ■ The World, ■ Travel

The English Teachers’ Oath

Hmm… Do teachers need an oath? I invite you to meditate on this topic for a little while, read the real-life example below, and think about the topic a little more… Yes, I know, this can turn into a never-ending personal meditation work! 🙂 One of the risks that come with the job…

Bob Obee's oath for exam teachers

Bob Obee's oath for exam teachers, wherever and whoever they are

I took this picture on March 12, at an IELTS conference.  It shows an excellent example of an oath and its author, IELTS exam teacher and author Bob Obee. I would like to thank him for allowing me to share his oath on this blog. Give it a read and see if you would say it as a teacher. If so, raise your right hand and repeat after me:

I, the exam teacher, shall do my utmost to engage you with language through and around the exam and to train you in all the aspects, shedding light into its darkest corners… and thereby enhancing your accuracy, dexterity and fluency in English and above all I shall do no harm.

Filed under: ■ Teachers' Oath, ■ The World

ROOM FOR ALL

What


do foreigners think about Poland

and

how do they feel about living in

Poland?

More info on Polandia online.

To watch one of the answers given by foreigners living in Poland click the link below:

http://wp.tv/mc707054

Filed under: ■ EU, ■ Movies, ■ Nationalities and Stereotypes, ■ Poland, ■ Polandia, ■ Races, ■ The World

Run, Vlad Isac, run!

Discover CNN iReport

Why should it interest you? As revealed by the definition below,

“iReport for CNN” is an interactive, international TV program showcasing the most newsworthy and informative iReport contributions and citizen journalism reports on the Internet.

Here is a story recently posted by Vlad Isac via CNN iReport.

A 25 years old, living in Austria, is literally running to Harvard Law School. This Saturday, the 9th of September 2010, he crossed the mile 1,010 of his 4,045 miles run.

His name is Vlad Ioan Isac, he was born in, the back then communist, Romania and currently lives in Vienna, Austria where he is a full-time intern with a large European Bank.

Vlad’s vision is to become a leader and an example for the next generation of political thought and action; and his first step is to graduate the JD program of Harvard Law School and become an excellent lawyer.

So the natural question comes – what has Harvard Law School to do with running?

Normally not much, but in Vlad’s case it’s got everything to do with. The plan is simple: in 15 months he runs the equivalent of the distance between Vienna, Austria and Cambridge, MA which is a bit over 4,000 miles. The runs, the experience, the journey to Harvard are all posted on a regular basis on running2harvard blog and also there, people can offer their support by making a donation for his cause.

His main purpose for doing this is to set an example for young people everywhere of what it’s possible when one is truly standing behind his dreams and passions and in the process he also hopes to raise the amount of money necessary to finance such an education.

In your own words, what is running2harvard about?

“The way I see it, running2harvard is about an ambitious dream and the determination to go for it all the way. It’s about pushing the limits of what one think it’s possible and hopefully emerge stronger and better. By doing so, I hope I can inspire other young people to do the same, to follow their most ambitious dreams no matter the odds, to say “I can do it” and then make that dream happen. Of course, I will be very happy if by the end of the campaign I raise part of the total Law School tuition and living costs.”

Is a law school worth it, may it be even Harvard Law School?

“Yes. It is worth it for me. Becoming a lawyer, being able to support and be part of the justice and policy making process has been my dream since childhood and for a long, long time I didn’t believe that this is achievable given my social background, my education, my nationality. As you are probably wondering what changed, I can only say that I believe that each of us has a tremendous potential for achieving great things in our lives and I also believe that within ourselves already lays the capacity and the tools we need for doing so.”

You have already run more than 1,000 miles; how long did it take you and how do you feel about it?

“It took me 17 weeks to reach 1,000 miles point, which is about 60 miles per week. So far I must say that I feel excellent. From a physical point of view I feel very good; which doesn’t mean that I didn’t experience some pain and small injuries from time to time, but nothing serious so far and I hope to stay like this in the ten months ahead. Mentally I also feel great; very motivated to keep running, to study and do good on the LSAT and prepare a very good application package for Harvard Law School.”

Is anyone coaching you in this process?

“No, I don’t have a formal coach but I receive plenty of support. There are plenty of great fellows out there who go out of their way to support me in any way they can. So far I got plenty of support during the runs, advice for running, for the campaign, for my application overall. And, probably the most important, I am surrounded by wonderful people who encourage me and offer me much moral support.”

What’s next?

“The most important thing in the next period is to prepare for the LSAT exam and put together a very good application package. As well I keep my fingers crossed for some initiatives I am currently working on to take off. One such initiative is a program aiming to support the integration in society of young people coming from challenging backgrounds, through running and community learning. And of course, keep running.”

Is there anything else you would like to mention?

“The only thing I would still like to share is this: it’s POSSIBLE. Each of us can, and should follow our highest and most burning dreams.”

This is it for now about Vlad and his running2harvard campaign. If you would like to know more about him or if you would like to offer him your support you are welcome to visit him on the campaign’s blog or on Facebook and Twitter (vlad_isac).

One more thing to think about:

How far would you go – or run – to get what you want and make your dreams come true?

Filed under: ■ CNN, ■ Harvard Law School, ■ Leadership, ■ Romania, ■ Running, ■ The World

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