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1. Задание 41 № 2755. Imagine that you are preparing a project with your friend. You have found some interesting material for the presentation and you want to read this text to your friend. You have 1.5 minutes to read the text silently, then be ready to read it out aloud. You will not have more than 1.5 minutes to read it.
... You don’t see many birds in winter. Most have left your area. Those that stay are not as active. Activity uses energy that is needed to keep warm. The worst problems for birds in winter are getting enough heat and holding on to the heat once it is made. These are problems for all birds. But it is especially true for very small ones. They cannot find enough food. The weather stays so cold for so long that they cannot eat enough to keep alive. But birds have many ways of fighting the cold.
You shiver to keep warm. The heat that you make is made mostly in your muscles. The muscles make more heat when they are active. So one way of keeping warm is to move about, use your muscles. Another way is to shiver. When your body needs heat, the muscles tighten and loosen quickly. They become active. Just as you shiver to keep warm, so do birds.
2. Задание 41 № 2832.
Antarctica is the driest place on earth. Parts of the continent have seen no rain for two million years. A desert is technically defined as a place that receives less than 10 inches of rain a year. The Sahara gets just 1 inch of rain a year.
As well as the driest place on earth, Antarctica can also claim to be the wettest and the windiest. Seventy per cent of the world’s fresh water is found there in the form of ice, and its wind speeds are the fastest ever recorded. The unique conditions in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica are caused by so-called katabatic winds. These occur when cold, dense air is pulled downhill simply by the force of gravity. Though Antarctica is a desert, these completely dry parts of it are called, somewhat ironically, oases. They are so similar to conditions on Mars that NASA used them to test the Viking mission.
3. Задание 41 № 2833.
The highest mountain is located on Mars. The giant volcano Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in the solar system and in the known universe. At 14 miles and 388 miles across, it is almost three times the height of Mount Everest and so wide that its base would cover Arizona, or the whole of the area of the British Isles. The crater on the top is around 45 miles wide and over nearly 2 miles deep, easily big enough to swallow London.
We traditionally measure mountains by their height. If we measured them by their size, it would be meaningless to isolate one mountain in a range from the rest. That being so, Mount Everest would dwarf Olympus Mons. It is part of the gigantic range which is nearly 1,500 miles long.
4. Задание 41 № 2834.
The ostrich is the bird that lays the smallest egg for its size. Although it is the largest single cell in nature, an ostrich egg is less than 2 per cent of the weight of the mother. A wren’s egg, by comparison, is 13 per cent of its weight. The largest egg in comparison with the size of the bird is that of the Little Spotted kiwi. Its egg accounts for 26 per cent of its own weight.
An ostrich egg weighs as much as twenty-four hen’s eggs; to soft-boil one takes forty-five minutes. Queen Victoria tucked into one for breakfast and declared it among the best meals she had ever eaten. The largest egg laid by any animal – including the dinosaurs – belonged to the elephant bird of Madagascar, which became extinct in 1700. It was ten times the size of an ostrich egg, nine litres in volume and the equivalent of 180 chicken’s eggs.
5. Задание 41 № 2835.
Despite its status as a proverbial fact, a goldfish’s memory isn’t a few seconds long. Research demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that goldfish have a memory-span of at least three months and can distinguish between different shapes, colours and sounds. They were trained to push a lever to earn a food reward; when the lever was fixed to work only for an hour a day, the fish soon learned to activate it at the correct time. A number of similar studies have shown that farmed fish can easily be trained to feed at particular times and places in response to an audible signal.
Goldfish don’t swim into the side of the bowl, not because they can see it, but because they are using a pressure-sensing system called the lateral line. Certain species of blind cave fish are able to navigate perfectly well in their lightless environment by using their lateral line system alone.
6. Задание 41 № 2836.
Half the human beings who have ever died, perhaps as many as 45 billion people, have been killed by female mosquitoes. Mosquitoes carry more than a hundred potentially fatal diseases including malaria, yellow fever and elephantiasis. Even today, they kill one person every twelve seconds. Amazingly, nobody had any idea that mosquitoes were dangerous until the end of the nineteenth century. In 1877, the British doctor Sir Patrick Manson proved that yellow fever was caused by mosquito bites.
Seventeen years later it occurred to him that malaria might also be caused by mosquitoes. He encouraged his pupil Ronald Ross to test the hypothesis. Ross was the first person to show how female mosquitoes transmit the parasite. Manson went one better. To show that the theory worked for humans, he infected his own son – using mosquitoes carried in the diplomatic bag from Rome.
7. Задание 41 № 2837.
Chameleons don’t change colour to match the background. They change colour as a result of different emotional states. Chameleons change colour when or when they beat another chameleon in a fight. They change colour when a member of the opposite sex steps into view and they sometimes change colour due to fluctuations in either light or temperature.
A chameleon’s skin contains several layers of specialised cells. Altering the balance between these layers causes the skin to reflect different kinds of light, making chameleons a kind of walking colour-wheel. It’s odd how persistent the belief that they change colour to match the background is. The myth first appears in the work of a minor Greek writer of entertaining stories and potted biographies. Aristotle, far more influential and writing a century earlier, had already, quite correctly, linked the colour-change to fear. But it’s come back with a vengeance since and to this day is perhaps the only thing most people think they ‘know’ about chameleons.
8. Задание 41 № 2838.
Who invented the steam engine? Heron from Egypt. Heron lived in Alexandria and is best known as a mathematician and geometer. Unfortunately for Heron, no one was able to see its practical function, so it was considered nothing more than an amusing novelty. Amazingly, had Heron but known it, the railway had already been invented 700 years earlier.
The principle of railways was then completely forgotten about for almost another 500 years, until people had the idea of using them in mines in the fourteenth century. The historian Arnold Toynbee wrote a brilliant essay speculating what would have happened if the two inventions had been combined to create a global Greek empire, based on a fast rail network. Heron also invented the vending machine – for four drachmas you got a shot of holy water – and a portable device to ensure that no one else could drink the wine you brought along to a bottle party.
9. Задание 41 № 2839.
Is French toast from France? Yes and no. Dipping bread in eggs and frying it is a pretty universal solution to making stale bread go further. The French certainly had a medieval version and this later became a name that has been enthusiastically adopted for the de luxe versions. The earliest recorded recipe for the dish occurs in the work of the Roman cook in the first century AD. In his book The Art of Cooking, he writes, rather casually, that it’s just another sweet dish.
However, the dish was also sometimes referred to as ‘Poor Knights of Windsor’. One theory offered in explanation is that the most expensive part of a medieval banquet was dessert – spices and nuts were costly imports. Although titled, not all knights were rich, so a dish of fried eggy-bread served with jam or honey would have fulfilled the requirements of etiquette without breaking the bank.
10. Задание 41 № 2840.
Champagne was not invented in France. It may come as surprise – even an outrage – to them but champagne is an English invention. As anyone who has made their own ginger beer knows, fermentation naturally produces bubbles. The problem has always been controlling it. The English developed a taste for fizzy wine in the sixteenth century, importing barrels of green, flat wine from Champagne and adding sugar and molasses to start it fermenting. They also developed the strong coal-fired glass bottles and corks to contain it.
A legal loophole uniquely allows Americans to call their sparkling wines champagne. The Treaty of Madrid decreed that only the Champagne region may use that name. This was reaffirmed by the Treaty of Versailles but the US signed a separate peace agreement with Germany. When prohibition was lifted, American wine-merchants took advantage of this loophole, freely selling their own Champagne, much to the annoyance of the French.
11. Задание 41 № 2841.
Only seven prisoners were freed by the storming of the Bastille. In France, 14 July, Bastille Day, is a national holiday and a glorious national symbol. From the rousing paintings of the scene, you might think hundreds of proud revolutionaries flooded into the streets waving tricolours. In fact, only just over half a dozen people were being held at the time of the siege.
One hundred lives were lost in the attack, including that of the governor, whose head was carried through Paris on a pike. Soldiers invalided out of regular service – and conditions were fairly comfortable for most inmates, with relaxed visiting hours and furnished lodgings. The painter Jean Fragonard’s sketch of visiting day in 1785 shows fashionable ladies promenading around the courtyard with the prisoners, who were given a generous spending allowance, plenty of tobacco and alcohol, and were allowed to keep pets.
12. Задание 41 № 2842.
St Bernards have never carried brandy barrels. The dog’s mission is entirely different – apart from anything else giving brandy to someone with hypothermia is a disastrous mistake – but tourists have always loved the idea, so they still pose wearing them. Before they were trained as mountain rescue dogs, they were used by the monks at the hospice to carry food, as their large size and docile temperament made them good pack animals.
The brandy barrel was the idea of a young English, who was much favoured by Queen Victoria. He was a renowned painter of landscapes and animals, best known for his painting The Monarch of the Glen and for sculpting the lions around the base of Nelson’s Column. Originally, St Bernards were known as Barry hounds, who rescued forty people but was unfortunately killed by the forty-first, who mistook him for a wolf.
13. Задание 41 № 2843.
Charles Darwin was driven by gastronomic, as well as scientific, curiosity and once ate an oil. While reading Divinity at Cambridge University, he became a member of the Glutton club which met once a week and actively sought to eat animals not normally found on menus. Darwin’s son commenting on his father’s letters, noted that the Glutton club enjoyed, among other things, hawk and bittern.
Over the years, Darwin sharpened up considerably in the academic arena and lost his faith in God, but he never lost his taste for the allure of an interesting menu. In the Galapagos, Darwin wolfed down a few helpings of giant tortoise. Not realising the importance of giant tortoises to his later evolutionary theory, forty-eight specimens were loaded aboard the Beagle. Darwin and his shipmates proceeded to eat them, throwing the shells overboard as they finished.
14. Задание 41 № 2844.
Nelson never wore an eye-patch. He didn’t wear anything at all over his damaged right eye. Though he had an eye-shade built into his hat to protect his good left eye from the sun. Nelson didn’t have a blind eye. His right one was badly damaged at the siege in 1794. A French cannon ball threw sand and debris into it, but it still looked normal – so normal, in fact, he had difficulty convincing the Royal Navy he was eligible for a disability pension.
There is no contemporary portrait of Nelson wearing an eye-patch, and despite what most people recall having seen, the prominent column shows him without an eye-patch. It was only after his death that the eye-patch was used to add pathos to portraits. He used the damaged eye to his advantage. At the battle of Copenhagen, he ignored the recall signal issued by his superior.
15. Задание 41 № 2845.
As well as mercury, gallium and francium can all be liquids at room temperature. Gallium was discovered by French chemist in 1875. It was the first new element to confirm Dmitri Mendeleev’s prediction of the periodic table. Gallium is used chiefly in microchips because of its strange electronic properties. Compact disc players also make use of it because when mixed with arsenic it transforms an electric current directly into laser light.
Francium is one of the rarest elements. It has been calculated there are only ever thirty grams of it present on Earth. This is because it is so radioactive it quickly decays into other, more stable elements. So it is a liquid metal, but not for very long – a few seconds at most. It was the last element to be found in nature. These elements are liquid at unusually low temperatures for metals because the arrangement of electrons in their atoms makes it hard for them to get close enough to each other.
16. Задание 41 № 2846.
Silver is the best conductor. The best conductor of both heat and electricity is also the most reflective of all the elements. Its drawback is that it is expensive. The reason we use copper wire in our electrical equipment is because copper – the second most conductive element – is much cheaper. As well as its decorative uses, silver is now mostly used in the photographic industry.
Silver has the curious property of sterilising water. Only tiny amounts are needed – just ten parts per billion. Both the Romans and Greeks noticed that food and drink put in silver containers did not spoil so quickly. Silver’s strong antibacterial qualities were made use of for many centuries before bacteria were discovered. This may also explain why silver coins are often found at the bottom of ancient wells. While silver will certainly kill bacteria in the lab, whether or not it will do so in the body is controversial. Many of the supposed advantages are unproven.
17. Задание 41 № 2847.
All diamonds are formed under immense heat and pressure beneath the earth and are brought to the surface in volcanic eruptions. They are formed between 100 miles underground. Most are found inside a volcanic rock and mined in areas where volcanic activity is still common. Any other diamonds are found loose.
Twenty countries in the world produce diamonds. South Africa is now the fifth largest. Diamonds are made of pure carbon. So is graphite, the stuff that the lead in pencils is made from, but with the carbon atoms arranged differently. Diamond is one of the hardest naturally occurring substances on earth, but graphite is one of the softest with a score of one and a half. The largest known diamond is 2,500 miles across and measures ten billion trillion trillion carats. Found directly above Australia the diamond sits inside the star Lucy.
18. Задание 41 № 2848.
What does the Moon smell like? Like gunpowder, apparently. Only twelve people have walked on the moon, all of them American. Obviously, in their airtight space suits the astronauts could not actually smell the Moon, but moondust is clingy stuff, and plenty of it was traipsed back into the cabin when they returned from the Moon’s surface. They reported that moondust feels like snow, smells like gunpowder, and doesn’t taste too bad.
Moon’s surface. It also contains minerals like iron, calcium and magnesium. NASA employs a small team to sniff every single piece of equipment which goes onto its space flights. This is to ensure that no items which could change the delicate balance of the climate of the International Space Station make it on to shuttles. The idea that the Moon was made of cheese seems to date from the sixteenth century. The first citation from John Heywood says that the moon is made of green chees.
19. Задание 41 № 2849.
How many planets are there in the solar system? Eight. If you still think there’s nine you’ve obviously been living in a parallel solar system. Planets must fulfil three criteria: they have to orbit the sun, have enough mass to be spherical, and to have cleared the neighbourhood around their orbit. Pluto only managed the first two, so was demoted to the status of dwarf planet.
It’s not perfect. Some astronomers argue that neither Earth, Jupiter or Neptune have cleared their orbits either. But it does resolve the mysterious position of Pluto. Even the planet’s discoverers weren’t fully convinced of its status. Pluto is much smaller than all the other planets, a fifth the mass of the Moon and smaller than seven of the moons of other planets. It isn’t much larger than its own main moon. Its orbit is eccentric and on a different plane from the other planets, and its composition is completely different.
20. Задание 41 № 2850.
Atom consists of mostly nothing. The vast majority of an atom is empty space. To get it into perspective, imagine an atom the size of an international sports stadium. The electrons are right up at the top of the stands, each smaller than a pin-head. The nucleus of the atom is on the centre spot of the pitch, and is about the size of a pea. For many centuries, atoms, which were entirely theoretical, were thought to be the smallest possible units of matter, hence the word, which means not-cut in Greek.
Then the electron was discovered. The atom was split and the neutron discovered in 1932. This was by no means the end of the matter. These even tinier units called quarks are given names like strangeness and charm and come not in different shapes and sizes but flavours. Whatever matter might be, no one seemed able to get to the bottom of it.
21. Задание 41 № 2851.
Nitrogen is main ingredient of air. As every twelve-year-old knows, it accounts for 78 per cent of the air. Less than 21 per cent of air is oxygen. The high percentage of nitrogen in the air is a result of volcanic eruptions during the formation of the Earth. Vast amounts of it were released into the atmosphere. Being heavier than hydrogen or helium it has stayed closer to the surface of the planet. A key ingredient in gunpowder, it is also used to cure meat, as a preservative in ice cream.
The word nitrogen means soda-forming in Greek. Beer cans with pressure-sensitive widgets contain nitrogen, not carbon dioxide. The smaller nitrogen bubbles make a smoother, creamier head. The only other significant gas in air is argon. It was discovered by William John Strutt, who was also the first man to work out why the sky is blue.
22. Задание 41 № 2852.
The hippopotamus are most dangerous for humans. Unfortunately hippos like to hang out near slow-moving fresh water. Most accidents occur because people are out walking at night, just the time when hippos leave the water to graze. Being trampled by a startled hippo is not a dignified way to die. Hippopotamuses, once believed to be members of the pig family but now shown to be most closely related to whales, are divided into two species. The common hippo is the third largest land mammal after the African and Asian elephants.
They are very irritable beasts, especially when they have young. They dispose of lions by plunging them into deep water and drowning them, crocodiles by biting them in half, and sharks by dragging them out of the water and trampling them to death. However, they are strict vegetarians, so their aggression is mostly to do with self-defence. Hippos mainly eat grass.
23. Задание 41 № 2853.
Nicotine is colourless. In theory, cigarettes can be made out of potato or tomato leaves. Some programmes designed to help people stop smoking also advise giving up potatoes and tomatoes in order to eliminate low-level nicotine intake completely. In small doses, the nicotine compound that is present in all these plants produces feelings of pleasure. It’s why tobacco is more addictive than either cocaine or heroin. But it’s also why we sometimes find ourselves craving chips or pizza.
In large doses, however, nicotine is as deadly as the nightshade whose relative it is. The nicotine in a single cigarette, if taken direct into the bloodstream, would be fatal. Eating one cigarette could make you severely ill. Swallowing a packet of ten would definitely kill you. In 1976, the Department of Health urged pregnant mothers to wear rubber gloves when peeling potatoes. More than a kilogram of potatoes eaten at a single sitting would be certain death.
24. Задание 41 № 2854.
For crocodiles an ordinary rubber band should be sufficient for you to make your escape. The muscles that close the jaws of a crocodile or alligator are strong. They have the same downward force of a truck falling off a cliff. But the muscles that open their jaws are weak enough for you to hold their mouths shut with one hand. The technical difference between alligators and crocodiles is that crocs have a longer, narrower snout, eyes further forward.
Also, some crocodiles live in salty water. Alligators generally live in fresh water. Crocodile means lizard. Neither animal cries as it savages you to death. Crocodile tears are a myth from medieval times. The origin of the legend may be in the proximity of the throat to the glands which lubricate the eye. These can cause the eye to water a little from the effort of swallowing something large or reluctant. They can’t smile either: crocodiles and alligators have no lips.
25. Задание 41 № 2855.
Work is a bigger killer than drink, drugs or war. Around two million people die every year from work-related accidents and diseases. Worldwide, the most dangerous jobs are in agriculture, mining and construction. The second most dangerous job was fishing and third was airplane pilots. Nearly all of the pilots died in small-plane crashes, not passenger jets. The third most common cause of death on the job in all occupations was murder. Fifty policemen were murdered. Falls were the second most common cause of death.
Roofers and structural-metalworkers were the main victims. The most common cause of death on the job was the car accident. Even police officers were slightly more likely to die behind the wheel than by homicide. The risk of death can be calculated using the Duckworth scale. It measures the likelihood of dying as a result of any given activity. The safest kind of activity scores zero and eight will result in certain death.
26. Задание 41 № 2856.
Neither Roman spectators calling for the death of a gladiator, nor Roman Emperors authorizing one, ever gave a thumbs down. In fact, the Romans didn’t use a thumbs down sign at all. If death was desired, the thumb was stuck up – like a drawn sword. For a loser’s life to be spared, the thumb was tucked away inside the closed fist – as with a sheathed weapon. If further proof were needed, in 1997 a Roman medallion of the second or third century AD was discovered in southern France. It shows two gladiators at the end of a battle and a referee pressing his thumb against a closed fist. The inscription reads: Those standing should be released.
This has been problematic in Iraq, where American soldiers are unsure whether locals are welcoming them or about to blow them up. Desmond Morris traces the positive connotations of the thumbs up in Britain to the Middle Ages, where it was used to close business deals. It found a new lease of life in World War Two when US airforce pilots adopted it as a signal to ground crews before take-off.
27. Задание 41 № 2857.
The oldest definite record of someone using a V-sign only dates back as far as 1901, when there is documentary footage of a young man who clearly didn’t want to be filmed using the gesture to camera outside an ironworks. This proves that the gesture was being used by the late nineteenth century. According to the legend, English archers waved their fingers in contempt at their French counterparts, who were supposed to be in the habit of cutting off the fingers of captured bowmen – a fingerless archer being useless, as he could not draw back the string.
But if archers were captured by the French they were much more likely to be killed rather than be subject to the time-consuming process of having their fingers amputated. Prisoners were usually only taken to be ransomed and bowmen were considered inferior merchandise. Whatever its date of origin, the V-sign wasn’t universally understood until quite recently when Winston Churchill first began to use it.
28. Задание 41 № 2858.
The usual answer that water doesn’t have any colour. It’s clear or transparent and the sea only appears blue because of the reflection of the sky. But in fact water really is blue. It’s an incredibly faint shade, but it is blue. You can see this in nature when you look into a deep hole in the snow, or through the thick ice of a frozen waterfall. If you took a very large, very deep white pool, filled it with water and looked straight down through it, the water would be blue.
This faint blue tinge doesn’t explain why water sometimes takes on a strikingly blue appearance when we look at it rather than through it. Reflected colour from the sky obviously plays an important part. But not all the light we see is reflected from the surface of the water. Some of it is coming from under the surface. The more impure the water, the more colour it will reflect.
29. Задание 41 № 2859.
Camels don’t store water, but fat, which is used as an energy reserve. Water is stored throughout their bodies, particularly in the bloodstream, which makes them very good at avoiding dehydration. Camels can lose 40 per cent of their body-weight before they are affected by it. When they do drink, they really go for it – up to 225 litres at a time. Here are a few quite interesting facts about camels, which have nothing to do with their humps. Before elephants acquired their reputation for long memories, the ancient Greeks believed it was camels that didn’t forget.
Camel-racing in the United Arab Emirates has started to use robot riders in place of the traditional child jockeys. The remotely operated riders were developed following a ban on the use of jockeys under sixteen years of age. The only qualifications needed to become a jockey are not to weigh much and be able to scream in terror.
30. Задание 41 № 2860.
Spencer was an engineer, philosopher and psychologist, who in his day was as famous as Darwin. He first coined the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’. Darwin paid him the compliment of using it himself. Herbert was the eldest of nine children, all the rest of whom died in infancy. Trained as a civil engineer, he became a philosopher, psychologist, sociologist, economist and inventor. He sold more than a million books in his lifetime and was the first to apply evolutionary theory to psychology, philosophy and the study of society.
He also invented the paperclip. The device was called Spencer’s Binding Pin and was produced on a modified hook-and-eye machine. It did well in its first year, but demand dried up. During the Second World War, paperclips were an emotive symbol of Norwegian resistance to the German occupation. A giant paperclip was later erected in Oslo.
31. Задание 41 № 2861.
Cobras in snake-charming acts are responding to the sight of the flute, not its sound. Snakes don’t really hear music though they are certainly not deaf. They have no external ears or eardrums, but can sense vibrations transmitted up from the ground into their jaw and the belly muscles. They also seem to be able to detect airborne sounds via an inner ear. It used to be thought that snakes could not hear at all because they don’t respond to loud noises but research at Princeton has shown that they have acute hearing.
The key discovery was how the snake’s inner ear functions. It appears that their hearing is tuned to the frequency range of noises and vibrations made by the movement of larger animals, so music would be meaningless to them. Charmed cobras stand upright if threatened and sway in response to the movement of the instrument. If they strike at the flute, they hurt themselves, so they don’t do it again.
32. Задание 41 № 2862.
No ostrich has ever been observed to bury its head in the sand. It would suffocate if it did. When danger threatens, ostriches run away like any other sensible animal. The myth about ostriches may have arisen because they sometimes lie down in their nest with their necks stretched out flat and scan the horizon for trouble. If the predator gets too close they get up and leg it. The ostrich is the largest bird in the world.
The head-burying myth was first reported by the Roman historian, who also thought ostriches could hatch their eggs by looking at them aggressively. He didn’t mention their ability to swallow odd things. As well as the stones they use to aid digestion, ostriches will eat iron, copper, brick or glass. One ostrich in London Zoo was found to have eaten a metre-length of rope, a spool of film, a watch and a number of coins.