A. Listen. What do Ariya and Artur talk about?
B. Listen again. Answer the questions.
1 What evidence did researchers use to prove that the workers at the Great Pyramid were not slaves?
2 What are two reasons why the floodwaters of the Nile were important in the construction of the Great Pyramid?
3 Why does Artur say that Merer’s diary is better than a photo?
answers for some of the mysteries of the Great Pyramid
1 The workers were well-fed and had good living conditions.
2 When the Nile River ﬂooded fields every spring, agricultural workers needed another job, so they worked on the construction of the Great Pyramid. When the Nile ﬂooded, boats were able to deliver large blocks of stone close to the construction site instead of a port farther away.
3 Merer’s diary provides more information than a photo could. The diary gives accurate details about the large blocks of stone and other cargo on Merer’s ships. It describes the canals that his boats passed through in order to reach the Great Pyramid.
Ariya: The sales department sure sends you to a lot of exciting places. Me, I’m just an office manager. I’m always here.
Artur: Not always. I’ve seen your pictures online. The trip you took to Egypt looked incredible.
Ariya: It was amazing!
Artur: I would love to take a trip there. I’ve always had a fascination with the mysteries surrounding the Great Pyramid. Like how the slaves who built the pyramid could have moved those gargantuan limestone blocks.
Ariya: Here’s a piece of trivia for you. Each of the blocks weighs two and a half tons! And actually, research shows that the workers weren’t slaves. There’s evidence that they were well-fed and had good living conditions.
Artur: Oh, really?
Ariya: Wait. There’s more. Researchers are convinced laborers at the pyramid were agricultural workers most of the year. There was a 3–4 month period when they couldn’t work in the fields because they were ﬂooded by the Nile River, so they needed other jobs. They were a ready-made, paid workforce.
Artur: I had no idea!
Ariya: It gets better. You mentioned the massive blocks of stone used in the construction of the Great Pyramid. I was intrigued by those massive blocks of stone, too. I wanted to know where they came from.
Artur: What did you find out?
Ariya: Millions of tons of stone arrived at the Giza Plateau by boat. Some was from locations close to the building site, but some came from 500 miles away.
Artur: Cool. The boats must have made their deliveries during the ﬂood season. I bet they pulled up near the pyramid and made life easier for the men moving the stone on land.
Ariya: Right. And here’s the best part. During ﬂood season, man-made lakes filled with water from the Nile created a series of canals for the boats to pass through.
Artur: How do researchers know that? It’s not like anyone was taking photos and posting them on social media!
Ariya: Not a photo but something better—a written record was found. A French archaeologist and his team were investigating some ancient caves, and they found papyrus scrolls dating back to the time when the Great Pyramid was under construction.
Artur: There must have been some important information in those scrolls.
Ariya: The written record was found in the Diary of Merer. Merer was an Egyptian official in charge of a sailing crew of 200 men, and his diary records trips to the Great Pyramid. There are detailed lists of the cargo on his boats, including large stone blocks, and he describes waterways that connected the Nile River to the Giza Plateau.
Artur: So this was the conclusive proof that scientists needed to solve one of the mysteries of the Great Pyramid. You’re right. Merer’s Diary is better than a photo.
A. Listen to the entire podcast. What is the podcast about?
B. Listen again. Answer the questions.
1 What are Devon, Flora, and Rita’s opinions about mysterious experiences?
2 What happened to Devon’s father?
3 When was the first time that Flora and Rita talked to each other about their mysteries?
4 Does Mohamed change his point of view about mysterious experiences? How do you know?
Possible answer: personal mysteries and whether or not they have a scientific explanation
1 They believe that mysterious experiences don’t always have a scientific explanation.
2 He saw a blinding white light at the same time his brother died.
3 The first time they talked about the ghost in their apartment was during the podcast.
4 No, he doesn’t. At the beginning of the podcast, he says that he prefers scientific explanations for mysteries. At the end of the podcast, he was excited that there was finally a logical explanation for Devon’s mysterious experience.
A: Hey, guys. I’m Rita. I’m here with Flora, Devon, and Mohamed, and we’re HighlyReactive, a unique news podcast. Each week, one of us brings an intriguing topic from the news to discuss on the show. Mohamed, what are we talking about today?
B: Mysterious experiences. I recently saw a news story about people seeing strange lights at night in the Sahara Desert. It reminded me of a family camping trip when I was seven. I was looking at the stars when I noticed a strange object moving across the sky. I was sure it was a UFO—until my grandfather told me it was a communications satellite. I understand the appeal of mysteries, but I prefer scientific explanations.
C: But Mohamed, some experiences can’t be logically explained. When my father was at work one day, he suddenly saw a blinding white light. Afterwards, he was supposed to be finishing an important project, but he couldn’t concentrate. He had a sinking feeling that something was wrong. Hours later, he got a phone call. His brother had passed away at the exact moment he saw the white light.
A: Wow. That story is mind-blowing.
B: I’m skeptical of someone seeing white lights in the middle of the day, Devon. But I’ll take your word for it.
D: OK, I have a story. I lived in a haunted apartment. More than once, I woke up in the middle of the night and saw the shadowy figure of a woman walking slowly in and out of my roommate’s bedroom. I should have been afraid, but I always had a peaceful feeling when the woman was present. I never mentioned the mysterious figure to my roommate.
A: Flora, did you see the ghost when we shared an apartment during college?
A: I had an almost identical experience in that apartment. But when I woke up, the shadowy figure was standing beside my bed, looking down at me.
C: Whoa! What are the odds both of you saw the ghost?
B: I’m not buying it, you guys. This is a gag, isn’t it?
D: I swear. It happened.
C: I had a mysterious experience when I was in high school. Total strangers started talking to me everywhere I went. I couldn’t figure out how I was supposed to know them. I had no idea what was going on. After a week or so, I was watching TV and saw a toothpaste ad with a guy who was the spitting image of me. I finally understood why those complete strangers thought they knew me. What I didn’t know was who my mystery twin was.
B: Oh, he is your doppelgänger, Devon. Someone outside your family who looks remarkably like you. Finally. A scientifically-explained phenomenon. A story that’s clearly not bogus.
A: Hmm. Mohamed certainly chose a highly reactive topic this week. Thanks everyone for joining us.
A. Listen. What is an urban legend?
B. Listen again. Take notes in the chart.
C. How does the speaker feel about urban legends?
Possible answer: Urban legends are tales that offer an insight into society and beliefs.
Main topic: Urban legends
Definition: part of a modern genre of folklore; usually told through word-of-mouth; often perceived as being true, or based on real incidents
Sub-topic 1: a strong storyline
Details / Examples: teeth dissolving in soda, spiders bursting out of a spider bite on someone’s cheek
Sub-topic 2: the half-truth
Details / Examples: rat meat story—rat meat was found in a sandwich; alligator story—people did keep them as pets, and some alligators did get released into the sewer
Sub-topic 3: a message (moral / cautionary tale)
Details / Examples: dissolving tooth = don’t drink too much soda; killers in the backseat & witches roaming the streets at night = be aware of your surroundings when traveling around at night
Possible answer: The speaker feels positively about urban legends. In the final paragraph, he shares positive views about urban legends. For example, “interesting insight into popular culture.” He also suggests that life is more exciting with urban legends.
Alligators in the Sewer
So, I heard something the other day about New York City that blew my mind. They’ve got these massive alligators living down in the sewer system.
Apparently, people would go down to Florida on vacation and buy these cute baby alligators to bring home to New York as souvenirs. But when the alligators got too big, they’d release them into a river or ﬂush them down the toilet. But the alligators actually thrived in the sewers— they grew huge feeding on all the garbage and rats. A friend of mine knows someone who works in the sanitation department. It’s so bad that workers go down into these pipes armed with shotguns! I mean, that’s just crazy! OK, also, it’s not actually true. It’s just a popular urban legend…
Urban legends are stories that are part of a modern genre of folklore. Like traditional folk tales, urban legends are usually told through word-of mouth, and are often perceived as being true or based on real incidents or reﬂections of current issues in society. According to folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand, they include three key elements:
First, every urban legend has a strong storyline. According to Brunvand, urban legends often play up our fears or worries, or describe worst-case scenario type situations, and that’s what makes them so engaging and, at times, pretty weird, too! For example:
“You should get that spider bite checked out. Haven’t you heard about the woman who was bitten by a spider on her face? Weeks after she was bitten, hundreds of spiders exploded out of her cheek!”
Here’s another one: “You shouldn’t drink so much soda. You know, someone did an experiment where they put a tooth in a glass of soda. It completely dissolved overnight.”
Fast food urban legends are very common. Reports of “rat meat in takeout burgers,” for example, reﬂect our concerns about public health and the dangers of eating too much junk food.
Because these stories touch on issues in our daily lives, they seem far more real. This leads me to the second key element of urban legends which is the half-truth—there could be some truth in them. The “half-truth” in the “rat meat in takeout burgers” story is that rat meat was found in a sandwich of a well-known chain restaurant. But as it turns out, a customer had planted the meat with the hope of suing the restaurant for a monetary pay-out. The half-truth in the alligator story is that people did keep them as pets, and some alligators did get released into the sewer networks in New York once they got too big. As for sanitation workers carrying shotguns to protect themselves, well…
The third key element of urban legends is that they usually have a message behind them. This might not be something deep and meaningful, but they often have a moral, or they are a cautionary tale. We don’t know where the original dissolving tooth story came from, but it has a clear message about health and hygiene. Who knows, it could have been invented by parents to deter their children from drinking too much soda. And there are tons of urban legends that warn of the dangers of traveling alone at night, from killers hiding in backseats of cars to witches roaming the streets at night.
We don’t know how most of these stories originated. But they do offer us an interesting insight into popular culture, beliefs, and morals in society. Why do they tend to focus on our worst fears? Well, what would life be without fear? Less exciting, I’d imagine.
A. Listen to the article. Which of the questions could Paige answer conclusively?
B. Listen again. Answer the questions, according to the article.
1 Why do black objects appear slimmer on a light background?
2 How were the bodies of mammals and insects affected by their evolutionary ancestors?
3 What is the main reason why Paige thinks it is unlikely for mammals to develop extra limbs?
4 According to experts, how might dreaming help us?
Possible answer: questions answered by a librarian; questions about science, nature, psychology, etc.
1 Light-sensitive neurons narrow the contours of the black shape, creating a slimming illusion.
2 Their evolutionary ancestors have inﬂuenced the number of limbs each type of animal has. Mammals and insects have evolved from different animals. Insects evolved from crustaceans, which have a lot of limbs. Mammals evolved from fish so have only 4 limbs (implies that limbs relate to fins on a fish).
3 They have no purpose for extra limbs.
4 It might help us consolidate learning (strengthen memories and make them longer lasting), prepare for dangers and challenges, deal with complex emotions, process information about the past and present to help us prepare for the future.
ASK A BOOKWORM
Our librarian Paige Turner answers more of your curious questions.
Is it true that black makes you slim? If so, why?
Paige says: According to neuroscientists–yes. Black does make you look slimmer, or lighter colors make you look larger, depending on how you view it. The slimming properties of black are caused by an optical trick dubbed “the irradiation illusion” by Hermann von Helmholtz. Stare at the holes in the shape below, and you should notice that the white hole appears larger than the black one.
Helmholtz wasn’t the first to notice this illusion. In the 1500s, the astronomer Galileo also witnessed a similar phenomenon when he realized that brighter planets in the night sky, like Venus, appeared larger than dimmer ones, like Jupiter. Since then, neuroscientists have discovered why this happens. They found that when we view light things on a dark background, our eyes become flooded with light-sensitive neurons. They suggest that this must be an evolutionary trait that helps us spot movement and danger at night. When we view dark things against a light background, the light-sensitive neurons narrow the contours of the black shape. This is why wearing black during the day creates the illusion of slimming.
Why aren’t there any large animals with six or eight limbs?
Paige says: By large animals, I guess you mean mammals. Mammals are tetrapods, and many have four limbs. These animals are considered tetrapods because they all evolved from fish, even if some of them secondarily lost some or all of their limbs. On the other hand, the ancestors of today’s arthropods (insects, arachnids, and crustaceans), who have more than four limbs, had segmented bodies with lots of limbs. There’s not much more to it.
Is it possible for a mammal to evolve into a six-limbed creature? Well, anything is possible. However, having six legs wouldn’t necessarily be advantageous for mammals. Their anatomy would have to change considerably to accommodate an extra pair of limbs. Controlling two more arms would also require more brain power. Crucially, there’s the question of purpose. For insects, having six legs means more stability when crawling along walls and ceilings. Mammals don’t need to perform similar actions so don’t need the extra support.
Why do we dream?
Paige says: There are a lot of plausible explanations for why we dream, although there’s no definitive answer.
Many experts believe that dreaming is a form of memory processing and that it may help us convert information from our short-term to our long-term memories. There are many studies that have shown the importance of sleep for the consolidation of learning—the process that helps memories to become more stable and long-lasting. However, the role of dreaming in this consolidation process remains unclear. Various theories explain dreaming as some form of preparatory process. One idea is that dreaming is a form of “threat simulation”—like a rehearsal for real-life dangers. Similarly, psychoanalysts believe that the purpose of dreaming might be to help us deal with complex experiences and emotions. Another theory, the theory of consciousness, suggests that dreaming helps us link three temporal dimensions in our minds—the past, present, and future. The belief is that dreaming facilitates information processing about past and present events, which in turn prepares us for future events.
While there are lots of theories out there about dreaming, none of them are conclusive. What do you think? Why do we dream?
Listen. Circle the correct statement based on what you hear.
1 a Ana’s sister should have felt a pain in her leg.
b Ana’s sister wasn’t supposed to have known about the accident.
2 a The man ought to have been in the picture.
b The man was supposed to be at the neighbor’s house.
3 a Diego was supposed to go kayaking that day.
b The tree should have been hit by lightning.
4 a Our cat was supposed to have been lost.
b Our cat ought to have found its way back to our house.
5 a Kate is supposed to love ghost towns.
b Kate is supposed to be a skeptical person.
6 a A meteor ought to hit her hometown soon.
b A meteor wasn’t supposed to fall over her hometown.
1 b 2 a 3 a 4 a 5 b 6 b
1 While Ana was skiing, she fell and broke her leg. Her sister was on another continent studying abroad at the time. I don’t really buy it, but her sister swears that she felt a sharp pain in her leg before she even learned about Ana’s accident.
2 I saw a strange man walking around my neighbor’s house when she wasn’t home. I was worried that he was breaking into her house, so I took a picture and texted it to my neighbor. She texted back immediately, asking why I had sent her a picture of her house. I looked at the picture again and saw that the man had disappeared from it. There was also no sign of him at her house. He had simply vanished.
3 Diego took his kayak to the river, but when he got there, he had a sinking feeling that something wasn’t quite right. It looked like a beautiful, sunny day, but Diego swears he could sense a terrible storm was coming, so he turned around and carried his kayak back to his car. Just as he got in the car, lightning struck a huge tree, and it fell in the river in the exact spot where Diego was planning to take his kayak.
4 We were devastated when we lost our cat, Jasper, on vacation 800 kilometers from our house. Imagine our surprise when Jasper appeared on our doorstep a month later! Our neighbors didn’t buy it. They agreed that the cat was the spitting image of Jasper, but they said it had to have been a different cat. But I know my cat. Besides, he was still wearing his collar and name tag!
5 I went to a ghost town in Colorado with some friends last summer. We all had at least one paranormal experience while we were there. My friend Kate is the most skeptical person I know. She always says those places are just bogus tourist traps. But even Kate admits that she heard children’s laughter in the empty old schoolhouse.
6 Do you know what’s really crazy? I was watching a movie about a meteor hitting a city at the exact moment that an actual meteor was spotted streaking across the sky over my hometown last month. What are the odds of that happening?
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