Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on May 5, 2016 in Stuff You Should Know

Survivalist Real Estate

Being prepared for wide-spread calamity—nuclear war, social unrest, climate change, disruptions in our utility grids, perceived Constitutional threats—is not a new concept. But changes in our culture tend to trigger recurrent surges of interest and create demand for a kind of “survivalist real estate.” The Cold War, especially the Cuban Missile Crisis, caused an increase in fallout shelters throughout the United States. These were structures (usually underground) designed to withstand a nuclear blast and provide a shield from the aftermath of radiation. In 1999, the Y2K bug, followed by the 9/11 attack a few years later triggered a resurgence in being prepared.

Modern-day “survival real estate” has gotten more sophisticated (and expensive). The rural northwest, with its vast landscape, high altitudes, lower populations, and water rights, has become very attractive to those seeking property that is both “defendable and sustainable.” This can mean hidden rooms, strategic views, solar panels, gardens, food preparation and storage facilities, and sometimes the space to accommodate a helicopter. Recent threats facing those seeking protection are: natural disaster, economic collapse, the rise of ISIS and an increasingly divided political American landscape.

What Do You Think? Back in the 90s, those living in the rural northwest were often ridiculed and compared with “doomsday cults.” Do some research and find out why. How has that perception changed and do you agree with the reasons why people are seeking out this kind of property. Why or why not?

Chinese Government Accused of Hacking

Once upon a time, if countries had trouble doing business with another, they could file a “trade complaint” with the U.S. International Trade Commission. These days, the level of complaints have become more complicated. The most recent recipient is not a corporation but a country. U.S. Steel has accused the Chinese government of hacking into its computer system and stealing trade secrets. It cited a pattern of previous attacks that the Chinese had allegedly made to benefit its own companies. The ITC has 30 days to review the complaint and determine whether it will investigate the charges.

This is hardly the first time that the Chinese government has been accused of hacking. Many major American corporations, including JP Morgan Chase, Intel, Google, and Yahoo have all been victim of alleged hacks by the Chinese. In 2013, tensions between the U.S. and China over this practice came to a head when Congress was, for the first time, able to link the Chinese government to allegations of breaking into intelligence files. In response, the China accused the U.S. of being hypocritical for overlooking its own spy tactics.

Dig Deeper Follow up on ITC’s decision to go forward (or not) with an investigation into the charges of hacking. What will likely happen? Find at least three sources to support your answer.

Collider Bested by a Weasel?

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), located in an underground tunnel straddling the Switzerland and France border, is considered the largest single machine in the world. Its purpose is to allow physicists the ability to test their theories of the universe by smashing protons together at the speed of light. Last month, the multi-billion dollar structure was damaged when a mounted beech marten (of the weasel family) made its way into a high-voltage (66kV) transformer and chewed through some wires. Technicians reported a “severe electrical perturbation” and, at first, believed a bird had been the cause. The weasel, unfortunately, did not survive.

Weasel, Short-tailed (Mustela erminea). U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service/Steve Hillebrand. MHE World

Was a weasel like this one responsible for scientific slowdowns? Credit: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service/Steve Hillebrand

Not intent on being upstaged by a vermin, the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN)—the organization that runs the LHC—announced that it is close to announcing the discovery of a new particle. Experiments performed last year turned up a “mystery particle.” Theorists suggest that the discovery could answer questions about dark matter, which is believed to make up one-quarter of the mass of the universe. The results might not be made public until August, during a conference of physicists in Chicago.

Dig Deeper Choose either the mystery particle or examples of other large machines foiled by critters. Write at least one paragraph on what you found.

Two Soccer Underdog Stories

The Leicester City Football Club, located in central England, has had a good season. A really, really good season. Before it began, odds makers figured the team’s chances of it winning the league championship was 5,000 to 1. This means that out of the twenty-team league, the Foxes had .0002 percent chance of being the best. Just last year, the team lost all 13 games of the season. Which is why the fact that they went on to actually win the Premier League Title is being called one of the greatest achievements in English football (soccer to us Americans) history. It’s the kind of story made for being turned into a movie.

Speaking of which . . . John Green, author of many books (including the wildly successful The Fault in Our Stars), is making a film adaptation of another underdog soccer team. In 2002, the British team Wimbledon FC moved 50 miles away and became the MK Dons. Angered, fans created a new, fan-owned club named AFC Wimbledon. The film will capture the nine years that followed, as the team steadily moved the ranks of England’s professional football system.

Learn more about John’s relationship with AFC Wimbledon by checking out this VICE Sports video.

What Do You Think? Check out some other great sports underdog stories—the Miracle Mets of 1969, the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, or Buster Douglas’ 1990 boxing victory over Mike Tyson. Find out what happened after the unexpected victory and write a paragraph about what you discovered.