Oct 13, 2021 Episode 68
Mosquitoes – should swat or swap them? Britain’s beavers are back, cleaner cling-film and cow-poo zapper
EPISODE 68: Battle against mosquitoes
OPENING STING – LEELA: “New, new, newsy – Newsy Pooloozi!”
LEELA: Hello and welcome to Newsy Pooloozi – the news pool for curious kids and adults! I’m your host Leela Sivasankar Prickitt and, as ever, I’m joined by the big story explainer and sound effects finder, otherwise known as my Mama.
MAMA: Hello, hello – I’m Lyndee Prickitt.
LEELA: And this week on Newsy Pooloozi there’s a bundle of good news thanks to intelligence and ingenuity.
First up, humanity is starting to win in its long fight against… mosquitoes.
In England, after nearly being wiped out, beavers are back.
As for pesky plastic, another biodegradable alternative is being developed.
And talk about cleaning up a mess – an artificial light is zapping out the toxic stuff cows produce. But will it make the smell better?
All that and more on Newsy Pooloozi – the most interesting pool you’ll jump into this week!
But first, it’s time for…
BIG NEWS STORY STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “The big news story of the week!”
MAMA: So, autumn is here for us in the northern hemisphere and that means the weather is getting cooler and, at last, summers pesky mosquitoes are starting to disappear.
LEELA: In your dreams, Mama. Not for us here in India!
MAMA: No, the monsoon really dragged on this year and the annoying pests that leave some of the most itchy bites ever are still around.
LEELA: They’re more than annoying! They’re deadly!
MAMA: That’s right. The tiny little bugs transmit more diseases than any other creature on earth – especially here in Asia and Africa – mostly by biting into the skin of someone who’s sick and then spreading those germs to the next person they bite. Yick!
LEELA: Like the dengue fever you got a few years ago – you had to go to the hospital everyday for a week! Yeah, That was scary.
MAMA: Yeah, that wasn’t fun. And your dad had chikungunya, which affects the joints.
LEELA: He walked like an old man for over a month!
MAMA: Yeah. And there’s also malaria, which is a parasite that, according to the World Health Organization, kills over 400,000 people every year – mostly babies and infants, mostly in Africa.
LEELA: Yeah, the US has been malaria-free for a long time now, but not Africa or India… But there’s some good news – there’s a vaccine!
MAMA: Yes! In fact, the vaccine’s been around a few years but now it’s being rolled out to children across most of Africa.
LEELA: Phew! Though I wish we could just get rid of the silly bugs.
MAMA: Well, it’s funny you should say that, because we got an email from a listener in Texas – Kamdyn Pate, who wrote to us a while back, saying, “I would love to listen to a podcast about the good mosquitoes and what they do to prevent more mosquitoes.”
LEELA: Huh? Are there good mosquitoes?
MAMA: Well, believe it or not, while there are over 3000 species of mosquitoes, less than a hundred of those species actually transmit horrible diseases. Mostly mosquitoes are an important source of food for birds, lizards, frogs and fish.
MAMA: And they also help pollinate plants too – which keeps the life-cycle of a lot of ecosystems going.
LEELA: Hmmmm. But let’s not forget – they bite and spread disease.
MAMA: Well, there is some very interesting work going on in terms of breeding mosquitoes that can’t breed themselves – they can mate and have babies, but those babies don’t live very long and therefore a mosquito population can be controlled.
LEELA: Say what?
MAMA: Yep, in Singapore they are raising male mosquitoes in a lab, then releasing them outside big apartment blocks. These males mosquitoes have a certain bacteria that means when they fly off and mate with wild female mosquitoes, the resulting eggs don’t hatch.
LEELA: So then fewer mosquitoes. Clever…
MAMA: According to officials, some areas with high mosquito populations have seen a 90% drop using this technique. But, of course, many people are suspicious of creatures being altered in a lab and let loose in the wild. They don’t think we should be playing God.
LEELA: Yeah. Jurassic Park…. But, then on the other hand, if God gave us the brains to fix a problems – God might wonder why we’re not, you know, using our brains to fix problems.
MAMA: That is a Good point actually. But I suppose one other worry is we don’t really know the knock-on effect of such changes. So it’s an interesting debate.
LEELA: Well, I say the fewer mosquitoes the better!
MAMA: Well it’s certainly interesting if we could swat some mosquitoes rather than swap them, Well Kamdyn, I hope we were able to answer your question. And hey if anyone has any topic they’d like to see us discussed on Newsy Pooloozi – just send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
LEELA: That’s p-o-o-l (as in a swimming pool!) o-o-z-i.com
MAMA: And now – some more good news from and for the environment.
LEELA: So you know beavers – those adorable semi-aquatic rodents with that huge tail, shaped like a rowing paddle?
MAMA: OK, first of all, there’s no such thing as an adorable rodent.
LEELA: Mama! Beavers are adorable. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. They were so prized that they were practically hunted to extinction in Britain.
LEELA: Well, I have some good news for those sensible among us who love the furry little mammals – cute – they’re back in Britain!
MAMA: Oh, well, that’s good news.
LEELA: Yep. It is mam and their comeback is not far at all from our very own Jackson Hosking in the south of England. Take it away, Jackson!
JACKSON: Hey Leela.
Although beavers used to be native to parts of the UK, it’s been almost 400 years, – yes 400 years since a family of beavers has been spotted, setting up home, and splashing about in the wild.
The big deal is that they’ve done it all on their own without humans putting them there in the first place.
Being native to the UK means that beavers used to live naturally in the area, without being introduced by humans.
But they have been hunted so much over the centuries, for their fur and meat, that they were almost extinct here.
And what’s even more exciting about this NEW family of beavers in the River Avon, is that it’s made up of 3 generations – grandparents, parents and in this case, three very cute little beaver babies called kits – evidence that they’ve been successfully ‘beavering away’ for several years.
And it’s a mystery as to how they got there!
Their appearance is good news for local waterways and other wildlife too.
The dam’s beavers build with bits of wood – and without any hammers, saws or nails! – prevent flooding, improve the quality of water that filters through them and create amazing wetlands for other wildlife and plants to thrive.
In the south of England, this is Jackson Hosking for Newsy Pooloozi
LEELA: Awesome story! Thanks, Jackson!
WORLD WRAP – AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 SECONDS
WORLD WRAP STING – LEELA: “What’s that? I’ll tell you what. That’s the halftime bell! Which means… It’s time to hear what’s making news around the rest of the world. Hold on tight, it’s around the world in 80 seconds.”
MAMA: Which today is brought to us by a team of actors-turned-news-readers from Holland’s Theatre4Kids group – Tofunmi, Joanna and Justin.
TOFUNMI: A US Navy engineer and his wife are accused of trying to pass state-secrets hidden inside a peanut butter sandwich! The couple thought they were passing the restricted details about Navy submarines to a foreign agent, who was really an American FBI agent.
JOANNA: In the UK a report by parliament says the country’s failure to stop Covid spreading early on by relying on herd immunity, was one of the worst public health failures – ever. But the report says the vaccination rollout was one of the most effective programs in UK history.
JUSTIN: The former star of Star Trek, actor William Shatner, is about to be the oldest person to ever travel into space! The 90-year-old will be making the ten minute trip – 60 miles above space – in the New Shephard spacecraft, owned by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos.
JOANNA: Archaeologists in Jerusalem find a rare two-thousand-seven-hundred year-old luxury toilet. It was found inside the remains of an ancient royal estate. It’s rare, because in the past pooping in a toilet was something only the rich did.
LEELA: Meoza-woza! What a cool whippity-zippity-zappity-wappity world wrap that was!
MAMA: Yeah, we shook it up a bit this week – thanks a lot Theatre4Kids. And if you’re part of a kids group that would like to be our guest news readers then get in touch. Find out how to contact us on our website, NewsyPooloozi.com.
LEELA: That’s p-o-o-l o-o-z-i. So, Mama.
MAMA: So, Leela.
LEELA: Do you remember the “fan-plastic” food wrap story, we did a few weeks ago?
MAMA: I sure do. That was the biodegradable alternative to plastic made out of algae and cinnamon.
LEELEA: Indeed! Well, surprise, surprise, there’s another fan-plastic invention being developed.
TOP-UP STING – VARIOUS VOICES: ”Go on give me a top up, please? It’s top-up time. Top-up time! Top-up time! Top-up time! Top-up time! Top-up time! Now? Yeah, now. It’s top-up time.”
LEELA: That’s right. And for that we need to go back to our Indian environment correspondent, Sahasra Sridhar in Chennai. Sahasra – what’s the latest?
SAHASRA: Well, again it’s some super smart Indian researchers helping us get out of the grip plastic has on us.
This time it’s researchers at the Indian Institute of Science that are developing a new film wrap using oil this time.
Not the edible kind of oil we eat, though.
They’re mixing that with cellulose, which is a substance found in plants.
The cool thing is that material can be shaped and molded to make containers, bags and even cutlery!
What’s more, this new material is biodegradable, leak-proof and non-toxic. Win-win-win.
Oh, and did I mention that it also doesn’t affect the substances it comes in contact with!
Okay, I need to wrap it up here!
From Chennai, This is Sahasra Sridhar reporting for Newsy Pooloozi!!
MAMA: Thanks a lot, Sahasra.
ODDBALL LUCKY DIP
LEELA: And as if all those stories didn’t showcase scientific ingenuity and problem-solving well enough, then wait till you get a load of this. But we’re warning you – it’s not just odd, it’s stinky!
ODDBALL STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “Step right up, step right up… Have a go at the lucky dip machine… What’s it gonna be today, eh? An oddball, no doubt!”
LEELA: So as any regular listener of Newsy Pooloozi knows, cows or cattle –
MAMA: Or bovine.
LEELA: Whichever word for these big, gentle beasts you want to use – well, their burps and farts are toxic.
SFX COW BURP
MAMA: Oh, yeah. I mean, let’s face it, burps and flatulence, to use the fancy word for farting, aren’t very nice from any creature. But when cow’s do it, especially the burps, a little puff of methane wafts into the atmosphere.
LEELA: And a lot of cows – means a lot of methane gas, which is one of the most potent greenhouse gases around – trapping heat in the atmosphere, basically warming up the earth.
MAMA: Totally. And besides bovine gas –
LEELA: Cow burps and farts!
MAMA: Their manure, or cow dung, also contains small amounts of methane gas and another harmful gas called ammonia.
LEELA: Enter – the zapper.
Cue the music, Mama.
LEELA: On a picturesque farm in Buckinghamshire, England, a plasma gun has been firing at cow dung.
What, you may ask, is a plasma gun?
Well, plasma is a stream of matter heated so hot that electrons are ripped away from the atoms and the molecules break down.
Or put a little more simply – a bolt of artificial light breaks up the toxic ammonia and the climate-heating methane.
LEELA: Not just that – by smashing up the ammonia molecules, pure nitrogen is produced, which is not only much less harmful but can also be used as fertilizer on fields.
MAMA: Oh! So that saves the farmer money on fertilizer then.
LEELA: Exactly. And –
LEELA: Oh, yeah, I’m so not done. So did you know when ammonia mixes with other chemicals – like those found in more urban areas – it can produce harmful air pollution?
MAMA: I did not know that.
LEELA: Well, reducing the ammonia, from a herd of cattle, can reduce air pollution too.
LEELA: And I’m still not done…
LEELA: (sniffs) What’s that smell? Nooo, not the smell of manure on fields. You see, the dung zapper also makes the poop smell…
LEELA: Well, folks, a lot less poo-y and more like…
SFX OF A SEAGULL AND WAVES
LEELA: The seaside! Talk about the magic of science.
FAB FACTS STING – LEELA: “And it’s time to wrap up the podcast with the top five fab facts heard today. Here goes…”
MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 1 – From vaccines to fight diseases spread by mosquitoes to mosquitoes that can’t breed, scientific ingenuity is helping humanity win its fight against mosquitoes. How many varieties of the dangerous little bug are there?
LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 2 – And of all the varieties of mosquitoes out there, how many are actually the kind that spread the dangerous diseases?
Less than 100.
MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 3 – After being nearly extinct for 400 years, beavers are back in Britain. Three generations in fact. What are baby beavers called?
Kits. (Kits – not to be confused with kids.)
LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 4 –Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science are developing an alternative to plastic – a new film wrap using oil and cellulose, which is a substance found in what?
Cellulose is found in plants.
MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 5 – In Buckinghamshire, England, a zap of artificial light is being used to break up toxic ammonia and methane found in cow dung. It uses a stream of matter heated so hot that electrons are ripped away from the atoms and the molecules broken down. What’s that stream of matter called?
And don’t forget, if you want to test yourself later on, then go to the Lucky Dip page of our website, newsypooloozi.com and take this quiz online in your own time!
And don’t forget, if you want to test yourself later on, then go to the Lucky Dip page of our website, its www.newsypooloozi.com and take this quiz online in your own time!
LEELA: And that almost brings us to the end of this episode of Newsy Pooloozi! But first…
MAMA: We have to say a big thanks to “Pets AE” on the UK iTunes who left us an awesome review that says, “Wow, wow, wow. Amazing podcast! So many facts. Give me something to search for.”
LEELA: Why thank you so, so, so much Pets AE! And we have more – this one from the US iTune. First, Girl337 with a lot of emojis: a wink-wink-three-thumb’s up- and three ice creams. Oh, yeah! I am totally into that.
MAMA: Who writes… “So fun, so… newsy? This is so fun. I love news and I love fun. It’s perfect for every young kid. I suggest ages 3 to 23.”
LEELA: Wowzers! That’s a recommendation.
MAMA: And there’s more this from Mr Steve 14 who writes, “Name change right on. Excellent job on describing trademark aspects. Excellent content!!!!!”
LEELA: With five exclamation marks, Mama. That’s the most important bit.
MAMA: Is it? OK. Well, thank you Steve, thank you Girl 337 and Pets AE. You don’t know howww much these comments mean. Honestly.
LEELA: Oh, yeah!
If you enjoyed this dip in the Newsy Pooloozi pool of news and information then do subscribe on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, Alexa or wherever you get your podcasts.
And join the club – leave us a review like Steve, Girl 337 and Pets AE!
Alrighty then, see you next week in the happy, splashy giant Newsy Pooloozi!