Beyond the blimp – Airship 2.0, Afghan turmoil, well-mannered apes

Aug 18, 2021 Episode 60

Move over Zeppelins – airships get a rebirth, turmoil as Taliban takes over Afghanistan and apes like to mind their manners

Episode Transcript


OPENING STING – LEELA: “New, new, newsy – Newsy Pooloozi!”


LEELA: Hello, hello, and welcome to Newsy Pooloozi – your weekly whirlpool of news and information!

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  – I’m Lyndee Prickitt. And we’re back.

LEELA: Back home in India that is – bringing you the news from our high-tech studio.

MAMA: Under the bed because it has the best sound.

LEELA: Indeedy-deed. And this week on Newsy Pooloozi – it’s Zeppelin 2.0. Yes, aviation goes waaaay beyond the blimp and the ill-fated Zeppelins of last century. You won’t believe what developers are creating now.

Talk about ill-fated – the nation of Afghanistan is in turmoil. We’ll explain why.

As COVID continues to be a menace, you won’t believe what lengths health officials in India travel to get people vaccinated!

And apparently manners matter just as much to some animals as they do to humans. Find out which beast and why.

But first it’s time for…

BIG NEWS STORY STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “The big news story of the week!”

MAMA: It was once the most cutting-edge air travel in the world: when the free floating hot air balloon evolved into a high-tech, long-oval shaped, steerable airship.

LEELA: Otherwise known as – big word alert, big word alert! – as a dirigible. As in a lighter-than-air craft that is both powered and steerable. But we’re not talking about an ordinary “blimp.”

MAMA: As in that big balloon that flies over sporting events, advertising tires.

LEELA: Otherwise known as the Goodyear Blimp.

MAMA: Oh, no. Blimps are dirigibles and can be steered, sure, but (technically speaking) their structures aren’t rigid and have no internal framework to help keep it up, never mind help hold –

LEELA: Passengers! But airships do. And boy, oh, boy, are they about to make a comeback!

MAMA: Yes, they were once the “toast of the town” – in other words, they were extremely popular and people couldn’t wait to travel great distances –

LEELA: Like across the Atlantic Ocean!

MAMA: Or even smaller distances

LEELA: Like between two cities

MAMA: In these fantabulous airships.

LEELA: So, why, you’re probably wondering, aren’t we flying in them today?

MAMA: Because, sadly, disaster struck.

LEELA: The Hindenburg Tragedy.

MAMA: Yes, this is one of those occasions we have to go back in time –


MAMA: And get a little history lesson to understand the story.

LEELA: And we have the perfect correspondent for this job, Nikhil Von Hindenburg – yep! – the great, great grandson of Paul Oskar von Hindenburg.

MAMA: Who was the president of Germany during the Weimar Republic and the namesake of the Hindenburg airship!

LEELA: Take it away, Nick – tell us the story of the ill-fated airship named after your great-great grandfather!

NIKHIL: Thanks, Leela. As you guys mentioned airship travel was “the thing” a hundred years ago.

Rigid airships were invented and manufactured by the German inventor Count Zeppelin, which is why airships are often called “zeppelins.”

The airships were originally designed to use helium as the lifting gas, because it was the safest to use in airships, seeing as it’s not flammable.

But at the time, helium was rare and expensive, so hydrogen – which is highly flammable – was used instead.

Well, in 1936, the future looked bright for zeppelins.

The Hindenburg had spent a whole season ferrying passengers across the Atlantic in luxury. But, the next year, while landing in New Jersey the Hindenburg suddenly burst into flames.

Thirty-five of the 97 people on board were killed along with one person on the ground. And boy was there a ton of media coverage and speculation as to what exactly happened.

After many investigations, the fire was officially attributed to a discharge of “atmospheric electricity” – like a static spark – in the vicinity of a hydrogen gas leak from the airship.

But, seeing as the Hindenburg was manufactured under Nazi Germany, there has been lots of speculation it was sabotage.

We’ll probably never know the truth.

But one thing is for sure – the disaster spooked the public and put an end to the era of commercial airship travel.

Currently in Amsterdam, but based in Washington, DC, I’m Nik Von Hindenburg, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi.

LEELA: Thanks, Nikhil. Yikes, what a story! I have to say, I would’ve been a bit spooked, too!

MAMA: Yes, I see that. But the airships that are being designed today are using helium, not hydrogen, plus aviation experience and technology has come a long way. And there is big plus to these vehicles.

LEELA: The awesome floor-to-ceiling windows to look out of?

MAMA: No. (But, yeah – that’s super cool. We’ll get to that in a minute.) But more important is that it’s cleaner. A leading airship company, Hybrid Air Vehicles, reckons their new dirigibles can cut CO2 emissions by some 75% of what planes emit. As their name suggests, their airships use a combination of energy – the lift is provided by the large helium-filled body and propulsion from a hybrid electric motor.

LEELA: A 75% reduction is a BIG cut.

MAMA: It is. And that’s not all. Because they just lift off vertically from the ground, more like a helicopter, there’s no need for long runways or massive airports.

LEELA: OK – you’re convincing me.

MAMA: And there’s more as our aviation correspondent Ezra Graham has been finding out.

LEELA: Over to you, Ezra.

EZRA: Thanks, Leela. As the need for cleaner transportation increases, different solutions are being designed.

Hybrid Air Vehicles, or HAV, are leading the way, developing a clean and luxurious airship – the Airlander 10. It can seat up to 100 passengers and fly 80 miles, or 130 kilometers, an hour. I know what you’re thinking – that’s pretty slow, right?

Even a car can go at that speed. But because the airship flies that slowly and just at 20,000 feet up in the air, there’s no need for pressurized cabins.

So, HAV seized the opportunity to create a more imaginative and roomy interior.

Yep – that means the seats don’t have to face forward, but can be arranged more like a lounge.

Even better – the airship can have HUGE glass windows – ideal for slowly taking in views of the cities and countryside below you.

Cool or what?

All these factors mean the HAVs are more likely to be used as travel between two close cities that have banned airplane travel for such short trips – like they’re doing in France, for example.

Or flights around areas of natural beauty, like the Arctic Circle, or even the African Savanah, where you don’t really want to zoom past, do you?

Right now the Airlander 10 is still in the design stage, but they hope to start flying it by 2025.

In Washington, I’m Ezra Graham, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi.

LEELA: OMG! A lounge? Floor-to-ceiling windows? What a way to travel! Thanks a lot, Ezra. Be sure to put us on the waiting list, OK?

MAMA: Yeah, thanks, Ezra. But, Leela, I hate to sound like a broken record, but you’ll probably have to save your allowance for a LOOONG time, as this is likely to be some pretty luxurious travel only the super rich will be able to afford.

LEELA: They said that about airplanes too and look where we are today!


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: A tropical storm is hampering efforts to rescue people after a deadly earthquake struck the Caribbean nation of Haiti on Saturday. Nearly 1500 people are known to have died in the 7.2-magnitude quake and thousands are now homeless.

Big news in the world of math – as Swiss researchers calculate pi to a new record accuracy of 62.8 trillion decimal places. And when I say pi, I’m not talking about desert, but something known as a mathematical constant that (in simple terms) helps you measure a circle. It only took 108 days and the help of a computer, of course, to beat the previous world record of 50 trillion decimal places.

Scientists have discovered an astonishingly well-preserved cave lion cub in Siberia, Russia. Cave lions, which are thought to have been about ten percent bigger than modern lions, have been extinct for thousands of years. Scientists suspect this preserved female cub would have lived around 28,000 years ago.

And attention Lord of the Rings fans… A brand new television series inspired by the fantasy world created by J. R. R. Tolkien will now be made in the UK instead of New Zealand. The show, which hasn’t been given a name yet, will take place a thousand years before the events of Lord of the Rings.

Now, we need to turn our attention to a big and important news story – Afghanistan.

LEELA: That’s just next door to us here in India.

MAMA: Well, a teeny tiny bit of the two countries touch in the northern part of India. But really,  Afghanistan is the other side of Pakistan, which is India’s neighbor. 

LEELA: It’s pretty upsetting what’s happening there now. 

MAMA: Yes it is. So for those who don’t know – US troops, who’ve been in Afghanistan for 20 years, are leaving the country. And an unelected and very authoritarian regime has moved in – 

LEELA: The Taliban. 

MAMA: Mmmmhmm. You know what an authoritarian regime is?

LEELA: Well, a regime means rulers, right?

MAMA: Yes, the government.

LEELA: And I think authoritarian means they’re really strict – if you don’t follow their authority then bad and scary things can happen to you. 

MAMA: Yes, I’m afraid so. 

LEELA: And you have no choice, right? You can’t elect someone else, like another government or regime?

MAMA: Correct.

LEELA: That sounds awful. 

MAMA: It is. And in this case it’s especially for girls and women. Remember this?


LEELA: Oh, Afghan girls singing in protest – on social media – after being told they weren’t allowed to sing in public. 

MAMA: That’s right. We did that story around five months ago when things were starting to get really bad and freedoms were being taken away again. 

LEELA: Again? 

MAMA: Well the Taliban ruled from 1996 to 2001. Women had to wear burkas, those are robes that cover the entire body, including the face. The Taliban also disapproved of girls over 10 years old going to school. And if you disobeyed these rules you could be whipped in public. But that changed when the Afghans elected their own leaders after US troops went in 2001.

LEELA: Why did they go in? To free the people?

MAMA: Well, actually the US troops were trying to find a very bad person called Osama bin Laden, who organized a terrible attack on Americans in 2001. 

LEELA: Oh, the 9-11 terror attacks. 

MAMA: Yep. 

LEELA: Did they find him? 

MAMA: Yeah – but ten years later and in Pakistan, not Afghanistan. 

LEELA: So why did America stay so long? 

MAMA: Well they were trying to stamp out the terror activities and stabilize the country. 

LEELA:  But now they’re leaving and the Taliban are back!

MAMA: Yep 

LEELA: Confusing…

MAMA: Hmm… It’s complicated and there are no easy answers. But one thing is for sure – it’s gonna be hard for those Afghanis who became used to certain freedoms to live under the Taliban. And it’s gonna be especially tough for those who’ve been helping the US troops for two decades. 

LEELA: Uh-oh. 

MAMA: And it’s going to cause tension here in India – being so close to a brutal regime. 

LEELA: But, Mama. If there are brutal rulers it’s bad for the whole world, right?! Huh. Actually yes, That’s very true. Some say the Taliban have changed their ways and could bring stability. But most people are worried.

MAMA: Ok let light the things up now

14.14 odd sting

LEELA:  And, finally, we need to mind our manners as we head to the lucky dip machine…

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:  Well, I suppose if you think about it, this story is not as “odd” as it might seem at first. But did you know, Mama, that some animals are as big on manners as we humans?

MAMA: Huh – I guess it makes sense in their own animalistic way they might have a code of honor or ethics.

LEELA:  Well this might resemble humans more than you think, Mama. Play the music.


LEELA: So most of us would think it’s pretty bad manners to leave a meeting, or a chat with a friend,  or even the dinner table without saying goodbye, right?

MAMA: Oh,  yeah, totally.

LEELA: Whether it’s a hug,  a handshake, words or even just a gesture. Goodbyes aren’t just good manners – they’re what we do to signal to the other person that our interaction is over and all is well.


Well it turns out that apes agree.

LEELA: Scientists at Durham University have discovered that apes, from bonobos to chimpanzees, have a similar system, using gestures and physical contact to start and finish social interactions – whether it’s a bit of monkeying around or a grooming sessions (you know – getting ticks out of each other’s hair).

Apparently, their common etiquette (as in a code of socially acceptable  polite behavior) includes: holding hands, butting heads as well as just gazing at and touching each other.

Cute or what?

MAMA: Cute. Definitely.

LEELA: More than that, though, this research might mean that our human advantage of communicating and co-operating together, to achieve great things, could have come from our primate cousins.

And with that, over and out. Here’s a head button to say goodbye.

MAMA: Ouch!

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 – The aviation industry is going beyond the blimp with designs for a new cutting-edge dirigible. What is a dirigible?

A lighter-than-air craft that is both powered and steerable.

LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 2 – Another name for a rigid airship is “zeppelins.” Why were they called that?

Rigid airships were invented and manufactured by the German inventor Count Zeppelin, which is why they’re often called “zeppelins.”

MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 3 – And what was the name of the zeppelin that burst into flames in 1937,  while landing in New Jersey, putting the public off dirigible travel for good?

The Hindenburg.

LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 4 – As US troops leave Afghanistan the authoritarian regime of the Taliban has taken over the elected government there. What’s an authoritarian regime?

Rulers or government which are extremely strict – if you don’t follow their authority then bad things can happen to you.

MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 5 – And when did the Taliban rule Afghanistan before?

The Taliban ruled from 1996 to 2001 before the US troops went in.

LEELA: And that almost brings us to the end of this episode of Newsy Pooloozi!!!!!

But first we have some shout-outs to some super cool listeners who’ve taken the time to leave us a review on Apple Podcast.

MAMA: Also known as iTunes. Yes, thanks Wordy Scapes who wrote “NJ is the best” and ForestBlue who said “I love this podcast! It’s such an amazing, family friendly show that gets kids excited about the world. It’s so much fun and Leela’s silly and curious attitude inspires other kids to want to be like her. “And understand the world better.”

LEELA: Ooooh! Wow. Gosh. Thank you! Such a compliment. Ok.  And there’s one from Whitney, who writes, “I love this podcast! It gives me the latest news and cool facts. Me and my brother listen almost every day. Funny too. Helps kids like me learn and have fun.” Wow. Thank you!

MAMA: Thank you, thank you! It’s notes like that which keep us going, honestly.

LEELA: Yes, thank you indeed. Keep‘em coming. Pretty please? With sugar on top – extra sugar.

Alrighty then – that’s all from us – we’ll see you next week in the whirling-swirling Newsy Pooloozi!