US gun debate, robot surgeons, moon sprouts, and sinkholes

Gun debate, sprouting moon soil, robot surgeons, football microchips, sinkhole oasis

Jun 1, 2022 Episode 101

This week, Newsy Pooloozi gently decodes the US gun debate by exploring the various sides involved — the gun lobby led by the NRA, legislators on both sides, and the Congress. We’ll also have a quick looksie at the US Constitution’s Second Amendment and its interpretation.

Even though the US gun debate is one of the hardest topics to discuss, it’s essential for kids to know what’s happening and why the topic is important.

This week’s episode is also loaded with science news, from scientists growing plants on the moon (aka space sprouts) to robot-assisted surgery and Aussie football microchips. We’ll also talk about China’s sinkhole oasis and its significance.

So go on and have a listen!

Episode Transcript

OPENING STING – LEELA: “Hey, hey, hey. Listen up. New, new, newsy – Newsy Pooloozi!”

LEELA: This week we decode the gun debate in America in a very gentle way as well as giving tips on handling our anxiety over this tricky topic.

But, no, that’s not all we have a super-packed episode with…

Virtual reality and robots in medicine…

Some out-of-this-world plants literally …

Microchips possibly being put in Australian footballs…

And an ancient forest found in well – you won’t believe were in China!

Yes, this is Newsy Pooloozi – the weekly world 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: Let’s dive in with…

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

MAMA: So, the gun debate in America – this is probably the hardest story we’ve ever had to do on Newsy Pooloozi.

LEELA: You’re telling me.

MAMA: Just to be clear, we’re not going to go into any details of the recent shootings. You probably know all you want to by now and hopefully you’ve talked to your parents about this as well.

LEELA: It’s just so annoying.

MAMA: I know, I know. And it’s the worst. But it’s an important topic, so even if it makes us upset and uncomfortable and annoyed, we did think, didn’t we, Leela, thought it was time to try and decode the debate for those who want to know more. For those who don’t you can skip ahead about 5 and a half minutes.

LEELA: Personally, I don’t get what the debate is. Take guns off the streets. That’s simple.

MAMA: I totally understand. But it’s not that simple, sadly. One of the arguments the pro-gun lobby makes is that no matter what laws you have, people could still illegally get guns.

LEELA: Wait. When you say gun lobby, I picture an old wild west hotel lobby with lots of guns hanging on the wall. Is that what you mean?

MAMA: No. Alright… Let’s back up a minute. Back in the olden days, members of the public, like you or me, would go to meet elected officials

LEELA: You mean politicians?

MAMA: Yes.

LEELA: Also called legislators.

MAMA: Exactly – they’d go and meet them in the lobby of the legislative building, like Capitol Hill or Britain’s parliament. Because they wanted their help with something. Well, they eventually became known as “lobbyists.” Only now they’re typically not really just members of the public, but highly paid representatives of a company or a group of people.

LEELA: Like the NRA – I mean, The National Rifle Association.

MAMA:  Yep – aka, the gun lobby. The NRA is one of the biggest and most powerful lobby groups in America. So, they go head-to-head with anyone who wants to create laws that limit gun ownership or usage.

LEELA: But why?

MAMA: Well, it mostly comes down to something called the Second Amendment. You know what an amendment is? Right?

LEELA: It’s when you add or change something, right?

MAMA: Right. So, the US Constitution – which established the basic, or really, we should say the supreme, laws in the country have 27 formal amendments.

LEELA: That’s a lot of changes!

MAMA: Well, the world has changed a lot since 1787, when it was written. But, actually, just four years after it was written, the second amendment was created that says the “the right of the people to keep and bear arms as in weapon, shall not be infringed as in it can’t be broken.”

LEELA: Why? When crazy people do crazy things…

MAMA: Well, don’t forget – the American Revolution had just ended in 1783.

LEELA: Oh, War of Independence, when the United States became free from Great Britain.

MAMA: That’s right. So, the right to rise up and defend yourself against a government or regime you no longer agree with is deeply ingrained in a lot of people’s minds.

LEELA: But… that doesn’t explain crazy, horrible people opening fire on innocent people!

MAMA: No, it doesn’t… But the gun lobby would say it’s crazy people that are the problem, not the guns.

LEELA: Uhhh…  but i don’t think other countries don’t have the same amount of gun violence.

MAMA: That’s true.

LEELA: So, does America just have more crazy, horrible people with anger management issues?

MAMA: Well… Here’s where it gets even more complicated.

LEELA: Oh, brother

MAMA: There are people who defend the Second Amendment but who admit the system is broken. There are too many guns in America and people with mental health problems need to be stopped from having them by tightening background checks.  In fact, 83 percent of gun owners support this.

LEELA: Then?

MAMA: Congress hasn’t passed it.

LEELA: But if it’s what the people, who elect them, want…?!

MAMA: That’s not all. There are also a lot of people who say at least put a ban on the big guns that do a lot of damage fast – known as assault weapons.

LEELA: Let me guess – congress hasn’t passed that either.

MAMA: There was a ban but only for ten years and it hasn’t been renewed. There are also red flag laws

LEELA: Wait – red flag as in: warning-warning.

MAMA: Right. It allows families or police to disarm someone suspected of being a threat. But it’s only passed in 19 of America’s 50 states

LEELA: It all makes me so mad!

MAMA: Well, the gun lobby says we just need to secure our schools and shops better.

LEELA: What? Then we’ll ALL be walking around with guns! How is that good?

MAMA: And so, the debate rages on. The fact is – if you feel passionate about something…

LEELA: …say something! Do something! But… what?

MAMA: Get organized. Or join a group you believe in. Become an activist. For whichever point you do have, Lobby your politicians. Phone them up day and night.

LEELA: Or become a fancy lobbyist, more like!

MAMA: Well, that’s an idea. But one thing is for sure being active in trying to bring about change not only makes you feel better, than doing nothing at all – but might make the world a better place in the process! Alright, let’s move on.

LEELA: And now we have some nature news that’s out of this world… literally!

MAMA: It’s time for…

SCIENCE STING – LEELA: “The world of wow, wow, wow… In other words – science!”   

LEELA: So, you know how clever scientists are constantly looking at ways we humans can live in outer space – like for years and years?

MAMA: Yep, I have heard something about this once or twice…

LEELA: Well, one way is finding out how to grow food in outer space.

MAMA: Oh, like on the space station?

LEELA: Like on the moon!

MAMA: That barren hunk of rock? What could possibly grow there.

LEELA: Space plants! Well, ok, not quite yet. But seeds that were put into soil brought back from the moon have sprouted! Let’s call them space sprouts.

MAMA: Woa….

LEELA: Yep, serious woa wow. Lani Power in Florida has the full report.

LANI: We grow a lot of plants day to day, from home gardens to big farms!

What would you say, though, about growing them on the moon?

Two scientists from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences set out to find the answer!

11 years and 3 different Apollo trips to the moon later, they got some regolith – that’s the fancy word for moon soil. Twelve grams to be exact.

Now that’s just about a tablespoon’s worth of moon soil, which isn’t much when you’re trying to sustain life. But they made it work! How?

Well, they divided up the soil, putting just one gram of the precious soil into its own little plastic cup.

They planted seeds from the small flowering weed Arabidopsis Thaliana, a relative of cabbage and mustard, since we know its DNA completely and can track any changes that happen to it.

They also planted seeds in a recreation of lunar soil made here on earth to see the difference.

While the Arabidopsis did sprout in moon soil, it grew slightly smaller and slower than its artificial lunar soil counterpart, most likely because some of the dirt from the moon was exposed to cosmic winds, changing its makeup.

They realized that these places weren’t as good for plants as the spots with less exposure.

Nevertheless, this is one small step for colonizing the moon, but one giant space agriculture!

With that, I’m Lani Power for Newsy Pooloozi!

LEELA: Thanks a lot, Lani. There’s nothing like a good space story to fire me up!

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: Russia’s military is gaining ground in Eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile the Ukrainian government says Russian soldiers aren’t fighting fair, committing 200 to 300 war crimes a day.

After more than a year on Mars, the Perseverance Rover is finally reaching its most sought-after destination – an ancient river delta. The six-wheeled rover will examine rocks that have the best chance of retaining evidence of past life on the planet.

In France a suspect is arrested after smearing the famous Mona Lisa painting with cream cake. “People are destroying the Earth,’ said the man dressed in a wig. It’s unclear why Leonardo da Vinci was targeted.

And in Spain, divers freed a 39-foot or a 12-meter-long humpback whale who was entangled in an illegal vertical-hanging net off the coast of Mallorca. It took 45 minutes to free the whale who was said to be nervous at first, but relaxed, probably realizing the funny two-legged creatures were there to help.

LEELA: Thank you so much for that whippity-whappity-zippity-zappity wrap of what’s making headlines elsewhere in the world, Mama.

MAMA: You’re most welcome, Leela. So, we have two stories about cutting-edge tech being used in medicine. From robotic surgeons to virtual reality healing.

LEELA: What?! A robot surgeon!

MAMA: OK – leave the sci-fi aside. It’s robot-assisted surgery – the robotic extension of a surgeon’s hands basically.

LEELA: Oh… So, the surgeon is running the robot.

MAMA: Exactly, the surgeon has their hands in high-tech gloves and their faces in a visor giving them 3D vision with magnification and so any movements that the surgeon makes the robot makes on the patient.

LEELA: Huh. So, I guess that means they would, well, be able to do things more precisely?

MAMA: Exactly. Smaller, more precise incisions, or cuts, means it’s less invasive and that basically means less bleeding.


MAMA: So, this robotic help in medicine isn’t really new, but new study from the University College London and the University of Sheffield in England are showing the benefits are clear. People who had robot-assisted bladder cancer surgery recovered more quickly and were sent home sooner.

LEELA: Wowzers. Ok then.

MAMA: And now for some VR medicine.

LEELA: You mean, virtual reality? Like, you put that headset on and you’re in a whole other universe? What’s that got to do with medicine?

MAMA: Well, this is one for our very own tech correspondent, Nick Von Hindenburg.

LEELA: Take it away, Nick!

NICK: Thanks, you guys!

So, like you said, we usually think of virtual reality as putting on a headset to help you imagine something, like a land full of dinosaurs.


Or even a rollercoaster ride.


But what if I told you, it could help relieve pain?

Yes, I know, that’s usually the job of medicine – in other words, chemicals – right?

But they can sometimes have bad side effects.

Never mind that people can become addicted to them too, which is not good.

Well, technology to the rescue.

For the last few years, techies and doctors have teamed up to see how virtual reality can help relieve pain.

The latest offering comes from some clever folks at the University of New South Wales and St. Vincent’s hospital in Sydney, Australia.

They’ve created a VR game called Finding Home.

The patient has to help an adorable dog – you guessed it – get home.


As the British would say – it sounds “barking mad,” doesn’t it?

It turns out, by distracting themselves with getting the cute canine home, the patients shift their focus away from the pain and onto the task at hand!

They also develop a bond with the dog, building their own resilience – which means being able to recover from difficulties – in other words, becoming more tough.

The landscape is mostly blue and purple, too, which are known to be cooling colors.

Sounds like this dose of VR helps patients “chill” out and chase the “blues” away, doesn’t it?

In Washington, DC, I’m Nick von Hindenburg, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi!

LEELA: Very “cool,” Nick! Thanks a lot for that report.

SPORTS STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “It’s time to play ball… Score… Sports News!”

MAMA: Hey, Leela.

LEELA: Hey, Mama.

MAMA: Did you hear about the new microchip technology that the Aussies may use in their football games? By Aussies i mean Australians

LEELA: I cannot say that I did.

MAMA: Well, a suggestion has been made to the Australian football league, or Aussie Rules Football, to install these microchips inside their footballs.

LEELA: Wait a minute – as in a very small piece of silicon with electronic circuits on it that can perform logical operations and store the data?

MAMA: Well, well done. Yes, those. Inside the football.

LEELA: I guess anything is possible.

MAMA: Yes, It would be able to check whether a ball hit the post, was touched or had gone out of bounds.

LEELA: Wowzers!

MAMA: It’s said it could revolutionize the game the way Hawkeye revolutionized tennis and cricket. Those are the cameras that Sony developed about 20 years ago to improve the accuracy of where the ball “landed.”

LEELA: That sounds like a productive way to combine sports and technology, buuut…

MAMA: But, what? It will make the game move faster and you can’t argue the “call” the way you can with officials. I know, I know. Why do we even need referees and umpires if chips and cameras make all the decisions?

LEELA: Exactly. Who would the crowd get mad at and “boo?”

MAMA: I hear ya. Who knows, pretty soon we may have robots running up and down the field making all the decisions

LEELA: Oh, man.

MAMA: Don’t you mean, “oh, machine…!”

LEELA: And to end this packed episode, let’s see what the lucky dip machine has for us this week.

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: Odd, ancient and heavenly.

MAMA: Oooh, good old lucky dip machine! What’s it spit out this week?

LEELA: Well, first, if I say heavenly pits, what comes to your mind.

MAMA: Uhhhh… definitely not armpits.

LEELA: Quiet. Believe it or not it’s what Chinese geologists

MAMA: Those are the scientists who study the physical aspects of Earth.

LEELA: Thank you! It’s what Chinese geologists call sinkholes.

MAMA: Sinkholes?! As in holes in the ground, usually caused when the surface collapses. Which is really annoying if you happen to drive over one. What’s heavenly about them?

LEELA: Ok, think less hole in the road and more hole in a jungle or forest.

MAMA: Hmph.

LEELA: Where life of ancient trees and plants, animals and insects, never affected or messed up by humans, can quietly thrive and thrive.

MAMA: Is heaven a very quiet place Leela? I guess that can be heavenly…

LEELA: Well, a massive one has been discovered in southern China and when I say massive, I’m talking 630 feet deep, that’s like a 58-story high building! Geologists around the world are super excited about all the unknown species it might be home to.

MAMA: Uhhh… Unknown…?

LEELA: Yeah! Scientists have already found plants and trees that usually just grow shoulder-height but in this sinkhole, guess how big they are?

MAMA: Three times that?

LEELA: More like twenty times your height, Mama! Huge sinkholes like this can be a protected oasis for ancient life. Hence the word… heavenly pits. Nothing at all to do with underarms, trust me. Those are heavenly those are just stinking

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 gun debate rages in the US with many pro-gun groups, like the NRA, resisting calls to tighten gun laws. What’s the NRA?

The National Rifle Association

LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 2 – Most people who resist tightening the gun laws often say doing so is the Second Amendment. Which states what?

“The right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed as if it can’t be broken.”

MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 3 – A new virtual reality game developed in an Australian hospital offers patients an innovative way to manage pain and build resilience. What is resilience?

Being able to recover from difficulties.

LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 4 – Scientists use lunar soil to grow plants for the first time. What is that kind of soil called?


MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 5 – Giant sinkhole with an ancient forest inside is found in southern China. What is a sinkhole?

A hole in the ground, usually caused when the surface collapses.

And don’t forget, if you want to test yourself later on, then go to the Lucky Dip page of our website,  newsypooloozi.com, that’s pool-o-o-z-i, and take this quiz online in your own time!

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


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