Martian lakes, $23 million titanium toilet, longest highway tunnel, Solely Sunshine girl, COVID-19 dogs

Oct 7, 2020 Episode 15

Do lakes on Mars mean there’s Martian life? Also, find out why NASA sends an expensive titanium toilet to space, why India built the longest and highest highway tunnel in the world, who the Solely Sunshine girl is and how canines are sniffing out the coronavirus in Finland.

Episode Transcript

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




LEELA: Hello and welcome to Newsy Pooloozi – a whirlpool of news and information for curious minds, like mine.


MAMA: And mine.


LEELA: I’m Leela Sivasankar Prickitt.


MAMA: And I’m Lyndee Prickitt…


LEELA: This week on Newsy Pooloozi…

We find out IF the latest discovery on Mars… could mean there’s life on the Red Planet…


And staying in outer space, a special titanium toilet is heading to the International Space Station to help astronauts well, you know…


India opens the longest and highest highway tunnel in the world… after ten years of construction…

We’ll also hear from the California girl, who’s spreading sunshine in mental health facilities… around the world…


And… in Finland, they go low-tech to detect… if airline passengers entering the country… have the coronavirus… Here’s a clue: (barking SFX)




And first up is, of course….


STING: “Its time to tackle the Big News story of the week”


MAMA: We have some news that’s out of this world….


LEELA: Oh yeah… I love me some space news!


MAMA: Well, you’re gonna love this then they’ve discovered three more lakes on Mars!


LEELA: Whooooaaa!!! Lakes ON Mars… That means there could be life on Mars!


MAMA: I know! But…




MAMA: Yep, several buts. First… before you start imagining some pretty pools of water glistening in the sun think again.


LEELA: Yeah, Mars is way too cold for liquid water. It’d freeze.


MAMA: Yes, you’d think being the Red Planet would mean it’s hot. But no, it’s a freezing desert. And it doesn’t have a substantial atmosphere, which means it is low pressure, making the existence of liquid water impossible. Well, Mars can’t have lakes on the surface, but underground…


LEELA: But… Haven’t we heard about an underground lake there before?


MAMA: Ok, so two years ago scientists reported the discovery of a large saltwater lake under the ice at Mars’s south pole. It was based on 29 observations and a lot of people said that’s not enough evidence… Now they’ve got four times that amount of data and in the process discovered three more lakes.


LEELA: But how does this work?


MAMA: OK… So, the European Space Agency have had a spacecraft orbiting Mars called The Pony Express… I’m just kidding… It’s the Mars Express… But I do like the image of ponies on Mars, even though I know it’s impossible.


LEELA: And you like to play pony sound effects.


MAMA: I do! So, The Mars Express basically sends out radio waves that bounce off the planet’s surface and below the surface. How that signal comes back indicates the kind of material it is, for example:  rock, ice or water. Well, the reckon there’s liquid water trapped a kilometer less than a mile under Martian ice. The question is, If such reservoirs exist, could they be potential habitats for Martian life???


LEELA: Like microbes and things?


MAMA: Yes, just super simple organisms, but still: life. But…


LEELA: uh oh.


MAMA: But the amount of salt present could pose problems. If there’s enough salt to stop it from freezing, it might also be too much to allow anything to live. But, you know, these underground lakes could be the remains of when billions of years ago the planet had a mild climate similar to early Earth and was covered in oceans and lakes. And these newly discovered underground lakes could still retain traces of life.


LEELA: I think we need to send some humungous shovels and diggers to Mars to find out!


MAMA: Good idea… I’ll just call up NASA and let them know


LEELA: Well, while we’re on the subject of space… Have you heard the one about… the titanium toilet speeding through space?


MAMA: Is this a joke?


LEELA: Mama, how could you think I’d joke about a toilet! In space! No, really, the International Space Station is in need of a new toilet. There are two there already, but with private companies sending more astronauts up to the space station well, they need some more facilities. Now, I don’t really know what titanium is…


MAMA: Super-duper strong metal but also lightweight metal it’s silver-grey and most importantly it’s non corrosive, meaning, it doesn’t rust.


LEELA: Ah, thank you very much mamma. Maybe that’s why this toilet is so expensive. Guess how much this single toilet costs???


MAMA: A few million dollars?


LEELA: A few? Try $23 million dollars!


MAMA: What??!!


LEELA: You could buy an airplane for that!


MAMA: Wow!!! I guess you’re paying for all the clever design and engineering required to take someone’s waste way up in space, in a place without gravity where everything floats in weightlessness, I mean… Ahhh… when you think about it…


LEELA: Yeeeeeesssss… And the toilets already there were design more for men. But now there are so many women astronauts too, so this precious potty is better designed for women.




LEELA: But did you know…. The urine collected by the toilets is routed into a recycling system to produce the water… for drinking and cooking.


MAMA: Well, I’m sure it goes through all sorts of purification processes.


LEELA: Hmmmm…


MAMA: You rethinking your astronaut ambitions?


LEELA: Hmmmm…


MAMA: Alright, let’s get back down to earth!


LEELA: And closer to home here in India, where a big – or should I say long record has just been broken.


MAMA: Yes, but to tell this story we need to discuss the physical shape of India first.


LEELA: It’s Mother India!


MAMA: Bilkul sahi! Exactly… it looks like a woman standing in a flowing sari, holding her left arm out, letting her dupatta, or scarf, drape down quite a bit. Well, there’s a mountain range cutting through the middle of that top bit that would be her head.


LEELA: The Himalayas!


MAMA: Yes! Or as we Americans say, the Himalayas. Funny that And guess what happens there in winter?


LEELA: It snows!


MAMA: Yep, but that’s not all.


LEELA: No siree. Here to tell us more is our correspondent, Adyshree Kathuria.


ADYSHREE: At the tip-top of India there’s a valley called Lahaul and Spiti.

Around 30,000 people live in that valley, which is not far from the Indian hill town of Manali.

But every winter the snow blocks the residents in their valley…


Making them cut-off from the rest of the country! For six months every year!

But not anymore… Because, for the past ten years, there’s been a massive construction project.

Teams of workers have been digging and drilling a huge hole through the mountainside to create a tunnel!


And this is no ordinary tunnel. It’s over 9 kilometers, or 5-and-a-half miles, long!

That’s like going for a six-minute drive all in a tunnel! Yep, you guessed it this Atal Tunnel, as it’s called, is now the longest highway tunnel in the world.


And get this it’s no ordinary straight tunnel either. It’s shaped like a horse shoe!

Guess that’s what you have to do… when you’re pushing your way through a mountain!

But that’s not all.


This tunnel is also going to make it a lot faster for India’s soldiers to get to the other side of the mountains if they need to. Which is important, because above India is China. And the two countries don’t always get along. This is Adyshree Kathuria, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi!


LEELA: thank you very much, Adyshree!


MAMA: You know she mentioned that India and China don’t always have the best relationship I wonder if our listeners outside of India know that the two countries have actually been to war? OK, only for a month in almost 60 years ago, but they’ve had several skirmishes since, including a couple months ago where soldiers on both sides died in and fighting.


LEELA: They’re fighting about where exactly the border is, right?


MAMA: As reported on Newsy Pooloozi in fact. And since then, they’ve decided to talk it out, rather than fight it out.


LEELA: Sensible.


MAMA: Yes, except… Guess how many meetings they’ve had so far?


LEEELA: Two, three? I mean if it were six or seven… they should have surely sorted things out by now.


MAMA: Well…. Six! And they still haven’t resolved their issues. There’s another scheduled next week… but, as you can guess, things are a little tense where India and China are concerned.


LEELA: Uhhhhh, Mama should we be worried?


MAMA: Well, they’re both big countries with a lot of big weapons, called nuclear weapons… so lots of people pay attention and do get worried… But… so far it seems like sense is prevailing.


LEELA: (sigh of relief)


STING: “What’s that? I’ll tell you what. That’s the halftime bell!! Which means. Its time to hear what’s making news around the rest of the world. Hold on tight, its around the world in 80 seconds.”


MAMA: US President Donald Trump is recovering in the White House after contracting COVID-19, as more members of his team test positive for the virus.


Facebook and Twitter are blocking posts from Trump comparing COVID-19 to the flu and saying Americans should just put up with it. Facebook says the message broke its rules against harmful misinformation and Twitter disabled retweets.


In India a team of scientists are developing an inexpensive test for coronavirus, which could give super-fast results similar to paper-based pregnancy tests. With more than six million confirmed infections, India has the world’s second-highest number of Covid-19 cases.


In Australia scientists say they’ve proved time travel is theoretically possible after solving a logical paradox. The University of Queensland scientists say they’ve ‘squared the numbers’ of something known as the grandfather paradox.


And sorry Subway lovers… according to the Irish Supreme Court their buns aren’t really bread. Ruling on whether or not the fast-food chain could get a tax relief for serving an essential product, the court said there’s way too much sugar for the buns to be legally defined as ‘bread’.

LEELA: Weeeyeeew thank you very much for that wrap around the world………. And now for a bit of sunshine…


MAMA: Sunshine indeed…




MAMA: We have a really lovely story about a California girl, who wants to bring a little brightness into people’s lives when they’re feeling blue. You’ve heard that expression? The Blues.


LEELA: Yeah. Sad, glum… like a cloud has come over your head and won’t go away.


MAMA: Yeah Right! Kinda like the music that gets its name from that feeling. Well, sometimes the blues or even anxiety and paranoia –


LEELA: Like about getting the coronavirus!


MAMA: Yeah! Or anything else you worry about so much you can’t think straight… Sometimes these yucky feelings can be so bad and stick around so long… you’ve got to get some help… with your mental health. And there’s no shame in that. You see a doctor for problems with your body, so…


LEELA: You’d do the same for problems with your mind?


MAMA: Yeah.


LEELA: So, this is where Natalie comes in!


MAMA: The Solely Sunshine Natalie, to be precise.


LEELA: Solely, like, only sunshine and nothing else.


MAMA: Mmmhhmmmm. Since it’s World Mental Health Day this week, who better to speak with than someone like 16 years old Natalie Salvatierra. (solve’ a tiara)


LEELA: Who writes letters to people who are trying to get help and have to stay in mental health hotels.


MAMA: (laughs) Well, they’re called facilities. But I think hotels is a nicer way of putting it. And not just that… she’s made it possible for hundreds of other people to write in as well. We caught up with Natalie and asked her how it works…


SOUNDBITE – NATALIE: “Anyone around the world can write a virtual letter of encouragement on my website www.solelysunshine.com,” Salvatierra said. “All the letters get transcribed and have a picture on them and I mail them to mental health facilities around the world.”


LEELA: What gave you the idea for this, Natalie?


SOUNDBITE: NATALIE: “I started it after I learned that people were getting a lot more nervous…”


LEELA: What’s been your favorite part of starting this project?


SOUNDBITE – NATALIE: “I love this question…”


LEELA: You also have an Instagram account, right?


SOUNDBITE – NATALIE: @soley.sunshine…


MAMA: Ahhh, thanks, Natalie! And we’ll have all those details on our website too if you didn’t get a chance to write that down. Pretty good work for a 16-year-old, don’t you think?


LEELA: Yep, already one-thousand and three-hundred letters have been written from people in 35 different countries!


MAMA: Well, the sun is always shining somewhere on this earth…


LEELA: And finally… We have a happy but odd update on the coronavirus.


MAMA: Wait, you think this is odder than our poo fighters’ story a few weeks ago?


LEELA: Huh? What’s so odd scientist inspecting our poo, I mean the sewage, in order to detect the virus is spreading? That’s just clever science.


MAMA: I guess that’s why we call it the world of WOW.


LEELA: Indeed. But, while this week’s story is less pooy, it’s no less smelly!


STING: Step right up, Have a go at the lucky dip machine… What’s it gonna be today, eh? And odd ball, no doubt!


LEELA:  So, this is a COVID-19 story with a twist that’s barking mad (that’s British for totally crazy).


SFX: barking noise


LEELA: Oops, we really let the “cat out of the bag” now… I mean the dog off the leash!


Here to tell us more is our reporter Ameyaa Kohli.


AMEYAA: Thanks, Leela! Now, we all know dogs like to sniff a lot!

But did you know their ability to smell is ten thousand times more accurate, or better, than humans?

That means they can smell odors we can’t even detect.  Dogs can even smell… illnesses and diseases on other dogs AND on humans.


Yep, last year scientists found dogs can smell the disease known as cancer! And now they’ve discovered they can smell COVID-19 too! Well, in Finland where I sometimes live, because I’m part Finnish they’re putting this to good use.


At the main airport near the capital, Helsinki, sniffer dogs will be on duty to check if arriving passengers have the coronavirus. Travelers – who want to be tested – will swipe their skin with a special material.

That will be put into a container and taken to a dog to smell in a separate area. In just ten seconds the clever canine can tell if the sample is COVID positive or not.


If so, the passenger can take a proper test to confirm if the dog got it right. The airport says this method is not only faster and friendlier, but cheaper too.

Back to you, Leela!


LEELA: Thanks for that Ameyaa. I like your Finnish goodbye. But surely, you’re not done yet? You said you were part Finnish … Get it, like, you’re not finished…


AMEYAA: Good one, Leela! Let me be clear then. I’m part Finnish, but I’m finished with this report!




STING: “And it’s time to wrap up the podcast with the top… five fab facts heard today. Here goes”



MAMA: Mars, known as the Red Planet, is a freezing desert with no a substantial atmosphere, which means it has low pressure, making the existence of liquid water impossible.



LEELA: It is believed that billions of years ago Mars had a mild climate similar to early Earth and was covered with oceans and lakes.



MAMA: Titanium is a super duper strong but also lightweight metal, which is noncorrosive, meaning, it doesn’t rust, making it perfect to use in fixtures use in aerospace.



LEELA: The recently opened Atal Tunnel… just under the Rohtang Pass in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, is now the world’s highest and longest highway tunnel.



MAMA: Dogs, also known as canines, have smell receptors that are 10,000 times more accurate than humans, making them highly sensitive to odors humans can’t smell like cancer, which they can accurately sniff out in blood.


LEEELA: And that brings us to the end of this episode of Newsy Pooloozi.



Iif you enjoyed this dip…. in the whirlpool of news and information… then do subscribe to our podcast on…  Apple Podcast, Spotify, Alexa or wherever you get your podcasts. While you’re at it… Give us a good rating. Or better still, leave us a review – on:  www.newsyjacuzzi.com  See you next week in the Newsy Pooloozi!