Nobel Prizes explained, Iran’s protests, “plastic piranha,” India’s temple crocodile

Oct 12, 2022 Episode 120

Nobel Prizes and history explained, why Iran’s protests matter, California’s “plastic piranha,” India’s mystic temple crocodile

Episode Transcript



LEELA: Have you been hearing a lot about a Nobel Prize for this and that lately? Well, we’ll give you the lowdown on just what the Nobel is, plus protests, piranhas and a crocodile… all this week!

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


LEELA: Hello and welcome to Newsy Pooloozi – the news pool for curious kids and adults!

This week…

We tell you the fascinating story of the man called “the merchant of death” and what he’s got to do with the Nobel Prizes.

We’ll also tell you why the protests in Iran are as unusual… as they are… important.

Plus, California’s plastic piranha and India’s “mystic” crocodile.


LEELA: 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…

MAMA: Leela’s mom! Hello, hello.

LEELA: Alrighty then, let’s dive on in. First up, it’s the…

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

MAMA: As the days get shorter and a little nippier up here in the northern hemisphere, it means it’s the season of… the Nobel prizes of course!

LEELA: For great achievements in science and English. And, biggest of all, (duh-duh-duh-duh!) peace!

MAMA: Almost. To be precise, there were originally 5 categories now there are 6. Every year – in autumn an award for the science of chemistry, physics and medicine also called physiology.

LEELA: But the Nobel is also given for storytellers too and not just science, right?

MAMA: Yep, literature is another category. And finally…

LEELA: Peace! Well, people working to try and bridge divides and build peace. Like this year didn’t someone from both Ukraine and Russia win the Nobel Peace Prize?

MAMA: Well, human rights organizations from both Ukraine AND Russia as well as an activist from neighboring Belarus.

LEELA: No surprise, really, given all that’s happening there…

MAMA: True – the prize the peace tends to be very timely with what’s happening in the world. And, most recently, the Nobel committee added economics. Do you know what that is?

LEELA: Ummm, something to do with the economy?

MAMA: Right. And that is?

LEELA: Uh, something to do with… money?

MAMA: In a way, yes, the supply of money and, what you and the whole country spend it on, like food, clothes, or even taxi rides and babysitters.  And it’s all top secret until the moment –


MAMA: It’s announced.

LEELA: But who decides? I mean, I think Raina Telgemeier is the best writer and graphic novelist EVER, but I don’t see her name nominated.

MAMA: Well first of all – for each category there is a massive group of 3000 people – the top big brains and thinkers in each of the six fields – who get to nominate people on a long list.  But then it’s the Nobel committee who decides. And you never know who’s been nominated on the shortlist – at least not for 50 years.

LEELA: Ooh – that sounds very secretive.

MAMA: It’s top-secret stuff. But even more intriguing is the story behind this prestigious prize.


MAMA: Yep.  You could say it’s pretty explosive.


LEELA: What was that!

MAMA: That was an explosion. Of dynamite, be precise.

LEELA: (sings) Ah, ah, ah, ah, dynamite… I thought we were talking about a PEACE prize, so why dynamite?

MAMA: We are. So, let’s rewind…


MAMA: Long ago, in the late 1800s lived a super smart Swedish chemist and engineer named Alfred Nobel who loved inventing things. 355 inventions, in fact. And he made LOTS of money doing so. But his most famous invention was this.


LEELA: Yikes! Bombs?

MAMA: The explosive called dynamite. Well, the story goes that a newspaper thought he had died it was really his brother but ran an obituary, you know, a column about his life, in which they called him, “The merchant of death.”

LEELA: Mewowzers. I’m not sure I’d like to be called that!

MAMA: Well, neither did he. So, he decided to leave almost all of his wealth to creating a series of prizes for those who give the “greatest benefit on mankind” in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace.

LEELA: And now economics.

MAMA: Well, it was added over 50 years ago, but yes.

LEELA: And now instead of being known for (pow!) – he’s known for this


[SOURCE: https://www.nobelprize.org/



MAMA: OK, and now we have a difficult story to report on.

LEELA: What’s happening in Iran.

MAMA: That’s right. First of all, do you know where Iran is?

LEELA: In the Middle East.

MAMA: Right. And why are we hearing about it a lot lately?

LEELA: Because there are dangerous protests against wearing the hijab.

MAMA: Which is?

LEELA: A headscarf. Just for women to cover their heads.

MAMA: That’s right. Now some women like wearing it because they feel it is part of their Islamic tradition. But many others feel it’s restrictive that only women should be made to cover their heads when out in public. And in some conservative countries, like Iran, it’s against the law not to wear it in public.

LEELA: And when you say law – that’s set- in-stone there, because Iran isn’t a democracy, right?

MAMA: That’s right. It’s what’s known as a theocracy – that’s a type of government in which the religious clerics rule in the name of God.

LEELA: There are also people called the Morality Police – which arrested that young woman a few weeks ago for not wearing her hijab properly, right?

MAMA: That’s right – supposedly her hair was coming free from the hijab, and she later died in police custody.

LEELA: And that’s why people are protesting.

MAMA: Yes. And what’s extraordinary – in nondemocratic countries with authoritarian regimes, it’s super dangerous to protest.

LEELA: Like people can get arrested and get hurt?

MAMA: Yes, and worse, Leela. Human rights group said at least 185 people have been killed in demonstrations so far. But that’s the extraordinary thing and why it’s super important we do this story because this could be a turning point in Iran. In the past the police have scared previous generations into submission.

LEELA: Submission? Like submitting to something?

MAMA: Well, yes, accepting someone else’s power or control over you. But not this time.


MAMA: They’re shouting here, “Neither headscarf, nor humiliation.” And they seem unlikely to stop shouting anytime soon.

LEELA: I have a feeling we’ll be doing this story some more.

MAMA: I think you’re right. But let’s hope it’s good news next time.

[SOURCE: https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/protests-continue-across-iran-rights-group-reports-19-minors-killed-2022-10-09/


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: Leaders of the G7 the group of the seven richest and most powerful nations say they’ll back Ukraine for “as long as it takes.” This support is coming after massive Russian missile strikes across Ukraine, including the capital.

It’s official NASA confirms that its collision with an asteroid last month did indeed knock the celestial body off its course. This now offers a potential strategy to defend Earth against threatening objects that might come hurtling our way. As we discussed in an episode a few weeks ago.

In Italy one of the world’s most active volcanoes erupts again. A huge cloud of ash and smoke is coming from Stromboli Island off the coast of Italy. The volcano’s been erupting on and off for the past 90 years. And Taylor Swift reveals one of the secrets behind her songwriting is sorting her lyrics into one of three pen-themed categories. She says they’re “dorky” but “affectionately titled Quill Lyrics, Fountain Pen Lyrics and Glitter Gel Pen Lyrics.”

LEELA: Well, thank you so much for that – wait for it… that whippity-whappity-zippity-zappity wrap of what’s making headlines elsewhere in the world, Mama.

MAMA: Well, I don’t know what to say to that, Leela. You’re most welcome.

TECH STING – LEELA/MAMA: “It’s time for…. Technology News, technology news, tech news!”

LEELA: You know, it seems like lately a lot of environment news is mixed with tech news.

MAMA: That’s right – I think as the world tries to figure out how to clean up our environmental mess –

LEELA: What? You mean like plastic junk and pollution? Or fossil fuels and too many greenhouse gasses destroying the atmosphere?

MAMA: I mean all of that. Of course, a lot of our habits and excesses have to change, but thankfully there are some great innovations that can help too. Like the story coming out coming out of the Bay Area in San Francisco, California.

LEELA: Aha! For that we have to go to our new young California correspondent, Nirvaan Bellman.

MAMA: Oh, yes, we do.

LEELA: Take it away, Nirvaan!

NIRVAAN: Thanks, Leela.

If I say piranha – what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?

Probably the South American freshwater fish with razor-sharp teeth, right?

Well, that’s true, but I’m talking about a piranha that likes to eat… plastic!

Ok, this isn’t a real piranha.

It’s a water rover – about the size of a car – called the “plastic pirhana.”

It’s being used to gobble up plastic bottles and bags in a harbor near me here in Richmond, California.

Cool or what?

It was developed by people at the University of Cincinnati called the “Clean Earth Rovers.”

It skims the water, dragging a large mesh bag – kind of like a net – and can collect more than one hundred pounds of waste per trip.

That’s like twice my weight, by the way.

Luckily, it has some fancy software on board that helps it avoid boats AND marine life.

So hopefully it will only catch plastic – not fish!

In the San Francisco Bay Area, I’m Nirvaan Bellman, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi!

LEELA: Cool story – thanks a lot, Nirvaan. And welcome on board the Newsy Pooloozi reporting team!

MAMA: Yeah, you did a great job, Nirvaan. Thanks! And while similar technology has been developed in Australia, Hong Kong and South America – this is the first of its kind the US.

[SOURCE: https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/plastic-pollution-san-pablo-17484525.php


LEELA: And finally, 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: Oh, odd doesn’t quite cover it! In fact, there is nothing normal about this story of a mystic crocodile.

MAMA: Oh, excuse me?

LEELA: Oh, yeah. Or should I say a temple crocodile. Does that make it sound less unusual?

MAMA: Uh, no. I mean, Hinduism – one of the main religions here in India is known to have 33 million gods and goddesses – many of whom are part animal and or have many arms.

LEELA: No, no. Nothing unusual about that – it’s just one of the most ancient, longest-surviving religions in the world, that’s all. No, when I say crocodile, I’m not talking about a god or an idol, but a real swimming and crawling beast that just happened to live in a pond that surrounded a temple in south India for decades… never hurting a fly or pilgrim and so… was, naturally, considered the temple’s “guard-croc.”

MAMA: Right…

LEELA: And that’s not even the odd bit.

MAMA: It’s not?! OK.

LEELA: And neither is it that the name of the temple is 22 letters long!

MAMA: Excuse me?

LEELA: Yep, Anantha-padmanabha-swamy Temple in the beautiful state of Kerala. And just in case I didn’t quite do the name justice – here’s a friend from Kerala setting me straight.

KERALA FRIEND: Ananthapadmanabhaswamy – it has three parts. So Ananthapadmanabhaswamy together.

LEELA: No, nothing weird about that. Just different to our English ears, that’s all.

MAMA: True. So, the oddest bit is…?

LEELA: Well, we all know crocodiles are aggressive, semi-aquatic carnivores – as in creatures who eat meat. Like me and you. For instance. Or a fish or birds.

MAMA: Right.

LEELA: But not Babiya as this “mystic” croc was called. Nope – this 80-year-old carnivore was supposedly strictly veg’ing – as in a vegetarian!

Yep, the priests regularly gave her temple offerings, like fruit, rice and Indian sweets. AND – content with its feast – Babiya used to come ashore often without harming anyone, gaining popularity on social media, as you can imagine.

MAMA: Well, I never.

LEELA: But now, sadly… the state is in mourning – because the gentle “vegetarian” beast has died. And thousands of devotees are heading to the temple to say their last goodbyes.

MAMA: Oh… well, rest in peace, Babiya.

[SOURCE: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/babiya-the-mystic-crocodile-of-ananthapadmanabhaswamy-temple-in-kasaragod-dies/article65992855.ece]

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 – Nobel Prizes are handed out every year in six categories chemistry, physics, and medicine (also called physiology), literature and peace. Around 50 years ago another category was added – what is that?


LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 2 – The Swedish chemist, engineer and inventor named Alfred Nobel created the Nobel prizes after he was worried about being remember for inventing what?


MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 3 – Authorities in Iran get heavy-handed with people protesting women being forced to cover their heads in public with a scarf called what?


LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 4 – A group called the Clean Earth Rovers have created a “plastic piranha” which is a water rover to clean plastic from a bay in California. It’s named after the freshwater fish that comes from what part of the world?

South American

MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 5 –The “mystic,” “guard” crocodile of an Indian temple that was supposedly a vegetarian – dies. Why is that so odd?

Crocodiles are typically carnivores.

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 as in pool – you know, go splash in a pool we’re a news pool after all. That’s pool-o-o-z-i and take this quiz online in your own time!

LEELA: (in robot voice) I repeat – pool-o-o-z-i dot com.

MAMA: One day you’re not going to do that, and you’re really freak the world out.

LEELA: Yeah, maybe I should do that… And that brings us to the end of this episode of Newsy Pooloozi!


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