Reptiles at risk, rocket catch-and-carry, lunar art, longest glass-bottom bridge

May 11, 2022 Episode 98

20% of reptile species risk extinction, rocket booster caught mid-air, heartful art heads to the moon, Vietnam’s glass-bottom bridge

Episode Transcript

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


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

This week – you may or may not like them –


But 20% of reptile species are at risk of becoming extinct. And if you think it doesn’t matter, we’ll give you the lowdown on how and why it does.

And, move over SpaceX, another spacey company is doing ballet catch-and-carry maneuvers in the sky.

Speaking of space – plans are underway to send some hearts to the moon – but can you guess whose?

And the new bridge in Vietnam is for thrill seekers only – listen till the end to find out why.

I’m Leela Sivasankar Prickitt and, as ever, I’m joined by the big story explainer and sound effects finder, otherwise known as my Mama.

MAMA: Howdy, y’all – I’m Lyndee Prickitt.

LEELA: She from Texas. But we live and broadcast from… New Delhi, India. This is Newsy Pooloozi – the coolest news pool around. Let’s dive in. Starting with… the…

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

MAMA: Alright, they might not be your favourite kind of animals in the world…

LEELA: That’s an understatement!

MAMA: And – warning – you might hear Leela squeal with terror as we do this story ‘cos she hates them. But one in five reptiles worldwide is threatened with extinction! A new study, just published in the journal Nature, assessed over 10,000 reptile species and found almost 2,000 are categorized as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.

LEELA: And while that might not seem soooo bad, I mean one less lizard or snake seems OK if you want my personal view… but – no! I don’t count in the grand scheme of things.

MAMA: And by things we mean the Earth.

LEELA: The environment. Which kind of actually does affect me. So even though one less reptile seems fine, losing 20 percent of them could change food-chains and ecosystems – radically.

MAMA: Yep – and there would be knock-on effects, such as…


MAMA: An increase in pests and insects. See I love lizards, ‘cos they eat mosquitos.

LEELA: (Shudders)

MAMA: Not just that, but biodiversity –

LEELA: Meaning lots of different types of plants and animals.

MAMA: Yep – it’s crucial. And reptiles aren’t just literally slithering around on the ground but their existence underpins our ecosystem which provides a healthy environment for – us – as in, people. And, by the way, five fab facts that characterize reptiles. Cue the music, Leela.


MAMA: Reptiles are vertebrates.

LEELA: Which means they have backbones.

MAMA: Their bodies are completely covered with scales.

LEELA: Meaning they’re super creepy.

MAMA: But their scaly skin protects them from injuries AND – being waterproof – keeps them hydrated. Also, they’re cold-blooded. Meaning their body temperature varies with that of their environment. Now the reptiles that face the greatest threat are turtles with about 60 percent of species at risk of extinction.

LEELA: Ahh, and they’re the only cute ones.

MAMA: Next, crocodiles, with 50 percent of their species at risk. And contrary to what the researchers expected, reptiles in forests are a greater threat than those in dry habitats, like deserts, shrub lands and savannahs.

LEELA: That’s bad since more than half of all reptile species live in forested habitats!

MAMA: I know. The good news is there is a clear path on how to get reptiles back: reduce deforestation, stop the illegal trade in reptiles.

LEELA: As pets ewww and decoration for your purse or boots.

MAMA: And – now this is interesting – farmers should improve the way they farm, become more productive, so they don’t have to cut down more forests to make way for more fields.

LEELA: Sounds simple.

MAMA: Hmmm, problem is sometimes the most simple things

LEELA: Are the most difficult to do.

MAMA: And now staying with science… but going from things slithering on the ground to things falling from space.

LEELA: I think it’s time to cue our spacey tunes!


MAMA: So one of the reasons we’re not all flying to the moon on, you know, vacation is not because it’s impossible. But because it’s –

LEELA: Expensive!

MAMA: Which is why, presently, it’s just for scientists and billionaires. But….

LEELA: Every day space companies are trying to find out cheaper ways of doing things.

MAMA: Like not letting super costly equipment–

LEELA: Like the boosters used to boost a rocket into space.


MAMA: Not letting them just fall down to Earth.


MAMA: Into the ocean where they quickly erode in the salty sea water.

LEELA: What a waste.

MAMA: But…


LEELA: Enter the helicopter catch.

MAMA: Yes, a chopper from a company called Rocket Lab has managed to catch a rocket booster in mid-air, by dropping a cable down with a hook on one end which – as you can imagine – involves flawless, perfect, co-ordination and timing so that everything is –

LEELA: Synchronized!

MAMA: Exactly. Or in the words of the New Zealand company founder, Peter Beck, “Bringing a rocket back from space and catching it with a helicopter is something of a supersonic ballet.”


MAMA: Now, it turns out that the helicopter pilots decided to drop the booster into the water.

LEELA: Are you kidding me? After all that effort?

MAMA: Yeah, it’s hard carrying such a big load in mid-air – they noticed the weight of it felt different to when they’d practiced, so to be on the safe side – they let it go. But it has been retrieved and is being assessed to see if it can hopefully be used again on another mission.

LEELA: Well, I hope they can get the catch-and-carry right soon.

MAMA: Me too…  But this IS a big advance, because so far no company other than SpaceX has been able to collect and reuse its rocket boosters.

LEELA: But if more companies can…

MAMA: It means the more likely the price can come down for the likes of you and me

LEELA: To travel to space!

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: There’s unrest in the south Asian nation of Sri Lanka as security forces are ordered to shoot law-breakers on sight in a bid to stop protests. People are calling for the country’s president to resign over the island’s worst economic crisis in history.

As Russia is reportedly preparing for a long war in Ukraine, high profile stars visit the country. The latest rock stars Bono and The Edge from the Irish band U2. And US First Lady Jill Biden made a surprise Mother’s Day visit, meeting Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, to show US support for Ukraine.

Back in Asia, the Philippines elected a new president with an old last name. The son of Ferdinand Marcos, the former dictator that’s a ruler with absolute, and usually harsh, power – is asking to be judged for his actions not for his ancestors.

And as New Yorkers emerge from the pandemic so do the city’s rats. The Big Apple has always had a rodent problem, but as outdoor eating becomes the norm, well, the rats are feasting on the crumbs and multiplying with more sightings of the scurrying beasts since 2010.

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: Anytime, Leela.

ACE STING – LEELA/MAMA: “Now it’s the ace part of our podcast: Arts, Culture and Entertainment. Darling.”

MAMA: So, Leela.

LEELA: So, Mama.

MAMA: Ever drawn something or created an art piece that you were so suuuuper proud of you wanted it to be seen by everyone and last forever?

LEELA: All the time! Except for the many I throw away, that is.

MAMA: Well, that’s a feeling most artists get when they’ve created something they’re proud of. Now imagine if you could send your best piece to… the heavens.

LEELA: Excuse me???

MAMA: OK, well, outer space, as in, the moon!

LEELA: What?! Impossible! When sunlight hits the moon’s surface, the temperature can reach a scorching 260 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s 127 degrees Celsius). And when the sun goes down, temperatures can go to minus 280 Fahrenheit (minus 173 Celsius). My painting would either burn up or freeze!!

MAMA: What if the art was made specially to handle tough conditions?

LEELA: Like everlasting art?! I like it.

MAMA: So does an artist from Dubai, who’s created an out of the world piece of art. For more let’s cut across to Jai Rekhi from Dubai, who has the story.

JAI: Thanks, you guys. When the Dubai-based British artist, Sacha Jafri, paints – he’s probably thinking of how it will look or how people will feel when they see it.

Not whether it will withstand astronomical temperatures.

Or what a future astronaut or EVEN an alien might think of it!

But his artwork is destined for bigger, or should I say further, things.

Like a trip to the moon, in fact!

Well, OK –

VOICE 2: a super-sturdy aluminium-and-gold plated engraved version of the painting will be heading to the moon.

It will be the first ever piece of art on the moon.

The artwork resembles a heart with more hearts surrounding it and two figures entwined, or bound together, holding – yep, you guessed it! – More hearts.

It will be placed on the moon later this year thanks to a NASA project that transports small machines to the southern part of the moon.

The site will likely become a landmark… forever!

Let’s hope they “plan-et” wisely so nothing goes wrong!

In Dubai, I’m Jai Rekhi, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi.

LEELA: Ha ha, “plan-et” wisely.  As in, Good one, Jai.

MAMA: And it’s not only famous artists and experienced astronauts who can leave a mark on the moon.  Or should I say – up in space, around the moon – you can too!

LEELA: Me too? Really!

MAMA: OK just your name, but still, cool, right?


MAMA:  The plan is to have your name saved on a flash drive, you know, USB stick or teeny-tiny hard-drive that stores information, and it will fly around the moon on the upcoming Artemis 1 mission!

LEELA: Awesome! Where do I sign up?

MAMA: You just have to enter your name and your own pin-code to get a “boarding pass.” Of course, there’s a link in our transcript: https://www.nasa.gov/send-your-name-with-artemis/

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: More like an odd walk.

MAMA: What are you saying about how I walk?

LEELA: Not you, Mama. But anyone walking across a new bridge in Vietnam is in for an odd – and even stomach-churning – stroll.

MAMA: Oh, is it stinky?

LEELA: Not stinky – but scary. Possibly downright terrifying. Emphasis on the down bit.

MAMA: I’m so confused.

LEELA: It’s pretty simple – the world’s longest glass-bottom bridge just opened in Vietnam’s Son La province.

MAMA: How long is long and, ummm, what is below?

LEELA: We’re talking a stretch of more than 2,000 feet (or 600 meters) above a very pretty green valley. But when I say above…

MAMA: Yeah?

LEELA: I’m talking about 500 feet (or 152 meters) or – put another way – a 50-story high building.

MAMA: Oh. Yeah. That’s not for anyone with some vertigo issues.

LEELA: Vertigo?

MAMA: Oh, that’s a sensation of whirling and losing your balance (or your lunch) when you look down from a big height.

LEELA: Well, it might be a little reassuring to know the bridge’s floor is made of three layers of super strong and thick glass.

MAMA: A little.

LEELA: Also… only 500 people will be allowed on the bridge at once.

MAMA: 500 is a lot.

LEELA: And – they all have to walk in one direction at a time. Am I convincing you now?

MAMA: Yeah, let’s visit.

LEELA: Wait, no!

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 – A new study reveals that one in five reptiles worldwide is threatened with extinction. Which of the following facts is not true about reptiles?

Reptiles are hot-blooded vertebrates, covered with waterproof scales that keep them hydrated.

No, Reptiles are not hot-blooded – they’re cold-blooded, which is why they like to bask, or lounge, in the sun.

LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 2 – What does cold blooded mean anyway?

Having a body temperature that varies with the environment.

MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 3 – A company called Rocket Lab caught a rocket booster with a helicopter as it fell from the sky in hopes of learning how to recycle expensive space gear. What’s a rocket booster?

The bit that helps boosts a rocket into space.

LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 4 – A piece of art has been specially created to withstand temperatures on the moon, which are either super-hot or super freezing-cold. How hot can it be when sunlight hits the moon?

260 degrees Fahrenheit

MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 5 – The longest glass-bottom bridge in the world has opened in Vietnam. But at a height of a 50-storied building, it might not be a good idea for those with vertigo. What’s vertigo?

Sensation of losing your balance when you look down from a great height.

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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