Walking In The Sky

Walking in the Sky

A man walked high above a crowd–on a tightrope!
A barefoot man crosses his arms as he walks across a tightrope over road and a green valley.
Frédéric Marie/Alamy
This photo of Nathan Paulin walking on a very high tightrope was taken in 2017.

On May 24, a crowd gathered on the French island of Mont-Saint-Michel to witness a strange sight. High above them, a man was walking on a very long tightrope! The man, Nathan Paulin, walked—and sometimes wobbled—his way across the 0.8-inch (2-centimeter) wide slackline for 1.4 miles (2.2 kilometers). It was the longest tightrope walk ever!

The record-breaking walk took place on a slackline that was tied to a crane at one end and a very old building called the Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey at the other. The line was more than 300 feet (100 meters) off the ground, and it swayed back and forth in the wind as Paulin made his way across. Paulin, who was attached to a harness for safety reasons, took his time, carefully placing his foot with each step. The walk took two hours to complete! 

Just before he reached the end, Paulin lost his balance and slipped off the line. (He caught the line with his hands.) By the time he slipped, Paulin had already broken the record. 

Paulin, 28, is a pro at this sort of thing. According to his website, he’s been making his way across tightropes since he was a teenager, and he has done many attention-grabbing walks high above famous places. In 2017, Paulin and two others walked across a 1.0-mile (1.7-kilometer) tightrope above a valley in a French mountain range. And in 2021, he walked 1,969 feet (600 meters) on a line that stretched above the city of Paris from the Eiffel Tower to the Chaillot theater.

Paulin hopes to set more records in the future.

“My next dream—I hope to be able to do it—would be to walk between the Eiffel Tower and Montparnasse Tower,” he told Euro News. That’s a distance of 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers).

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Fun Fact

© Cirque du Soleil
Cirque du Soleil is one of the most famous circus companies in the world.
Have you ever seen a tightrope walker, or an acrobat who does flips, twists, and amazing balancing acts, often high in the air? Where do people learn this stuff? Some of them go to circus school! Circus schools are places where people learn to do incredible acrobatic feats.

Far-Out Stunts

A skateboarder balances upside down holding onto a wall with one hand and his skateboard with the other
Tony Hawk

© Carlos Carvalho/Dreamstime.com

A young man stands outside and juggles 11 balls.
Alex Barron
Guinness World Records
A man on a soccer field with cleats and a ball at his feet holds a framed certificate from Guinness World Records.
Mark Jordan
Guinness World Records

Check out some amazing stunts that people have achieved with their bodies!

In 1999, Tony Hawk of the United States spun 900 degrees in midair on a skateboard—that’s two and a half complete turns. Hawk was the first person ever to do this.

In 2010, Shemika Campbell of the United States danced under a limbo bar that was only 8.5 inches (21.6 centimeters) high!

In 2012, Alex Barron of the United Kingdom juggled 11 balls at one time!

In 2018, Mark Jordan of the United States juggled a soccer ball with his feet for more than 10 hours, never letting the ball touch the ground.

In 2019, Paolo Ballesteros of the Philippines took a challenge on TV to see how long he could go without blinking. Ballesteros didn’t blink for 77 minutes!

Circus Story!

A poster advertising a circus showing male and female performers in 19th century clothing carrying out flips, handstands, and other tricks.
Stocktrek Images, Inc./Alamy
Did you know that circuses have been entertaining people for hundreds of years?
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Word of the Day

funambulism

Part of speech:
noun
Definition:
: tightrope walking
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In Case You Missed It

Hyundai’s new cars are called UMVs, and they don’t need roads to get where they’re going!

06.21.22

A 14-year-old named Harini Logan won the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

06.14.22

What was the very first roller coaster like?

06.07.22

A scientist says a tree in Chile may be the oldest tree in the world!

06.03.22

Cars With Legs

Cars With Legs

Hyundai’s new cars are called UMVs, and they don’t need roads to get where they’re going!
A car uses robotic legs to get over a snowbank onto a road while an identical car drives on that road.
© Hyundai New Horizons Studio

This art shows how the Hyundai Elevate might work on and off the road.

Cars are cool when they drive, but what if they could also walk? Hyundai, a company that has been making cars for many years, plans to build two types of vehicles that are half car, half walking robot! 

Hyundai calls these cars Ultimate Mobility Vehicles, or UMVs. When they’re on smooth roads, UMVs ride on their wheels, like any other car. But when they reach someplace most cars can’t go—like steps or a pile of rocks—they grow legs! Picture a four-legged robot with a wheel at the end of each leg. The legs can bend and stretch, while the wheels can turn all the way around, allowing the vehicle to go forward, backward, side to side, and even up. 

Hyundai introduced the first of these vehicles, called the Elevate, in 2019. According to the company, the Elevate can climb a 5-foot (1.5-meter) wall or step across a 5-foot gap. Hyundai says the Elevate could be used to rescue people after natural disasters, like earthquakes. It could also help people with disabilities. For example, if someone can’t get down their front steps, the Elevate could go right to the top of the staircase to meet the person where they are! 

The other vehicle, called the Tiger X-1, was introduced in 2021. It’s similar to the Elevate, but it doesn’t carry people. Hyundai says the Tiger could take supplies to people who are waiting to be rescued after earthquakes. It could also be used on construction sites, or even to explore other planets!

So far, both the Elevate and the Tiger are concept cars. That means they’re still being developed. But in 2022, Hyundai opened a facility in Montana where it will build and test versions of these UMVs. The company hopes to someday put them on the road—and beyond.

If you’re a Star Wars fan, you may remember a walking vehicle called the AT-AT!

A robotic vehicle with four legs on a barren landscape, shooting lasers.

© Twentieth Century Fox

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Fun Fact

A vehicle with three wheels and a large device for burning fuel sits on display
Joe deSousa (Public Domain)

This automobile was invented by Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot in 1770.

The first true automobile was invented by Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot in 1770. It could travel at about 2 miles per hour (3.22 kilometers per hour). Instead of running on gasoline, the car burned wood for fuel. The driver had to refuel every 15 minutes!

Why Drive When You Can Fly?

Black and white photo of a vehicle with both wings and four wheels
Glenn H. Curtiss Museum, Hammondsport, NY

The Curtiss Autoplane was invented in 1917.

Wouldn’t it be great if cars could fly? Well, some cars can!

People have been trying to invent flying cars for more than 100 years. In 1917, Glenn Curtiss tried to invent a vehicle that could travel on the road and in the air. He called it the Autoplane. Curtiss got the Autoplane off the ground, but it was never able to fly high in the air.

After Curtiss, other people invented their own flying cars. All these vehicles had wheels for the road. Some had removable wings, while others had propellers, like helicopters. None of these early flying cars was used widely, though.

Today, several flying cars are available to buy. So why aren’t the skies filled with flying cars? Well, for one thing, flying cars are very expensive. Also, think about what it takes to make our roads safe. We have speed limits, stop signs, red lights, and more. Before leaders can allow everyone to start driving through the sky, they’ll need to figure out how to manage all that new air traffic safely.

Cars of All Kinds

Side by side images of a small yellow car with the door in the front, both open and closed
© Marko583/Dreamstime.com; Photo composite Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

The BMW Isetta, also known as the “bubble car,” was made during the 1950s and 60s.

Can you believe this is an actual car?

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Word of the Day

traverse

Part of speech:

verb

Definition:

: to move across (an area)

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In Case You Missed It

A 14-year-old named Harini Logan won the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

06.14.22

What was the very first roller coaster like?

06.07.22

A scientist says a tree in Chile may be the oldest tree in the world!

06.03.22

Zeus is the world’s tallest living dog, and his family loves him for it!

05.27.22

Super Speller

Super Speller

A 14-year-old named Harini Logan won the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

A teen girl smiles as she accepts a trophy from a man and gets a hug from a boy as her family surrounds her.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images News

If you don’t know how to spell a word, you could look it up in a dictionary. Or maybe you could ask Harini Logan! The 14-year-old from San Antonio, Texas, correctly spelled a series of seriously hard words in the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee to capture the top prize.

“This is such a dream,” Harini said after the bee, according to CNN. “This is my fourth bee, and I’m just so overwhelmed.”

In spelling bees, contestants are given words to try to spell. If they spell the word correctly, they stay in the bee. If not, they are out of the contest. As the bee continues, there are fewer and fewer spellers. The last speller left wins! 

This year’s Scripps Spelling Bee was a tough contest. The last two contestants, Harini and Vikram Raju, 12, were tied during the final round, so the judges decided to have a tiebreaker round called a “spell-off.” In a spell-off, each contestant tries to spell as many words as possible in 90 seconds. Vikram spelled 15 words correctly, while Harini spelled 22 words correctly, making her the winner. Harini’s words included “kniphofia” (a kind of plant) and “moorhen” (a kind of bird).

For her prize, Harini received a trophy and $50,000. As for Vikram, he says he’s going to try again next year!

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Fun Fact

The British Library (Public domain)

Before the 1500s, there were no right or wrong ways to spell words in English. Everyone just took a guess. In 1582, a teacher named Richard Mulcaster wrote a spelling book. The title was The first part of the elementarie vvhich entreateth chefelie of the right writing of our English tung, set furth by Richard Mulcaster.

Today, we’d spell it like this:

“The first part of the Elementary, which entreats chiefly of the right writing of our English tongue, set forth by Richard Mulcaster.”

How Do You Spell That?

Animation showing “definitely” being misspelled on a piece of paper twice before being correctly spelled
© denis08131/stock.adobe.com; Animation Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Many words are hard to spell—even words we use a lot! Here are some examples:

accommodate
to provide room for (someone) 

definitely
in a way that is certain or clear

maintenance 
the act of keeping property or equipment in good condition 

miscellaneous
including many things of different kinds

pursue
to follow and try to catch or capture (someone or something) 

rapport
a friendly relationship

tomorrow
the day after today

Old School Spelling

Black and white photo of Calvin Coolidge and some students with overlay of dictionary pages.
© Denis Dryashkin/stock.adobe.com, © Ke77kz/Dreamstime.com, Harris & Ewing Collection/Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (LC-DIG-hec-34893); Photo illustration Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

U.S. President Calvin Coolidge poses with winners of the 1927 National Spelling Bee.

What was the winning word in a 1925 spelling bee?

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Word of the Day

logophile

Part of speech:

noun

Definition:

: a person having an affinity for words: a lover of words

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In Case You Missed It

What was the very first roller coaster like?

06.07.22

A scientist says a tree in Chile may be the oldest tree in the world!

06.03.22

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05.27.22

Scientists taught a robot how to peel a banana. They’re excited to find out what else robots can learn to do.

05.24.22

Thrill Rides

Thrill Rides

What was the very first roller coaster like?

Teenagers on a roller coaster smiling with their arms up
© Joe McBride—The Image Bank/Getty Images

What’s the best part of summer? If you’re into thrills, it may just be a roller coaster ride. Did you know that roller coasters have been around for more than 200 years? It’s true! 

The world’s first roller coaster may have been the Aerial Walk in Paris, France. This thrill ride opened in 1817. Riders climbed a staircase that led to the top of a tower. Then they got into a three-wheeled car and rode down a sloped track at about 40 miles per hour (64.4 kilometers per hour). Then the car was towed back up the track for the next riders. 

Not long after the Aerial Walk opened, Coney Island in New York became a resort—a place where people went to relax and have fun. Beginning in the 1820s, hotels, theaters, and restaurants started popping up at Coney Island. Then, in 1884, an inventor named LaMarcus Thompson came up with a new way for Coney Island visitors to have fun: He built a roller coaster or, as he called it, the “Gravity Pleasure Switchback Railway.” This was the first roller coaster in the United States.

Like the Aerial Walk, the Gravity Pleasure Switchback Railway was different from many of today’s roller coasters. Passengers paid five cents (about $1.48 in today’s money) to ride from one end of a 600-foot-long (182.9 meters) track to the other. The ride traveled at only 6 miles per hour (9.7 kilometers per hour). There were no loops, so riders didn’t get to go upside down. Still, the coaster proved to be very popular. By 1900, there were hundreds of roller coasters all over the United States.

Today, there are more than 2,400 roller coasters all over the world! Here are some fast facts about the very best thrill rides.

(Kingda Ka) Dusso Janladde (CC BY-SA 3.0); (Formula Rossa) © Su Wei/Dreamstime.com; (Steel Dragon) Holiday Point Australia (CC BY 2.0); (The Smiler) Ruth Hartnup (CC BY 2.0)

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Fun Fact

Joey Chestnut smiling and holding up a championship belt that says Nathan’s with a thought bubble that says How did I do that.
David Dee Delgado/Getty Images News; Photo illustration Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Joey Chestnut celebrates his win at the 2021 Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Every year on July 4, the hot dog company Nathan’s Famous hosts a hot dog eating contest at Coney Island. Competitors have 10 minutes to eat as many hot dogs with buns as they can.  Competitive eaters are a serious bunch. This contest is not recommended for anyone without training first!

In 2021, the men’s and women’s winners were Joey Chestnut, who ate 76 hot dogs, and Michelle Lesco, who ate 30.75 hot dogs. 

Ice Cream Time!

One large bowl and two small bowls of blueberry ice cream with other bowls and bottles of milk
© Shaiith/Dreamstime.com

What’s better than ice cream on a hot summer day?

Did you know that you can make this sweet treat at home without an ice cream maker? Just get permission from an adult first.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 cup whole milk or heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups ice
  • 1/3 cup rock salt or kosher salt
  • One resealable plastic bag (quart or gallon size)
  • One plastic storage container with a lid (big enough to hold the filled plastic bag)

 

  1. Combine the milk, sugar, and vanilla extract in the plastic bag. You can also add extras like chocolate chips or cut-up strawberries. Push out the extra air and seal the bag. Make sure it’s sealed tightly!
  2. Put the ice and salt into the storage container. Then put the filled plastic bag into the storage container. Seal the storage container.
  3. Shake the storage container hard for 7 to 10 minutes, until the liquid has hardened.
  4. Open the container and the bag and enjoy your ice cream!

Off We Go!

© Stock Footage, Inc.—Verve+/Getty Images

What makes a roller coaster go?

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Word of the Day

diversion

Part of speech:

noun

Definition:

: something that people do because it is enjoyable, entertaining, or pleasant

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In Case You Missed It

A scientist says a tree in Chile may be the oldest tree in the world!

06.03.22

Zeus is the world’s tallest living dog, and his family loves him for it!

05.27.22

Scientists taught a robot how to peel a banana. They’re excited to find out what else robots can learn to do.

05.24.22

Astronaut Jessica Watkins is the first Black woman to live and work in space.

05.20.22

Could This Tree Be 5,000 Years Old?

Could This Tree Be 5,000 Years Old?

A scientist says a tree in Chile may be the oldest tree in the world!

Dr. Jonathan Barichivich

Scientists say a cypress tree in Chile might be the oldest tree in the world. They calculate that the tree is more than 5,000 years old!

Known as Great Grandfather, the Patagonian cypress tree (also called an alerce) is located in Chile’s Alerce Costero National Park. Dr. Jonathan Barichivich, a scientist from Chile who lives in France, first tried to estimate the tree’s age by taking a small sample of wood from its trunk. This method usually allows experts to tell how old a tree is by showing how many rings the tree has. But the sample Barichivich got did not capture all of the tree’s rings because its trunk is just too wide! So Barichivich used a computer to compare the tree to some other very old trees whose ages are known. He estimates that Great Grandfather is up to 5,484 years old. Barichivich adds that, according to his research, there is only a 20 percent chance that the tree is less than 5,000 years old. 

Until now, experts believed that Methuselah, a bristlecone pine tree in California, was the oldest tree on the planet. Methuselah’s age has been calculated at 4,853 years old. If Barichivich is correct, it would mean that Great Grandfather could be more than 500 years older than Methuselah!

But while the tree has survived for thousands of years, scientists say it faces threats now. Climate change is making the area where the tree is located drier, causing harm to the tree. Plus, Great Grandfather attracts visitors who step on its roots and strip away pieces of its bark. The locations of many other ancient trees, including Methuselah, have been hidden from the public so that no one will damage them.

Great Grandfather has had quite a past. Barichivich wants it to have a future, too.

What Great Grandfather Lived Through

  • 2575-2465 BCE:

    image-1

    The pyramids of Giza are built in ancient Egypt.

  • About 70 CE:

    The ancient Romans build the Colosseum.

    image-1
  • About 1021 CE:

    image-1

    Vikings explore what’s now Canada.

  • 1876 CE:

    The telephone is invented.

    image-1
  • 1993 CE:

    image-1

    The first Internet browser becomes available.

Telephone – Photos.com/Getty Images Plus; Colosseum – © Sborisov/Dreamstime.com; Viking – © Nejron/Dreamstime.com; Web browser – © David Sailors—Corbis Documentary/Getty Images; Pyramids – © sculpies/stock.adobe.com

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Fun Fact

Illustration comparing the heights of a man, an elephant, a maple tree, the Statue of Liberty, and Hyperion
© kickstand, drbimages, Kerrick, Nikada, Sieboldianus—E+/Getty Images, © Matt Anderson Photography—Moment/Getty Images; Photo illustration Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

The tallest known tree in the world is Hyperion, a redwood tree in California’s Redwood National Park. Hyperion is more than 380 feet (116 meters) tall!

What Can Tree Rings Show Us?

Diagram of tree rings with labels showing how fire and sunlight affected the rings
Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

A tree’s trunk expands from the center by growing a new layer each year. If a tree is cut, these layers appear as rings, which means we can tell how old a tree is by counting the rings.

Here’s what else rings can tell us:

  • In a year with plenty of rain and sunshine, a tree will grow faster, so the ring for that year will be thick. In a dry year, the tree will grow more slowly and the ring will be thinner.

  • The rings in a tree’s trunk are thicker on the side of the tree that gets the most sunlight.

  • Dark coloration on rings means slow summer growth. Light coloration means fast spring growth.

  • Some tree rings, even those deep within a tree’s trunk, show scars from forest fires.

Jolly Green Giants

© becon—iStock/Getty Images Plus

What’s the tallest kind of tree?

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Word of the Day

conifer

Part of speech:

noun

Definition:

: a bush or tree (such as a pine) that produces cones and that usually has leaves that are green all year

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In Case You Missed It

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05.27.22

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05.24.22

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05.17.22

One Big Dog!

One Big Dog!

Zeus is the world’s tallest living dog, and his family loves him for it!

Guinness World Records

“Is that a horse?” 

That’s the question some people ask when they see a dog named Zeus out walking with his family. It’s not really surprising that Zeus is big. After all, he’s a Great Dane, the world’s tallest breed of dog. But Zeus is even taller than the average Great Dane. In fact, he was just named the world’s tallest living dog by Guinness World Records! 

Zeus stands at 3 feet 5.18 inches tall (104.6 centimeters). His height is closer to that of a donkey than a horse. But since most dogs are much smaller than a donkey, Zeus attracts a lot of attention in his Bedford, Texas, neighborhood. Some people gasp, and others ask if they can take pictures of him. Zeus loves all of it. Like many dogs, he enjoys people and laps up attention.

“We counted 68 times once that we heard people say, ‘Whoa, that’s a horse,’” Brittany Davis, Zeus’s human mom, told the Today show. “It’s kind of a game now.” 

When Zeus is not getting the celebrity treatment, the “gentle giant” is at home with Davis and her family. He loves to play with the family’s three miniature Australian shepherds, all of which are much, much smaller than he is. Davis says the three smaller dogs have tons of energy, while Zeus is very laid back. 

Occasionally, he does get into a tiny bit of trouble. Sometimes he takes food right off the kitchen counter or uses his tongue to “clean” his human baby brother’s dinner plate. He just can’t help himself—the food and crumbs and spills are so easy for him to reach! In addition to the stolen snacks, Zeus eats 12 cups of dog food a day.

Zeus’s other hobby is lounging. He’s the king of the couch, but he also takes every chance he can to try to sit on a person’s lap. It may be a little bit awkward, but the family loves every minute of it.

“He has no idea how big he is,” Davis told Today. “He thinks he’s a lap dog and can sit on your lap… But I just love his personality. He’s a good boy.”
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Fun Fact

A border collie wearing glasses lies on an outdoor deck with a book in front of it
© Pixsooz—iStock/Getty Images Plus

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes. The reason they’re all so different is because of us—humans! Once we realized how useful our furry companions could be, we started to raise them for certain jobs. Quick dogs were bred for hunting, smart dogs for herding, and big, fierce dogs for guarding and protecting.

Many experts say that border collies, which were bred to herd sheep, are the smartest dogs. Border collies can understand and follow many different commands. A border collie named Chaser became famous after she learned to recognize more than 1,000 words!

Dogs of All Kinds

Cartoon Scooby-Doo surrounded by a labrador retriever, a beagle, a chihuahua, and a greyhound
© niknikp/stock.adobe.com, © Isselee/Dreamstime.com, © Chalermphon Kumchai/Dreamstime.com, © 1999 Warner Bros.; Photo illustration Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

The most famous Great Dane might be Scooby-Doo, the talking cartoon dog who helps his human pals solve mysteries. Scooby is sweet, loveable, very goofy, and afraid of almost everything. 

Are real Great Danes anything like Scooby? Actually, experts say Great Danes are known for their courage, friendliness, and dependability. Yup, they’re usually brave, great with people, and there when you need them. What are some other dog breeds known for? Here’s the scoop on just a few.

Chihuahua

Tiny chihuahuas are fun, entertaining, and very loyal to their families. They also love to be in charge. Despite their size, chihuahuas can get a little bossy with an attitude that suggests they don’t know how little they are!

Labrador Retriever

Called “labs” for short, these dogs love a good time. They can’t get enough of kids or grown-ups, and most of them make friends with everyone they meet. Their hobbies include playing fetch, swimming, and eating everything they can get their paws on.

Greyhound

The greyhound is known as the 45-mile-per-hour (72-kilometer-per-hour) couch potato. Why? Greyhounds can run super fast, but when they rest, they really rest! Greyhounds can most often be seen lying down. They love a good nap. Greyhounds are also known for being sweet and sensitive, and they like a quiet home.

Beagle

Beagles are known for being fun, friendly, and ready for just about anything. They’re happy to do whatever the family is doing because they love, love, love people. Most beagles get along great with other dogs, too, especially other beagles.

Most dogs aren’t just one breed but a mixture of two or more breeds. Known as “mutts,” mixed-breed dogs often have the personality traits of their parents, just like people do.

As different as they can be, dogs have a lot of things in common, too. They’re loyal, loving, and a lot of fun!

Want to learn more about different dog breeds? You can look them up at Britannica School.

Part of the Pack

© alexsvirid/stock.adobe.com
Did you know that dogs are related to wolves, foxes, and coyotes?
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Word of the Day

massive

Part of speech:

adjective

Definition:

: very large and heavy

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In Case You Missed It

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Look What This Robot Learned!

Look What This Robot Learned!

Scientists taught a robot how to peel a banana. They’re excited to find out what else robots can learn to do.

ISI (Kuniyoshi) Laboratory, The University of Tokyo

Robots are amazing. They can deliver stuff, move heavy equipment, and even do some repairs. All of this saves humans a lot of time and energy. Now, thanks to scientists in Japan, at least one robot can peel a banana!

Why teach a robot to peel a banana? As great as robots are at certain tasks, they’re not known for being good at delicate tasks. Humans have fine motor skills, which enable us to use small muscles in our wrists, hands, and fingers to do things like hold a pen or peel a banana. Robots don’t have human hands, of course. But could they learn these skills? Scientists decided to find out. They wanted to see if they could teach a robot to do a delicate task—like peeling a banana without squishing it and making a big mess.

Scientists used a robot that has two arms. They trained the robot by showing it how to peel a banana hundreds of times. Each time, the robot collected more data (information) about what to do. This allowed it to learn the action and copy it. It took the robot 13 hours of training before it could peel a banana. Even then, it did the task successfully only a little more than half the time. It took the robot about 3 minutes to peel one banana. 

While the robot couldn’t peel a banana as well as a human can, scientists did show that robots can learn at least one delicate task. This suggests that robots may be able to learn other delicate tasks, too. If they can, companies that use robots will be able to put them to work in many more ways.

What an ap-PEEL-ing idea!
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Fun Fact

Audio Productions Inc./Internet Moving Images Archive (at archive.org)

In this video from 1939, Elektro the robot shows off what he can do.

Robots come in many shapes and sizes. Robots that look like humans are called humanoid. The first humanoid robot, called Elektro, was introduced to the public in 1939. Elektro could move its head and arms, say about 700 words, and even blow up a balloon.

Well-Rounded Robots

A robot wears a chef’s hat and performs various kitchen tasks
© gmast3r—iStock/Getty Images Plus; Animation Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Robots may still struggle to peel bananas, but there’s a lot they can do very well. 

Cook Dinner. A company called Moley Robotics says it has invented a robot that can prepare meals. The robot downloads a recipe and then prepares it. How? Two robot arms hang from the ceiling above the stove, mix the ingredients in pots and pans, and then stir and monitor everything until the food is cooked.

Make Sneakers. Nike and Adidas are using robots to put together sneakers in their factories. The robots’ job is to arrange the pieces of the shoe so that they can be sewn together. This job normally takes a human 10 to 20 minutes to complete. But a robot can finish the job in 50 to 75 seconds.

Make Eyeglasses. A company in Japan uses robots to make eyeglasses. A robot gets the person’s prescription—the information needed to figure out how strong or weak the glasses should be—and makes the lenses. Then the robot puts the lenses in eyeglass frames.

Fly…and Do Amazing Things. Have you ever seen a drone before? A drone is a flying robot! Drones have been used to take photos, monitor traffic and weather, and even rescue people.

We’ve Come a Long Way

An illustration of a mechanical puppet theater as created by a Greek scientist in the 1st century.
INTERFOTO/Alamy, © Ke77kz/Dreamstime.com
This puppet theater was created by a Greek scientist in the 1st century. It was designed to work on its own, like a robot.

People were trying to make robots thousands of years ago!

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Word of the Day

automaton

Part of speech:

noun

Definition:

: a machine that can move by itself

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