A Groundbreaking Discovery

Dr. Catherine Wu looks at the camera while sitting at a microscope.

A Groundbreaking Discovery

Dr. Catherine Wu is working on vaccines that could treat many forms of cancer.

Dr. Catherine Wu looks at the camera while sitting at a microscope.
Courtesy Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Dr. Catherine Wu has conducted groundbreaking cancer research.

An oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, may have found the key to developing vaccines that would treat many forms of cancer. Dr. Catherine Wu’s research focuses on getting the body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells.

When a cancerous tumor grows, its cells mutate, or change, over time. The body’s immune system—the network of cells and tissues that defend the body against infection—often doesn’t recognize the difference between tumor cells and healthy cells, so it doesn’t attack the tumor. Wu’s vaccines, which would treat existing cancer (not prevent cancer from developing), would help the immune system to do its job.

This is different from two common cancer treatments—chemotherapy and radiation. In those treatments, the body is exposed to chemicals or radiation. This is meant to destroy cancer cells, but it can also end up damaging healthy cells.

Wu believes it’s possible to develop vaccines for specific types of cancer so that the immune system can be directed to defend that part of the body. Although she doesn’t believe every form of cancer could be treated with a vaccine, many could, including some that are currently hard to treat, such as melanoma, a form of skin cancer. Wu conducted a study in which six melanoma patients were vaccinated. After three to four years, the patients’ cancer cells were under control.

So far, Wu and her team have conducted “small” studies, in which they tested the vaccine on only a handful of people. Many more studies are necessary before she and others know if these cancer vaccines will be safe and effective. But her research is very promising, according to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which in February 2024 awarded her its Sjöberg Prize for “decisive contributions” to cancer research.

Wu has dreamed of curing cancer since she was in second grade. She may be getting close.

Fun Fact

A man in ancient Egyptian clothing has a clay crocodile strapped to his head as three others hold flowers and get well cards.

© Pavel Kudriavtsev, Siarhei Kavalenka/Dreamstime.com, © Kokhanchikov/stock.adobe.com; Photo illustration Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

In ancient Egypt, people treated headaches by putting herbs in the mouth of a clay crocodile and strapping the crocodile to their head.

Coming Soon?

A stratospheric hot air balloon is in space with Earth visible below.

© World View Enterprises

This computer image shows how a hot-air balloon might be able to take paying customers to space.

We may someday have cancer vaccines. Here are some other inventions already either in development or in use.

  1. Smartwatches for athletes that are powered by human sweat
  2. Building bricks for houses that can store energy like batteries
  3. Robot dogs to guide people with visual impairments
  4. Materials called aerogels that can’t conduct heat, making them ideal insulation for homes and other buildings
  5. Epidermal virtual reality that lets users touch virtual objects as well as see them
  6. Jet packs that can fly people at speeds of up to 110 miles per hour (180 kilometers per hour) at a maximum height of 18,000 feet (5,500 meters)
  7. Food labels that alert you when the food inside is about to go bad
  8. Machines that stop wildfires by shooting sound waves at them, creating a barrier between the flames and the oxygen in the air
  9. Hot-air balloons that take ordinary people into space
  10. Floating farms that grow vegetables on the sea and are powered by solar energy

Medical Milestones

A doctor examines four images from a brain scan.

© Andrew Brookes—Cultura/Getty Images

Did you know that humans began attempting to treat injuries and illnesses at least 12,000 years ago? Maybe you’re interested in a career in health care. You can learn just how far medicine has come, and where it’s going, at Britannica.

WORD OF THE DAY

ingenuity

PART OF SPEECH:

noun

Definition:

: skill or cleverness that allows someone to solve problems, invent things, etc.

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All of these inventions changed the world. See if you can find them.

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May 8, 2024

What Is This Thing?

A metal dodecahedron is held in a hand at an archaeological site.

What Is This Thing?

Archaeologists found a 12-sided object dating back to ancient Rome. They don’t know what it was used for.

A metal dodecahedron is held in a hand at an archaeological site.

Norton Disney History and Archaeology Group

Amazingly, this dodecahedron is 1,700 years old. No one knows why it was made.

Imagine if, hundreds of years in the future, someone finds something you own but they can’t figure out what it is. That’s the dilemma experts are facing now. In the summer of 2023, archaeologists discovered a 12-sided object called a dodecahedron in the English town of Norton Disney. They know the 1,700-year-old object was created by the ancient Romans, but they don’t know what its purpose was.

The dodecahedron is about the size of a grapefruit and made of copper, lead, and tin. Archaeologists say it was found in a hole where the Romans deliberately placed it, along with some pottery. Amazingly, it’s in very good condition.

Archaeologists have discovered more than 100 metal dodecahedrons around England and continental Europe. They all date from between the first and fifth centuries CE, around the time these parts of the world had been conquered by the ancient Romans. No one is sure what the dodecahedrons were used for because the Romans didn’t leave behind any written descriptions of them. Experts considered the idea that they were used as measuring tools, weapons, calendars, ornamental objects, or tools. But some of those possibilities are unlikely. For one thing, the objects are all different sizes.

“They are not of a standard size, so will not be measuring devices. They don’t show signs of wear, so they are not a tool,” says a blog post created by the group that’s excavating the Norton Disney site. Archaeologists say it would have taken a massive amount of work to create each of the dodecahedrons, which suggests they were used for something important.

The Norton Disney group believes the dodecahedrons had some sort of religious purpose. The one in Norton Disney was located near the spot where a metal figurine of a Roman god was found in 1989. And these types of figurines are often found where Roman temples once stood.

It’s possible that archaeologists will never be certain what the dodecahedron was for. For now, it’s one of history’s mysteries.

“It still holds many secrets,” Richard Parker of the Norton Disney group told Smithsonian magazine.

Fun Fact

© Massimo Todaro/stock.adobe.com, Composite illustration Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Some ancient Romans dyed their hair using a mixture of vinegar and rotten leeches.

Strange Spheres

Several stone spheres of different sizes are on the grounds of a building.

© YURI CORTEZ—AFP/Getty Images

Some of Costa Rica’s stone spheres are on display outside the National Museum in San José, the capital city.

Hundreds of stone spheres of different sizes have been found in Costa Rica. Historians say they were carved by pre-Columbian people (people who lived before Christopher Columbus landed in the Americas) sometime between 500 and 1500 CE…but like the Roman dodecahedrons, no one is sure why.

It would have taken a lot of work to carve the spheres. They’ve been discovered in locations far from where the source of the stone would be available. How did the people move all that stone?

The spheres are skillfully crafted. In fact, some of them are almost perfectly round. With no metal tools, how did people achieve this?

But the biggest question is why the spheres were created. Will we ever figure it out?

A Night Out in Ancient Rome

A cartoon gladiator stands in front of a photo of the ruins of the Colosseum.

© Mapics, Massimo Todaro/stock.adobe.com, Composite illustration Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

The ancient Romans left behind all sorts of things. In Rome, Italy, the Colosseum, where ancient Romans gathered for entertainment, still stands more than 1,900 years after it was built. While we might go to concerts or movies, the Romans often watched fighters called gladiators for entertainment.

You can read more about gladiators at Britannica.

WORD OF THE DAY

relic

PART OF SPEECH:

noun

Definition:

: something that is from a past time, place, culture, etc. — often + of or from

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In Case You Missed It

Archaeologists found a 12-sided object dating back to ancient Rome. They don’t know what it was used for.
May 20, 2024
A new sculpture features a pedestal with nothing on top. It was designed that way for a reason.
May 15, 2024
Seventeen-year-old Jakob Thompson saved a swimmer from drowning in a dangerous inlet.
May 13, 2024
Hazel Ying Lee was the first Asian American female pilot.
May 8, 2024

Rethinking Our Heroes

A pedestal held up by many tiny human figures sits in front of the National Museum of Asian Art.

Rethinking Our Heroes

A new sculpture features a pedestal with nothing on top. It was designed that way for a reason.
A pedestal held up by many tiny human figures sits in front of the National Museum of Asian Art.
© Do Ho Suh, 2024. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Seoul, and London / National Museum of Asian Art, Smithsonian Institution, Photo by Colleen Dugan

Public Figures has a pedestal but no statue.

All over the United States, there are statues of famous people. Artists create large statues of people they want to honor and remember. They may put the statues on a pedestal, or base, to make them even taller. But a new sculpture in Washington, D.C., features a pedestal without a statue. It was designed that way for a reason.

The sculpture, called Public Figures, is a pedestal that stands 10 feet (3 meters) high and is being held up by dozens of tiny sculptures of people. Its creator, South Korean artist Do Ho Suh, did not put a statue of an individual on top because he wanted people to ask themselves: Why do we build statues of people, and who do we choose as our heroes?

In 2021, an organization called Monument Lab collected information about all the statues in the United States. It found that most of the people honored in statues were white, male, and wealthy, even though the nation owes its success to people of many different backgrounds. All those people who aren’t usually recognized are represented as the tiny figures holding up the pedestal of Public Figures.

The sculpture is now on display outside the National Museum of Asian Art in Washington, D.C.

Did You Know?

Portraits of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Christopher Columbus, St. Francis, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (LC-DIG-ppmsca-19211), Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (1954.9.2), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (00.18.2), NTB/Alamy, Heritage Images—Hultion Fine Art Collection/Getty Images; Photo composite Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Clockwise from left: Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Christopher Columbus, St. Francis, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monument Lab made a list of the 50 individuals with the most U.S. public monuments in their name, as of September 8, 2021. The top five are pictured above, while the top 20 are listed below.

 

  1. Abraham Lincoln
  2. George Washington
  3. Christopher Columbus
  4. Martin Luther King Jr.
  5. Saint Francis of Assisi
  6. Robert E. Lee
  7. Casimir Pulaski
  8. Benjamin Franklin
  9. John F. Kennedy
  10. Thomas Jefferson
  11. Ulysses S. Grant
  12. Stonewall Jackson
  13. Jefferson Davis
  14. Marquis de Lafayette
  15. Andrew Jackson
  16. Theodore Roosevelt
  17. William McKinley
  18. Joan of Arc
  19. Nathan Hale
  20. William Shakespeare 

The Magic of Mammoth Cave

Human-made monuments may be impressive, but it’s hard to beat nature’s creations, especially caves. Between 10 and 15 million years ago, rainwater began percolating through the soil of what’s now Kentucky. Along the way, the water picked up carbon dioxide and became acidic. The acidic water squeezed through cracks in the area’s bedrock, causing the rock to dissolve. Openings in the rock formed and then grew very slowly over time until they became what’s now known as the Mammoth Cave system. 

There are caves all over the world. Some of them form in the way we just described, while others result from earthquakes or the flow of molten lava. But what makes Mammoth Cave unique is that it’s the world’s longest known cave. So far, explorers have mapped 426 miles of passages—nearly as long as the distance from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Cleveland, Ohio—and there’s a lot more left to explore.

Inside the cave, explorers have found clues to North America’s past. They’ve collected artifacts left behind by prehistoric Indigenous people. The cave is also full of fossils—even shark fossils dating from more than 300 million years ago, when there was a sea where Kentucky is today.

Mammoth Cave passages occur in a variety of shapes and sizes and are rife with geologic formations—signs that the cave system is still forming and growing. Check out the slideshow for some images of Mammoth Cave.

J.P. Hodnett/NPS, NPS Photo, NPS Photo, NPS Photo, David Kem/NPS, Thomas DiGiovannangelo/NPS, David Kem/NPS, NPS Photo

Caves of the World

Limestone walls are reflected in a cave pool.

© Vinicius Tupinamba/Dreamstime.com

There are caves all over the world, including this one, located at Chapada Diamantina National Park in Brazil. You can learn more about caves—how they form and where to find them—at Britannica!

WORD OF THE DAY

spelunking

PART OF SPEECH:

noun

Definition:
: the sport or practice of exploring or studying caves
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Criss Cross

See if you can figure out where each word fits into the grid.

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In Case You Missed It

Archaeologists found a 12-sided object dating back to ancient Rome. They don’t know what it was used for.
May 20, 2024
A new sculpture features a pedestal with nothing on top. It was designed that way for a reason.
May 15, 2024
Seventeen-year-old Jakob Thompson saved a swimmer from drowning in a dangerous inlet.
May 13, 2024
Hazel Ying Lee was the first Asian American female pilot.
May 8, 2024

Teen Hero

Aerial view of Boynton Beach Inlet with an inset map showing the inlet’s location in Florida

Teen Hero

Seventeen-year-old Jakob Thompson saved a swimmer from drowning in a dangerous inlet.
Aerial view of Boynton Beach Inlet with an inset map showing the inlet’s location in Florida

© 6381380—iStock/Getty Images Plus; Photo composite Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

A teenager from Florida is being recognized as a hero after saving a woman from drowning in a fast-moving inlet. Jakob Thompson, 17, received two awards that are reserved for people who perform heroic acts.

Thompson was near the Boynton Inlet in South Florida in November 2023 when he became aware that a woman was struggling in the water. The inlet is known to be dangerous. Its strong current can overpower swimmers, and its seawall makes it difficult to exit the water. But Thompson didn’t hesitate to jump in. An avid swimmer who spends a lot of time at area waterways, he swam about 90 feet (27 meters) before he reached the woman, put an arm around her, and took her back to the seawall. Two people helped the pair out of the water.

“I think the adrenaline took over,” Thompson later told WPEC CBS 12.  

The story got a lot of attention. One of the people who heard about it was Sarah Perry, who lost her son when he tried to save someone from drowning. Perry has since started a scholarship fund for teen heroes. Thompson is the first recipient. He said the money will enable him to train as a firefighter—something he’s been planning.

“Now after having a scholarship, it’s gonna take care of everything and I know I’m going to be able to finish my schooling as a firefighter,” Thompson told WPEC CBS 12.

Along with 16 other individuals, Thompson also received the Carnegie Medal, which goes to people in the United States and Canada who risk their safety to save the lives of others.

Did You Know?

An underwater camera captured images of some of the fish that swim in Boynton Inlet. See if you can guess who or what will appear about halfway through the video below!

Courtesy of ACG Adventures (Youtube: @acgAdventures)

Pet Popularity Contest

A dog is excited to be the favorite while a cat says Whatever.

© Pavlo Syvak/Dreamstime.com, © jongjawi/stock.adobe.com; Animation Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

May is National Pet Month, when cat and dog owners debate which pet is superior. If popularity is anything to go by, then dogs are the winner. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 62 million U.S. households include one or more dogs, while 37 million households have cats.

Wondering how popular your favorite pet is? Check out the numbers below.

A bar graph called Most Popular Pets shows the percentage of U S households owning dogs, cats, fish, birds, and reptiles, gerbils, or rabbits.

© Lysandra Cook—Moment, Jessica Lee—EyeEm, Max Bailen—Image Source/Getty Images, © Evgeniy/stock.adobe.com, © Evajoy, Melisa Botic, Betelgejze/Dreamstime.com, Infographic Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Giving It Away

A portrait of Andrew Carnegie along with three of his libraries.

Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (cph 3b35116, LC-DIG-highsm-49817), © Bill H/Dreamstime.com, © Frank Schulenburg (CC BY-SA 4.0); Photo composite Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Teen hero Jakob Thompson received the Carnegie Medal, which is given to people who risk their lives to save others. The award was established by Andrew Carnegie, an industrialist who gave away a lot of his immense wealth to help others. (Your public library may have been built with Carnegie’s money!)

You can learn more about Andrew Carnegie at Britannica.

WORD OF THE DAY

unflinching

PART OF SPEECH:
adjective
Definition:
: staying strong and determined even when things are difficult
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Crossword

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In Case You Missed It

Archaeologists found a 12-sided object dating back to ancient Rome. They don’t know what it was used for.
May 20, 2024
A new sculpture features a pedestal with nothing on top. It was designed that way for a reason.
May 15, 2024
Seventeen-year-old Jakob Thompson saved a swimmer from drowning in a dangerous inlet.
May 13, 2024
Hazel Ying Lee was the first Asian American female pilot.
May 8, 2024

Pioneer Pilot

Hazel Ying Lee stands in front of a small plane and wears 1930s aviation clothing and goggles.

Pioneer Pilot

Hazel Ying Lee was the first Asian American female pilot.

Hazel Ying Lee stands in front of a small plane and wears 1930s aviation clothing and goggles.
U.S. Department of Defense
Hazel Ying Lee was the first Asian American female pilot.

Hazel Ying Lee was 19 when she decided she wanted to be a pilot. But the year was 1931, and Lee had two strikes against her. She was a woman, and she was Asian American. Although other women had overcome discrimination to take to the skies, there were no Asian American female pilots—not yet. Lee would become the first.

Lee had read about a new flight school in her hometown of Portland, Oregon. Named the Chinese Flying Club of Portland, its purpose was to train Chinese American pilots so they could join the Chinese military and defend China from Japan, which had recently invaded. Lee, who was Chinese American, signed up for lessons. She wasn’t just fascinated with flight. She also wanted to defend her parents’ country of birth. Lee earned her pilot’s license in October 1932 and traveled to China soon after. But when she learned that the Chinese air force didn’t accept women pilots, she began flying commercial planes instead.

By 1938, the year Lee returned to the United States, Japan controlled a large portion of China. Lee found a job with an organization that sent military supplies to China. Meanwhile, the United States sympathized with China, and its relationship with Japan was growing worse. In 1939, World War II began, pitting Britain, France, Russia, and China against Germany, Italy, and Japan. When the United States entered the war in 1941, Lee saw another opportunity to help the allied cause—and this time, she would have a chance to fly military planes.

In 1942, Lee went to Texas to begin training for the Women’s Flying Training Detachment, which would eventually become the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). WASP trained women (who would become known as “WASPs”) to fly military aircraft. Lee was one of only two Asian American women and five women of color accepted into the WASP program. She devoted some of her time to educating the other trainees about Chinese culture. She often wrote the other pilots’ names on their planes in Chinese characters.

Hazel Ying Lee and a group of women wearing jumpsuits and hats listen to a man in uniform who is speaking to them.
© US Army—PhotoQuest/Getty Images
In this 1943 photo, a group of Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) receive information. Hazel Ying Lee is second-from-right.

The WASPs weren’t allowed to fight on the front lines of the war. Instead, they transported planes and supplies wherever needed. In November 1944, Lee was ordered to transport a fighter plane called a P-63 Kingcobra from a factory to an airport in Montana. In a tragic error, she was given clearance to land at the same time as another aircraft. The two planes collided, and Lee died as a result of her injuries.

Like the other WASPs, Lee was classified as a civilian. Her family received no military benefits after her death. But more recently, the United States has recognized how much the WASPs and other women contributed to the war effort. In 1977, U.S. president Jimmy Carter gave the WASPs veteran status—and in 2010, U.S. president Barack Obama honored the WASPs with the Congressional Gold Medal.

Lee was told she couldn’t do something but found a way to do it anyway. Long after she served her country, she continues to be an inspiration to many.

Did You Know?

Side by side photos of Anh-Thu Nguyen posing in front of a small plane and holding a globe that says solo around the world.
Courtesy of Asian Women in Aerospace and Aviation; Courtesy of Kollin Stagnito/AOPA
In 2018, Anh-Thu Nguyen (pictured above) founded Asian Women in Aerospace and Innovation, an organization that encourages and enables more Asian American women to enter fields like aerospace and aviation. Nguyen, a certified flight instructor and commercial pilot, says only about 5 percent of the world’s airline pilots are women and 0.5 percent are Asian women. She hopes to change that.

Women in the War

Seven World War II posters urging women to join the war effort
National Archives, Washington, D.C. (513701, 513703, 513707); Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (cph 3g01653, LC-USZC4-1856, LC-USZC4-5604, LC-DIG-ppmsca-12895), © YinYang—E+/Getty Images; Photo composite Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Although they were not allowed to fight on the front lines during World War II, American women contributed to the war effort in many other ways.

About 350,000 women served in uniform as part of government organizations such as WASP, as well as the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES), and the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve. At home and overseas, women were clerks, mechanics, pilots, drivers, air traffic controllers, weather forecasters, postal workers, translators, and more. Many of them carried out their duties as the battles raged around them. Four hundred and thirty-two service women died, while 88 were taken prisoner.

While serving, women faced gender discrimination from those who doubted their abilities or belittled their service. Women of color also experienced racism.

A woman mechanic works on a plane, a group of women fill boxes, and a group of women sit at a switchboard.

National Archives, Washington D.C. (199007, 535576); FSA/OSI Collection/Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (LC-USW3-011820-D); © Robyn Mackenzie/Dreamstime.com; © YinYang—E+/Getty Images; Photo composite Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Women contributed to the war effort at home, too, working in defense factories and shipyards, tracking enemy aircraft, delivering mail, nursing the wounded, driving ambulances, and more. In many cases, women took the jobs left open by men who had gone overseas to fight. Their work ensured that the United States continued to be a strong military force and kept the U.S. economy going. During World War II, women were given opportunities to work in more fields than ever before. Yet they were expected to give up these roles when the men returned at the end of the war.

Astronaut Sunita Williams

Sunita Williams poses in a spacesuit in front of a U S flag.
NASA (JSC2005-E-02663)

Did you know that May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month? You read about an Asian American pilot. What about astronauts?

Many AAPI astronauts have taken part in NASA space missions. Among them is Sunita Williams, who broke records for the number of hours in space. You can read more about Williams at Britannica.

WORD OF THE DAY

valor

PART OF SPEECH:

noun

Definition:

: courage or bravery

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Word Flower

How many words can you make with the letters in the flower? All the words must use the letter in the center.
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In Case You Missed It

Archaeologists found a 12-sided object dating back to ancient Rome. They don’t know what it was used for.
May 20, 2024
A new sculpture features a pedestal with nothing on top. It was designed that way for a reason.
May 15, 2024
Seventeen-year-old Jakob Thompson saved a swimmer from drowning in a dangerous inlet.
May 13, 2024
Hazel Ying Lee was the first Asian American female pilot.
May 8, 2024

An Antarctic Accent?

Aerial view of Rothera Research station

An Antarctic Accent?

During a six-month stay in remote Antarctica, researchers began to speak differently.

Aerial view of Rothera Research station

Courtesy British Antarctic Survey

Rothera Research Station

Why is English pronounced so differently in the United States and the United Kingdom, or in New York City and Dallas, Texas? It’s hard to trace how and why a particular accent develops. But researchers say they were able to hear the beginning of a brand-new accent in a series of recordings. You could call this accent “Antarctic.”

Although Antarctica has no permanent residents, a small number of people, mostly scientists, stay on the continent’s research bases for months at a time. This temporary population has many of the ingredients necessary to develop an accent. They are geographically isolated for much of the year because travel to and from Antarctica is so difficult during the winter. And since phone calls to the outside world are expensive, they mostly talk to one another. Researchers at Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich in Germany wanted to find out whether these conditions would change how people talk.

The researchers asked a group of 26 people to record themselves talking every few weeks during a six-month stay at Antarctica’s Rothera Research Station. The group included scientists, a chef, an engineer, and a plumber. All of them were told to say the same 29 English words each time they recorded. When the researchers analyzed the recordings, they found very subtle changes in the way these words were being pronounced over time. They also found that the 26 Antarctic residents were beginning to pronounce these words more similarly to one another, suggesting that a new accent was forming.

Researchers say that a couple of factors probably influenced the new accent. In addition to being isolated, the group members came from different parts of the world, and each person added their own flavor to the way English was being spoken. People who move to a new city do this as well. They begin to speak more like the city’s population, but they also influence the accents heard in the city with their own native accent. That’s why local accents change over time.

The Antarctica participants didn’t notice that their accents were changing—and according to researchers, that’s how accent formation works. It happens very slowly. According to Jonathan Harrington, a professor of phonetics and speech processing at Ludwig-Maximillians-University of Munich, a new accent isn’t usually detectable until the next generation begins to speak.

“For accents to develop to the point where they are noticeable, it really takes a generational change,” Harrington told the BBC. “Children are very good imitators, so that process of memorizing each other’s speech is magnified in children. If the [people in Antarctica] were to have children, like the settlers on the Mayflower when they went to America, the accent would become more stable.”

Since Antarctica doesn’t have a permanent human population, its accent will never fully develop. Still, researchers were fascinated to hear its birth.

NEWS EXTRA

Antarctic Slang

Against a snowy backdrop, a silhouette says he is hoping for a dingle day, while a second silhouette is confused.

Antarctica Image: © Linda/adobe.stock.com, Silhouettes: © Arcady/adobe.stock.com

The researchers also found that the temporary population of Rothera Research Station invented some new words and phrases. A “dingle day” is clear and sunny.

Did You Know?

Vostok Research Station on a snowy landscape.

Josh Landis/National Science Foundation

The lowest recorded temperature on Earth is -128.6 degrees Fahrenheit (-89.2 degrees Celsius). It was measured at Vostok Research Station (seen here) in Antarctica on July 21, 1983.

Same Language, Different Words

People influence not just their neighbors’ accents but their words as well. Many of the first settlers in what is now the United States were from England. While English is still the most common language in the U.S., American English has evolved to be somewhat different from British English. Here are a few examples.

A table shows American English words side by side with the equivalent British English words.

Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

The Frozen Continent

People in an inflatable vessel approach a giant glacier.

© Hel080808/Dreamstime.com

Life in Antarctica can be tough, even for penguins. Learn more about Earth’s southernmost continent at Britannica.

WORD OF THE DAY

enunciate

PART OF SPEECH:

verb

Definition:

: to pronounce words or parts of words clearly

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In Case You Missed It

Archaeologists found a 12-sided object dating back to ancient Rome. They don’t know what it was used for.
May 20, 2024
A new sculpture features a pedestal with nothing on top. It was designed that way for a reason.
May 15, 2024
Seventeen-year-old Jakob Thompson saved a swimmer from drowning in a dangerous inlet.
May 13, 2024
Hazel Ying Lee was the first Asian American female pilot.
May 8, 2024

Fighting to Belong

The cover of Fighting to Belong is next to headshots of Amy Chu, Alexander Chang, and Louie Chin.

Fighting to Belong

A new graphic novel tells little-known stories about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

The cover of Fighting to Belong is next to headshots of Amy Chu, Alexander Chang, and Louie Chin.
Third State Books/The Asian American Foundation; Third State Books/Amy Chu, Alexander Chang, Louie Chin; Photo illustration Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

(Clockwise from left) Amy Chu, Alexander Chang, and Louie Chin created the graphic novel Fighting to Belong.

Did you know that Filipino people first arrived in what’s now the United States sometime in the 18th or early 19th century? These early settlers had left the Philippines to serve as sailors and servants aboard Spanish trading ships. At some point, they escaped to North America, where they established the fishing village of Saint Malo along the shores of Lake Borgne in what is now Louisiana. The town would survive into the 20th century.

If you haven’t heard this story, you’re not alone. According to The Asian American Foundation (TAAF), three in 10 Americans can’t name one historical event involving Asian Americans. A new series of graphic novels is meant to help address this problem.

In the first volume of Fighting to Belong, which was released in February, a group of middle school students travel through time and witness important events in the history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, including the founding of Saint Malo. Volumes 2 and 3 will be available in September 2024 and January 2025. All three volumes will be as colorful and compelling as any comic book because they’re written by comic book authors.

The series was written by Amy Chu and Alexander Chang. Chu is no stranger to the genre—she’s written comic books and TV shows for DC, Marvel, and Netflix and dreamed up storylines for Wonder Woman, Ant-Man, and Iron Man. Louie Chin provided the illustrations for the series.

“With these books, I hope kids and their parents learn that superheroes are real people in history who fought for the rights we have today,” said Chu.

TAAF said the graphic novels aim to do more than just teach about events. Since their history is not widely known in the United States, Asian Americans often get left out of the American story, as if their voices and cultures have been silenced. This can lead to prejudice and discrimination.

We believe education is the long-term solution to fight hate, and our hope is that when students see themselves in history books and their peers learn about these stories in class, we can create a sense of belonging and shared humanity,” said Norman Chen, the chief executive officer of TAAF.

Did You Know?

Thought bubbles with Amy Chu’s comic books surround a pensive looking Chu.

Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0), Marvel Entertainment; Photo illustration Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Amy Chu was in her 40s when she took a class on comic book writing and discovered she was good at it. Before this, she started a magazine about Asian Americans and worked as a business consultant.

AAPI Contributions

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made incredible contributions to the growth and development of the United States. Here are just a few.

White and Chinese workers pose for a photo at a gold mining site.
Courtesy of the California History Room, California State Library, Sacramento, California

White and Chinese miners pose at a California gold mining operation in 1852.

Working the Gold Rush. When gold was discovered in California in 1848, Chinese immigrants were among those who rushed into the area in the hopes of getting rich. After the U.S. started requiring all non-U.S. citizens pay a tax, many of the Chinese miners relocated to San Francisco, where they founded the first “Chinatown.” The laundries, restaurants, and other businesses operated by Chinese Americans would become an important part of the city’s economy.

Farming the Land. In the early 20th century, immigrants from the Punjab region of India began farming California’s fertile valleys. Many started out working on other people’s land before saving or borrowing money to obtain their own. Punjabi farmers cultivated peaches, walnuts, and rice, helping to make California an agricultural powerhouse.
A plaque says Hawai’i Sons of the Civil War and includes a description of their service.
Joel Bradshaw
This plaque, located at the National Memorial Cemetery in Honolulu, Hawai’i, commemorates the Hawaiians who fought in the American Civil War.

Serving in the Civil War. Native Hawaiians were among those who enlisted to serve in the U.S. Civil War (1861–1865). At the time, Hawai‘i was its own nation, ruled by a king. But Hawaiians took great interest in the war, and most of them supported the Union (the North) in its fight against the Confederacy (the South). Historians have found evidence that dozens of Native Hawaiians enlisted in the Union Army and Navy.

Inventing the N95. Experts say the N95 mask is a lifesaver in the fight to prevent the spread of airborne viruses like the one that causes COVID-19 because it traps viruses and other particles before they can reach the wearer. The N95 was invented by Peter Tsai, a scientist who arrived in the United States from Taiwan in 1981.
Side by side images of 19th century Chinese workers on railroad tracks and a Chinese worker outside of a tunnel.

Alfred A. Hart/Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (LC-DIG-stereo-1s00618, LC-DIG-stereo-1s00553)

Laborers from China built most of the transcontinental railroad.
Building the Railroad. In the 1860s, the United States built the transcontinental railroad, which connected the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and made it easier to transport goods and people across the country. Laborers from China completed about 80 and 90 percent of the construction.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Different AAPI faces flash on and off the screen.
© LeoPatrizi—E+/Getty Images, © Ashwin Kharidehal Abhirama, Xin Hua, Belnieman, Goncalo Ferreira, Wong Sze Yuen, Godsandkings, Imtmphoto, Mr. Namart Pieamsuwan/Dreamstime.com; Animation Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. You can read more about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, from Olivia Rodrigo to Corky Lee, at Britannica.

WORD OF THE DAY

chronicle

PART OF SPEECH:

noun

Definition:
: a description of events in the order that they happened
Definitions provided by
Merriam-Webster Logo

Criss Cross

See if you can figure out where all the comic book characters fit into the grid.

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A Rope-Climbing Record

A woman climbs a rope that is hanging from the Eiffel Tower.

A Rope-Climbing Record

Anouk Garnier of France set a world record when she climbed a rope to the second level of the Eiffel Tower.

A woman climbs a rope that is hanging from the Eiffel Tower.

© Stephane de Sakutin—AFP/Getty Images

Anouk Garnier reached the second level of the Eiffel Tower and set a record.

If you’re going to try to break the world rope climbing record, why not do it in the middle of a busy city? Anouk Garnier of France climbed a rope 361 feet (110 meters) to the second level of Paris’s Eiffel Tower in a quest to make the record books—and to raise money for cancer research. 

“My dream has come true. It’s magical,” Garnier told reporters after the climb. “If there was one thing I never doubted, it was that I was going to do it.”

Garnier, a two-time world obstacle course champion, started rope climbing in 2022 because she wanted to try something new. When she learned that Ida Mathilde Steensgaard of Denmark set the women’s rope climbing record by climbing 85 feet (26 meters) at the Copenhagen Opera House, she thought she might be able to reach even greater heights.

“I said to myself, 26 meters isn’t that far. What monument could I climb?” Garnier told Agence France-Presse. She set her sights on the Eiffel Tower, training for a year before the big event.

A comparison of the heights of the Statue of Liberty, Big Ben, and the Eiffel Tower with illustrations.

© Bazuzzza/Dreamstime.com; Infographic Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Anouk Garnier climbed higher than the Statue of Liberty or Big Ben!

During her training period, Garnier began collecting donations online to support a charity called the League Against Cancer, which supports and provides treatment to people who are fighting cancer. Garnier’s mother has been diagnosed with the disease.

Garnier’s Eiffel Tower climb broke not only Steensgaard’s record but also the world record, previously held by South Africa’s Thomas Van Tonder, who climbed 295 feet (90 meters) in 2020.

“I made history, and this is crazy!” Garnier told France 24 News. 

In May, Garnier will carry the Olympic torch in Marseille, France, as it makes its way to Paris, the host city of the Summer 2024 Olympic Games. She intends to continue competing in obstacle courses…but she’s also looking around for another challenge. 

NEWS EXTRA

Here Come the Cicadas!

A map of the United States with the locations of the two broods indicated along with an inset of cicadas on a tree.

© Natureheart/Dreamstime.com; Photo composite Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Will the 2024 cicadas emerge where you live? Use this map to find out.

If you live in parts of the Southern and Midwestern United States, you can expect things to get loud. As summer approaches, trillions of cicadas will emerge from the ground, shed their exoskeletons, and take to the skies to mate. The males will make their presence known by producing a cacophonous mating call.

Periodical cicadas emerge only every 13 or 17 years, depending on the brood, or group. A 13-year brood called Brood XIX will appear in late April or early May, while a 17-year brood called Brood XIII will surface in mid-May. The adults will die soon after mating, but their offspring will go underground to begin the cycle all over again.

Check out a recent edition of In the News for more details!

Did You Know?

Five different obstacle course challenges are shown.

© UIPM World Pentathlon/Filip Komorous, © UIPM World Pentathlon/Augustas Didžgalvis; Photo composite Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Obstacle course racing will be included in the 2028 Summer Olympics as part of an event called the modern pentathlon. In addition to getting through obstacles, pentathlon athletes will face swimming, laser shooting, running, and fencing competitions.

Race to the Top

A young man climbs up a wall that is mounted to scaffolding.

© Pablo Vera—AFP/Getty Images

Sam Watson (shown here at the Pan American Games in 2023) will be one to watch at the 2024 Olympics.

Climbing is challenging enough, so imagine racing another climber to the top of a wall. In the sport of speed climbing, Sam Watson is the man to beat. On April 5, the 18-year-old American set two speed climbing world records in a single day. That is, he set one world record and then immediately shattered it with a new one!

Facing a 49-foot (15-meter) wall, Watson completed his first ascent in 4.85 seconds and his second in 4.79 seconds. He broke the previous record of 4.90 seconds, set by Veddriq Leonardo of Indonesia in April 2023.

Speed climbing made its Olympic debut in 2021 at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. Watson will compete at the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris. Will he set another record?

The Highest Climb

A group of climbers with oxygen tanks and other gear approach the summit of Mount Everest.

© Pemba Dorje Sherpa—AFP/STR/Getty Images

What’s the ultimate climbing experience? For many, it’s scaling Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak. Those who attempt to climb Everest face biting winds, bitter cold, and the perils of low oxygen.

You can learn more about Mount Everest at Britannica.

WORD OF THE DAY

stalwart

PART OF SPEECH:

adjective

Definition:

: physically strong

Definitions provided by
Merriam-Webster Logo

Word Search

All the words in this puzzle describe moving up an object. Can you find them?

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A Generous Gift

Cherry blossoms frame a view of the Jefferson Memorial.