lunes, 16 de febrero de 2015

Listening test: News

This week's listening test is a bit more difficult than usual. We are going to practise the heading-matching type of task and to that purpose we will be using authentic news items. Getting a full understanding of the items most probably falls within the advanced level. However, the task just demands that we understand the gist or general idea of the news, and we think that most intermediate students will be capable of obtaining a pass mark (50%) in the activity.

Listen to the news items 1-6 and choose the heading A-I that best corresponds to each. There are two headings you do not need to use. 0 is an example.

A - Astronomical penalty 
B - Communicating with other individuals 
C - Educational benefits 
D - Environment-shaped personality – 0 Example
E - Man-caused tragedy
F - Power revolution 
G - Save the planet
H - Surprising benefits for everyone 
I - Treasure hunt

According to ecologists, having a personality means showing a consistent pattern of behaviour over time. Researchers from the University of Arizona studied colonies of rock ants across the western US, both by following them in the wild and by taking whole colonies back to the lab. They found that certain risky behaviours, like foraging widely for food and responding aggressively to a threat, went together and colonies further north tended to take more of these risks. The study suggests those more adventurous personalities could be an adaptation to the limited window of activity left by the long, snowy northern winter.

Buried beneath the golden sands of Folkestone are 30 tiny pieces of not silver, but gold. It's part of a project by the German artist Michael Sailstorfer, who buried the treasure by hand and there's no map.  There are two sizes – one worth around £250 and the other around £500 – and it's finders keepers for anyone lucky enough to unearth one. Beachcombers with metal detectors are out in force. But the artist has also buried metal washers to try to level the playing field.  It's thought some gold may already have been found, but there's plenty left in this art installation. It's called Folkestone Digs and it's certainly living up to its name.

The agreement involving one of America's biggest banks settles a probe brought by the US Justice Department. It resolves lengthy wrangling over the extent to which Bank of America misled the buyers of its mortgage-backed investments.  This is the latest effort by authorities in the US to hold Wall Street accountable for the bad conduct that led to the financial crisis. And the sums involved here dwarf the $13bn paid by another bank, JP Morgan, to resolve a similar matter. Even though the penalty exceeds Bank of America's entire profits last year, this deal brings a measure of closure. The bank has already paid tens of billions of dollars to settle cases related to the financial crisis, but this was seen as the biggest remaining legal hurdle.

Solar cells convert energy from the Sun into electricity. The researchers have replaced a toxic compound, used to make one type of solar cell, with a chemical that is much cheaper, completely safe and works just as well. The new compound, magnesium chloride, is used to make tofu and is found in bath salts. It's also found in sea water, and so costs much less than the poisonous chemical currently used. Dr Jon Major, who led the research at Liverpool University, believes that the ensuing cost savings have the potential to transform the economics of solar energy.

For many people commuting is a necessary evil. Most see going by car or van as the 'least worst' option. This study by the researchers at the University of East Anglia challenges that assumption. It suggests walking, cycling or travelling by public transport can lift the mood. Crucially, it suggests those who switch from the car to an active commute feel better across a range of psychological measures, including concentration, decision making and the ability to face up to problems. The researchers say policies encouraging people to leave their cars at home could have a dramatic impact on public wellbeing.

Some might say this is the safest bank in the world. It operates inside Peru's largest prison and is run entirely by inmates. This prisoner – convicted of drug trafficking – is the bank manager. It opened its doors about a year ago and has almost 120 customers – all of them are doing time. The idea's to help the men save money, which will come in handy when they're released.

This muffled creak is what researchers heard repeatedly when they listened to giant South American river turtles swimming together. It could help explain how the animals coordinate their behaviour so well in the nesting season, when females gather in large groups at beaches before laying their eggs. The researchers used microphones above and below the water to record the turtles at different stages in the season. And when the newly hatched turtles and adults were together in the river, scientists heard a different sound. This, they think, is parents guiding newly hatched babies on their first migration. The researchers also say that their study shows how vulnerable turtles could be to man-made noise disturbing this quiet but seemingly vital chatter.

A - Astronomical penalty – 2
B - Communicating with other individuals – 6
C - Educational benefits – 5
D - Environment-shaped personality – 0 Example
E - Man-caused tragedy – not used
F - Power revolution – 3
G - Save the planet – not used
H - Surprising benefits for everyone – 4
I - Treasure hunt - 1