Text #13 Virgin Galactic’s Space-Grazing Aircraft is Ready for Liftoff



 

Fifty thousand feet over the Californian desert, the world is a vast expanse of blue with a drab carpet of khaki far, far below. Pilot Peter Siebold sets the craft’s trim to 18 degrees, pushes the stick forward, and counts down: “Three. Two. One. Release.”

    The mother ship rises above us as we drift downward for a few seconds. Siebold pulls the yoke back and flips a toggle on the center console. Then: Bang! The hybrid rocket motor ignites and we’re a missile shooting toward the stars at more than three times the speed of sound. The sky becomes black. Then it gets weirder: Siebold flicks the yoke and the vehicle whips around 180 degrees. We’re still heading straight up, but the ship is flying backward. It’s like looking out the windshield of a car thаt’s floored in reverse, except my view is 1,500 miles in each direction, from the Sea of Cortez to San Francisco Bay.

    My attention wanders for a split second and the verisimilitude evaporates – seeing walls and ceiling and my blue jeans jerks me back to reality. I’m not in the sky but in a hangar at the headquarters of Scaled Composites in Mojave, California, sitting in a flight simulator for the firm’s latest spacecraft, SpaceShipTwo. If all goes well, SpaceShipTwo will be the commercial version of the radical rocket that won the $10 million X Prize in 2004 after it made two flights to the edge of space in a 14-day period. Richard Branson licensed the technology for Virgin Galactic, his space tourism gambit, which aims to start regular visits to the thermosphere by 2012.

    After all of the prize money and media coverage, routine space tourism – this grand flight of human fancy – seems about to happen. SpaceShipTwo will be carried aloft by a mother ship, WhiteKnightTwo, which has been flying for nearly a year. The first SS2 is under construction and slated to begin flight tests in early 2010. Virgin has already sold $60 million in tickets to its first 300 passengers, аnd a taxpayer-funded spaceport is under construction near Las Cruces, New Mexico.

 

Circle the correct letter A, B, C, or D:

1. Carl Hoffman flew …

A. 50,000 feet over the California desert.

B. to the edge of space.

C. in a simulation of space travel.

D. at more than three times the speed of sound.

 

2. The pilot counted down …

A. before taking off from the ground.

B. before reaching 50,000 feet.

C. before separating from the mother ship.

D. before turning backwards.

 

3. The strangest part for him was …

A. when the sky turned black.

B. realizing that he was wearing jeans.

C. flying faster than sound.

D. flying in reverse.

 

4. SpaceShipTwo

A. has been making flights into space since 2004.

B. will be the commercial version of a rocket that won a $10 million dollar prize.

C. will make flights for only a year.

D. cost $60 million dollars per flight.

 

5. The first SS2

A. was being made when the article was written.

B. has already been tested.

C. has sold out of tickets.

D. will cost $60 million dollars.

Text #14 October, 1964

 

    The Yankee players themselves had come to believe in their invincibility. They were not merely the best, they were the toughest players as well: they almost always won the big games, and because they had played in so many big games, they were therefore better prepared for the terrible pressures of a pennant race or a World Series. It was simply part of being a Yankee. All the best young players, it was presumed, wanted to play for this, the most celebrated sports franchise in America, not only because of the pride of playing with the best but also because of the lure of so many World Series bonus checks. In 1963, after Steve Hamilton joined the Yankees as a relief pitcher, Clete Boyer, the third basemen, showed him his World Series ring. As Hamilton admired it, Boyer said, “Listen, Steve, the good thing about the Yankees is that you don’t just get a ring for yourself. You get yours the first year, then you get one the next year for your wife, and the year after that for your oldest kid, and after that for your other kids.” Boyer himself already had four World Series rings. Just as Boyer predicted, Steve Hamilton got his first ring that year. The rings, along with the World Series checks, were built into the expectations of being a Yankee in those years. It was part of the lore of the team. Charlie Silvera, the Yankee backup catcher for much of that period, cashed seven World Series checks for some $50,000 (the actual total was $46,337.45) - a huge amount of money in that era, particularly for someone who had played in only one World Series game. Silvera would come to refer to the lovely house he bought in suburban San Francisco as “the house that Yogi built,” after the Yankee catcher whom he had played behind all those years.   

 Circle the correct letter A, B, C, or D:

1. Young players wanted to be a Yankee because …

A. they wanted to earn money by being invincible.

B. they wanted to play with Steve Hamilton.

C. they wanted to give their World Series rings to their friends.

D. they wanted to play for the best team and earn bonus checks.

 

2. The word invincible does NOT mean:

A. indestructible

B. unbeatable

C. invisible

D. invulnerable

 

3. Charlie Silvera bought a house he referred to as “the house that Yogi built.” Who was Yogi?

A. A manager

B. A pitcher

C. A third basemen

D. A catcher

 

4. The Yankees believed they were the toughest because …

A. they often won the World Series.

B. they made so much money.

C. they were the most popular baseball team in America.

D. they had so much experience winning games under pressure.

 

5. Charlie Silvera played in …

A. one World Series game.

B. seven World Series games.

C. no World Series games.

D. four World Series games.

 

 

Text #15 A Pound Тоо Dear

Small boats loaded with wares sped to the great liner as she was entering the harbour. Before she had anchored, the men from the boats had climbed on board and the decks were soon covered with colourful rugs from Persia, silks from India, copper coffee pots, and beautiful hand-made silverware. It was difficult not to be tempted. Many of the tourists on board had begun bargaining with the tradesmen, but I decided not to buy anything until I had disembarked.

I had no sooner got off the ship than I was assailed by a man who wanted to sell me a diamond ring. I had no intention of buying one, but I could not conceal the fact that I was impressed by the size of the diamonds. Some of them were as big as marbles. The man went to great lengths to prove that the diamonds were real. As we were walking past a shop, he held a diamond firmly against the window and made a deep impression in the glass. It took me over half an hour to get rid of him.

The next man to approach me was selling expensive pens and watches. I examined one of the pens closely. It certainly looked genuine. At the base of the gold cap, the words 'made in the U.S.A.' had been neatly inscribed. The man said that the pen was worth £10, but as a special favour, he would let me have it for £8. I shook my head and held up a finger indicating that I was willing to pay a pound. Gesticulating wildly, the man acted as if he found my offer outrageous, but he eventually reduced the price to £3. Shrugging my shoulders, I began to walk away when, a moment later, he ran after me and thrust the pen into my hands. Though he kept throwing up his arms in despair, he readily accepted the pound I gave him. I felt especially pleased with my wonderful bargain - until I got back to the ship. No matter how hard I tried, it was impossible to fill this beautiful pen with ink and to this day it has never written a single word!

 

 Circle the correct letter A, B, C, or D:

1. The author was on a …

A. commercial fishing boat.

B. cruise ship.

C. ferry.

D. tradesmen’s ship.

 

2. The author got off the boat to …

A. look for a copper coffee pot.

B. look for a pen.

C. look for a diamond ring.

D. look for souvenirs.

 

3. The diamond seller …

A. scratched the glass of a shop.

B. showed him fake diamonds.

C. didn’t leave for over an hour.

D. was selling long strings of diamonds.

 

4. The author started bargaining for the pen at …

A. 10 pounds.

B. 8 pounds.

C. 3 pounds.

D. 1 pound.

 

5. The title of this story is ‘A Pound Too Dear’ because …

A. the author only had one pound to spend.

B. it shows the importance of the pound.

C. even one pound was too much for the pen.

D. the pen was very important to the author.

 

Text #16Artificial intelligence


The term ‘artificial intelligence’ was first used by Professor John McCarthy in 1956. However, the idea of creating ‘thinking machines’ appears over and over again throughout history. In the 3rd century ВС, a Chinese engineer called Mo Ti made mechanical birds, dragons and soldiers and much later, in 18th century Europe, the nobility were delighted by mechanical figures which moved by clockwork. It seemed that making machines that moved and looked like human beings was easy. The difficult part would be to create a machine that could think like a human being.

When computers appeared in the 1950s, many people thought that it would not be long before these impressive machines started talking, thinking for themselves and taking over the world. People predicted all kinds of things, from robot servants to computerized houses. None of it happened. Despite the billions of dollars and years of research given to developing artificial intelligence, computers are still unable to hold a normal conversation with a human being. In fact, although computers today can process information thousands of times faster than they could fifty years ago, they are only two or three times better at using human language than they were back then. In addition, the huge increase in computer use has proved that today’s computers, with their windows, mice, icons and commands, do not operate in the same way as the human brain. If this were not true, there would be no need for the thousands of tech support staff employed by call centers.

The trouble is that, even though computers can turn speech into text, recognize objects by using cameras, search through endless amounts of data and even use robot mechanisms to move like human beings, they are unable to put all these abilities together and actually think and function like human beings. One of the reasons for this is that scientists still do not know much about how the human brain works, so it is impossible to program computers to copy the brain’s processes. As for language, there is not much hope of computers ever being able to chat with human beings. Human language is complex and does not follow clear enough rules for computers to understand. A machine may be able to work out the grammar of a sentence, but it still cannot understand its meaning. It looks like the science fiction fans who dream of robots which look and act just like us had better keep on dreaming.

 

I True/False:

1 The term “artificial intelligence” was first used by Professor John McCarthy in 1965.

2 In the 3-rd century BC, a Japanese engineer called Mo Ti made mechanical birds.

3 The easy part would be to create a machine that could function like a human being.

4 Computers are still unable to hold a normal conversation with a human being.

5Computers today can process information hundreds of times faster than they could fifty years ago.

6Nowadays computers are only two or three times better at using human language.

 7 Computers can think and function like human beings.

8Scientists still do not know how to program computers.

9 There is much hope of computers being able to chat with human beings.
10 Human language is complex and does not follow enough rules for computers to understand.

 

 


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