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IELTS Academic Reading: The Ins and Outs of Rising Sea Levels

Daniel_editor 20 November, 2019 1

You are going to read a text and then answer 14 questions.

You have 20 minutes to do this. This time has already started.

Scientists have long since established that due to human activity the average temperature of the planet is rising, which causes a concurrent rise in sea levels. While some may argue that rising sea levels are a minor concern, future projections concerning global temperatures and sea levels indicate that even a small amount of warming can lead to widespread destruction in coastal areas, including the sites of many of the world’s major cities. In order to minimise the potential damage, some states and municipalities have already put plans in motion to mitigate the most severe effects of rising sea levels. However, many scientists and politicians have warned that without drastic change, many coastal areas will be effectively uninhabitable by the end of the 21st century.

Water covers about 71 percent of the earth’s surface. At present, 97 per cent of water is found in the oceans, with the majority of the remaining 3 per cent contained in glaciers and polar ice. Only a tiny fraction of the planet’s water is found in rivers, lakes and underground aquifers. Throughout history, these proportions have fluctuated with the earth’s climate: as temperatures fall, more ice is locked into glaciers and ice sheets, and sea levels fall. The opposite is true when temperatures rise: glaciers and polar ice melt, releasing water into the oceans and causing sea levels to rise. The most recent glacial period reached its peak about 26,500 years ago. At that time, some 26 million square kilometres of ice covered large parts of every continent on Earth, and the global climate was colder and drier. As so much of the planet’s water was enclosed in ice, sea level was more than 100 metres lower than it is today, with more land accessible to humans than nowadays. When the world slowly warmed over the following millennia, those lands were flooded by rising sea levels and eventually disappeared beneath the ocean’s surface.

If the rise and fall of sea levels is a natural occurrence, what makes it different now? Since 1900, the average sea level has risen by nearly 20 centimetres, whereas in the previous 2,000 years sea levels were almost static. Additionally, the rate at which these changes occur is getting faster: from around 1.5 millimetres a year between 1900 and 1990, to on average 3.2 millimetres per year since 1993, and measurements show that this trend is set to continue.

Scientists agree that climate change is principally driven by human activity, and in particular by the consumption of fossil fuels—coal, oil and natural gas—that has risen exponentially over the last hundred years. When burned, these fuels release carbon dioxide, which helps to trap heat in the atmosphere, creating the so-called ‘greenhouse effect’. Due to the higher global temperatures thus caused, glaciers and ice sheets melt at an increased rate. Large ice sheets and glaciers melt in three ways: from the top because of warmer air, from the sides as parts break off, and from below due to a higher sea temperature. The meltwater thereby produced increases the total volume of water in the earth’s oceans, causing a rise in sea levels. It has been established that one-third of the rise in sea level to date is due to the melting of polar ice, and one-third is due to the melting of glaciers and other land-based ice. The remaining third is attributed to thermal expansion: as temperatures rise, the water in the oceans becomes less dense.

According to climate research, for every 1 degree Celsius of warming, sea levels will rise by around 2.3 metres. Scientists expect that if carbon dioxide emissions continue at current rates, temperatures will rise by approximately 4 degrees Celsius by the year 2100. To put this in perspective, the concomitant rise in sea levels will flood coastal land which is presently home to over 400 million people. Coastlines will be reshaped and the water will flood dry areas and erode beaches, cliffs and dunes along shorelines. Additionally, warmer oceans will generate more dangerous and powerful storms—including hurricanes and typhoons—which are projected to become around 10 per cent stronger on average over the next hundred years. Stronger storms can reach further inland, possibly causing flooding and damage even far from coastlines.

Rising sea levels are inevitable; the process cannot be stopped, so humans must find a way to adapt. Reducing our consumption of fossil fuels can slow the rate of global warming, giving future generations more time to adapt to changing conditions. A partial solution to the loss of habitable land near the coast is for people to live further inland; however, it is not practical to simply abandon coastal cities, which include some of the most populous urban areas in the world today. Another option is to protect cities from flooding by building artificial defences. Some low-lying countries—such as the Netherlands—already have experience in fighting back against the encroachment of the tides. There, man-made barriers effectively turn the part of the sea into a lake, protecting the land behind from sea level changes as well as from flooding due to storms. Such innovations could be useful for areas such as Shanghai, Florida, New York, Osaka, and large parts of South East Asia. Building sea walls will not suffice; large buildings need floodgates, tidal valves can be installed in drainpipes to prevent water from flowing the wrong way, and river walls can prevent flooding when water levels rise. The construction of new buildings in coastal areas may be supported by poles or floating foundations.

IELTS Academic Reading: Osamu Tezuka—Father of Manga

Daniel_editor 20 November, 2019 2

You are going to read a text and then answer 14 questions.

You have 20 minutes to do this. This time has already started.

Japanese art knows many forms, but in modern culture none is more instantly recognisable than manga: a type of comic famous for its black-and-white printing, right-to-left reading direction, and characters portrayed with large, child-like eyes. Besides books, many manga magazines are published in Japan, each issue containing episodes of different stories which are serialised over several weeks or months. While manga have an obvious appeal for children, they are possibly even more popular among adults; manga can touch on many themes, including business, sport, or even philosophy. Manga in animation form is called anime, which was originally produced for commercials. Both forms have been translated into many languages all over the world.

It is believed that manga drawing dates back to as early as the 12th century; however, the specific term has only been used for around three hundred years. Two distinct genres exist: firstly, there are those writers—mangaka—that focus the story on ancient Japanese traditions; secondly, there are those that prefer to intertwine foreign influences into their stories, a style which became more prevalent after World War Two, when American influence was on the ascendancy in Japan. Widely considered as ‘The Father of Manga’, Osamu Tezuka is one of the founders of the second genre.

Osamu Tezuka was born in 1928 in Osaka, Japan. His parents were upper middle-class, and had a great interest in art; his mother often took him to the local theatre, specifically to watch all-female musicals. His father had a great appreciation for film and introduced the young Osamu to the works of Walt Disney. Both greatly affected Tezuka’s later work and he recognized the nostalgia he feels when thinking about these childhood experiences. At a very young age, around his second year at elementary school, Tezaku started drawing comics and used up all his school notebooks to do so. He continued inventing characters and storylines throughout his school years.

During World War Two, he became a medical student, in part due to the shortage of trained doctors in Japan at that time. He graduated in 1952, but never made use of his degree as by that time he had begun to publish his first manga. His medical education did however help him create one of his most famous characters, Black Jack, a doctor with a strong sense of justice. His publishing debut was a short manga in Mainichi Shimbun newspaper in 1946 and a year later he published his first manga book, ‘New Treasure Island’, which became such a success that manga that it inspired a nationwide obsession with all things manga, which parallels the popularity of comic books in the USA around the same time.

Having lived through the war, Tezuka felt the need to proclaim peace and respect for living beings in his work, as he realized he might be able to have an influence on his readers. He created ‘Jungle Emperor’ in 1951, which talks about animals in Africa trying to find a way to live together, and ‘Astroboy’, which deals with a child robot—the title character—fighting for peace. The latter gained huge international fame and was made into a series, which ran from 1952 to 1968; it was also adapted into an animated series and several short films. ‘Feniks’ was another manga created with a more profound message: it developed a narrative about humans searching for the phoenix and immortality throughout the ages. Tezuka started working on this series in 1954 and finished it in 1988, calling it his life’s work.

Not only was Tezuka concerned with philosophical themes and the promotion of peace and respect between people, he was also a great advocate of freedom of speech, which resulted in him creating the magazine COM in 1967. COM published manga that incorporated adult subjects such as erotica, which many mainstream magazines refused to include.

In 1961, Tezuka started to get involved in the anime industry and founded his own production company, Mushi Productions. In 1963 he released the animated version of his legendary Astro Boy, which was the first Japanese animation to be dubbed into English for American television. Many of Tezuka’s other successful manga were soon to be made into animated series, including the first Japanese anime in colour: Jungle Emperor, with the beloved character Kimba the White Lion. In 1968, Tezuka founded the animation studio Tezuka Productions. Besides converting his manga into anime, a lot of Tezuka’s work was adapted into theatre, spin-offs and puppet shows, and also made into toys.

Throughout his career, Tezuka won many awards, and publishing company Shueisha even named an award after him: the Tezuka Award, which is intended to sponsor new manga artists, has been awarded annually since 1971. Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper, started offering the Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize in 1997 to manga artists that follow his specific style of manga. In his hometown in 1994, a museum was opened to honour him, and in 1997 his characters were issued on stamps.

This enormously influential manga artist of post-war times died of cancer in 1989. In his life, he produced over 150,000 pages of manga spread out over more than 700 volumes in his typical style of western literary influences blended with Japanese tradition. One of his signature features—drawing characters with improbably large eyes—has become a staple for manga in general. Many believe he was responsible for the explosive growth in popularity of Japanese manga, inspiring a new generation of manga artists around the world.

IELTS Academic Reading: NASA Inventions for Everyday Use

Daniel_editor 20 November, 2019 3

You are going to read a text and then answer 14 questions.

You have 20 minutes to do this. This time has already started.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), established in 1958, may be associated with historic events like the first manned Moon landing in 1969, but its influence on the world extends far beyond what most people might assume. In its field, NASA has made incredible breakthroughs; solving the problems posed by manned space flight required the collaboration of scientists from many different fields: astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, and mechanics, among others. NASA is also involved in research into climate and global warming, but NASA’s most pervasive influence comes from its Technology Utilization Program, an initiative that helps companies create so-called ‘spin-offs’: space science applied to commercial products. Of all the patents issued in the USA since 1958, around one in one thousand was generated by a NASA product or invention. Many people might be unaware that many of the products and materials around them were originally developed for the purposes of space travel.

Firstly, Many NASA inventions have been adapted for medical use. For example, NASA transformed a device used to measure the temperature of stars and planets into an infrared ear thermometer. The advantage of this technology is that it measures temperature much faster than standard thermometers, and it essentially eliminates the possibility of infections, because there is no physical contact. NASA contributed to research into high-intensity red light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which were used in space to grow plants. On Earth, they are used in a medical device that is able to temporarily relieve muscle or joint pain, used by patients with arthritis, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, among others. Finally, so as to keep track of astronauts’ health conditions, NASA researchers developed a computerized pump that monitors glucose levels and inserts insulin when necessary. This allows diabetics to keep their blood sugar within safe levels, while reducing the need to self-inject with insulin, which many find inconvenient and uncomfortable.

However, NASA-inspired products are not only found in hospitals. The mattresses in most modern beds are produced with a material called temper foam or memory foam, which was originally designed as protective gear for aeroplane pilots to increase survivability in case of accidents. This material has also been adapted for use in helmets, car seats and shoes amongst others. Additionally, in order to insulate spacesuits against the extreme temperatures in space, NASA came up with an aerogel-based reflective insulating material generally referred to as ‘radiant barrier’. Mylar is the trade name for the polyester film derived from NASA’s versatile and extremely effective technology, and is used in the production of refrigerators, camping equipment, firefighting gear, emergency blankets and acoustic damping insulation.

Slippery surfaces have been made safer thanks to NASA’s invention of safety grooving: corrugations cut in concrete to increase friction, initially developed to reduce aircraft accidents on wet runways. This technique has since been applied to highways, animal holding pens, steps and parking lots. Another important safety-related discovery originated from a special mission to land research space probes on Mars: in order to slow the probes in the thin atmosphere of Mars, NASA developed a parachute made of a fibrous rubber material five times stronger than steel. Due to the strength and durability of the material, it was used to produce a new radial tyre expected to last 10,000 miles longer than conventional tyres.

Although NASA did not invent solar power, they did make an important contribution to its development. Solar cells are a vital source of energy for spacecraft as well as high-altitude unmanned aircraft, but conventional solar panels are too heavy for such uses. NASA formed a coalition of 28 organisations and companies to solve this problem, leading to the development of single-crystal silicon solar cells, which provide 50% more power per unit of weight than conventional solar panel technology. These advanced silicon-based cells are now available for home use.

For astronauts living in a spacecraft for months at a time, healthy nutrition is essential. However, food preservation is difficult, and it is in this field that many of NASA’s most widespread discoveries can be found. Firstly, they created the technique of freeze drying, in which foods are cooked, quickly frozen and then slowly heated in a vacuum chamber to remove ice crystals. This results in food which weighs 20% of the original product while keeping over 95% of its nutritional content. Moreover, freeze-dried products do not require special storage, and are stable for long periods of time. Freeze-dried food can now be found in supermarkets, and is also used for meal programs for housebound handicapped or elderly people. Secondly, while NASA researchers were developing ways to use certain algae to create oxygen for space missions, they discovered that some algae contained special nutritional fatty acids which had hitherto only been found in breast milk. As these fatty acids are known to benefit the neural and visual development in babies, they can now be found as an additive in most infant formulas. Finally, concerning food safety, NASA created the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) concept, which prevents food from being infected by potentially fatal pathogens. Nowadays, these ideas have become the basis of official guidelines for the handling of seafood, dairy products, fresh juices and other perishable products.

Water is one of the biggest challenges for manned space missions: water is heavy, and there are limits on how much weight a rocket can lift into space. Therefore, reducing the amount of water taken on spacecraft was a perennial priority for NASA engineers. Consequently, NASA created a water purification system that was able to filter human urine and sweat, thereby providing a constant supply of drinkable water which operated as a mostly closed system—less than 1% of the water is lost in each cycle. Whenever a disaster—for example an earthquake—occurs and clean water is inaccessible, these filters are used to provide survivors with the necessary drinking water. They are also used in remote villages that are not connected to water systems or by hikers and other adventurers, who use them to filter water from rivers or lakes.

IELTS Academic Reading: Mosquitoes—the deadliest animal in the world?

Daniel_editor 20 November, 2019 4

You are going to read a text and then answer 14 questions.

You have 20 minutes to do this. This time has already started.

A. Deadly animals
When you think of the most dangerous animals in the world, what comes to mind? Most people would think of apex predators, such as snakes, crocodiles, lions or sharks. You would not be wrong to think that these animals can present a serious danger to human life; on a yearly basis, snakes are responsible for close to 50,000 deaths, several thousand people are killed by crocodiles, around 70 by lions, and sharks actually only claim about ten lives a year. However, surprising as it may seem, there’s one animal which is far deadlier than all of these predators combined: the mosquito. They kill not with sharp teeth, but because they are vectors of many infectious diseases, causing an estimated 700,000 deaths annually.

B. Mosquito facts
Mosquitoes—the name derives from the Spanish word for ‘small fly’—are known to have existed for around 90 million years; they exist on all continents except Antarctica. At present, around 3500 species have been identified, all belonging to the Culicidae insect family. All flies, including mosquitoes, have a four-stage lifecycle: mosquitoes hatch from eggs as larvae, and live in water for a few days or weeks. Mature larvae form pupae, from which the adult mosquito emerges. Adult mosquitoes mostly feed on plant nectar—although females also need to feed on the blood of other animals—and have a life span of two weeks to six months.

C. Mosquito bites
Generally speaking, mosquitoes are crepuscular: they are most active around sunrise and sunset. All mosquitoes have a proboscis—an elongated mouthpart for feeding—which in most cases is used like a straw to drink nectar and plant juices. However, in certain species, the proboscis of the female is also used to pierce the skin of larger animals in order to drink blood. In many mosquito species, the females need certain proteins, which can only be found in animal blood, in order to produce eggs. When feeding in this way, the female mosquito will inject saliva into the host; the saliva contains enzymes which help to prevent the blood from clotting. The host’s immune system will recognise the saliva as a foreign substance and will produce histamines in response, causing swelling and an itchy feeling around the bite.

D. Transmission of diseases
When mosquitoes bite, they inject saliva into the capillaries just below the skin. In this way, viruses or parasites can be introduced into the host’s bloodstream. Mosquitoes’ have evolved specialised immune systems which allow them to carry many viruses and pathogenic parasites without experiencing any ill effects. Moreover, mosquitoes are now more widespread than at any time in human history due to two factors: climate change and international travel. Climate change has allowed mosquitoes to survive in regions which were formerly too cold, while international travel has facilitated the spread of mosquitoes to other countries and continents. The human cost is evident: dengue fever is over 30 times more common than it was 30 years ago, and is now endemic in many countries which had never seen a single case until recently. Diseases like Zika or West Nile virus, which were formerly localised to relatively small parts of the world, are now found around the globe.

There are three genera of mosquito primarily responsible for the spread of common human diseases: the Aedes mosquito, the Culex mosquito and the Anopheles mosquito.

E. Aedes
Serving as a vector for many viral infections, such as dengue fever, yellow fever, chikungunya and the Zika virus, the Aedes mosquito presents a risk to human health in many parts of the globe. Originally, this genus was only found in tropical and sub-tropical areas of the Earth, but has spread to other parts of the world since the Middle Ages. They bite most commonly during the daytime, although they prefer shady places and cloudy conditions. They typically have white stripes—unlike other genera—which makes them easy to recognize.

F. Culex
Several species of the Culex genus transmit arbovirus infections such as the West Nile virus and some forms of encephalitis; nematode infections such as filariasis; and protozoan parasites such as avian malaria. In contrast to the diurnal Aedes mosquitoes, they are mostly active at night. They can be found in most regions of the world, although they have less tolerance for cold than some other common types of mosquito.

G. Anopheles
The Anopheles genus consists of 460 recognized species, of which more than a hundred are able to transmit malaria, which is responsible for over half of all human deaths caused by mosquito-borne disease. Although this genus is able to live in colder climates, the malaria parasite is mostly found in tropical regions, particularly in Africa, Central and South America, and South Asia. Following an eradication programme in the 1940s, the malaria parasite—although not the Anopheles mosquito—was eliminated from Europe, North America, the Caribbean and parts of Asia.

H. Protection from mosquito-borne diseases
There are many measures that can protect people against mosquito-borne diseases. As mosquitoes have a powerful sense of smell, using repellents which make the skin smell unpleasant to insects can be an effective means of avoiding bites. Some diseases can be prevented by vaccinations, like yellow fever; malaria can be avoided in some instances by taking antimalarial drugs. Governments sometimes carry out eradication campaigns, which generally involve spraying potential mosquito breeding grounds with insecticides. However, some mosquitoes have developed a resistance against specific insecticides or repellents, and these chemical-based methods are increasingly seen as ineffective. Other preventive measures are based on the idea of keeping mosquitoes away from the skin; these include wearing long-sleeved shorts and trousers, using a mosquito net over the bed, using window and door screens or staying in air-conditioned rooms. Finally, understanding and carrying out further research on how mosquitoes themselves avoid infection might help the process of finding adequate treatment for humans that will remain effective for the long term.

IELTS Academic Reading: The Development of the Indonesian Language

Daniel_editor 20 November, 2019 5

You are going to read a text and then answer 14 questions.

You have 20 minutes to do this. This time has already started.

With a population of over 260,000,000 people distributed over around 17,000 islands with a total surface area of nearly 2,000,000 square kilometres, it is perhaps to be expected that the establishment of a national language has been a complicated process for Indonesia. At present, Bahasa Indonesia (which literally means ‘the language of Indonesia’) is taught at all schools and spoken by most citizens, although not always as a first language. It is considered ‘the language of unity’, which closely resembles the motto of the country: ‘Unity in Diversity’. Bahasa Indonesia is far from the only language spoken in Indonesia; there are 742 recognised languages and distinct dialects. All Indonesian languages, including Bahasa Indonesia, belong to the Austronesian language family, meaning they have the same roots as other Asian and Pacific languages such as Tagalog, Malay, Tongan, Fijian, and some indigenous languages of Taiwan. After Bahasa Indonesia, the most widely spoken language is Javanese, spoken by around 30% of the population, which is mostly used on the island of Java, where Jakarta—the capital city—is located.

Due to Indonesia’s abundant natural resources and strategic location on maritime trade routes, it has been an important trading hub throughout recorded history. Many goods were traded: spices, rice, precious metals such as gold and copper, and exotic animal products, such as ivory or rare bird feathers. Indonesia’s status as a trading nation exposed the nation to various religions; Buddhist and Hindu influences appear from the 7th century onwards, while in the 9th century traders from Arabic nations introduced Islam to the country. In order to communicate with people from many other parts of the world, traders used a simplified version of Malay, also called Pasar-Malay (‘market Malay’), and this exposure to foreign cultures has left traces on the Indonesian language which can still be seen today. Words such as ‘pisau’ or ‘lumpia’—meaning ‘knife’ and spring roll’ respectively—originate from Chinese, while Arabic influences can be seen in words like ‘mesjid’ (mosque) or ‘kursi’ (chair). Even though Hinduism and Buddhism are not dominant religions any more, some Sanskrit loanwords are still intact in modern Indonesian, like ‘cinta’ (love), or ‘kepala’ (head).

Indonesia’s colonial history is turbulent, with many European countries exerting an influence on the country to varying degrees at different times. This has also shaped the evolution of the Indonesian language, the most prominent example being the use of Latin script; prior to the arrival of Europeans, most local languages used their own writing systems. The Portuguese arrived in Indonesia in the 16th century, attracted by the lucrative possibilities for spice trading, and used Malay as the official language of commerce. They were closely followed by the Dutch, who established the headquarters of their EastIndia Company in Batavia, now known as Jakarta. Following in the footsteps of the Portuguese, the Dutch also used Malay for all official communications. Many loanwords from these foreign invaders are still used today: from Portuguese: ‘bendera’ (flag) and ‘sepatu’ (shoe); and from Dutch: ‘afspraak’ (arrangement) and ‘belasting’ (tax). It is estimated that around 10,000 Indonesian words are loanwords from Dutch. In the second half of the 20th century, many English words were added to the language, especially those which describe new technologies.

In the early 20th century, resistance against Dutch rule intensified. The independence movement became increasingly prominent and declared in 1928 that there should be ‘one country, one Indonesia’. Included in this declaration was the idea that there should be one national language, with Malay—which had previously been used by the European colonists for trade and administration—as the basis, and foreign loanwords integrated to provide any terminology which Malay lacked. Indonesia thus took a different path to most former colonies, who tended to adopt as their official language either their most prominent local language, or the language of their former colonists. Indonesia, by contrast, effectively officialised a foreign language which had been a part of life for many centuries. In the years that followed, the Indonesian language became more clearly defined, with standard grammar rules and a dictionary. In 1945, Indonesia was liberated from Japanese occupation after three years of foreign rule, and Bahasa Indonesia was officially declared the national language of the nation.

Only a small portion of Indonesians (around 1 in 5) speak Indonesian at home as a first language. However, in schools, the media, government bodies and workplaces, Indonesian is the main language used. In spoken Indonesian, many people include grammatical structures and slang terms from their local language, meaning that Indonesian might sound noticeably different in different areas. A great quantity of slang words are adopted from the Betawi language, a local language spoken in Jakarta. However, formal written Indonesian, as used in literature and the media, is standardised and is used in the same way across the country.