Texte în engleză nivel mediu

IT’S ALL IN THE MIND

Millions of people around the world suffer from low self-esteem, which often results in serious eating disorders such as anorexia. Why does this happen? Unfortunately, they are obsessed with their weight or other physical “flaws”. According to psychologist Caroline Hannes, these people are stuck in a vicious circle. “The more they focus on their body, the worse they tend to feel about their looks,” she says.

To have a positive body image requires the understanding that people come in many shapes and sizes, and that physical appearance does not reflect personality or value as a person. “It sounds so incredibly simple and logical,” says Ms. Hannes. But, unfortunately, it isn’t. A recent survey, conducted by the media company AOL (America Online), shows that 60 percent of American women suffer from issues related to body image. And as the age goes down, the numbers go up. Research findings by the children’s advocacy group Common Sense Media show that a staggering 80 percent of 10-year-old girls have been on a diet at some time and feel anxious about their appearance.

But women and girls are not the only ones affected by negative body image. “Today it is more challenging than ever for men and boys to live up to society’s ideas of the real man,” explains body-image expert Mike Larsen. As he sees it, our culture is obsessed with the “macho” stereotype, encouraging men and boys to be toned and muscular. But there is a heavy price to pay, especially since the use of steroids and other image-enhancing drugs is on the rise. “These guys don’t always realize that steroids may improve their looks in the short run, but over a period of time, they can do a lot of damage to the body,” he says.

Where is this all coming from? Why are people so obsessed with their looks? Ms. Hannes has an interesting view on this. She believes that negative body image starts at home and is then reinforced by the media. According to Ms. Hannes, parents who are constantly stressed out over their own appearance negatively affect their children’s body image. “These children learn very early on in life that there is a standard of ideal beauty and that their sense of self-worth depends on attaining that goal,” she says. And once these dynamics are set in motion, the media strengthens their insecurities by inundating them with photoshopped images of models who presumably have the “perfect body”. “It’s a set-up for self-hatred,” says Ms. Hannes, who then warns that these negative feelings can easily spiral downwards with devastating results.

So what can be done? Some schools in Britain are now offering courses on body image with promising results. In these courses students discuss ideals of beauty, unhealthy interactions with peers – such as making negative comments about weight – and focus on techniques for boosting mood and self-esteem. In addition, they learn about healthy eating habits and how to keep physically fit. “Programs like these should be welcomed,” says Ms. Clarkson, who teaches one of the courses on body image. “They support holistic health and teach children to think positively about their bodies.”

Answer these questions in English, according to the article.

1. 
What do we learn in lines 1-5?
2. 
What can we infer about Caroline Hannes and Mike Larson? (lines 6-22)
3. 
What is the connection between the fourth and the fifth paragraphs?
4. 
What is explained about the courses mentioned in lines 34-41?

LET YOUR CAR DO THE DRIVING

By Leslie James

How can we make driving safer? That’s easy – by getting rid of drivers! Google’s first robotic, “driverless” cars are already on the roads. From San Francisco to Los Angeles and on to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, these amazing cars have already traveled over 300,000 kilometers.

Google’s project director, Professor Sebastian Thrun, explained how the car works in a speech he gave at a conference in San Francisco. The “heart” of the system is a device on the roof of the car which creates a detailed 3-D (three-dimensional) map of the surroundings. The car also carries four radars – two in the front and two in the back – which allow the car to “see” and react to fast or heavy traffic. Another camera on the car detects traffic lights, while a GPS unit keeps track of where the car is. A computer inside the car coordinates all of these systems.

Professor Thrun and his team are convinced that these “smart” vehicles can and will make transportation much safer and far more efficient. First of all, they explain, these cars react faster than humans to avoid accidents. Since they are less likely to crash, the cars can be built with lighter materials. This will save on expensive fuel. In addition, since they are controlled by computer, these smart cars will be able to travel closer to each other, making better use of empty road space.

Professor Thrun’s motivation for developing driverless cars came from a personal tragedy. At a recent talk he gave, Thrun said, “As a boy, I loved cars. When I turned 18, I lost my best friend to a car accident. And then I decided I’d dedicate my life to saving one million people every year.” Thrun goes on to point out that most accidents happen as a result of human error, not machine error. He adds that it is therefore logical to hand over the job of driving to machines.

Thanks to Professor Thrun and his team of dedicated engineers, it is now possible to imagine an improved world – one with safer roads and fewer accidents.

Answer these questions in English according to the report.

1. 
Why does the writer call Google’s cars “amazing” in line 4?
2. 
Which piece of equipment is not on the outside of the car? (lines 5-11)
3. 
In lines 5-11 we learn:
4. 
According to lines 18-23, Thrun was motivated by:
5. 
Another title for this report could be:

SPACE JUNK

By Ellen Stevens

For years scientists and environmentalists have been trying to find ways to clean up our planet. Now space has become a giant garbage dump as well. There are tens of thousands of tiny pieces of garbage or debris circling the planet. In addition, there are 22,000 objects in Earth’s orbit which are big enough for scientists to track.

What is all this debris and where does it come from? It seems that these objects include parts from old spaceships, satellites no longer in use and even garbage dumped by astronauts during space missions. In just one incident in 2007, new debris was created when China launched an experimental missile to try and hit an old and obsolete weather satellite. It succeeded, but created 150,000 new pieces of space junk.

John Edwards, a leading space expert, warns, “We are heading for a disaster.” This debris circling Earth presents a real threat to future astronauts and space travel. The problem is that all of this garbage travels at a speed of 28,163 kilometers per hour. Even a tiny piece of this space junk traveling at such a great speed can destroy a spacecraft. The International Space Station has been forced to move more than once as a result.

Moreover, these objects can interfere with many of our daily activities. Cellphones, satellite TV and GPS devices all depend on signals sent through space. So when a piece of debris hits a satellite, it can cause major disruptions to our communication systems.

But help is on the way. Scientists are beginning to work on solutions to clean up the mess that man has made in space. One wild-sounding idea is to shoot water at the junk to knock it out of the Earth’s orbit. Another suggestion is to make cosmic nets, which will catch and drag pieces of debris out of the way. Yet another idea is to use giant magnets to pull the junk aside.

There is no doubt that man’s achievements in space have been truly great. However, we now need to make sure that space will remain a safe place for further exploration and travel.

Answer these questions in English according to the report.

1. 
In lines 1-5, we learn:
2. 
What is the subject of lines 6-11?
3. 
What do we learn from lines 12-21?
4. 
According to the writer, man’s next achievement in space must be to:
5. 
Another title for this report could be:

FEELING DOWN? GO FOR A WALK!

Nature lovers have always claimed that outdoor activities keep them fit and make them happier. Now researchers have found evidence that spending time in nature can indeed be beneficial not only for our physical health but for our mental health as well.

A number of studies have been conducted recently to show the effect of nature on our mood. In one study, Gregory Bratman, a doctoral student at Stanford University, asked a group of participants to spend 50 minutes walking outdoors. Half of them walked through a lush green part of the Stanford campus; the other half walked near a busy highway. In addition, they were asked to fill out a questionnaire about their mood before and after their walk. The results showed that participants who had strolled in a natural setting were more attentive and happier after their walk than those who had walked near heavy traffic.

Bratman’s study showed nature’s positive effect on our mental well-being, but it did not explain why this is so. Bratman decided to dig deeper. This time he asked 38 city dwellers to complete a questionnaire to see how worried and stressed they were about everyday things in their lives. After that, he took brain scans of all the participants to measure their blood flow in the area of the brain associated with stress. The participants were then divided into two groups. As before, one was told to walk through a natural setting, while the other was assigned to walk along a multi-lane highway with busy traffic. After the participants completed their 90-minute walk, they returned to the lab, answered the same questionnaire and then had a second brain scan.

Bratman was not surprised by the results. The brain scans showed that the group that had walked along the highway still had high levels of stress, whereas the level of anxiety in the other group had decreased. Moreover, the group that had taken the nature walk actually responded differently to the questionnaire about their outlook on life. Their answers showed that they felt more relaxed and more optimistic after their walk. So, walking in nature is definitely a good idea. Not only does it keep you fit, but it can also help you calm down and see life in a more positive light.

Answer these questions in English, according to the article.

1. 
What do we learn from lines 1-4 about outdoor activities?
2. 
What are we told about the participants in Bratman’s research? (lines 5-12)
3. 
What are we told about the second study in lines 13-22?
4. 
In line 23, we learn that “Bratman was not surprised by the results”. Why might that be?

Because the second study:

WHO’S WATCHING YOU?

Once it was an exotic gadget seen only in James Bond movies. The hero pressed a button and tracked the enemy’s speeding car. But today, anyone with $300 can buy a device called a GPS* tracker, attach it to a car without the driver’s knowledge and watch where the vehicle travels from the comfort of their own home.

Sales of GPS trackers to employers and individuals are growing fast. According to one expert, “sales of GPS trackers to private individuals have surpassed 100,000 per year, and the market is just getting started.” The purpose of these devices is often seemingly innocent, such as tracking an elderly parent or a risky teenage driver. One retailer estimates that as many as 30,000 parents monitor their children’s driving habits. Some devices even send a text message when the car exceeds the speed limit. In addition, GPS devices have been a great aid to law enforcement, making it easier for the police and federal agents to track down criminals. In the workplace, GPS trackers are especially popular among bosses who wish to follow employees suspected of theft or misconduct. These tools make it easy to record a person’s every move.

GPS trackers are extremely powerful. So powerful that when they are misused, this form of tracking can easily be regarded as harassment. This has raised questions about their legality. In a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in January 2012, law enforcement agencies are now required to have judicial approval before using a tracking system. Even if used legally, other ethical questions remain. “It cuts into someone’s autonomy to know where they are all the time and not give them the opportunity to opt out,” said Jonathan Zittrain, a professor of law and computer science at Harvard University.

Retailers of tracking devices defend their use as legal. “You don’t ask what they are going to use it for,” says one retailer, “and what they do with it is entirely out of our control.” Only two states, California and Texas, have so far banned the use of GPS trackers without the person’s consent. As the demand for tracking systems grows, which other states will say no to these ethically “iffy” tools?

* Global Positioning System (Information from “Private Snoops Find GPS Trail”, The New York Times, January 28, 2012)

Answer these questions in English according to the article.

1. 
What is the main idea of lines 1-4?
2. 
What information are we given in lines 5-15?
3. 
How are California and Texas different from all other U.S. states? (lines 24-28)
4. 
Another title that might suit this article is: