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Kid Biz 3000

Kid Biz 3000

IRENE, South Africa (Achieve3000, October 22, 2010). America had soccer fever during the summer of 2010. More Americans than ever were tuning in to watch soccer games on television, discussing the sport online, and even buying tickets to matches. It was all because U.S. soccer was taking part in the World Cup in South Africa. Once the World Cup was over, officials in the sport wondered: would America's newfound love for soccer last?

Soccer has been a popular recreational sport in the U.S. for more than 30 years. Still, professional soccer has never received a great deal of attention. That sets the U.S. apart from many of other countries, where soccer is very popular in the athletic world. In England, South Africa, Brazil, and elsewhere, fans follow their favorite teams all season. They attend games, hang banners in their homes, wear jerseys, and engage in spirited debate over which team is better and who will win the next match. Americans only show that kind of love for football, basketball, and baseball.

This attitude toward soccer changes during the World Cup. That's the tournament where top national teams play against one another. Every four summers, Americans turn away from baseball and watch the World Cup, if only to see how the U.S. national team will fare.

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In June 2010, soccer's popularity in the U.S. surged during the World Cup—and it appeared that it might last even longer. The networks ABC and ESPN provided complete coverage of the soccer tournament. It attracted millions of viewers. The U.S. team was a talented, entertaining bunch. The team even managed to tie with powerhouse England in the opening game. That early success fed the excitement. Each game was more intense than the last. For a while, it looked as if the U.S. would make it to the semifinals. But when the Americans played Ghana, it took them only five minutes to fall behind. That loss put the U.S. team out of the running for the championship. It also showed that the American team still has a lot of catching up to do if it wants to be considered one of the best.

The good news is that the Americans showed spectators back home that soccer games have plenty of action and excitement. Now, it's up to U.S. soccer officials to find a way to build on the interest in their sport.

The first thing to do is to develop a bigger pool of skilled soccer players. That starts with the youngest generation. With a population of more than 309 million and a culture that prizes athletics, the United States will make strides if just a few more kids in every city and town get interested in the game.

"We've got to start producing some megastars somewhere along the line," said U.S. soccer player Tim Howard. "But you have to catch that bug first…."

Many American kids do play soccer, only to lose interest as they get older. Officials say that's because there's not enough focus on player development. In the U.S., Major League Soccer (MLS) players don't enjoy the same level of support and opportunity for play as athletes who play sports that are more popular. The fact that the U.S. team is ranked 25th in the world means its players could be better. Still, there are signs that this is changing. MLS still isn't on the same level with other major leagues from around the world. But it's way ahead of where it was just a few years ago. It needs to continue to improve. A stronger domestic league makes for stronger young players. Eventually, this will make for a stronger national team. The better the national team is, the more interest there is from the U.S. public.

Americans love to watch exciting sports played extremely well. What if the U.S. league keeps getting better? Soccer might become the next big thing in U.S. sports.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

development (noun) growth or progress
domestic (adjective) having to do with one's own country
focus (noun) interest or attention
spectator (noun) a person who watches a sporting event
surge (verb) to increase

Kid Biz 3000

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Achieve3000, November 3, 2010). For thousands of years, people have asked the timeless question: Are we alone in the universe? Now, scientists are inching closer to an answer. For the first time, scientists say they have spotted an Earth-like planet. The planet fits into what is sometimes called a "Goldilocks zone": a region of space that's not too hot and not too cold. It's juuuust right to support life.

The new planet is named Gliese 581g. It was discovered by astronomers R. Paul Butler and Steven Vogt. Butler and Vogt found the planet circling a dwarf star called Gliese 581. Gliese 581 is about one-third the strength of our sun. Using ground-based telescopes, the two scientists tracked the star's exact movements over 11 years. They watched for wobbles that indicate planets are circling it.

Gliese 581g is located about 120 trillion miles away from Earth. Still, in the scheme of the vast universe, said Vogt, "the planet is "right in our face, right next door to us." In fact, if you were standing on Gliese 581g, you could easily see our solar system's sun.

Astronomers have learned some information about the new planet. It is about three times the mass of Earth. It is slightly larger in width. Gliese 581g is also much closer to its sun than Earth is to ours. The planet is about 14 million miles from its sun. It completes a full orbit in only 37 days. Earth, on the other hand, is 93 million miles away from our sun. It completes a full orbit in 365 days.

Gliese 581g's location from its sun is not too far away nor too close. So scientists suspect that it could contain liquid water. This leads some astronomers to suggest that it might also support life. This doesn't mean Gliese 581g is home to E.T.-like creatures, or even humans and animals. However, even a simple single-cell bacteria like shower mold would shake beliefs about Earth being the only planet to contain life.

Previously, astronomers have proclaimed that planets outside our solar system were habitable. The planets later turned out not to be conducive to life. But Gliese 581g is unlike any of the nearly 500 planets astronomers have found outside our solar system. This is due to its location inside a Goldilocks zone, or "habitable zone," of space. Gliese 581g is not too hot and not too cold to support life. Nor is it too big or too small for suitable surface, gravity, and atmosphere conditions. This makes it a promising candidate for habitability.

"This really is the first Goldilocks planet," said Butler.

For now, it's unclear whether water actually exists on Gliese 581g, or if the planet is actually habitable. Astronomers have determined that temperatures on Gliese 581g can reach a fiery 160 degrees Fahrenheit or an icy 25 degrees below zero. And the planet doesn't spin much. So one side of the planet is almost always bright, while the other is dark. Still, on some parts of the planet, Vogt said, it would be "shirt-sleeve weather."

The recent discovery of Gliese 581g hints to scientists that planets like Earth are probably not that rare. Butler and Vogt estimate that there are 200 billion stars in the universe. According to their calculations, as many as 1 out of 5 to 10 stars could have planets that are Earth-sized and located in the habitable zone. That would mean 40 billion planets would have the potential for life. Some astronomers, however, caution that this figure is too speculative to prove.

Gliese 581g's ability to sustain life is currently open to debate. However, scientists will have plenty of time to continue their research. Astronomers predict the planet's sun will live on for billions of years. It will shine much longer than our own sun. According to Butler and Vogt, that just increases the likelihood of life developing on the planet.

"It's pretty hard to stop life once you give it the right conditions," Vogt said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

calculation (noun) the act of doing math work, or the result of math work
conducive (adjective) tending to make something happen; helpful
habitable (adjective) capable of being lived in
speculative (adjective) based on information that is not complete
sustain (verb) to support