Tuesday, 21 March, 2023

A crackdown on vaping; Brazil’s purple parasite; Aussie women fly high; and a real life knock-knock joke.


Today’s Quick Links: 

Health risks of e-cigarettes and vaping: https://www.lung.org/quit-smoking/e-cigarettes-vaping/impact-of-e-cigarettes-on-lung

Purple parasite fungus: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/mar/17/parasitic-fungus-that-infects-and-kills-spiders-discovered-in-brazil-aoe 

Danielle Scott wins the World Cup: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tD7LzgxQjg 


Dig Deeper:

Facts about the Amazon rainforest: https://www.natgeokids.com/au/discover/geography/physical-geography/amazon-facts/ 

Challenges and threats to the rainforest: https://www.wwf.org.uk/where-we-work/amazon 

The last five Winter Olympic aerial skiing gold medalists: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUIUhbuxjOM 

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Australia’s federal and state governments are trying to crack down on vaping, which has been described as the single biggest behaviour problem in Australian schools. 


You probably already know that it’s illegal for kids under 18 to buy cigarettes, in large part because they contain a cancer-causing drug called nicotine. But it’s also illegal for kids to buy vapes, which are battery-powered e-cigarettes. The vapes sold at corner stores come in flavours like bubblegum and strawberry, and sellers claim that they are nicotine-free. But that’s not true – studies have found that most of the vapes sold in Australia are laced with the drug. And that’s a problem, because nicotine is addictive. 


90 million vapes are imported into Australia each year, and as well as having kid-friendly flavours, they also come in cute colours and designs – prompting concerns that they’re being marketed to children. 


Studies have shown that up to ⅓ of teenagers have tried, or are actively, vaping. Even though it’s illegal to sell them the vapes. So, why would people do that? 


Well, it’s all about money. If you are addicted to something, you want to keep having it. If kids are addicted to nicotine, they’ll keep buying it. That makes them good customers. Ka-ching. 


Kids who vape are also more likely to develop lung, heart, and other health problems. Have you ever heard of an athlete who vapes? Didn’t think so. 


So, what are state and federal governments proposing to do about this massive problem? The Therapeutic Goods Administration, which is the government body that oversees medicines and other health products, is about to release a report that will recommend different ways of tackling the vaping epidemic. Vapes could be completely banned, or they could be put into plain packaging, like cigarettes are. More money could go towards police investigations, border inspections, testing of products, and – of course – education in schools.  



Each day we give the world globe a spin and find a news story from wherever it stops – and today we’ve landed in the Brazilian rainforest, where scientists have discovered a rare purple fungus that traps trapdoor spiders – which, I guess, is giving them a bit of their own medicine. The fungus is what’s called a parasite – a type of organism that lives in or on another creature, called the host, in a way that is harmful to that host. For example, fleas are parasites, and dogs are hosts – the flea bites the dog and feeds on its blood. Those bites cause the dog to be itchy, and can carry diseases. 


The new purple parasite fungus infects and kills trapdoor spiders, then grows around and out of the spider’s burrow, creating a kind of long, skinny finger poking into the air. I’ve put photos of it in your episode notes, along with pics of another new fungi that infect huntsman spiders and dung beetles. The scientists describe the fungi as “beautiful” – although I’m not sure the spiders would agree. 




Australia’s flying women have done it again. Yesterday Australian time, Sydneysider Danielle Scott became the sixth Aussie to be crowned as aerial skiing’s world champion. 


The word “aerial” means existing or happening in the air, and this particular kind of freestyle skiing involves athletes launching themselves off a jump, performing twists and flips, then landing back on the snow. Check out the video in your episode notes … it’s like extreme gymnastics in the air. 


Like many winter sports, aerial skiing holds multiple World Cup events around the globe each season. Every event awards a gold, silver, and bronze medal – and at the final event, which was held in Kazakhstan, the person with the most points overall wins the Crystal Globe, which is the World Cup trophy. Another Aussie, Laura Peel, won the gold medal at yesterday’s event, and came in second overall. So when it comes to flying high in the wintry sky, Aussie women dominate. 





Knock, knock. Oh come on, you know what to say… let’s try that again. Knock, knock!

(Who’s there?) 


(Alligator who?)

No, it really is an alligator! A man living in the American state of Florida heard a bump at his front door last weekend, went to answer it … and was bitten in the leg by a 3 metre-long alligator! Don’t worry, he’s making a great recovery. 


Florida has a big alligator population, and Scot Hollingsworth said he regularly sees them behind his house. This was the first time one had come to the front door, though, and Scot said because it was dark outside, at first he thought he’d been attacked by a big dog. It’s unusual for alligators to attack humans, and Scot said he thought the gator was as surprised by him, as he was by it. Sounds like a pretty good argument for an outside light. 



This is the part of the podcast where you get to test how well you’ve been listening …

  1. What’s the name for an organism that lives in or on another creature? 
  2. Aussie Danielle Scott won the World Cup in which sport? 
  3. True or false – most vapes advertised as nicotine-free DO actually contain the cancer-causing compound 





It’s March 21 – and this morning, the sun will be directly above the equator in what’s called a solar equinox. Day and night will be exactly the same length today – something that only happens twice each year, so it’s a pretty special day! 


It’s also a special day for these Squiz Kids celebrating a birthday today… Dylan from Gundagai, Lewis from Erskineville, Issac from Cannon Hill, Indigo-Grace from Caloundra, Maisie from Mosman, Winnie and Ruby from Willunga, Isla from Burpengary, Lucy from Box Hill, Emma from Cheltenham, Lenny from Ocean Grove, Niara from Williams Landing and James from NSW. 


Belated shout outs go to… Hannah from Culcairn and Charli from Wellington Point.


Classroom shout outs go to… Class 5/6C and Ms Bee at Walkerville State School in Bundaberg, class 5/6C and Mrs Champion at Drummoyne Public School, class 5M and Mrs Morris at Tamworth Public School, class 5/6R and Miss Reith at Pitt Town Public School, classes 6B and 6G with Mrs Blair and Mrs Gymer at St Joseph’s School in Chinchilla and class 6P and Mrs Cook at St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School in Sutherland. 



The S’Quiz Answers:

  1. Parasite
  2. Aerial skiing
  3. True