Voyager 1 leaves the Solar System: The Voyager 1 spacecraft has become the first man-made object to leave the solar system. The probe was launched 36 years ago and has spent years hurtling away from the sun. Now a new analysis has revealed that the craft crossed into interstellar space in August last year.
13 September 2013
Voyager 1 was launched into space in 1977 to study the planets beyond our own. But after passing them one by one, it just kept on going. And now scientists believe the probe left the edge of our solar system on the 25th August last year. It crossed a region known as the heliopause, where particles hurled out from the sun pile up against the matter and magnetic fields from other stars. Now, at nearly 12 billion miles from earth, it’s in interstellar space – a cold, dark part of the Milky Way filled with gas and dust. Ed Stone is Voyager’s chief scientist:
Ed Stone, Voyager’s chief scientist:
This is one of those journeys of exploration, like circumnavigating the globe for the first time, or having a footprint on the moon for the first time. This is the first time we have been exploring now, this new region of space, interstellar space.
As Voyager 1 ventures into the unknown it will send data back to Nasa. Eventually though, it will fall silent – its power supply is expected to run out in the next 10 years. But if the probe is ever happened upon by extraterrestrial beings as it floats through space they’ll find a record containing pictures and messages. (RECORDING OF VOICES)
Mexican soft drinks tax: The Mexican president, Enrique Pena Nieto, has proposed a higher tax on soft drinks to help tackle the country’s serious obesity problem. Mr Pena Nieto described it as a health tax for Mexico, which has the second highest rate of obesity in the world.
9 September 2013
Promising that the fiscal reform was “good news for Mexicans”, President Enrique Pena Nieto unveiled a wide-ranging proposal which managed to sidestep a political controversy about sales tax on food and medicine.
Those would remain unchanged, undermining a central part of the left’s opposition to the reform programme. But a hike in the tax on soft drinks was included. In part, the government hope it will help tackle the country’s serious obesity problem. Mexico has the second-highest obesity rates in the world after the United States.
However, the reform is also intended to deal with Mexico’s weak tax revenues. The country’s coffers urgently need bolstering and the intention was that long-running loopholes, which have allowed large corporations to benefit for decades, would be closed.
In particular, there were calls to impose greater taxes on the country’s top earners, including the world’s richest man, Carlos Slim.
However, the final document appears to have been watered down in that regard. The proposal must now be approved by Congress and the Senate, as well as a majority of Mexico’s states.
China’s language challenge: China’s Ministry of Education has said that more than 400m Chinese are unable to speak the national language – Mandarin. The admission from officials came as the government started another push to unite China in terms of language.
6 September 2013
It’s one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. But a third of China’s population are unable to speak Mandarin. And according to officials, many of those who speak the language do so badly.
China is home to thousands of dialects and several minority languages. In the southern province of Guangdong, Cantonese is widely spoken. For decades, the ruling Communist party has promoted Mandarin in an attempt to unite the most populous nation on earth.
But government efforts have been hampered by the sheer size of the country and a lack of investment in education, particularly in rural areas. And despite the benefits of having a billion plus people speaking the same tongue the government’s policies have long been contentious – particularly among the country’s ethnic minorities.
In 2010 there were protests in Tibet over the use of Mandarin in schools.
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