Listen to KA Wordcast: Listen and Learn!
LESSON FIFTY HERE!
In today’s lesson, entitled Virtual History, you will learn a bit about the Great Fire of London of 1666. You will also hear about a fascinating new mobile phone app that can transport you back in time to key historical moments. That’s right. Time travel—well, sort of. Listen carefully to the passage and then answer the questions that follow. It’s always a good idea to take notes as you listen, but remember: don’t let your note-taking distract you from your listening.
Listen and Learn
Lesson Fifty PASSAGE ONLY track:
In 1666, during England’s Tudor age, a tiny spark in a London bakery set off a raging fire that burned much of the city to the ground. The Great Fire of London, one of English history’s most cataclysmic disasters, lasted four days and engulfed over 13,000 dwellings, leaving some 70,000 inhabitants homeless. Back then, most houses were made of wood and straw and were crammed very closely together, and prior to the fire, a ten-month-long drought had left everything in the city bone dry, greatly exacerbating the damage.
Much of what we know today about the Great Fire is thanks to Samuel Pepys, an English Member of Parliament who kept a meticulous diary in which he recorded his eyewitness account. Several contemporary artists also painted pictures of the fire from various vantage points. These paintings, along with Pepys’s diary entries and an assortment of 17th-century firefighting apparatuses, are on display at the Museum of London. But if you would like an even more “immersive” learning experience, you can join guided walking tours that take in all the city sites affected by the fire.
But now, a London-based company has taken “immersion tourism” a big step further so that we no longer have to imagine what it was like during the fire. The company’s new virtual-reality app called Timelooper actually (well, virtually) transports us back to 17th-century London. Using just a smart phone and a cardboard headset, we can see St. Paul’s Cathedral as it stood before it was consumed in the blaze. We can watch frantic shopkeepers and London’s fire brigade struggle to extinguish the flames. With the smart phone’s motion-detection technology, we “time travelers” can move our gaze 360˚ around the virtual video world. We are, so to speak, right in the thick of the event. We can almost smell the smoke, feel the heat.
“We actually overlay the current infrastructure with what the surrounding environment was like,” explained Timelooper co-founder Andrew Feinberg. “When we take you back in time, you actually see the historically accurate representation of the Cathedral and the Great Fire.” Timelooper visitors can also get glimpses of the Tower of London as it appeared in medieval times and watch people in Trafalgar Square scrambling for cover from Nazi bombing raids during the Blitz. Other memorable moments in history available through the Timelooper app include the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, U.S. President George Washington giving his first inaugural address in 1789, and gladiators doing battle in the Roman Colosseum during the 1st century B.C.
While Timelooper takes advantage of virtual-reality (VR) technology to provide unique educational and historical perspectives, VR headsets are also finding uses in industries other than tourism and entertainment. Stroke and brain-injury patients undergoing immersive VR therapy have regained motor and cognitive function, often faster than with traditional therapies. People suffering from debilitating stress such as that caused by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and phobias are using VR as a form of meditation. And researchers at a Swiss university are even looking into using “immersive” technology in courtrooms to make it easier for juries to visualize the finer details of a case. The possibilities for this exciting new technology are, excuse the pun, virtually limitless.
LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS
Listen to Listen and Learn: Lesson Fifty LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS track:
Today’s listening comprehension questions will be SHORT ANSWER and based on FACTUAL CONTENT. Listen to each question carefully and write or speak your answer. Feel free to pause the recording if you need a moment or two to think about the question.
- Where did the Great Fire of London start?
- What three factors does the passage say caused the fire to spread so rapidly throughout the city?
- Who was Samuel Pepys and what did he do to help us understand what happened during the Great Fire of London?
- Where in London can you see an assortment of 17th-century firefighting apparatuses?
- What two items do you need to make the new Timelooper app work?
- If you are looking at St. Paul’s Cathedral through the Timelooper app, what will you see?
- Name two other London locations where the Timelooper app can transport you “back in time.”
- In which year did U.S. President George Washington give his first inaugural address?
- According to the passage, how has immersive virtual-reality therapy helped stroke and brain-injury patients?
- How do people suffering from debilitating stress caused by PTSD and extreme phobias use VR technology?
LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS and ANSWERS HERE!
You may also download the lesson in PDF format to keep for your reference.
KA Wordcast: Listen and Learn! LESSON FIFTY
KEY VOCABULARY WORDS
Be sure to listen to the Key Vocabulary bonus track. This will help you improve your understanding of the passage itself and give your vocabulary a big boost.
The Great Fire of London, one of English history’s most cataclysmic disasters, lasted four days and ENGULFED over 13,000 dwellings, leaving some 70,000 inhabitants homeless.
ENGULF is a verb that usually, but not always, refers to a natural force such as fire, water, or snow that completely surrounds or covers something. Envelop, inundate, flood, immerse, and bury are some words that are sometimes used in place of ENGULF.
When firefighters arrived at the scene, they found the house already ENGULFED in flames.
Images from the local TV station’s helicopter showed dozens of homes ENGULFED in mud following the most devastating flooding the area had seen in years.
Yesterday’s violent snowstorm triggered an avalanche that ENGULFED an entire mountain village.
Swarms of screaming fans ENGULFED the teen pop star as she stepped out of her car and onto the red carpet.
ENGULF can also be used figuratively, as in:
Our neighbors across the street are ENGULFED in a dispute over the cost of replacing the damaged fence that separates their two backyards.
In the wake of the leader’s sudden death, chaos threatens to ENGULF the already politically unstable nation.
ENGULF also means to have a very powerful effect on someone. Overwhelm is the nearest synonym for this usage.
The boys fought hard throughout the game, but a sense of gloom ENGULFED them when the opposition scored a lucky last-minute, match-winning goal.
Fear and worry ENGULFED the Hurleys when their fourteen-year-old daughter Rebecca didn’t come home on the school bus.
Back then, most houses were made of wood and straw and were crammed very closely together, and prior to the fire, a ten-month-long drought had left everything in the city bone dry, greatly EXACERBATING the damage.
EXACERBATE means to make something bad worse than it already is. Aggravate, worsen, compound, magnify, and intensify are some good equivalents. Some informal phrases include add fuel to the fire, add insult to injury, and rub salt in the wound.
Recent bullying incidents and playground fights at the school have EXACERBATED parents’ worries about their kids’ safety.
Jordan desperately wanted to keep playing, but his coach took him off the pitch so as to not EXACERBATE the boy’s knee injury.
A recent study has shown that consuming such common staple foods as wheat and oats can EXACERBATE the symptoms of hay fever in some people.
Most scientists now agree that greenhouse-gas emissions not only EXACERBATE global warming, but that they are the primary cause of it.
The proposed property development will only EXACERBATE the already pressing problem of finding places in school for all our community’s children.
Several CONTEMPORARY artists also painted pictures of the fire from various vantage points.
In the passage, CONTEMPORARY is an adjective that means dating from, occurring, or living at the same time, especially when talking about something that happened in the past. The phrase “of the time” is the nearest equivalent for this usage.
Thanks to CONTEMPORARY accounts, we know that it was the Battle of St. Albans in 1455 that marked the beginning of the War of the Roses.
The popular TV sit-com takes a humorous and satirical look at CONTEMPORARY teenage life in 1970s America.
Ironically, CONTEMPORARY also means belonging to the present or most recent time. Modern, present-day, present, current, latest, and recent are the closest synonyms.
If you ask me, among CONTEMPORARY novelists, only a handful will be read 50 years from now.
The art gallery in Pioneer Square is putting on an excellent exhibit of paintings by CONTEMPORARY Latino artists.
Mix 96 plays an eclectic mix of CONTEMPORARY music as well as favorite songs from the 70s and 80s.
The dance courses at the local performing arts school provide strong, classical training, but also prepare students to work in CONTEMPORARY jazz and commercial dance.
CONTEMPORARY is also a noun that refers to a person who lives or lived at the same time as someone else. Peer is the closest synonym.
George Gissing was a CONTEMPORARY of George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, and Oscar Wilde whose novels are less famous but still well worth reading.
None of her CONTEMPORARIES in elementary school could have foreseen that the most bashful girl in class would grow up to be an outspoken women’s rights activist.
His CONTEMPORARIES recognize Nagashima Shigeo as the greatest Japanese baseball player of all time.
The Rolling Stones have been at it for 50 years, outliving, outlasting, and outperforming all their CONTEMPORARIES.
Children’s book author Enid Blyton was praised as a master storyteller by her CONTEMPORARIES, but I find her stories just plain weird.
The company’s new VIRTUAL-reality app called Timelooper actually (well, VIRTUALLY) transports us back to 17th-century London.
The adjective VIRTUAL and the adverb VIRTUALLY are computer-related terms that come up several times in today’s passage. Let’s first look at the adjective VIRTUAL, which here is used to mean “made to appear to exist by using computer software.” For this usage, VIRTUAL is usually paired with “reality” and refers to realistic images created by a computer that surround the person looking at them.
In Simcity’s VIRTUAL world, players create their own characters and design a city to their own liking.
Apple’s VIRTUAL assistant Siri is a telephone directory, encyclopedia, and “conversation” partner all rolled into one.
America’s first VIRTUAL-reality roller-coaster ride, which blends physical sensations with digital worlds, has opened at several Six Flags locations across the country.
Thanks to a new VIRTUAL-reality tour, Beatles fans can now experience what it felt and sounded like to be inside Abbey Road Studios in its heyday.
VIRTUAL is also used to mean almost exactly the same as a thing or person being described. Near and essential are the closest synonyms. VIRTUALLY is the adverb form, which can often be replaced by in effect, to all intents and purposes, and for all practical purposes.
Much to my parents’ disappointment, my brother Sam married a VIRTUAL stranger whom he had met while traveling in Russia last summer.
American aviator and business tycoon Howard Hughes spent the latter part of his life as a VIRTUAL recluse.
Thanks to our wonderful teachers who have put in so much extra time and effort preparing the students, this year’s test results were VIRTUALLY on a par with last year’s.
The Roman Empire ruled over VIRTUALLY the entire known world for nearly 500 years.
With the spread of cellphones, public phone booths in most major cities have VIRTUALLY disappeared.
We can watch frantic shopkeepers and London’s fire brigade struggle to EXTINGUISH the flames.
EXTINGUISH is a verb that means to make a fire stop burning or a light stop shining. Douse, put out, quench, stamp out, and smother are some synonyms.
Firefighters use high-powered hoses and flame-retardant chemicals to EXTINGUISH house fires.
Before electric streetlights came into wide use, it was the lamplighter’s job to light all the street lamps as dusk approached and then to EXTINGUISH the flames at daybreak.
Most heating stoves today are equipped with a device that EXTINGUISHES their flames at the first tremor of an earthquake.
According to the school’s rules, all the lights in the student dorms must be EXTINGUISHED by 10 P.M.
EXTINGUISH also means to put an end to something (trouble, hope, desire, enthusiasm, and so on). Destroy, undermine, put down, stamp out, and quell are some possible equivalents.
Security police are on stand-by to EXTINGUISH any flicker of a riot that threatens to ignite between fans of the two rival football teams.
Yet another suicide bombing that killed dozens of civilians has EXTINGUISHED all hope for peace in the civil-war-torn country.
Mary refused to let a string of audition failures EXTINGUISH her dream of becoming an actress.
People suffering from DEBILITATING stress such as that caused by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and phobias are using VR as a form of meditation.
DEBILITATING is an adjective that describes an illness or condition that makes victims very weak or drains them of energy. Impairing, crippling, weakening, and exhausting are some near equivalents.
Parents and teachers should know that the so-called winter blues can have a DEBILITATING effect even on some children.
Richard has the most common form of muscular dystrophy, which in most cases is severely DEBILITATING.
Eileen’s cancer treatment brought on DEBILITATING fatigue, which meant that she spent much of her time sleeping or lying on the sofa.
Migraine headaches can last anywhere from a few hours to several days and can be so DEBILITATING as to make it difficult for the sufferer to carry out any daily activities.
DEBILITATING is based on the verb DEBILITATE, which means to weaken someone’s body, mind, or resolve. DEBILITATE can also refer to things.
DEBILITATED by lupus, Flannery O’Connor nevertheless kept on writing and managed to produce some of America’s greatest short stories.
Forcing children to read “classics” that are too difficult for them can seriously DEBILITATE the kids’ desire to read anything at all.
Fear of terrorist attacks hasn’t DEBILITATED our plans to travel around Europe this summer.
An unexpected late-season frost DEBILITATED all the tomato plants I had planted in our vegetable garden.
DEBILITATE can also mean to make an organization or country weaker.
Proposed budget cuts threaten to DEBILITATE our schools’ ability to effectively educate our children.
The mass “brain drain” of South Africa’s young, educated professionals to Europe and the United States has been blamed for DEBILITATING the country’s economy.