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LESSON THIRTY-SIX HERE!
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In today’s lesson, entitled From Dynamite to Peace, you will listen to a passage about how Swedish scientist Alfred Nobel developed a safe and effective explosive for industrial use. You will also learn why he established the Nobel Prizes to honor those people who have made valuable contributions to mankind. 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.
From Dynamite to Peace
Listen and Learn
Lesson Thirty-Six PASSAGE ONLY track:
The Industrial Revolution of 19th-century Europe was a time marked by great modernization and expansion. To support burgeoning manufacturing and mining industries—and to transport people and cargo—construction crews were using newly invented heavy machinery to build railways, roads, canals, and tunnels all over the continent. But blasting hillsides and rock faces to make room for new infrastructure was a risky endeavor. Liquid nitroglycerin was the explosive most commonly used, but it was highly unstable. Accidents were frequent, and countless lives were lost. Developing a safe explosive had become imperative.
Swedish scientist Alfred Nobel was hard at work on it.
After studying chemical engineering in Paris, Nobel returned to Stockholm in 1863 to devote himself to the study of explosives. At first, he concentrated on the safe manufacture and use of nitroglycerin. But his research led to accidents that killed several people, including his younger brother Emil, and the government banned all explosive experiments within the capital. Nobel didn’t give up, however. He continued his work on a flat-bottom boat on a lake outside the city limits.
Eventually, he found a way to stabilize nitroglycerin by mixing it with absorbent substances like soft, porous soil and forming a paste that could be shaped into rods. Equipped with a detonator or blasting cap, these rods could be inserted into drilling holes and set off safely by lighting a fuse from a remote position. In 1867, Nobel received a legal patent for his discovery under the name “dynamite.” Before long, dynamite had replaced nitroglycerin as the explosive of choice. Alfred set up factories all over Europe and became a very wealthy man.
Despite his contributions to industry and society, Nobel wasn’t well received. In fact, because the military later adapted his invention to make bigger, more deadly bombs, some people nicknamed Alfred the “Merchant of Death.” This deeply troubled him, and he longed to improve his public image. To this end, in November 1895, he stipulated in his will that 94% of his enormous fortune be set aside to fund a series of prizes that would be awarded to people who made the greatest contributions to mankind in the fields of Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature, and Peace. The first Nobel Prizes were awarded on December 10, 1901, exactly five years after Alfred’s death.
Every year, scientists, scholars, and activists of all kinds from all over the world are nominated for a Nobel Prize in their respective categories. A selection committee in Sweden holds secret meetings to deliberate on who is most deserving of the prestigious award. The winners are announced in October and presented with a gold medal and cash prize of almost $1 million at a banquet held in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death. As per Alfred’s wishes, the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway, on the same day.
Some notable past Nobel Prize recipients include Albert Einstein and Marie Curie in Physics, Sir Alexander Fleming in Medicine, and John Steinbeck in Literature. The Nobel Peace Prize is the only award that can be bequeathed to an organization as well as to an individual. Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, and Malala Yousafzai are just a few of the great men and women who have been honored for their work on behalf of peace and justice for all.
LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS
Listen to Listen and Learn: Lesson Thirty-Six LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS track:
Today’s listening comprehension questions are of various types. Follow the instructions for each question. Feel free to pause and listen several times if needed.
1. Write a brief answer to this question.
What was the Industrial Revolution of 19th-century Europe?
2. Decide if this statement is true or false.
During the first half of the 19th century, liquid nitroglycerin was commonly used to blast hillsides and rock faces to make room for new infrastructure such as tunnels and railways.
3. Choose the best answer to complete this sentence.
Alfred Nobel returned to Stockholm in 1863 ___________________________
a) after studying chemical engineering in Paris.
b) after developing and receiving a patent for dynamite.
c) after his younger brother Emil died in an explosion.
d) after studying industrial engineering in Paris.
4. Write a full-sentence answer to this question.
Why did the Swedish government ban all experiments with explosives within the Swedish capital?
5. Choose the true statement.
a) Nobel found a way to stabilize nitroglycerin by mixing it various less-explosive chemicals.
b) Nobel found a way to stabilize nitroglycerin by mixing it with absorbent substances like soft, porous soil, which could be formed into a paste that could be shaped into rods.
6. Decide if this sentence is true or false.
Nobel received a legal patent for his discovery under the name “dynamite” in 1895.
7. Write a full-sentence answer to this question.
Why was Alfred Nobel nicknamed the “Merchant of Death?”
8. Choose the best answer to this question.
How much of his enormous fortune did Nobel set aside to award people who made the greatest contributions to mankind in the fields of Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature, and Peace?
a) He stipulated that all of his money be used to fund the Nobel Prize.
b) Nobel set aside all but 10% of his fortune to finance the Nobel Prize.
c) Nobel set aside 94% of his fortune to fund the Nobel Prize.
d) He set aside just over half of his enormous fortune to make the Nobel Prize possible.
9. Complete this statement with the better answer.
As per Nobel’s wishes, the Nobel Peace Prize________________________.
a) is awarded every year at a banquet in Oslo, Norway, on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death
b) is awarded every year at a banquet in Stockholm, Sweden, on December 10, the anniversary of the discovery of dynamite
10. Write a full-sentence answer to this question.
What do Martin Luther King and Mother Theresa have in common?
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 THIRTY-SIX
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!
But blasting hillsides and rock faces to make room for new INFRASTRUCTURE was a risky endeavor.
INFRASTRUCTURE refers to the basic systems and services that are necessary for a country or a large organization to run smoothly. Buildings, bridges, transportation facilities like roads and railways, and water and power supply systems and facilities are examples of INFRASTRUCTURE.
INFRASTRUCTURE upgrades in the city would definitely improve safety for both cyclists and pedestrians, but unfortunately, we don’t have enough funds in this year’s budget.
The devastating earthquake seriously damaged the region’s INFRASTRUCTURE, with its communication and transportation systems being particularly hard hit.
According to FIFA officials, to be considered as host for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, Columbia must make substantial upgrades to its transportation INFRASTRUCTURE.
Due to a floundering economy, many of South Africa’s INFRASTRUCTURE projects, including a high-speed railway, have had to be scrapped or postponed.
Liquid nitroglycerin was the explosive most commonly used, but it was highly UNSTABLE.
In the sentence above, UNSTABLE is a technical term that describes a substance that does not stay in the same chemical or atomic state. Volatile, inconsistent, and erratic are some good synonyms.
A laboratory-grade solution of hydrogen peroxide is extremely UNSTABLE and is sometimes used to make explosives.
Safety glasses, lab coats, long pants, and closed-toe shoes should be worn when handling UNSTABLE or hazardous chemicals.
But UNSTABLE has a couple of other everyday uses. For one, UNSTABLE can also refer to a system that is likely to change suddenly, as in:
Global warming is likely to cause UNSTABLE, less “normal” and more extreme weather all across the globe.
American dollars are very highly sought after in countries such as Zimbabwe where the economy is perennially UNSTABLE.
People can be UNSTABLE, too. The behavior and emotions of an UNSTABLE person change very often and suddenly and unpredictably. The person is likely to get very upset or angry about something, often something of little real importance. Mentally or emotionally unbalanced and of unsound mind are sometimes used in place of UNSTABLE.
We know now that my sister’s boyfriend Tim was reckless and UNSTABLE, prone to lying and deceit to always get his way.
You have to be extra careful when talking to someone as UNSTABLE as Vicky, as she is likely to start crying and become overemotional.
As far as I’m concerned, the Conservative Presidential candidate is mentally UNSTABLE and, if elected, will only put our country in harm’s way.
An object (like a rock on a hillside or an old piece of furniture or a vase standing on a fireplace mantel) that is likely to move or fall is also UNSTABLE. Some synonyms include unsteady, rickety, unsafe, and not secure.
“Can you please fix the kids’ bunk-bed ladder?” Mom said to Dad. “Some of the screws have come loose and it’s really UNSTABLE and dangerous.”
The little footbridge across the Cobham River was deemed UNSTABLE by the local authorities and has been closed off until further notice.
Accidents were frequent, and countless lives were lost. Developing a safe explosive had become IMPERATIVE.
IMPERATIVE is an adjective that means very important and needing immediate attention or action. Some synonyms and similar phrases include crucial, critical, essential, and urgent.
It is absolutely IMPERATIVE that the school’s heating system be repaired by Wednesday, as we are expecting a severe cold spell later in the week.
Before handing in an essay, it is IMPERATIVE that you have a second set of eyes go through it and check it for spelling or grammatical mistakes.
“It is IMPERATIVE that you continue your treatment for at least another ten days to make sure the virus is completely out of your system,” John’s doctor told him.
It is more IMPERATIVE than ever for the two sides to meet and discuss strategies to bring peace to the region.
After studying chemical engineering in Paris, Nobel returned to Stockholm in 1863 to DEVOTE himself to the study of explosives.
In the above sentence, DEVOTE is used as a part of the phrasal verb TO DEVOTE YOURSELF TO someone or something, which means to give most of your time, energy, or attention to a particular person, project, or activity. To dedicate oneself to is a good equivalent.
When I became a cheerleader, I knew that I would have to DEVOTE myself to the squad, but I hadn’t realized how much time practicing would take up.
Albert Einstein once said that only the person who DEVOTES himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master.
After working as a school math teacher for a few years, Sting decided to DEVOTE himself to his music and his band, the Police.
Margo decided once and for all to give up her high-paying job in the city to DEVOTE herself to raising her children.
You can also DEVOTE SOMETHING (time, money, words) TO SOMETHING, as in:
Mia DEVOTES three hours a day to practicing the piano.
Members of the cult must DEVOTE nearly half of their income to the cult itself.
Just over 10% of Kenya’s total land area is DEVOTED to wildlife reserves and national parks.
Chapter Three of his autobiography is DEVOTED to the author’s childhood and his experiences living on a kibbutz in Israel.
Every year, scientists, scholars, and activists of all kinds from all over the world are NOMINATED for a Nobel Prize in their respective categories.
NOMINATE is a verb that means to formally mention someone (or a book, play, TV show) as a candidate for a particular prize, role, or position. Put forward, suggest, and recommend are some synonyms.
Megan NOMINATED her best friend Jordan for Class President.
Who do you think will be NOMINATED for Best Actress this year?
To date, Leonid Hurwicz is the oldest Nobel Laureate, having been NOMINATED for the prize when he was 90 years old.
The popular thriller has been NOMINATED for eleven Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
How did you feel when you learned that you had been NOMINATED for the Best Young Adult Novel of the Year award?
NOMINATE also means to choose someone for a particular job. Appoint is the best equivalent.
We NOMINATED Susan to speak to Mr. Lawrence about the huge amount of homework he assigned this week.
Because the school operates under the auspices of the Anglican Church, the church must NOMINATE three of the ten school governors.
Did you know that the UK government has always NOMINATED the directors at the BBC?
A selection committee in Sweden holds secret meetings to DELIBERATE on who is most deserving of the prestigious award.
As a verb, DELIBERATE (pronounced di-lib-uh-rayt) means to think about something very carefully before making a decision. Some near equivalents include ponder, consider, and contemplate.
According to the press, the jury DELIBERATED for five days before finding the defendant guilty.
When a soldier breaks a rule, a military tribunal DELIBERATES on what his or her punishment should be.
Instead of just coldly closing our borders to immigrants, we should be DELIBERATING on how we can help the refugees escape religious and political persecution.
DELIBERATE is also an adjective (note the slight change in intonation: di-lib-uh-ruht). It describes something done on purpose rather than by accident. Intentional and planned are some synonyms. DELIBERATELY is the adverb form of DELIBERATE.
Despite what his parents believe, there was no DELIBERATE attempt on the part of the drama teacher, Mrs. Hamilton, to exclude Oliver from getting a speaking part in the school play.
Anyone who DELIBERATELY resorts to plagiarism when writing class papers will be automatically suspended.
Harry DELIBERATELY falsified the information he submitted on his college application so he would be eligible for a student grant.
Gemma is really upset because she sees her friend Lindy’s “de-friending” her on Facebook as a DELIBERATE snub.
Investigators believe that the recent shooting incident in California was a DELIBERATE act of terrorism.