Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Feb 15, 2022 in Stuff You Should Know

Fake Snow at the Winter Olympics

The Winter Olympics has been affected by climate change. In fact, all the downhill skiing events this year have taken place on fake snow. That’s because, despite the freezing temperatures in Beijing, very little snow has fallen. The Winter Games have used artificial snow for several years, but this is the first time that almost all of the snow has been artificially produced. Bernhard Russi, chairman of the International Ski Federation’s alpine committee states that artificial snow will remain a necessary part of future Games.

Snow gun machine producing fresh snow.
Machines like this create artificial snow.

If covering an entire mountain with artificial snow sounds like a big job, that’s because it is. The process of making the snow this year began back in November 2021 and lasted about seven weeks. The snow machines used for the Olympics have different settings that allow technicians to create the exact kind of snow that’s best for certain events. The machine operators can change the density, humidity, and temperature of the artificial snow. For example, cross-country skiing requires a lighter snow, while ski jumping needs a heavier snow. At night, operators smooth and pack down the snow to maintain it.

What is the environmental impact of all of this fake snow? The process uses a lot of water, but this water only comes from rainfall and runoff. Once melted, the water can be recycled later for landscaping or irrigation. It also requires a lot of chemicals, however, and the impact of this is still largely unknown. Also, introducing a lot of extra water to a large area could affect the water table and the natural water cycle in that area. Artificial snow melts more slowly than real snow, which could cause flooding. And operating the snow “guns” takes energy, which often requires burning fossil fuels, which impacts the environment further.

Dig Deeper Which Winter Olympic Games first used artificial snow? What was the response from fans and athletes? Use Internet resources to find out.

2022 Winter Olympics Update

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games officially opened on February 4, 2022. As of February 15th, Norway has earned with the most total medals (twenty-six, twelve of them gold). Germany is second in the medal count, with fifteen medals (eight of them gold). the United States, with seventeen total medals (seven of them gold).

In other athletic news from Beijing, snowboarding halfpipe legend Shaun White has officially retired after a fourth-place finish. White, 35, is a three-time Olympic gold medalist. He holds the world record for the most Olympic gold medals by a snowboarder. Leading up to the Beijing Olympics, he said that the mental and physical strain was becoming too much, and that these Games would be his last.

The new men’s halfpipe snowboard champion–Japan’s Ayumu Hirano–received a lot of attention for completing the toughest halfpipe trick, the triple cork, in his second run, and yet only received the second-highest score after Australia’s Scotty James. Hirano came back in the third round to earn the highest score, and with it, his first Olympic gold medal.

China—the host country—also celebrated. Gao Tingyu won the nations’ first speed skating gold medal in the 500-meter event on Saturday, February 12. He also set an Olympic record time of 34.32 seconds. American-born Eileen Gu also captured a gold medal in the Freestyle Skiing competition.

Coming up in this last week of the Olympics are bobsledding, singles figure skating, and continuing rounds of curling and hockey.

What Do You Think? Have you been watching the Winter Olympics? In your opinion, what was the most exciting thing to happen so far? Add a paragraph to this story describing what you consider to be a key moment from the 2022 Winter Games.

Free College Tuition for Dollywood Employees

College educations are very expensive, and many students must take on student loans to help pay for their education. Some employers will actually pay for their employees’ tuition. The latest employer to sign on? Herschend Enterprises, owner of Dollywood Resorts, the Harlem Globetrotters, and the Newport Aquarium in Kentucky.

On February 8, 2022, the company’s CEO announced that all 11,000 of its part-time, full-time, and seasonal employees will be eligible for the tuition program, which they are calling “Herschend’s Grow U.” Employees who enroll in one of the hundred programs offered through Guild’s Learning Marketplace will have the full cost of their tuition and fees completely covered. The Guild’s Learning Marketplace includes programs such as business administration and finance. Employees who enroll in other programs–such as engineering, art design, and human resources–will receive $5,250 per year towards their education.

This is not the first time that country music legend and actress Dolly Parton has been associated with a pro-education initiative. More than twenty years ago, she started a program in her hometown of Sevier County, Tennessee, to get free books into the hands of children. Today, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has given away more than 130 million books to children all over the country.

Dig Deeper Herschend Enterprises is not the first company to offer free or reduced tuition to its employees: McDonald’s, Starbucks, Walmart, Target, Apple, Amazon, and many others do as well. Choose one of these companies and use Internet resources to find out more about their college tuition program. Research how much tuition aid they offer, who is eligible to receive funding, and any restrictions. Write a short, informative paragraph to share with your classmates.

The Washington Commanders

Within the last two years, the Cleveland Indians baseball team and the Washington Redskins football team decided to stop using mascot names that were offensive to Native Americans. The Cleveland Guardians will take the field in spring 2022 under its new name. And now, the Washington team announced that it will now be known as the Commanders.

The word “redskin” was a racial slur for Native Americans given by white settlers. Native American activists and allies have protested the Washington team name for years. Team owner Daniel Snyder and many fans resisted changing the name because they said it represented the team’s history and tradition. But after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis law enforcement in 2020, FedEx–the main sponsor of the football team–threatened to pull their sponsorship of the Washington team unless it changed its name. The team agreed to temporarily change the name to “Football Team” for two seasons before finally unveiling the new name on February 2, 2022.

So, why the “Commanders”? According to team leadership, the name references the military role since the team is associated with the nation’s capital city. They chose it to represent the ideals of leadership and service. The new uniforms keep the old team colors–gold and burgundy–but no longer use any Native American imagery. 

What Do You Think? Other professional sports team names based on Native Americans include the Atlanta Braves, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Chicago Blackhawks. Choose one of these teams and come up with a possible replacement name that would represent the history of the team or the city it represents.