14th March 1999
There's an interesting story sent in by one of you on 'Road Safety', containing many important tips on using the roads. Sri Lanka has a high rate of road accidents and the victims quite often are school children.
These days the roads are heavily congested with traffic, especially with school vans. So the police have a hard time directing traffic when the roads are so busy. When this happens motorists and others go their own way without thinking of the safety of the pedestrians.
So young ones when you cross the road make sure that you look both sides and cross when the road is clear. Make sure to cross quickly. Never walk slowly across a busy road for that might cause an accident. Always be careful and alert.
Until next time
The lion flag of Sri Lanka
The Shark is a large marine animal. Sharks are the most feared hunters of the deep. From tail to teeth, the shark's body is designed to hunt and kill. Sharks have some unique features which make them great hunters. Sharks have a special adaptation in their heads called "Ampullae Lorenzini" which they use to sense the electrical impulses given off by another creature's moving muscles. This helps the shark to locate its prey.
A shark's mouth has hundreds of sharp teeth. As the teeth wear off or fall out, new ones move forward to replace them. The shark's skin is covered with tiny tooth like scales which help to protect the shark when it attacks its prey. Its protective eyelids close over the shark's eyes when it attacks. The shark's nostrils can detect smells. Sharks begin to chase when they pick out the smell of blood. The shark's powerful tail allows great forward thrust in the water.
Some sharks can reach the speeds of 74 km per hour. Some well known types of sharks are the great white, great hammer head, whale shark and Mako sharks. The great white shark which is the deadliest shark, grows to 6m (20 ft) long. It eats almost anything including large fish, sea lions and sometimes people. It is usually found in warm waters. The whale shark is known as the largest shark and also as the largest fish in the world measuring 9 -12 metres. A special feature about this type of shark is, that it is covered with spots and stripes. In contrast to its size the whale shark feeds exclusively on the smallest animals in the sea.
The great hammerhead shark's length is about 3.5 m. A unique feature about this shark is that it has a greatly expanded head in the shape of a hammer. The reason for this is that it provides an enlarged platform for the shark's senses, greatly increasing its capabilities. It is also used as a bowplane giving lift and improving manouverability. This shark usually feeds on fish and sting rays.
The Mako shark is perhaps the fastest of all sharks. Its length is about 3 m. The Mako shark has an enormously thick tail. This region is packed with muscles used to power the tail pin. This shark has a modified blood circulation system which allows it to maintain its body temperature a few degrees above that of the surrounding water. This allows it to use its muscle more efficiently than other sharks which makes it capable of moving through the water at great speed. Today the sharks are endangered as many of them get caught in fishing nets and die while some are hunted for food.
M.I. Ijaz Ahamed
Today we hear about many accidents. Due to the carelessness of motorists and pedestrians there are accidents. A large number of school children use the road. Unfortunately many victims are school children. So it is very necessary to teach children about road safety.
It is necessary that every child should know the highway code and the road signs. Most children cycle on the road without knowing the rules. While riding they should always keep to the left. While walking it is safe to walk on the right hand side of the road facing the oncoming vehicle. If there is a pavement we should use it.
Before we cross the road we must make sure that the road is clear. Then we must cross the road quickly.
It is dangerous for more than two people to walk abreast. Children should also not play on the street. Children who travel to school by bus should avoid travelling on the foot board. There is another thing for motorists to remember. They should not drive after alcohol. If we follow these rules we can avoid a lot of road accidents.
E.M.N. Manjula Gunarathna
First telegraphic message sent 140 years ago
By Uncle D.C.R
Sri Lankans have benefited a great deal by having access to many communication systems over the years. Telecommunications has played a major role in this development. Telecommunications has an interesting history in this country.
It was 140 years ago - in January 1858 - that the first telegraphic communication was established between Colombo and Galle, a distance of 72 miles. Coconut trees were used as poles instead of insulators. Wooden brackets were nailed to the trees to keep the wires in place. By June 1858, the service between Colombo and Kandy was started. In October that year, the first international communication was established with India. This was achieved by constructing a line via Kandy and Anuradhapura to Mannar and Talaimannar.
In May 1935 the Minister of Communications advocated a scheme for the modernization of the telephone network. Though much opposition was anticipated on the grounds that it would only benefit the affluent classes, the proposal was accepted by 30 votes to 3.
Two stamps were issued on May 17,1983 to mark the completion of 125 years of telecommunications in Sri Lanka. It also coincided with World Telecommunication Year when the United Nations decided to recognise the fundamental importance of communications infrastructures as an essential element in the economic and social development of all countries. While the Rs 2 stamp depicted the first telegraph service in Sri Lanka, the Rs 10 stamp commemorated the World Telecommunications Year.
Following the decision to restructure the telecommunications sector to meet the ever increasing demand for better services, the Telecommunications Department was converted to a government corporation on September 1,1991. 'Sri Lanka Telecom' was thus born. Four stamps were issued on November 23, 1991 to mark the occasion. Interesting situations were depicted on the stamps. Re 1 stamp featured a 'magneto' telephone used in the early years when a magneto generator had to be used to draw the attention of the switch board operator. It had its own battery to activate the earphone and the microphone. Telephone poles were used to string copper wires fastened to insulators mounted on spindles.
The Rs 2 stamp depicted a manual switch board operated by a female telephonist. Up to the early 1970s most of the truck calls within the country were established with the help of an operator.
The Rs 8 stamp illustrated the era of satellite communication, microwave radio and push button telephone. International communications using geostationary satellites came into wide use and Sri Lanka entered this arena with the opening of the Padukka satellite station in 1975. The numeric keypad replaced the age old rotary dial in the telephone to make dialling easier.
The advent of the digital era was depicted in the Rs 10 stamp. Optical communications by glass fibres revolutionised the whole concept of communications by enabling large volumes of traffic over long distances cheaper and more reliably while mobile communications assumed a new dimension with the advent of the cellular radio.
Today, telephone, fax, and data communications facilities are available in most parts of the country and direct dialling for long distance and overseas connections is commonplace. Thousands of Sri Lankans use the Internet and E (electronic) Mail and the numbers are increasing by the day.
Of all mammals the bats are the only true flyers. Their wings are made of skin extending from the sides of the body. This is stretched over greatly elongated fingers, and reaches to the hind legs, and even to the tail in some bats. The hind legs are twisted outwards and backwards so as to give the wings support. This means that bats move very clumsily when not flying. Their hook-like thumbs are used for holding food and for climbing.
In flight bats rival the birds, but do not compete with them since they are mostly night hunters. Their group name of Chiroptera means "handwing".
Because of their secretive habits, dark colouring and evillooking faces, bats have been treated with fear and superstition down through the ages. This is particularly the case with the vampire bat whose diet is exclusively blood .
The mystery of how bats can fly in total darkness has now been solved. It is not true that bats are blind, but they have small eyes. Instead, the bat sends out a highpitched note which bounces off an object in its path, and is picked up as an echo. This system is very similar to radar, but involves much shorter distances - about a metre.
Bats would appear to be able to distinguish shapes by the echoes that are received. They will thus head towards an insect that is moving yet avoid a stationary object. Whales and dolphins also use this method, called sonar, under water.
A bat usually has only one baby at a time, and will carry it whilst it is still young, even when out hunting. The young bat clings tightly to the mother's body. In countries with cold winters bats hibernate in hidden places, such as buildings, caves, mineshafts and hollow trees. Even while they are resting, their bodies are quite cold. When evening comes they have to flap their wings to raise their body temperature enough for flight. Some bats travel long distances, up to 2,000 kilometres, to reach their winter quarters.
There are two main groups of bats - the large fruit bats or flying foxes, and the small insect-eating bats and vampire bats. Fruit bats are Australasian and Old World inhabitants and some have a wingspan as wide as two metres. There are probably as many as 2,000 species of bats in existence.
By day fruit bats spend their time hanging from trees and cave roofs, coming out to feed at dusk. Sometimes they do great harm to fruit crops. They have good eyesight and a keen sense of smell.
The smaller bats are split into many different families. The majority hunt insects such as moths, but others feed on nectar and pollen from flowers. The insects are caught in flight. Others catch fish, either as the fish leap or by trailing their hind legs in the water, and some feed on blood. There are several species of carnivorous bat.
One of the largest families is well represented in Britain and Europe. The commonest and smallest is the little pipistrelle. Its body is only 40 millimetres long and has a wingspan of about 200 millimetres. It lives up to eight years. Somewhat larger is the noctule. Although bats are not easy to identify when flying, the long-eared bat should not prove too difficult. These bats are expert flyers and make full use of their echo-locating ability.
Somewhat different in appearance are the leaf-nosed bats. These species have grotesque faces. The skin around the nose bulges into an odd shape, called a leaf-nose. It may help the bat to beam onto its high-pitched sounds.
Because of the shape of their noses some bats are called horseshoe bats. The greater horse-shoe bat of Europe normally sleeps and hibernates in caves, hanging from the roof by its hind-feet. Bats that hibernate in such places can be studied by scientists, who mark them with metal discs fixed to their wings. This helps in the study their movements.
For centuries people have believed in human vampires - the evil spirits which emerged from their graves in the form of bats and fed on the blood of their victims. When the Europeans arrived in America they discovered bats which actually fed on blood, and called them vampire bats. They prey on other animals at night. A vampire will strip off a piece of skin and suck up the blood from the wound using its grooved tongue. The vampire bat is a known carrier of diseases, such as rabies.
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