THI THỬ IELTS READING ĐỀ 02

READING PASSAGE 1

You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 1-14, which are based on Reading Passage 1 below.

LIFE WITHOUT DEATH

Until recently, the thought that there might ever be a cure for ageing seemed preposterous. Growing older and more decrepit appeared to be an inevitable and necessary part of being human. Over the last decade, however, scientists have begun to see ageing differently. Some now believe that the average life-expectancy may soon be pushed up to 160 years; others think that it may be extended to 200 or 300 years. A handful even wonder whether we might one day live for a millennium or more.

Behind this new excitement is the theory that the primary cause of ageing lies in highly reactive molecules called free radicals, left behind by the oxygen we breathe. Free radicals react with the molecules in our bodies, damaging DNA, proteins and other cell tissues, and are known to be implicated in diseases as diverse as cataracts, cancer and Alzheimer’s. The body does its best to protect itself against free radicals by producing its own chemicals to prevent ageing, such as vitamins E and C, but it is always fighting a losing battle.

A year ago Gordon Lithgow of the University of Manchester discovered a way to help combat free radicals. Using one of these anti-ageing chemicals. he managed to increase the lifespan of one species of earthworm by 50 per cent. Despite cautionary words from the scientists, many welcomed this as the first step towards a drug which would extend life. Research involving the mutation of genes has also thrown up fascinating results: after identifying two of the genes that appear to control how long the earthworm lives, similar genes were found in organisms as various as fruit-flies, mice and human beings. When one considers the vast evolutionary distances that separate these species, it suggests that we may have discovered a key to how ageing is regulated throughout the entire animal kingdom.

In June last year a small American company called Eukarion sought permission to carry out the first trials of an anti-ageing drug, SCS, on human beings. Although it will initially be used to treat diseases associated with old age, Eukarion said, that ‘if the effect of treating diseases of old age is to extend life, everyone’s going to be happy.’

Some scientists, however, are quick to discourage extravagant speculation. ‘There is no evidence whatsoever that swallowing any chemical would have an effect on mammals’, says Rich Miller of the University of Michigan. ‘And those people who claim it

might need to go out and do some experimenting’. Some research, moreover, has produced alarming results. As well as controlling ageing, these, genes also partly control the hormones which regulate growth. The upshot of this is that although the lives of mutant mice can be extended by up to 80 per cent, they remain smaller than normal.

Quite apart from these sorts of horrors, the ethical implications of extending human lifespan are likely to worry many people. Even if the falling birth-rates reported in the world’s developed nations were to be repeated throughout the world, would this be sufficient to compensate for massively extended life-expectancy, and would we be willing to see the demographic balance of our society change out of all recognition? David Gems, the head of the Centre for Research into Ageing at University College, London, is enthusiastic about the opportunities opened up by extended life, but even he observes, ‘If people live much longer, the proportion of children would. of course, he very small. It strikes me that it might feel rather claustrophobic: all those middle-aged people and very few children or young people.’

The philosopher John Polkinghorne emphasises that any discussion of the merits of life-extending therapies must take into account the quality of the life that is lived: ‘One would not wish to prolong life beyond the point it had ceased to be creative and fulfilling and meaningful,’ he says. ‘Presumably, there would have to come a point at which life ceased to be creative and became just repetition. Clearly, there are only so many rounds of golf one would want to play.’

But Polkinghorne, a member of the Human Genetics Commission, also observes that so far our experience of extended life-expectancy has not resulted in world-weariness. Throughout the last century, life-expectancy rose consistently, thanks to improved diet, better hygiene, continuous medical innovation and the provision of free or subsidised healthcare. In 1952 the Queen sent out 225 telegrams to people on their 100th birthday; in 1996 she sent out 5218. ‘Consider also, the lives of our Roman and Anglo-Saxon ancestors’ he says. By and large, the doubling of human lifespan we have seen since then has not been a bad thing. Life has not become frustrating and boring. For example, we now live to see our children’s children, and this is good.’

 

READING PASSAGE 2  

You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 15-27, which are based on Reading Passage 2 below:

IN PRAISE OF AMATEURS

Despite the specialization of scientific research, amateurs still have an important role to play

During the scientific revolution of the 17th century, scientists were largely men of private means who pursued their interest in natural philosophy for their own edification. Only in the past century or two has it become possible to make a living from investigating the workings of nature. Modern science was, in other words, built on the work of amateurs. Today, science is an increasingly specialized and compartmentalized subject, the domain of experts who know more and more about less and less. Perhaps surprisingly, however, amateurs – even those without private means – are still important.

A recent poll carried out at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science by astronomer Dr Richard Fienberg found that, in addition to his field of astronomy, amateurs are actively involved in such field as acoustics, horticulture, ornithology, meteorology, hydrology and palaeontology. Far from being crackpots, amateur scientists are often in close touch with professionals, some of whom rely heavily on their co-operation.

Admittedly, some fields are more open to amateurs than others. Anything that requires expensive equipment is clearly a no-go area. And some kinds of research can be dangerous; most amateur chemists, jokes Dr Fienberg, are either locked up or have blown themselves to bits. But amateurs can make valuable contributions in fields from rocketry to palaeontology and the rise of the internet has made it easier than before to collect data and distribute results.

Exactly which field of study has benefited most from the contributions of amateurs is a matter of some dispute. Dr Fienberg makes a strong case for astronomy. There is, he points out, a long tradition of collaboration between amateur and professional sky watchers. Numerous comets, asteroids and even the planet Uranus were discovered by amateurs. Today, in addition to comet and asteroid spotting, amateurs continue to do valuable work observing the brightness of variable stars and detecting novae- ‘new’ stars in the Milky Way and supernovae in other galaxies. Amateur observers are helpful, says Dr Fienberg, because there are so many of them (they far outnumber professionals) and because they are distributed all over the world. This makes special kinds of observations possible:’ if several observers around the world accurately record the time when a star is eclipsed by an asteroid, for example, it is possible to derive useful information about the asteroid’s shape.

Another field in which amateurs have traditionally played an important role is palaeontology. Adrian Hunt, a palaeontologist at Mesa Technical College in New Mexico, insists that his is the field in which amateurs have made the biggest contribution. Despite the development of high-tech equipment, he says, the best sensors for finding fossils are human eyes – lots of them.

Finding volunteers to look for fossils is not difficult, he says, because of the near –universal interest in anything to do with dinosaurs. As well as helping with this research, volunteers learn about science, a process he calls ‘recreational education’.

Rick Bonney of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York, contends that amateurs have contributed the most in his field. There are, he notes, thought to be as many as 60 million birdwatchers in America alone. Given their huge numbers and the wide geographical coverage they provide, Mr Bonney has enlisted thousands of amateurs in a number of research projects. Over the past few years their observations have uncovered previously unknown trends and cycles in bird migrations and revealed declines in the breeding populations of several species of migratory birds, prompting a habitat conservation programme.

Despite the successes and whatever the field of study, collaboration between amateurs and professionals is not without its difficulties. Not everyone, for example is happy with the term ‘amateur’. Mr Bonney has coined the term ‘citizen scientist’ because he felt that other words, such as ‘volunteer’ sounded disparaging. A more serious problem is the question of how professionals can best acknowledge the contributions made by amateurs. Dr Fienberg says that some amateur astronomers are happy to provide their observations but grumble about not being reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses. Others feel let down when their observations are used in scientific papers, but they are not listed as co-authors. Dr Hunt says some amateur palaeontologists are disappointed when told that they cannot take finds home with them.

These are legitimate concerns but none seems insurmountable. Provided amateurs and professionals agree the terms on which they will work together beforehand, there is no reason why co-operation between the two groups should not flourish. Last year Dr S. Carlson, founder of the Society for Amateur Scientists won an award worth $290,000 for his work in promoting such co-operation. He says that one of the main benefits of the prize is the endorsement it has given to the contributions of amateur scientists, which has done much to silence critics among those professionals who believe science should remain their exclusive preserve.

At the moment, says Dr Carlson, the society is involved in several schemes including an innovative rocket-design project and the setting up of a network of observers who will search for evidence of a link between low- frequency radiation and earthquakes. The amateurs, he says, provide enthusiasm and talent, while the professionals provide guidance ‘so that anything they do discover will be taken seriously’. Having laid the foundations of science, amateurs will have much to contribute to its ever – expanding edifice.

READING PASSAGE 3

You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 28-40, which are based on Reading Passage 3 below.

HIGH-TECH CRIME-FIGHTING TOOLS

A

Crime-fighting technology is getting more sophisticated and rightly so. The police need to be equipped for the 21st century. In Britain we’ve already got the world’s biggest DNA database. By next year the state will have access to the genetic data of 4.25m people: one British-based person in 14. Hundreds of thousands of those on the database will never have been charged with a crime. 

B

Britain is also reported to have more than £4 million CCTV (closed circuit television) cameras. There is a continuing debate about the effectiveness of CCTV. Some evidence suggests that it is helpful in reducing shoplifting and car crime. It has also been used to successfully identify terrorists and murderers. However, many claim that better lighting is just as effective to prevent crime and that cameras could displace crime. An internal police report said that only one crime was solved for every 1,000 cameras in London in 2007. In short, there is conflicting evidence about the effectiveness of cameras, so it is likely that the debate will continue.

C

Professor Mike Press, who has spent the past decade studying how design can contribute to crime reduction, said that, in order for CCTV to have any effect, it must be used in a targeted way. For example, a scheme in Manchester records every licence plate at the entrance of a shopping complex and alerts police when one is found to belong to an untaxed or stolen car. This is an effective example of monitoring, he said. Most schemes that simply record city centres continually — often not being watched – do not produce results. CCTV can also have the opposite effect of that intended, by giving citizens a false sense of security and encouraging them to be careless with property and personal safety. Professor Press said: All the evidence suggests that CCTV alone makes no positive impact on crime reduction and prevention at all The weight of evidence would suggest the investment is more or less a waste of money unless you have lots of other things in place.’ He believes that much of the increase is driven by the marketing efforts of security companies who promote the crime-reducing benefits of their products. He described it as a lazy approach to crime prevention’ and said that authorities should instead be focusing on how to alter the environment to reduce crime.

D

But in reality, this is not what is happening. Instead, police are considering using more technology. Police forces have recently begun experimenting with cameras in their helmets. The footage will be stored on police computers, along with the footage from thousands of CCTV cameras and millions of pictures from numberplate recognition cameras used increasingly to check up on motorists.

E

And now another type of technology is being introduced. It’s called the Microdrone and it’s a toy-sized remote-control craft that hovers above streets or crowds to film what’s going on beneath. The Microdrone has already been used to monitor rock festivals, but its supplier has also been in discussions to supply it to the Metropolitan Police, and Soca, the Serious Organised Crime Agency. The drones are small enough to be unnoticed by people on the ground when they are flying at 350ft. They contain high-resolution video surveillance equipment and an infrared night vision capability, so even in darkness they give their operators a bird’s-eye view of locations while remaining virtually undetectable.

 

F

The worrying thing is, who will get access to this technology? Merseyside police are already employing two of the devices as part of a pilot scheme to watch football crowds and city parks looking for antisocial behaviour. It is not just about crime detection: West Midlands fire brigade is about to lease a drone, for example, to get a better view of fire and flood scenes and aid rescue attempts; the Environment Agency is considering their use for monitoring of illegal fly tipping and oil spills. The company that makes the drone says it has no plans to license the equipment to individuals or private companies, which hopefully will prevent private security firms from getting their hands on them. But what about local authorities? In theory, this technology could be used against motorists. And where will the surveillance society end? Already there are plans to introduce smart water’ containing a unique DNA code identifier that when sprayed on a suspect will cling to their clothes and skin and allow officers to identify them later. As long as high-tech tools are being used in the fight against crime and terrorism, fine. But if it’s another weapon to be used to invade our privacy then we don’t want it.

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