IELTS READING LEVEL 6.5 – The History of Planet Earth

The History of Planet Earth

by ReadWorks

 

 

Our planet is no spring chicken. The history of the earth stretches over billions of years. In that time period, a lot has changed. Some of those changes took place over a very long time, too slowly and gradually for people to discern. Some changes, on the other hand, took place very quickly.

Water, wind and ice slowly shape the surface of the earth, constantly moving all around us. Activity just beneath the surface of the earth’s crust creates rapid changes in the shape of the land-that’s where we get volcanoes, landslides and earthquakes.

Glaciers, which are huge, very old formations made out of water, earth and ice, can even change the size and shape of the oceans. These major shifts take place over millions of years. We can see the results, but apart from measuring them and seeing where growth or change took place, we can’t observe these changes as they occur. They simply happen too slowly.

Erosion is an example of a slow process that changes the surface of the earth. Think of a windy beach, how sand from the beach is carried toward the dunes or, depending on the behavior of the wind, how the sand from the dunes is carried further down the beach. We can see and feel the sand moving over the land and through the air, but the long-term effects of that movement won’t be visible for years.

The earth’s surface is also made up of very slowly moving parts, called tectonic plates. These plates fit like puzzle pieces and make up the outermost layer of the planet. When this layer moves around, it can cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. It’s very easy to spot these changes as they’re happening! In fact, we have to be very careful and prepare for them in advance, and take safety measures before and after they occur.

Volcanoes, earthquakes and landslides aren’t everyday events. If they were, we’d be in big trouble! Ordinarily, the movement of the plates is extremely slow, yet very powerful. Plate movement is one of the major forces that changes the location and shape of continents and oceans-major changes that we can’t detect and that appear gradually over millions of years.

Some earth-changing events occur naturally, but others come from us, from humans. It’s important to remember that we have our own impact on the earth. In many cases, humans influence the earth’s natural processes on purpose, speeding them up, slowing them down, or manipulating them in other ways to get something we want-usually a natural resource, like water or oil. Some of what we do to our planet is on purpose, and some of it is accidental.

Cutting down forests, building new houses, bridges, office buildings and movie theaters, can lead to quickening natural events that might have taken much longer without humans’ involvement.

You can walk outside any time you like and see the planet stir: wind moving particles of sand and rock, water dripping from one surface onto another, seasons changing each year. Everything you see on a walk around your neighborhood contributes to the earth’s changing and maturing, just like everything we do every day contributes to what we’ll be like as people 10 years, 20 years, even 50 years from now. And those changes in our bodies and personalities-unless something unusual happens-take time to show up too.

It’s interesting to think about how what we do and the forces that act on us affect who we become.

The earth is a big, changing organism, just like we are.


Vocabulary

 

detect       de ·tect

Definition

verb

  1. to discover or notice.

He detected anger in her voice.

She detected the smell of smoke.

Advanced Definition

transitive verb

  1. to perceive, discover, or uncover.

Our radar detected the presence of the small vessel.

Her parents could easily detect that she had been smoking.

I could detect a trace of annoyance in her manner.

  1. to discover the true or essential character of.

Now that we have detected him, this villain, he will get what he deserves.

Spanish cognate

detectar: The Spanish word detectar means detect.

These are some examples of how the word or forms of the word are used:

  1. The human eye can detect only a very narrow range of visible radiation, which we see as light bouncing off objects. The full electromagnetic spectrum is much broader than that.
  2. The CVR is attached to multiple microphones located in the cockpit and it records any communication and all the sounds in the cockpit. In the case of an accident, the investigators who listen to a CVR recording can actually hear two things: first, what was said by the pilots and/or crew right before the incident; and second, the sounds in the background. Welltrained investigators can detect unusual engine noise, strange pops and other signals that help alert them to figure out what went wrong with the flight.
  3. What we know so far is that planet Earth, and the seven other planets in our solar system, are part of the Milky Way galaxy, which is one of many galaxies in the universe. The farther we can see with our telescopes, and the more patterns and behaviors we can predict and detect of all the celestial bodies we know so far, the more galaxies we can discover, and the more suns we can identify.
  1. Animals learn the same way we do: by using their senses. A dog’s eyes and ears and nose work the same way that ours do, by detecting sights, sounds, and scents. Dogs’ noses, however, are super-powered compared to ours.
  1. Radiometric dating-the use of technology to detect radioactive elements to identify the age of whatever those elements are in-is a precise but limited technique for determining the age of a fossil. The precision of radiometric dating comes from the fact that radioactive elements have clear, well-documented decay times (or how long it takes for traces of an element to disintegrate). Using this technique, scientists can narrow down the age of a fossil, even one that’s over 50 million years old, to a very close estimate.
  2. When a soldier is on a battlefield, he very frequently feels unsafe. He may believe that the enemy could strike at any time. As part of his training, he has learned to stay alert for any signs of danger and, if he detects one, to react immediately. This is often very important, as any hesitation could result in harm to him or his fellow soldiers.
  3. On April 2, the mountain sent an explosion of steam, water, ash and rock into the air. Over the next several weeks, it continued to belch volcanic ash into the air. Scientists detected increased levels of carbon dioxide, a sign that hot liquid magma would be nearing the surface. By June 7, a dome of lava 130 feet high and 660 feet across had formed on the surface of the volcano.
  4. When we sense pain, we know that we should stop whatever it is we’re doing, because it hurts. If you rest your hand on the stove while it’s turned on, the pain will alert you to move away. Our sense receptors allow us to detect pain and tell our brains about injuries to our bodies.
  5. Volcanoes, earthquakes and landslides aren’t everyday events. If they were, we’d be in big trouble! Ordinarily, the movement of the plates is extremely slow, yet very powerful. Plate movement is one of the major forces that changes the location and shape of continents and oceans-major changes that we can’tdetect and that appear gradually over millions of years.
  6. The telescope, which orbits the sun between Earth and Mars, is the most advanced and sensitive optical telescope ever constructed. It is so light sensitive that, if it were pointed back toward Earth at night, it would be able to detect when one person in a small town turned off a single porch light.

 

discern       dis ·cern

Advanced Definition

transitive verb

  1. to perceive or make out.

She discerned a figure in the shadows.

  1. to distinguish or discriminate.

He discerned some sympathizers in the hostile crowd.

intransitive verb

  1. to recognize differences; discriminate.

Spanish cognate

discernir: The Spanish word discernir means discern.

These are some examples of how the word or forms of the word are used:

  1. Chemical substances react in certain ways and also have certain discernible For instance, when an oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms come together they form water, which is essential to life. When the atoms of a specific substance are regrouped, a new substance is formed with often vastly different properties from the original substance.
  2. In the case of, say, a basketball, as scientists, we might think about properties like its appearance (round, knobby texture, orange color), buoyancy (Does it float? Yes.), or conductivity (no, it can’t carry an electrical current). Other physical properties, some immediately observable and some only discernible under testing, are boiling point, density, ductility, hardness, magnetism, malleability, mass, melting point, and odor.
  3. The scents that dogs pick up help them understand their surroundings. Dogs store what they learn, making memories that guide their future actions. When trained to discern tiny differences in scents, dogs can do remarkable things. For instance, dogs can learn to sniff out drugs and explosives (have you ever seen a dog with a security guard at a big office building or an airport?). They can also, with training, pick out the one stick thrown for them from a heap of many, based on the scent of their owner.

 

influence       in ·flu ·ence

Definition

noun

  1. a thing or person that can affect another thing or person.

My mother was a big influence in my life.

The war had an influence on the country’s future.

verb

  1. to affect.

Your ideas have influenced my thinking.

Advanced Definition

noun

  1. the power or intangible action of one thing or person which brings about an effect on another.

Her friends had a lot of influence on her decision to go into acting.

The ideas of Karl Marx had a strong influence on him as a youth.

We can see the influence of Picasso in this artist’s works.

  1. a thing or person that exerts such action.

She had always been a major influence in her younger sister’s life.

The works of the French impressionists were his early influences.

  1. corrupt use of personal connections to sway someone in a position of authority.

He used his influence to get his son the job.

transitive verb

  1. to have influence on; sway.

Her arguments failed to influence her son’s decision.

His friends influenced him to take up soccer.

Spanish cognate

influencia: The Spanish word influencia means influence.

These are some examples of how the word or forms of the word are used:

  1. It is important to remember that Native Americans had established customs, beliefs, traditions, and general ways of living well before European influences began to spread across the continent.
  2. From the days of early European exploration, through the chaotic frenzy of the California Gold Rush, and into modern day, San Francisco’s development has beeninfluenced greatly by its location on the San Francisco Bay.
  3. Peers are people your age, such as your friends, who have experiences similar to yours. Your peers influence your decisions and behavior every day, and they can push you to make bad choices, even dangerous ones. But is peer pressure always bad?
  4. The Energy’s sound is heavilyinfluenced by early 1990s rock, and ideas for songs come to Clifford in snippets, which he hands off to Wolfsdorf to shape into lyrics.
  5. At these meetings, European intellectuals, academics and philosophers discussed the rights of man, the abolition of slavery, and the principles of the American movement, emphasizing the importance of equality and liberty. These principles were heavily influenced by the Enlightenment philosophies introduced a few decades before the American Revolutionary War.
  6. As the first monotheistic form of morality, Judaic morality has been very influential. The other Abrahamic faiths of Islam and Christianity have very similar moral codes that demand the same strict adherence and emphasis on a good and benevolent god.
  7. StoryCorps suggests that participants prepare a list of questions to ask during their interviews. For example, a son can ask his mother what was the happiest moment in her life. He can ask her what person has the biggest influence on her, and how her life has turned out differently from what she expected.
  8. So many aspects of what it means to be human, from the way cities are constructed, to the way nations are organized, are influenced by our natural environment, by the vast and complex set of processes that have shaped the earth since its inception, and will continue to do so long into the future.

Name: ___________________________________ Date: _______________
Comprehension Questions
1. How much has the earth changed in its history?
A. a lot
B. a little
C. not at all
D. not enough for anyone to notice
2. Two effects mentioned in this passage are earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. What is their cause?
A. wind that blows sand from one place to another
B. water dripping from one surface onto another
C. the construction of houses, movie theaters, and bridges
D. the movement of the earth’s outermost layer
3. Some of earth’s changes take place too slowly for people to notice them happening.
What evidence from the passage supports this statement?
A. Changes like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are not everyday events, but they are easy to spot when they are happening.
B. People notice changes glaciers have made to the size and shape of earth’s oceans after the changes have taken place.
C. Earth’s history goes back billions of years, and a lot of changes, both fast and slow, have taken place over that period of time.
D. People sometimes influence earth’s natural processes on purpose by speeding them up, slowing them down, or manipulating them in other ways.
4. What is an example of change on earth that people can see happening?
A. glaciers changing the size and shape of earth’s oceans
B. sand blowing from one part of a beach to another
C. tectonic plate movement changing the location and shape of earth’s continents
D. tectonic plate movement changing the location and shape of earth’s oceans
5. What is this passage mainly about?
A. glaciers and erosion
B. landslides and earthquakes
C. changes in the earth
D. changes in the human body
6. Read the following sentences: “Water, wind and ice slowly shape the surface of the earth, constantly moving all around us. Activity just beneath the surface of the earth’s crust creates rapid changes in the shape of the land-that’s where we get volcanoes, landslides and earthquakes.”
What does the word “surface” mean in the sentences above?
A. a process that changes the shape of the earth
B. an effect that takes many years for people to notice
C. the middle or central part of something
D. the outer layer or part of something
7. Choose the answer that best completes the sentence below.
The earth is shaped by the movement of different forces, _______ water, wind, and ice.
A. never
B. instead
C. finally
D. including
8. How do humans influence the earth’s natural processes?
__________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________
9. How are changes in the earth similar to changes in human beings?
__________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________
10. The passage describes some ways that changes in the earth and changes in people are similar. What are some ways that changes in the earth and changes in people are different? Support your answer with evidence from the passage.
__________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________

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