Reading skills for academic study: Understanding conceptual meaning

Exercise 1

Read each of the following paragraphs. Decide which rhetorical structures are used.

1. DIVISIONS OF GEOLOGICAL TIME
The rocks of the accessible part of the earth are divided into five major divisions or eras, which are in the order of decreasing age, Archeozoic, Proterozoic, Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic. Superposition is the criterion of age. Each rock is considered younger than the one on which it rests, provided there is no structural evidence to the contrary, such as overturning or thrust faulting. As one looks at a tall building there is no doubt in the mind of the observer that the top story was erected after the one on which it rests and is younger than it in order of time. So it is in stratigraphy in which strata are arranged in an orderly sequence based upon their relative positions. Certainly the igneous and metamorphic rocks at the bottom of the Grand Canyon are the oldest rocks exposed along the Colorado River in Arizona and each successively higher formation is relatively younger than the one beneath it.
2. There are two traditional theories of forgetting. One argues that the memory trace simply fades or decays away rather as a notice that is exposed to sun and rain will gradually fade until it becomes quite illegible. The second suggests that forgetting occurs because memory traces are disrupted or obscured by subsequent learning, or in other words that forgetting occurs because of interference. How can one decide between these two interpretations of forgetting? If the memory trace decays spontaneously, then the crucial factor determining how much is recalled should simply be elapsed time. The longer the delay, the greater the forgetting. If forgetting results from interference however then the crucial factor should be the events that occur within that time, with more interpolated events resulting in more forgetting.
3. WEATHERING AND SOIL. The work of weathering is carried on mainly by the atmosphere, which affects rocks physically and chemically. Disintegration of rocks into fragments having the same chemical composition as the main mass is a physical change. The chief agents of disintegration are frost, temperature change, organ-isms, wind, rain, and lightning. Almost every rock contains some cracks or pore space, and moisture entering the openings freezes when the temperature is below 32°F. The change of water to ice is accompanied by an increase of volume of one tenth and by a pressure of several tons to the square foot. Repeated freezing and expansion followed by thawing break rocks into chips or blocks, which accumulate on the surface to form mantle rock. Wide variation in daily temperature combined with other weathering agents causes exfoliation or scaling off of thin slabs of rocks. Since rocks are poor conductors of heat, rays from the sun penetrate only a slight distance into the rock, causing this outer heated part to expand. In the night it cools and contracts. Repeated expansion and contraction weaken the outer layer, but whether the scaling off is due to this or to moisture is debatable. The effect is greatly increased when a shower of rain falls suddenly on the heated rock, for many of us have observed that when water is poured on hot rocks around a campfire they often break open with great violence. Talus is composed of rock fragments broken from cliffs or steep Slopes by frost action or temperature change, and is moved by gravity down the slope until its surface approaches the angle of repose of loose materials. Organisms of various kinds are active instruments of disintegration. Plants extend a network of roots into the cracks which penetrate the rocks in all directions. These roots enlarge during growth and act as wedges to force the rocks apart. This wedging force not only lifts blocks of sidewalk and breaks pavements in a few years but also disrupts natural exposures on a grand scale. Wind blows sand grains against the surface of rocks with such force that pits of varying sizes are formed. The Sphinx and pyramids of Egypt are deeply pitted by sand blown over northern Africa. Particles of loosened rock, removed by the next gust of wind, become the tools for further abrasion. Sand-blasting is a commercially practical method of polishing and cleaning rocks, including the hard surface of granite. In nature fantastic forms are sculptured by wind abrasion, especially where materials of different degrees of resistance are in contact. In this way balanced rocks are formed where drifting sand wears away the softer, less consolidated materials at the base of a well-cemented layer. Likewise mushroom rocks are carved out of sandy rocks be-cause the rock material of the stem yields more readily to the impact of sand grains than that of the top. Rain and lightning are less effective than the other mechanical agents but contribute their share to the process of reducing a mass of solid rock at the surface to fragments.
4. The Maasai are pastoralists, grazing their cattle over the plains which border Kenya and Tanzania. The status of a Maasai man is directly related to the number and quality of the cattle he owns which, traditionally, he would never sell. A Maasai woman, however, has control over housing. When she marries, her first task is to build her own house, helped by other women in the homestead. This house belongs to her and no one may enter without her permission. Throughout her life she will build a new house every ten years or so.
5. American medical technology is the best on earth, but its health-care system is the most wasteful. Americans spend roughly twice as much on doctors, drugs and snazzy brain scanners as Europeans, but live no longer. In contrast to the all-inclusiveness of other countries' socialised medical services, 40m Americans have no coverage at all. Chinese children are more likely to be vaccinated against disease than Americans, despite the fact that health spending per head in the United States is about 150 times higher. The government, many Americans agree, should do something. Sadly, most of their politicians have misdiagnosed the ailment and are proposing a battery of quack remedies.AMERICAN medical technology is the best on earth, but its health-care system is the most wasteful. Americans spend roughly twice as much on doctors, drugs and snazzy brain scanners as Europeans, but live no longer. In contrast to the all-inclusiveness of other countries' socialised medical services, 40m Americans have no coverage at all. Chinese children are more likely to be vaccinated against disease than Americans, despite the fact that health spending per head in the United States is about 150 times higher. The government, many Americans agree, should do something. Sadly, most of their politicians have misdiagnosed the ailment and are proposing a battery of quack remedies.
6. Woodleigh Bolton was a straggling village set along the side ofa hill. Galls Hill was the highest house just at the top ofthe rise, with a view over Woodleigh Camp and the moors towards the sea. The house itselfwas bleak and obviously Dr. Kennedy scorned such modern innovations as central heating. The woman who opened the door was dark and rather forbidding. She led them across the rather bare hail and into a study where Dr. Kennedy rose to receive them. It was a long, rather high room, lined with well-filled bookshelves.
7. Blood Type, in medicine, is the classification of red blood cells by the presence of specific substances on their surface. Typing of red blood cells is a prerequisite for blood transfusion. In the early part of the 20th century, physicians discovered that blood transfusions often failed because the blood type of the recipient was not compatible with that of the donor. In 1901 the Austrian pathologist Karl Landsteiner classified blood types and discovered that they were transmitted by Mendelian heredity. The four blood types are known as A, B, AB, and O. Blood type A contains red blood cells that have a substance A on their surface. This type of blood also contains an antibody directed against substance B, found on the red cells of persons with blood type B. Type B blood contains the reverse combination. Serum of blood type AB contains neither antibody, but red cells in this type of blood contain both A and B substances. In type O blood, neither substance is present on the red cells, but the individual is capable of forming antibodies directed against red cells containing substance A or B. If blood type A is transfused into a person with B type blood, anti-A antibodies in the recipient will destroy the transfused A red cells. Because O type blood has neither substance on its red cells, it can be given successfully to almost any person. Persons with blood type AB have no antibodies and can receive any of the four types of blood; thus blood types O and AB are called universal donors and universal recipients, respectively. Other hereditary blood-group systems have subsequently been discovered. The hereditary blood constituent called Rh factor is of great importance in obstetrics and blood transfusions because it creates reactions that can threaten the life of newborn infants. Blood types M and N have importance in legal cases involving proof of paternity.
8. An atomic bomb is a powerful explosive nuclear weapon fueled by the splitting, or fission, of the nuclei of specific isotopes of uranium or plutonium in a chain reaction. The strength of the explosion created by an atomic bomb is on the order of the strength of the explosion that would be created by thousands of tons of TNT. An atomic bomb must provide enough mass of plutonium or uranium to reach critical mass, the mass at which the nuclear reactions going on inside the material can make up for the neutrons leaving the material through its outside surface. Usually the plutonium or uranium in a bomb is separated into parts so that critical mass is not reached until the bomb is set to explode. At that point, a set of chemical explosives or some other mechanism drives all the different pieces of uranium or plutonium together to produce a critical mass. After this occurs, there are enough neutrons bouncing around in the material to create a chain reaction of fissions. In the fission reactions, collisions between neutrons and uranium or plutonium atoms cause the atoms to split into pairs of nuclear fragments, releasing energy and more neutrons. Once the reactions begin, the neutrons released by each reaction hit other atoms and create more fission reactions until all the fissile material is exhausted or scattered.
9. Atomic tests
The first atomic explosion was conducted, as a test, at Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945. The energy released from this explosion was equivalent to that released by the detonation of 20,000 tons of TNT. Near the end of World War II, on August 6, 1945, the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. It followed with a second bomb against the city of Nagasaki on August 9. As many as 100,000 persons were killed by the Hiroshima device, called "Little Boy," and about 40,000 by a bomb dropped on Nagasaki, called "Fat Man." Japan agreed to U.S. terms of surrender on August 14th. These are the only times that a nuclear weapon has been used in a conflict between nations.
10. Aaron Copland was an American composer. He was born in New York City on November 14, 1900. He studied in New York City with the American composer Rubin Goldmark and in Paris with the influential French teacher Nadia Boulanger. Although his earliest work was heavily influenced by the French impressionists, he soon began to develop a personalized style. After experimenting with jazz rhythms in such works as Music for the Theater (1925) and the Piano Concerto (1927), Copland turned to more austere and dissonant compositions. Concert pieces such as the Piano Variations (1930) and Statements (1933-1935) rely on nervous, irregular rhythms, angular melodies, and highly dissonant harmonies. In the mid-1930s Copland turned to a simpler style, more melodic and lyrical, frequently drawing on elements of American folk music. His best work of the 1940s expresses distinctly American themes; in Lincoln Portrait (1942), for orchestra and narrator, and in the ballets Billy the Kid (1938), Rodeo (1942), and Appalachian Spring (1944; Pulitzer Prize, 1945), he uses native themes and rhythms to capture the flavor of early American life. He adapted Mexican folk music for El salón México (1937). Other orchestral works are the Symphony for Organ and Orchestra (1925), the Symphonic Ode (1932), and the Third Symphony (1946), which incorporates the Fanfare for the Common Man (1942). Also from this period is the opera for high school students, The Second Hurricane (1937). His music for films includes Of Mice and Men (1937), Our Town (1940), and The Heiress (1949; Academy Award, best dramatic film score). In the 1950s Copland returned to his earlier austere style. In the complex, virtuosic Piano Fantasy (1957) and such later orchestral works as Connotations (1962), commissioned for the opening of Lincoln Center in New York City, and Inscape (1967), he assimilated the twelve-tone system of composition. Copland's Proclamation (1982), a piano piece orchestrated by Phillip Ramey, was performed in 1985 at a concert celebrating Copland's 85th birthday. Copland died in North Tarrytown, New York, on December 2, 1990.

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