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AMERICAN MOSAIC - Robots Race Across the Mojave Desert / New Members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame / Question About Wall Street in New York - 2004-03-26

Broadcast: March 26, 2004


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.


This is Doug Johnson. On our show this week, we have music from some new members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And we answer a question about Wall Street.

But first, a report about a recent race that was not won.

Robot Race


Earlier this month, an unusual race was held in the Mojave Desert of southern California. Thirteen scientific teams competed to see whose unmanned land vehicle could travel more than two-hundred-twenty-five kilometers. The winner would receive one-million dollars.


The United States government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency organized the race known as the Grand Challenge competition. It offered the prize to the team that could successfully move an unmanned vehicle across the desert in less than ten hours. The purpose of the race is to increase research into driverless technology. The Department of Defense says the use of driverless vehicles will change how wars are fought and reduce the number of people killed.

The race is considered the first of its kind because the vehicles were required to find their own way to the finish line. Team members were not permitted to intervene after the vehicles began to move. The vehicles had radar and laser sensors, Global Positioning System receivers and computers.

Thirteen vehicles started the race, but none finished. Many crashed or stopped just after the start. For example, the vehicle from Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg had its brakes fail in the starting area. The vehicle from the only high school team in the competition stopped after hitting a wall. The vehicle that traveled the farthest was built by a team from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It traveled more than eleven kilometers before it got caught at the edge of the road and its tires started to burn.

Government officials praised the vehicles even though none finished the race. They promised to hold the same competition again and again until a team wins the one-million dollar prize. The next race will probably be held next year. Until then, the government plans to talk with some of the competing teams to find out how they built their vehicles. And they may pay some of the teams for sharing the technology they have already developed.

Wall Street


Our VOA listener question this week comes from Ondo State, Nigeria. Akingbulugbe Lawrence asks about Wall Street in New York City.

Wall Street is the banking center of New York. But it is also much more. The business done on Wall Street makes New York City the financial center of the United States, in the same way that Washington, D.C. is the government center.

People around the world think of power and big business when they think of Wall Street. That is because people who work there deal with huge amounts of money every day. They work at the New York Stock Exchange, international banks and large investment companies. They make business deals that affect millions of people.

How did Wall Street get its name? To find out, we must go back to the early years of European exploration in North America.

New York City was first called New Amsterdam by the explorer Henry Hudson. He was working for a Dutch trading company when he entered what is now the lower Hudson River area in the year sixteen-oh-nine. There, he found an island that was a perfect trading harbor. The Manhattan Indians lived there.

Dutch traders built a town at the end of Manhattan Island. It became a rich trading center. But the British questioned the right of the Dutch to control the area. The two nations went to war in sixteen-fifty-two.

The governor of New Amsterdam was Peter Stuyvesant. He worried that British settlers in New England would attack his town. He ordered that a protective wall be built at the north edge of Manhattan. The wall was more than seven-hundred meters long. It extended from the Hudson River to the East River.

The British never attacked New Amsterdam. So the wall was never tested in war. But the path beside it became known as Wall Street. Later, Wall Street became a street of banks and businesses.

Today, other streets in New York are known for one product or industry. Madison Avenue is the advertising center. Eighth Avenue businesses make clothing. Fifth Avenue stores sell costly clothes and jewelry. And Broadway is the street of famous theaters.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame


Several famous recording artists were named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last week during a ceremony in New York City. The Hall of Fame honors recording artists for their importance and influence in rock and roll. Musicians can become members twenty-five years after their first recordings. Shep O'Neal tells us about the new members.


A group called ZZ Top became a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last week. ZZ Top has been performing blues and rock music for more than thirty years. Here is one of its songs, “Tube Snake Boogie.”


Two other groups were chosen for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. One is Traffic. The other is the Dells. This group has performed and recorded for more than fifty years. It is well known for its smooth soul music. Here is an example, the Dells’ hit song, “Oh What a Night.”


Singers Jackson Browne, Bob Seger and the late George Harrison also became members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And Jann (Yahn) Wenner received the Lifetime Achievement Award for helping start the magazine “Rolling Stone.”

We leave you now with a song from Prince, another new member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It is one of his biggest hits, “Purple Rain.”



This is Doug Johnson.

Send us your questions about American life! Be sure to include your name and postal address. We will send you a gift if we use your question.

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Our program was written by Nancy Steinbach. Caty Weaver was our producer.

I hope you enjoyed AMERICAN MOSAIC. Join us again next week for VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.