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Predicting the Future

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Nostradamus was a physician who lived in 16th century Europe. He wrote several books on medicine, and treated the Black Death by advocating more sanitary living conditions. Yet he didn't become famous because of medical breakthroughs, nor did he propose any radical theories. He was famous back then, and remains a household name today, because he could predict the future. Modern-day enthusiasts and scholars who study Nostradamus's prophecies state that he knew about the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler, when both World Wars would begin, and even the terrorist attacks of September 11th.

According to tales, Nostradamus had visions late at night as he stared into the flame of a candle or a pool of water. He would enter a hypnotic trance and see the future, particularly terrible happenings. Earthquakes, plagues, wars, and droughts were quite frequent themes of these visions. He wrote about the visions in short poems of four lines to warn people. Because the Christian church considered any supernatural ability as the work of Satan, he wrote the poems more like riddles. He usually didn't use names or dates, and instead relied on analogies, metaphors, and puns to convey meaning. If the church questioned his prophecies, he could easily argue that they were just a game or a puzzle for the wealthy. However, he believed humankind would someday be able to understand the riddles, once we became more enlightened and sophisticated. The poems would then avert catastrophic happenings and benefit the human race.

Opponents and serious historians argue each generation can discover new messages and meanings in the predictions because they are so vague. What's more, several prophecies can often be interpreted, or reinterpreted, to fit recent world events. They argue that no prophecy has successfully averted a disaster. In fact, not a one has successfully predicted a disaster before it has happened. If the events of the 16th century are closely studied, the inspiration behind the predictions can often be understood. The events of 400 years ago served as the ideas on which Nostradamus based his prophecies.

Yet this hasn't stopped the allure of Nostradamus's poems. He has actually become more famous and popular than ever before. In recent years, there have been movies and TV programs made, hundreds of books written, and even more websites put together. A search on Google for Nostradamus turns up more than 3,000,000 pages.

According to his predications, what may be in store for humankind? Unfortunately the next few years are filled with doom and gloom. The Antichrist will come to power. World War III will soon begin, with much of Italy becoming a nuclear wasteland. People will die from starvation, war, and a breakdown of society. Nostradamus says the good guys eventually win, though. And after the destructive world war, there will be a new age of peace and spiritual enlightenment.


Step 1: You will listen to an article about Nostradamus. The article is almost 5 minutes long. Listen only, and don't worry about understanding everything.
Step 2: Read and understand the questions, then listen again. As you are listening, try to answer the questions in your head. Don't write the answers yet. Next, listen again and write the answers this time. Check your answers with a partner.
Step 3: Read the article. Check in your dictionary any unknown words. Now listen again. Can you understand more?
Step 4: Listen! Listen! Listen! Listen to the article on the train or in your free time. Each time you listen, you will slowly improve!

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