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AMERICAN MOSAIC - Famous New York Train Station Turns 100

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Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal

Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.

I'm June Simms.

Today, we play new music from the twin sister band, Tegan and Sara.

We also get to know a teenager from Maryland who was a guest at the State of the Union gathering at the United States Capitol Tuesday.

But first, we visit a famous New York City train station that is 100 years old this month.

Grand Central Terminal Turns 100

A famous building in New York City is turning 100 years old this month. A year-long celebration is planned for Grand Central Terminal, which is usually called Grand Central station.

Christopher Cruise tells us more about the sixth most-visited place in the world.

The huge building has not changed much since it opened in February, 1913.

About 750,000 people pass through Grand Central every day. Some just come to look at it, others to visit the stores. But most are there to catch the trains that enter and leave from the station. It is the largest train station in the world. There are 67 train tracks, all of them underground.

The main part of the building has large, arched windows, a jeweled four-sided clock and ticket windows. Grand Central has been seen in many movies through the years. Dan Brucker is with the New York Transit Authority, which operates the station.

"Grand Central is the kind of temple, cathedral, that testifies to the magnificence of rail transportation, the kind that God would have built if he'd had the money."

Dan Brucker has worked for the transit authority at Grand Central for 30 years. In all those years, he has not lost his interest in the building.

"This is the beginning of 20th century architecture. And as people come through this terminal, they don't even realize that the magnificent celestial ceiling above them, the very roof of heaven, is exactly wrong, is exactly opposite. It's a mirror image."

Justin Ferate, a historian, has been giving tours of Grand Central Station for 30 years. He says the station was designed to make travel a pleasure.

"You know that you're a traveler, you're going off on a great adventure, you're going to follow your stars and find your dream. You're also going to find your train where it's supposed to be -- which is one of the brilliant parts of the design of the building."

Justin Ferate likes to show how the building was designed for large numbers of people.

"Why people don't run into each other in Grand Central is simple: each block of stone in Grand Central is the length of your leg. Each block of stone in Grand Central is the length of your arm. Each block of stone is a different color, so it's a checkerboard, based on you."

A ten-year-long fight against plans to build a huge office building over Grand Central in 1968 helped create the modern preservation movement. Now, no one would think of changing the beauty of the station.

Teenage Cancer Researcher

American lawmakers filled the Capitol building earlier this week for President Obama's State of the Union message. 16 -year-old Jack Andraka of Maryland was in the crowd. In fact, he sat in the same box as the president's wife Michelle. Kelly Jean Kelly tells us why he was invited to the speech.

Jack Andraka won the grand prize at the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. It is the largest high school science competition in the world.

The Maryland teenager is the youngest winner of the $75 thousand award. He was chosen from among 1,500 students in 70 countries.

Jack Andraka at the Johns Hopkins lab in Baltimore
Jack Andraka at the Johns Hopkins lab in Baltimore

Jack Andraka invented a test for pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest forms of cancer. He learned that after losing a close family friend to the disease.

"I went on the Internet and I found that 85 percent of all pancreatic cancers are diagnosed late, when someone has less than a two percent chance of survival," he says," and I was thinking, ‘That's not right. We should be able to do something.'"

He learned people with pancreatic cancer have higher than normal levels of a protein called mesothelin in their blood. He also found that early discovery is important to increasing the chances of surviving the disease.

The Maryland teenager requested and received permission to work in a laboratory at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. There he developed a simple paper test, which can identify the protein in a single drop of blood. His test has proven correct 90 percent of the time. It also is 100 times more sensitive than other tests.

"It costs three cents per test, and then also it takes only five minutes to run."

Jack's success would not have been possible without Anirban Maitra, a professor at Johns Hopkins. He was the only person among the 200 researchers Jack contacted who showed interest in his project.

"I have to admit initially I was very surprised that this was a 15-year old who was writing this. I wanted to meet this obviously gifted young man and see what he wanted to talk about and so I called him over for an interview. He's very impressive."

Jack worked in Professor Maitra's laboratory, completing his project in seven months. The government has given the Maryland teenager patent rights to the pancreatic cancer test. He is now talking with companies about developing the test into a simple over-the-counter product.

Whatever happens, the professor believes Jack Andraka's name is one we will be hearing again over the next 10 to 20 years.

"If he has done what he's done at 15, who knows what he'll do when he's 25 or 35."

Tegan and Sarah "Heartthrob"

The twin sister band "Tegan and Sara" released a seventh album in January. With "Heartthrob," Tegan and Sara Quin move fully into the electronic-pop sound. Some critics love it. Others hope the change is not permanent. Listen and decide for yourself.

The popular single "Closer" demonstrates Tegan and Sara's electronic pop edge.

Compare "Closer" to "Nineteen," a song from the group's 2007 album "The Con."

That album helped grow a decidedly folk rock following for the sisters.

Tegan and Sara
Tegan and Sara

​​Tegan and Sara spoke to "Rolling Stone" magazine recently. They said changes in their music come from growing older and becoming increasingly at ease with their career. Sara Quin said they will face criticism whether they stay the same or change. She said it is more satisfying to take risks.

The Quin sisters said they got into a fight about what to name this latest album. They had a list of about 100 possible titles. They said they both realized that "Heartthrob" best captured the main idea of the album: the hopeful, electrifying and crushing power of love. The song "Love They Say," suggests these feelings.

Tegan and Sara talked to Rolling Stone about their very different personalities. Sara likes to explore new things. Tegan is the less adventurous one. Tegan said they were "like yin and yang." But in her words, "we really balance each other that way."

We leave you with Tegan and Sara performing "Now I'm All Messed Up" from their new album "Heartthrob."

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