SSAT Upper Level Reading Comprehension Practice Test 5

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The history of modern pollution problems shows that most have resulted from negligence and ignorance. We have an appalling tendency to interfere with nature before all of the possible consequences of our actions have been studied in-depth. We produce and distribute radioactive substances, synthetic chemicals, and many other potent compounds before fully comprehending their effects on living organisms. Our education is dangerously incomplete.

It is often argued that the purpose of science is to move into unknown territory, to explore, and to discover. It can be said that similar risks have been taken before, and that these risks are necessary to technological progress.

These arguments overlook an important element. In the past, risks taken in the name of scientific progress were restricted to a small place and a brief period of time. The effects of the processes we now strive to master are neither localized nor brief. Air pollution covers vast urban areas. Ocean pollutants have been discovered in nearly every part of the world. Synthetic chemicals spread over huge stretches of forest and farmland may remain in the soil for decades. Radioactive pollutants will be found in the biosphere for generations. The size and persistence of these problems have grown with the expanding power of modern science.

One might also argue that the hazards of modern pollutants are small compared to the dangers associated with other human activity. No estimate of the actual harm done by smog, fallout, or chemical residues can obscure the reality that the risks are being taken before being fully understood.

The importance of these issues lies in the failure of science to predict and control human intervention into natural processes. The true measure of the danger is represented by the hazards we will encounter if we enter the new age of technology without first evaluating our responsibility to the environment.

1. According to the author, the major cause of pollution is the result of

  • A. designing synthetic chemicals to kill living organisms.
  • B. a lack of understanding of the history of technology.
  • C. scientists who are too willing to move into unknown territory.
  • D. changing our environment before understanding the effects of these changes.
  • E. not passing enough laws.

2. The author believes that the risks taken by modern science are greater than those taken by earlier scientific efforts because

  • A. the effects may be felt by more people for a longer period of time.
  • B. science is progressing faster than ever before.
  • C. technology has produced more dangerous chemicals.
  • D. the materials used are more dangerous to scientists.
  • E. the problems are greater.

3. The author apparently believes that the problem of finding solutions to pollution depends on

  • A. the removal of present hazards to the environment.
  • B. the removal of all potential pollutants from their present uses.
  • C. overcoming technical difficulties.
  • D. the willingness of scientists to understand possible dangers before using new products in the environment.
  • E. a new age of science that will repair the faults of our present technology.

4. The author seems to feel that the attitude of scientists toward pollution has been

  • A. na?ve.
  • B. concerned.
  • C. confused.
  • D. ignorant.
  • E. nonchalant.

5. The word synthetic means

  • A. new.
  • B. unsafe.
  • C. polluting.
  • D. man-made.
  • E. progressive.

A third of our lives is spent in the mysterious state of sleep. Throughout our history, we have attempted to understand this remarkable experience. Many centuries ago, for example, sleep was regarded as a type of anemia of the brain. Alemaeon, a Greek scientist, believed that blood retreated into the veins, and the partially starved brain went to sleep. Plato supported the idea that the soul left the body during sleep, wandered the world, and woke up the body when it returned.

Recently, more scientific explanations of sleep have been proposed. According to one theory, the brain is put to sleep by a chemical agent that accumulates in the body when it is awake. Another theory is that weary branches of certain nerve cells break connections with neighboring cells. The flow of impulses required for staying awake is then disrupted. These more recent theories have had to be subjected to laboratory research.

Why do we sleep? Why do we dream? Modern sleep research is said to have begun in the 1950s, when Eugene Aserinsky, a graduate student at the University of Chicago, and Nathaniel Kleitman, his professor, observed periods of rapid eye movements (REMs) in sleeping subjects. When awakened during these REM periods, subjects almost always remembered dreaming. On the other hand, when awakened during non-REM phases of sleep, the subjects rarely could recall their dreams.

Guided by REMs, it became possible for investigators to "spot" dreaming from outside and then awaken the sleepers to collect dream stories. They could also alter the dreamers' experiences with noises, drugs, or other stimuli before or during sleep.

Since the mid-1950s, researchers have been drawn into sleep laboratories. There, bedrooms adjoin other rooms that contain recorders known as electroencephalograph (EEG) machines.

The EEG amplifies signals from sensors on the face, head, and other parts of the body, which together yield tracings of respiration, pulse, muscle tension, and changes of electrical potential in the brain that are sometimes called brain waves. These recordings supply clues to the changes of the sleeping person's activities.

6. The main purpose of this passage is to

  • A. describe early beliefs about sleep.
  • B. compare modern scientific theories to early ideas about sleep.
  • C. point out the importance of REMs in human sleep.
  • D. describe modern research techniques.
  • E. give a short history of human's interest in sleep.

7. This passage implies that the importance of the research of Aserinsky and Kleitman was mainly in the

  • A. reports they published.
  • B. problems they attacked.
  • C. information they observed and recorded.
  • D. understandings they uncovered.
  • E. conclusions they drew for treatment of sleep disorders.

8. All of the following were mentioned as possible causes of sleep EXCEPT

  • A. exhausted nerve endings.
  • B. a build-up of certain body chemicals.
  • C. recurrent periods of rapid eye movement.
  • D. the absence of the conscious spirit.
  • E. the departure of the soul from the body.

9. In paragraph 4, the word stimuli means

  • A. substances that make a person more alert.
  • B. drugs.
  • C. sleep inducing.
  • D. comatose.
  • E. things that cause the body to react in a certain way.