Watching the World
TV and the Young
◆ Certain television programs depicting exploits of “supermen or superwomen” are having adverse effects on some young Korean viewers, reports The Korea Herald. It mentioned that one program led a six-year-old Seoul lad to jump from a bridge, an act resulting in his death. In another instance, a four-year-old girl tried to fly as a particular TV heroine supposedly does. According to the newspaper, the girl jumped from the roof of her two-story home, experienced serious head injury and “barely survived.” Her father stated that she had tried jumping from tables or chairs in an attempt to fly like the TV “superwoman.” “Naturally,” he said, “I made every effort to turn her attention from the TV to games or toys.”
Smokers: Improve Your Health
◆ The magazine World Health points out that experts of the World Health Organization (WHO) take the position that “smoking-related diseases are such important causes of disability and premature death in developed countries that the control of cigarette smoking could do more to improve health and prolong life in these countries than any single action in the whole field of preventive medicine.” For instance, it is reported that the death rate due to respiratory illnesses is higher among smokers than it is among non-smokers. But, on an encouraging note, the journal states: “When young patients stop smoking, lung function may return to normal.”
◆ A very rare copy of the Bible recently changed hands for the sum of $1.8 million. It is a paper copy of the famous Gutenberg Bible, printed at Mainz over five centuries ago by Johannes Gutenberg. Somewhat imperfect, this copy lacks four leaves. It was purchased from a New York City book dealer by the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Federal Republic of Germany. Of the 200 Gutenberg Bibles printed, only 47 are known to exist today and institutions own the majority of them.
◆ Carrier pigeons are being used to transport tissue and blood samples, in plastic containers, from Devonport Hospital to the Freedom Fields Laboratory at Plymouth, England. Although the birds are not sent on their missions during the night or on foggy days, they regularly cover the two-mile (3-kilometer) distance in a mere four minutes, compared to the 12 minutes required when taxis were used to carry the medical samples. Do you wonder why the daytime carrier pigeons do not stray? Citing one reason, Parade magazine says: “Simply because they know that their mates are waiting for them at the lab loft.”
Alcohol and Fire Fatalities
◆ An autopsy study in Maryland, U.S.A., reveals that carbon-monoxide poisoning was responsible for half the fire deaths in that state during a six-year period. Significantly, the Detroit Free Press says that “thirty percent of fire victims were legally drunk when they died.”
◆ The Andean village of Vilcabamba in southern Ecuador has been the focal point of considerable interest because some of its residents were said to have been 140 or 150 years old. But a recent study indicates that none of the villagers are over 96 years of age. Careful study of baptismal, marriage and death records revealed, for instance, that a man claiming an age of 127 years was only 92, and a woman giving her age as 96 turned out to be just 81. A principal factor contributing to reports of extreme longevity was repetitious use of the same names, making baptismal records unreliable age indicators. One of the researchers, Dr. Sylvia H. Forman of the University of California at Berkeley, has said: “Individual longevity in Vilcabamba is little, if any, different from that found throughout the rest of the world.”
◆ Although Sri Lanka has banned horse racing, in the past decade a growing number of tourists has been drawn to that land’s elephant races. Particularly during New Year observances are these races “accompanied by colourful festivities which include dancing, fire-walking and chariot races,” reports To the Point International. The journal adds that “grand elephant races” have been organized that “attract not only visitors, but their money too.”
New Silkworm Diet?
◆ Silk production depends on silkworms, which feed normally on mulberry leaves. But fresh leaves are available for only a limited period during the year, and storage is expensive, as is the operation of mulberry plantations. Yet, with no mulberry components in their diet, silkworms are less likely to spin cocoons, and the average weight of any they do spin is lower. Recently, however, Yasuyuki Yamada and Asao Okamoto of Kyoto University’s Department of Agricultural Chemistry succeeded in culturing mulberry cells artificially. The British journal New Scientist reports that these cultured cells “made a perfectly satisfactory substitute for mulberry leaves, so long as the cells had been cultured in the light.” Compared with the colorless cells cultured in the dark, these were somewhat green, and the worms preferred them “even though their chlorophyll content was only 1 per cent of that of natural mulberry leaves.” “High yields of good silk” reportedly have resulted from the artificial diet, and the researchers claim that it will lower breeding expense, although they have not analyzed the cost of the cultured diet itself.
British Youngsters and God
◆ The educational board of the Church of England found, through a recent survey, that many British children have more faith in science fiction than they do in God. They “regretfully admit that contemporary religious instruction offers them practically nothing,” wrote Pamela Swift in Parade magazine, adding: “Many say they only half-believe in God.”
Take Out Those Tonsils?
◆ Every year, doctors in the United States perform approximately 1,000,000 tonsillectomies, often because the child patients have experienced recurrent sore throats. Recently, Jack L. Paradise and other researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine studied 65 children who had experienced recurring bouts with sore throats. The children had no fewer than either seven sore-throat incidents in a single year, five episodes in each of two consecutive years, or three bouts in each of three successive years. Findings indicated that just 17 percent of these children were likely to experience sore throats with the same frequency again. Hence, the researchers concluded that in the case of most children tonsillectomies seem unjustified if performed only because the youngsters are having sore throats frequently.
Dwarfs in Lilliput
◆ In Gulliver’s Travels, English satirist Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) wrote about tiny inhabitants of the fictional island of Lilliput. Not mythical, however, is Lilliput Town near Hassloch in the Federal Republic of Germany. As part of an amusement park, it was built during 1971 “by a group of dwarfs working in show-business who wanted, between tours, a place to call their own,” says the magazine To the Point International. Everything there is on a scale suitable for dwarfs, and its small residents are, not only from Germany, but from Britain, Hungary and Sweden. Among other pursuits, they work as shoemakers, tailors and builders. Recently, the smallest dwarf in the world—23-year-old man just 78 centimeters (about 31 inches) tall—settled there with his diminutive brother and sister. All three haled from a locale near Izmir, Turkey.
A Real Earful
◆ A tiny insect known as the earwig gets its name from an Anglo-Saxon term that means “ear creature.” Although the name is based on an old belief that the insect crawls into the human ear, this view has long been questioned. Recently, however, a doctor at the Flagstaff Community Hospital in Arizona, U.S.A., removed an earwig from the ear of a 25-year-old student. The physician found six paired wounds in the eardrum, as well as a minute tear in the patient’s tympanic membrane. Evidently, the earwig’s pincerlike appendages had been responsible for the damage. But, within two days of the insect’s removal, the pain was gone and the injury healed rapidly. “Three months later the ear was checked again and everything was normal,” reports Medical World News.
The World’s Illiterates
◆ John Fobes, past deputy director general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, has estimated that there are 800 million illiterate persons around the earth. Parade magazine quotes him as saying: “One adult in three cannot read, write, or make a simple calculation in written form.”
◆ Statistics compiled by the United Nations indicate that proportionately the United States is in 10th place among the world’s countries as regards residents owning their own homes. Ahead of it are such lands as Australia, India, Israel, Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tunisia.
“Don’t Risk Electrocution”
◆ A federation of nine principal electric companies in Japan spends approximately $1,000,000 annually to retrieve kites that have become entangled in power lines. According to the Mainichi Daily News, 9,912 men were assigned to such work during 1977. The federation has requested that kiteflying be done in areas that are not near power lines. Also, youngsters have been urged to telephone the power company if a kite gets caught in electric lines. People are being warned, “Don’t risk electrocution.”
◆ The most recent edition of the United Nations Demographic Yearbook reveals that the earth’s population rose by 77 million from mid-1975 to mid-1976, reaching 4,044 million. Twenty-seven European nations out of 36 had an annual increase under 1 percent. Africa had the fastest growth rate, with yearly increases being 2 percent or more in 37 out of 43 nations or areas for which statistics were available. Rates of 3 percent or more were reached in nine African countries.
For a Comfortable Home
◆ A recent booklet entitled “Energy and Your Home,” edited by Isaac Asimov, points out that heating, cooling and hot water account for 75 to 90 percent of the energy use in a home. Among other things, it indicates that oversized furnaces and airconditioners are inefficient. Furnaces that are too large not only are more expensive to operate but also provide less comfort because of their short “on” and “off” periods that permit the temperature range to vary widely and air to stratify in rooms. Oversized airconditioners have “on” periods that are too short to remove humidity adequately. It may be advisable to consider these factors when purchasing such equipment for one’s home.
Paint and Light
◆ For more light and for electric bills that are a little smaller, you might use light colors when painting a room. Bulbs of lower wattage may be usable if the ceiling is painted white, says Changing Times. The magazine also states: “Walls painted light blue, for example, reflect about 75% of the light back into the room, while a medium shade of blue reflects just over 40%.”