Watching the World
“Printed Circuit Precision”
◆ When an embryo is developing, nerves growing out of the tiny central nervous system always find the proper tissue or muscle with which to link up. New Scientist magazine calls this “one of the great puzzles of embryology.” Now University of California researchers have found that “the muscle cells themselves may help the nerves along by choosing the correct input” from the various outgrowing nerves. This knowledge, says the journal, “could go a long way to explaining the printed circuit precision with which the embryo links up its nervous system to the target organs of its body.” However, the researchers do not explain who engineered this “printed circuit precision.”
Back from Bikini
◆ According to the U.S. Interior Department, Bikini islanders who only recently returned to their supposedly decontaminated native land will have to evacuate it again. A decade ago, the Atomic Energy Commission claimed that there was “virtually no radiation left” from 23 earlier atomic tests. But recent government tests have shown that Bikini well water contains radioactive strontium 90 and cesium 137, which are showing up in the people. Local coconuts, bananas and breadfruit contain the radioactive products. So food has to be shipped in until the inhabitants can be settled on other islands once again.
Teen Morals and Cancer
◆ Along with the steep rise in teen-age pregnancies in the U.S.—33 percent in five years—there has been a parallel rise in teen cervical cancer. “Cervical tissues in teenagers appear to be less resistant to the effects of possible harmful substances, including those in the male ejaculate,” says San Diego gynecologist Dr. Thomas Slate. Dr. William Creasman of Duke University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center agrees, noting that in girls 15 to 17 years of age the cervix is especially vulnerable to cancer-causing agents. And the study Adolescent Coitus and Cervical Cancer found that such sexually active girls are twice as likely to get cervical cancer as are those who do not engage in sexual activity until later in life.
Ancients Knew Better
◆ The Egyptian government has ended a Japanese effort to use ancient methods in erecting a small-scale replica of the pyramid of Cheops. (See Awake!, 4/8/78, p. 30.) Problems beset the project almost from the start, including skyrocketing limestone prices arising from pyramid-caused demand. A concrete foundation had to be used, ancient-type stone-carrying wooden sledges broke down, laborers were hard to get, and some of the three-ton hand-cut pyramid stones would not fit. According to the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram, the construction “took on the appearance of a deformity.”
Soda Boosts Height
◆ Ordinary baking soda has successfully restored normal growth to children stunted by a kidney disorder called renal tubular acidosis. Their kidneys fail to remove excess acid from their systems, thereby stunting growth. But researchers at the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco found that ingesting sufficient amounts of alkaline baking soda neutralizes the excess acid. This produced startling results in 10 children ranging in age from eight days to nine and a half years. All reached normal height within three years, and one infant grew from 20 to 24 inches (51 to 61 centimeters) in just two months.
From the Experts
◆ In many countries, passenger rail service has long been superior to that in the United States. Now the U.S. National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) is renting a 203-ton French track machine to improve the quality of its poor roadbeds. The 152-foot- (46.3-meter-) long device “lifts up track with powerful magnets, loosens the rocky ballast and then uses laser beams to put the track down again in perfect alignment,” reports The Wall Street Journal. Amtrak also has purchased an Austrian ballast-loosening machine, as well as track-laying equipment designed in Switzerland.
◆ A Canadian man, said to be trying to frighten or impress his girl friend, accidentally fell 23 stories from a window ledge. He fell 208 feet (63 meters) into about 3 feet (1 meter) of water in a swimming pool. Reportedly, the hospitalized 24-year-old man was in stable condition.
Another young man, who may have been under the influence of drugs, fell 27 stories down a ventilation shaft in San Francisco’s 48-story Transamerica building. He, too, was listed in stable condition after the 324-foot (99-meter) fall. The 22-year-old man had suffered fractured thighbones and kneecaps, and a broken heel bone, but had no apparent internal injuries. Police believe that striking the sides of the shaft on the way down broke his fall. Conscious when picked up by the ambulance, reportedly he sang songs, including one with the words, “Oh, What a Trip I’m On.”
◆ “There’s a war of professional fundraisers going on all over the country,” declared the head of San Francisco’s Concerned Citizens for Charity, “and there is no charity among these people.” Apparently, many smaller charities feel that they are being crowded out of their share of the charity dollar by the giant charity organization, United Way. They accuse United Way of monopolistic practices and, in some cases, are presenting their charges in lawsuits.
◆ Some persons have been using medically prescribed marijuana to control certain types of glaucoma. But a related drug called Nabilone has been synthesized and appears to reduce eye fluid pressure without the mind-altering effects of marijuana. The chairman of the University of Chicago’s ophthalmology department says that studies so far indicate that the drug “is effective in extremely low doses; and does not have any apparent side effects.”
Light on Cows
◆ Apparently plants are not the only living things that grow under the influence of light. According to a report in Science magazine, holstein cattle that received 16 hours of light a day in the winter attained 10 to 15 percent greater growth and gave 10 percent more milk than cattle receiving the normal average of 9.8 hours of sunlight alone. The milk of both groups had the same butterfat content, and the cows ate equal amounts of hay. “Manipulation of supplemental light may thus cause dramatic increases in food supplies from animals,” say Michigan State University researchers.
Never Too Old
◆ An 81-year-old man recently graduated from Hanazono primary school (sixth grade) near Nagoya, Japan. Because of poverty, he had gone to work rather than attending school in his earlier years. Then, in 1975, he applied for admittance to the primary school to receive some of the education that he had missed. Every day he bicycled 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) to attend. Surrounded by students seven decades younger, he took examinations and did homework just like the rest. “The old man said he will continue learning as long as he lives,” reports the Mainichi Daily News.
Not ‘Rendering unto Caesar’
◆ Cheating on one’s income taxes is a way of life in many parts of the world. A United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agent recently admitted: “It’s really out of control. We have a $200 billion economy that operates completely off the books [without tax records]. That’s over 10% of the GNP [Gross National Product].” He also observed that even when the government’s 25,000 IRS agents find offenders, “juries don’t like to convict. It’s hard to convince a jury that what an evader did was wrong when, deep in their hearts, they would all love to beat Uncle Sam, too.” However, Jehovah’s Witnesses in every land obey Jesus’ command to “Pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar.”—Mark 12:17.
◆ A pressure equal to 700 times that exerted on the earth’s crust by Mount Everest is said to have made a diamond flow like plastic. Scientists at the Carnegie Institution’s Geophysical Laboratory had achieved a pressure of 25.2 million pounds per square inch (1.77 million kilograms per square centimeter) when part of a small diamond flowed.
Not an Act
◆ In 1968, 40 teen-age Swedish hippies appeared in the film “They Consider Us Hooligans,” playing themselves. Since then, 10 of the 40 “actors” have died of drug overdoses, the latest being found dead in a Stockholm public toilet.
◆ Vaccination of humans has been common for many years. Now this same principle has been used experimentally on tomato plants. According to Britain’s New Scientist magazine, scientists at the West of Scotland Agricultural College “have successfully protected their crop of Eurocross BB tomatoes from virulent strains of the pathogenic Tobacco Mosaic Virus (TMV) by inoculating plants at the seedling stage.” The vaccinated tomato plants yielded an average of .68 kilogram (1.5 pounds) more per plant than TMV infected plants. “It is not possible to keep a greenhouse free of TMV in normal commercial conditions,” notes the article. So immunization could become a real financial boon.
◆ A tradesman’s tournament recently held in the People’s Republic of China produced a startling display of culinary dexterity. Hsinhua, the official news agency, reported that it took only two minutes and four seconds for master chefs to cook cubed chicken breasts in chili sauce—starting with live chickens! The spicy Szechuan dish, dressed with peanuts, is called “palace jewels.”
◆ The World Health Organization (WHO) warns of a steady rise in the number of cases of “imported malaria” brought back to home countries by travelers in Africa. WHO emphasizes that all tourists should be informed “on the possible malaria risk in the areas they propose to visit, measures of protection against that risk, and the steps to be taken should the traveller develop fever after returning home.” Tourist information offices should have such information available.
◆ At the recent world typing championships held in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, a Hungarian woman typed 18,665 characters without an error in thirty minutes, to claim the title. That would be the English equivalent of over 124 words per minute for the half hour.
Shetlands Short of Ponies
◆ The famous tiny Shetland ponies are declining on their native Shetland Islands. Only a few more than a thousand remain, as breeders find it unprofitable to continue in the business. There is little demand, so that prices at the last annual sale were as low as $28 (U.S.) for a 6-month-old colt. One problem is the high cost of transportation to a pony’s new home, which may be as much as $1,400 to New York.
Still More Languages
◆ According to two South African researchers, there are hundreds of African languages more than previously believed. It was thought that only 800 to 1,000 African tongues existed, but the researchers’ book, African Languages, a Genetic Decimalised Classification for Bibliographic and General Reference, lists some 1,500 languages. “Recent research has brought to light many little-known ‘minority-languages,’” explains one of the investigators, Professor Derek Fivaz of Rhodes University.