Watching the World
More on Jupiter
◆ The solar system’s fastest moving moon was recently discovered accidentally when researchers were examining pictures of Jupiter taken by the Voyager spacecraft. The newly discovered moon is less than 25 miles (40 km) across and circles the huge planet at the outer edge of its newly discovered ring. The rough piece of dark rock moves around Jupiter at about 67,000 miles per hour (108,000 km/hr), about 30 times the speed of Earth’s moon.
The Soviet digest Sputnik claims that the presence of Jupiter’s ring was predicted by the Russian astrophysicist Sergei Vsekhsvyatsky as early as 1960, and was published in the Proceedings of the Academy of Sciences of the Armenian Republic. “The existence of active processes—eruptions—in the Jovian system, which is proved by data of cometary astronomy,” said the journal, “furnishes all grounds for assuming that ring-shaped cometary meteoric masses resembling the Saturn ring travel around Jupiter.”
◆ Attempts to apply religious laws in the secular state of Israel have created some unusual schemes to skirt the law by less religious citizens. According to The Wall Street Journal, certain Israeli farms are breeding “penguins” that “weigh up to 600 pounds, have curly tails, roll in mud—and squeal ‘oink-oink.’” The Journal explains: “In other countries, ‘penguins’ answering this description are called pigs. But religious tradition proscribes pork for Jews, and so in Israel, pigs must masquerade as ‘penguins’—or sometimes as ‘ducks.’ Restaurants that serve pork describe it as ‘white steak.’” The article observes that such substitutes for the word pork “mask a flourishing industry and are just part of the complex arguments and elaborate pretexts that people in Israel . . . offer to cover a widespread ambivalence—or perhaps, a sense of guilt—about pork’s rising popularity.”
Brazil’s Energy Initiative
◆ “Brazil is the only country in the world that has already made official an alternative energy program based on alcohol,” says General Motors do Brasil President Joseph Sanchez. In late September, the Brazilian Association of Automobile Manufacturers signed an agreement to build 1.7 million alcohol-powered automobiles during the next five years. Many of Brazil’s six million cars already run on a 20-percent blend of alcohol and gasoline. But the goal is to change over to pure alcohol, a renewable energy source. Alcohol production is already over five times what it was in 1975. Pure alcohol is less than $1 per gallon, compared to nearly $2 for regular gasoline and $3 for high-test. The government claims that alcohol production costs are only 70 cents per gallon.
General Motors in Brazil has developed a “multifuel” engine for its cars that will run on alcohol, gasoline, or a combination. Ford do Brasil also has begun producing an alcohol-powered model. Where does the energy-hungry United States stand on this innovation? “Theoretically, there are no barriers that would prevent us from selling or making our line of alcohol-fueled vehicles and engines in the U.S.,” said one auto official. “It’s just not in our plans at the moment.” Many people wonder why.
◆ A four-year-old Japanese boy has passed an exam that certified his English-language ability as equivalent to an eighth-grade junior high school student. How did he achieve this extraordinary feat, previously equaled by no one younger than a seven-year-old? “Inspired by a book which recommended that parents educate children from babyhood,” reports the Mainichi Daily News, “Nariaki [Iwashita]’s mother Emi gave him tape-recorded English language courses when he was two years of age and made him learn English lessons on radio from the age of three.” According to his mother, the talented tot even uses the dictionary by himself.
◆ “Nearly one out of every two students dropped out of New York City’s public high schools over a four year period ending in 1978,” reports the New York Times. The information was provided by School Chancellor Frank J. Macchiarola, who said of the 45-percent dropout rate that “there is no question that our responsibilities to these young people have been grievously unfulfilled.” The New York public school system is the largest in the U.S., with 950,000 students.
Unique Bill Collectors
◆ The Economist of London reports that an enterprising firm has devised a nearly foolproof system for collecting what is owed from evasive business debtors. For £20 ($41), Smelly Tramps Ltd. will send “otherwise respectable chaps, dressed in disgusting clothes and treated with a special stomach-churning chemical” to the recalcitrant debtor’s office, says The Economist. “The technique is simply to sit around in the victim’s office until he signs a cheque.” According to one “Smelly,” “the receptionists do most of my work for me. One sniff and they go and tell their bosses they can’t stand it.” The firm claims that about 90 percent of debtors pay up after merely receiving a seven-day advance notice of the coming visit. They also screen requests for their services to see that the money is really owed.
◆ Not only does a high setting on your hot-water heater waste energy, but, according to the U.S. Consumer Produce Safety Commission, it can be dangerous. The organization says that every year 3,000 preventable burn injuries are caused by overly hot water from home faucets. Just 15 seconds of exposure to water at 130 degrees F (54 degrees C) can injure skin, while 140-degree-F (60-degree-C) water will do so in three seconds. Yet many heaters are set at 150 degrees (66 degrees C), which can scald almost instantly.
◆ Two studies, one by the A. C. Nielsen Co., and the other by the Roper Organization, Inc., show that the television viewing habits of American people have not declined as some had thought recently. The Roper results show an actual increase of about 15 minutes a day since 1976. Nielsen reports that the average household keeps its television on for six hours and 13 minutes a day, with any one member of the household watching for three hours and eight minutes a day, on the average, throughout the entire year.
China’s Male Birth Pill
◆ According to a leading American authority on birth control, Chinese scientists have perfected a male contraceptive. They claim that it has no health side effects and does not harm future fertility or offspring. Stanford University professor of chemistry Dr. Carl Djerassi explains that Chinese investigators learned of the substance from what was at first thought to be only folklore. In the Upper Yangtze province of Hebei, it was said that their women could not have children after marriage to local men, while those marrying outside the area were fertile.
Investigation narrowed the phenomenon to gossypol, found in raw cottonseed oil used in the local food. The chemical seems to deactivate or destroy sperm cells. Now Shanghai scientists report that 12,000 men are under study with good results so far. Dr. Djerassi points out that there is an almost limitless supply of gossypol, in view of the 25-million-ton annual world cotton production.
Rising from Ashes
◆ In 1973 a spectacular volcanic eruption practically buried tiny Westmann Island, near Iceland. Almost all of its 5,000 population was evacuated. In the following months slowly advancing lava and a rain of volcanic ash buried hundreds of homes. Now, six years after the eruption, Westmann has been rebuilt. The huge supply of cinders, mixed with cement, makes good blocks for building material. Heat coming from crevices is being used to produce hot water that is piped into homes for heating. Too, the high wall of cooling lava provides a new windbreak against prevailing gales, and the narrow entrance to the town’s harbor, almost choked off by the lava flow, now acts as a breakwater providing a calm harbor for fishermen, who say that they have never seen the fish harvest better. Even the millions of seabirds inhabiting the cliffs seem to have benefited, as the chilled lava created calmer waters and made more ledges and crevices available for nesting.
Pests More Resistant
◆ It is reported that now at least 43 strains of mosquito and 121 strains of housefly are resistant to the traditional pesticides used on them. Similarly, the poison-resistant “super rat” has become so immune to chemicals that a federal agriculture department official in Canada says: “The best rat control is the earliest one ever discovered—good sanitary conditions around human habitation and the old-fashioned trap. The householder who buys a 50 gram box of rat and mice poison—it might kill a couple of mice, but not a rat, anymore. A rat trap is still best.”
◆ The Minister of Agriculture in South Africa announced that oil made from sunflower seeds has been tested successfully as diesel fuel for tractors and a truck. It was also reported that the oil can power any type diesel engine. After extracting the oil from sunflower seeds, the residue, rich in protein, is said to make fine cattle feed. However, while alternates to petroleum are being sought, it is unlikely that ‘sunflower power’ will get very far, considering the huge quantities that would be needed to produce enough oil for the vast number of motor vehicles in existence, even if the price could be made competitive.
Fatal TV Influence
◆ It has been well established that too much television viewing by impressionable young children can produce many undesirable effects, such as slower mental development, poorer health due to a lack of exercise, the inability to interact with other children, irritability and nervousness, and also a tendency to commit more violent acts. One child even committed suicide due to the cancellation by the network of his favorite television show. His parents had allowed him to have a television set in his own room so that, as the Sunday Oregonian related, his “world was wrapped up in the programs he viewed on his own TV set in his bedroom.” His father sadly declared regarding too much television viewing: “I was never sure it did influence kids that bad, but now I’m convinced it does.”
◆ Last year about 45 million prescriptions for Valium, a tranquilizing drug, were filled in the United States alone. However, Dr. Joseph Pursch, who heads a Navy alcohol rehabilitation service in California, said that this widely used drug was addictive and represented a major national health problem. While cautioning that doctors should not prescribe it for everyday stress, he observed: “Classically today, if a woman walks into her doctor’s office and says, ‘I’m nervous, my husband drinks too much,’ the doctor will automatically give her a tranquilizer,” such as Valium or Librium. Dr. Pursch noted that he had seen people become addicted to the tranquilizer in only six weeks, adding: “None of these drugs solve our problems. They make people feel better because they make you feel dull and insensitive. But they don’t solve anything.” Senator Edward M. Kennedy, chairman of a Senate health committee, said that the message was clear: “If you require a daily dose of Valium to get you through each day, you are hooked and should seek help.”