Watching the World
Population growth in a number of cities may cause severe economic and social strain and lead to political and environmental upheaval, warn experts who gathered at a United Nations conference last February. The UN estimates that by the year 2000, urban Cairo will grow from the present 9 million people to 13 million, urban Manila from 8.6 million to 11.1 million, and Mexico City from 19 million to 26 million. “These mega-cities are becoming social tinderboxes—the seedbeds for social revolution, civil strife and unrest,” said Werner Fornos, president of Population Institute, in The New York Times. “With the numbers come the problems, so the problems will intensify.” Not all experts, however, predict that urbanization will result in disaster. “It is a very complex issue—there are no generalizations that can be made about social stability,” said Ellen Brennan, a UN population affairs officer.
Italians Condemn Hunting
Italy’s estimated 1.5 million hunters are losing favor with the public, so finds a poll published in the Rome newspaper La Repubblica. According to the survey, 62.5 percent of the 1,200 people of all social levels who were interviewed do not consider hunting a sport and want to see it abolished. A true sport, in their eyes, is when opponents can confront each other on equal footing. “Italians no longer tolerate hunting, hunters, their organizations, their privileges,” says the report.
The Body’s Worth
It was once said that the human body, based on the value of its chemical components, was worth only $1.98 (U.S.). That has drastically changed. The value of the human body is now said to exceed $200,000 (U.S.) and is still rising. What accounts for the difference? “Tissue is being harvested for transplantation, research and diagnostic and therapeutic products,” states The New York Times. “In 1985, nearly 8,000 kidneys and 20,000 corneas were transplanted; heart transplants are being performed at the rate of 1,200 per year.”
New Use for Kangaroo Tails
Each year thousands of people suffer serious knee injuries from car accidents, skiing spills, or other sports mishaps. Surgery is often required to replace torn ligaments when they fail to heal. Until recently, ox tendons have proved to be an effective replacement for these damaged ligaments. Now, however, researchers in Sydney, Australia, claim that kangaroo-tail tendons are “a lot more flexible than the ox tendons” and are “tough enough to withstand strains.” According to The Australian, there are potentially “40 human knees in each kangaroo tail.” Though kangaroo-tail soup is considered a delicacy by some, there may be fewer tails for culinary use and more for surgical needs should future knee operations prove successful.
Doctors at the Safdarjung hospital in New Delhi, India, can diagnose bone fractures by using only a stethoscope and a tuning fork, reports The Times of London. This quick, painless method relies on the transmission of sound waves within bones. For example, a fracture of the femur (thighbone) interferes with the transmission of sound from a tuning fork that has been struck and pressed on the kneecap. The doctor, listening through his stethoscope placed over the pelvis, hears only a dull sound or sometimes no sound at all. In trials on patients suffering from thighbone or shinbone fractures, this “osteophonic” technique was correct in 94 percent of the cases, compared with 88 percent where the usual clinical diagnostic methods were used.
Fatal Traffic Tempers
Leaning out his car window, a California driver fired a 9mm semiautomatic at five youths, shooting one youth in the leg and mortally wounding another. The reason? Frayed tempers, claim the police, sparked by heavy traffic. Southern California authorities are increasingly concerned over the breakdown of driver behavior, notes The Herald, a California newspaper. In an argument over one fender bender on a street in Hollywood, a man pulled a gun from the trunk of his car and shot the passengers of the other vehicle. One man was killed and another wounded. Police cite minor rather than major accidents as the cause of many traffic-related fights. Officials are warning motorists to “avoid confrontations, particularly on clogged streets where tempers flare hottest.”
Pi World Record
The elusive value of pi, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, has now been tracked down to 133,554,000 decimal places! This is an increase of 100,000,000 places over the previous record, which was set last September. Though mathematicians know that it is impossible to represent the exact value of pi in decimals, researchers have sought a more precise value with the help of computers. Already holding the world’s record himself, Yasumasa Kaneda of Tokyo University in Japan used a supercomputer and took 37 hours to extend the record. To print out the figure, 19,000 sheets of paper were used. Why did he undertake this project? “It is not unlike climbing a mountain,” says Kaneda, “just because it’s there.”
Making wine from rubber waste may seem to the connoisseur of fine wines to be stretching things a bit, but it has been done, and the wine is said to taste “somewhat like the rice wine of Japan.” As reported in the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail, an agreement was signed between the Malaysian Rubber Research and Development Board and the Yokohama Rubber Co., Ltd., of Japan “to study ways of using waste from its rubber factories to make everything from wine to fertilizer.” Some commercial production is expected within two years. They hope that this will be a way of dealing with the pollution problems and bad smell generated when the wastes are disposed of in the river.
Hyperactivity and Sugar
For years it has been the belief of many that excessive sugar consumption causes hyperactivity in children. But does it? According to a report published in the Massachusetts General Hospital Newsletter, medical professionals are now taking a second look. In one study involving children whose families identified them as having “adverse behavioral reactions to sugar,” after a series of experiments had been conducted, no behavioral changes were observed. Similar tests by researchers studying other children offer comparable results. “What few changes in activity were found,” notes the Newsletter, “suggested decreased activity—rather than increased—following sugar.”
Toys for the Emotions
Adults in Tokyo are buying talking dolls for themselves, reports the Asahi Evening News. The reason? Loneliness, say toy dealers. Although most dolls were originally marketed for girls between the ages of three and ten, students, office workers, and even grandmothers are taking them home as companions. One popular doll says, “Don’t worry over trivial things” and, “Have a mind like the Pacific Ocean.” Another doll, with no arms or legs, says, “I will win by all means.” Manufacturers and toy dealers explain the phenomenon as an apparent attempt to fill the communication gap felt by city dwellers. As one purchaser explained, her “grandchildren are too far away to visit often.”