Watching the World
By the end of this century, the United States will have more than a million victims of the usually fatal disease AIDS, say scientists interviewed by Louis Harris and Associates. The survey was conducted among scientists specializing in biotechnology, cancer, and infectious diseases. Only 28 percent of them believed that “an effective cure for AIDS” would be available before the year 2000. Thus far, AIDS has infected about 32,000 people in the United States, more than half of whom have already died.
The U.S. Justice Department has calculated for the first time an individual’s chance of becoming a victim of violent crime in his or her lifetime. The ten-year survey of over a hundred thousand people 12 years and older, according to The New York Times, showed that 83 percent “will be victims or intended victims of violent crimes at least once in their lifetimes” and that 52 percent will be victims more than once.
A Melbourne, Australia, man has invented and built a robot dog, complete with the intimidating bark of an Alsatian. According to the West Australian newspaper, the inventor believes that his device will appeal to people living alone. The electronic watchdog has a radar system that can pick up movement within a range of 16 feet (5 m) and has recorded barks that become progressively more frequent and fierce as an intruder gets closer. The annual cost of keeping the 12-volt-battery-operated mechanical “poodle”? About $84 (Australian)—roughly the cost of a year’s supply of dog food.
For centuries a delicacy throughout the Chinese world, bird’s-nest soup is now endangered, claim some fanciers. The treasured nests are becoming increasingly scarce, and the price for top-quality nests has risen to $1,000 a pound, reports The New York Times. Why the scarcity? The birds’ habitat has been developed into towns or farmland, causing a reduction in the number of birds, notes one authority. Pollution has also been eroding their cliff dwellings, and aggressive nest harvesters have been “snatching nests as soon as they are built, or grabbing nests that have eggs in them.” Youths as well as monkeys have been trained to scale the rocky cliffs to retrieve the nests. The nests come mostly from Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, China, or Malaysia. They are made from bird’s saliva that hardens into cementlike threads. The soup ranges in price from $14 to $38 a bowl.
“Fountain of Youth”
Moderate exercise—even for those in their 80’s—reverses many of the effects of aging, claim leading researchers at the University of Toronto. “You’d have to go a long way to find something as good as exercise as a fountain of youth,” said Dr. Roy J. Shephard, a member of the research team, reports The New York Times. “And you don’t have to run marathons to reap the benefits. For the average older person who does little more than rapid walking for 30 minutes at a time three or four times a week, it can provide 10 years of rejuvenation.” Benefits include improved heart and respiratory function, lower blood pressure, increased muscle strength, denser bones, and clearer thinking.
Displayed in South Africa’s Klerksdorp Museum is a dark-brown metal sphere that makes one or two rotations a year—unaided! It is the size of a small chicken egg and has three parallel grooves encircling its middle. “The sphere baffles everyone,” the museum’s curator told the Sunday Times Magazine of Johannesburg. “It looks man-made, like a casting.” The sphere, along with hundreds of similar ones, was found at South Africa’s Wonderstone Mine. One examiner’s opinion is that it gives evidence of a higher civilization, “which existed pre-flood.” According to the curator, however, how these spheres were formed remains “a complete mystery.”
Smog alarm was sounded several times in West Berlin during the month of January. The local zoo, however, claims to have a better early warning system than the 31 smog gauges used by the city—its penguins. Whenever these Antarctic birds start to breathe heavily, the zookeepers know that the smog level is high and that it is time to put the birds into their air-conditioned vivarium. The penguin’s sensitivity to air pollution is not surprising, says the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, since in the bird’s homeland, the South Pole region, the “air is almost germfree and absolutely clean” by comparison.
Do you dread the pain of an injection? Neurophysiologist Harold Hillman of Surrey University, England, offers a practical tip to remove some of the anxiety. Press an ice cube on the skin for 15 seconds before the jab. This will numb the area for about two minutes, time enough to allow a painless under-the-skin or into-the-muscle injection. (Do not try this for an into-the-vein injection, for the cold can trigger a spasm that hinders the easy insertion of the needle.) According to The Independent of London, Dr. Hillman first discovered the icy painkiller when helping an eight-year-old diabetic girl face the anguish of repeated injections.
Fat Babies—Fat Adults?
Parents who overfeed their infant children make certain that they will become fat adults, claims Douglas S. Lewis, a scientist of the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio, Texas. In his report to the American Heart Association, he showed that such obesity does not, however, manifest itself immediately. He based his remarks on the results of a five-year experiment with baboons that were overfed the first four months of their lives—the equivalent of one year for humans. Compared with the ones fed normally, as well as those underfed, these baboons began gaining weight in their third and fourth years. By the time they reached the end of puberty, namely at five years of age, the baboons were 39 percent overweight!
Working Mothers Who Breast-Feed
Working mothers who can nurse their babies only once or twice a day need not worry about risking loss of their milk supply, reports the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing. Frequent feedings are not needed to maintain milk production. In fact, since working mothers tend to wean their infants early, minimal breast-feeding has a positive effect on the mother-baby relationship. The report did admit, though, that it is not known if the breast-milk composition changes because of infrequent feeding or if the baby gets the same amount of disease-protection as do those who are nursed more often.
More Births—Fewer Marriages
On January 1, 1987, France registered a population of 55,506,000. The French Catholic daily La Croix mentions a slight upturn in the birthrate. It adds: “The number of legitimate births, however, is still on the decline, and the overall rise is entirely due to the increase in births out of wedlock. These represented nearly 20 percent of all births in 1985.” According to the latest figures published by INSEE (French National Institute of Statistics and Demographic Studies), there has been a drop in the number of marriages (266,000 marriages in 1986) and a rise in the divorce rate. The number of divorces has tripled in 20 years.