Watching the World
“Crime Against the Future”
“We are living on borrowed resources: borrowed air, borrowed water, borrowed everything,” says Professor Keith Cole, foreign secretary of the Australian Academy of Science. “There’s virtually no industry that does not generate a significant amount of wastes, and the cost of repairing the environment is going to have to be paid sooner or later.” As noted in The Sydney Morning Herald, Cole pointed out that mankind is fast running out of time to understand the global consequences of its unbridled pollution of the environment. Professor Cole is not alone. Last January, 75 Nobel prize winners, in a joint declaration issued at a meeting held in Paris, denounced the “destruction and plundering of the environment” as “a crime against the future.” According to the Swiss newspaper Basler Zeitung, an appeal was made to scientists everywhere to exercise moral responsibility in the application of their discoveries.
Can the earth’s declining environmental health be reversed? Yes, says Worldwatch Institute, a Washington-based research organization, but only by cooperation and substantial investment by the nations. However, the institute’s president, Lester R. Brown, noted: “Putting the world on a sustainable footing will not be easy, given the environmental degradation and economic confusion that now prevail.”
Radar equipment has enabled ornithologists to pinpoint the altitudes of birds flying as much as 62 miles [100 km] away. According to the German magazine Das Tier, snipes “venture to a height of 20,000 feet [6,000 m].” In Europe storks have been registered as high as 16,000 feet [5,000 m], winging their way over the summit of Mont Blanc. The altitude record for wild geese, which are known to cruise over the towering peaks of the Himalayas, has been raised to 33,000 feet [10,000 m]!
Do certain scents affect our health? Yes, say researchers who have found that scents “can ease such common problems as anxiety, depression, fatigue and insomnia,” reports The Toronto Star. Explaining why, Susan Schiffman, a Duke University professor, notes that “the part of the brain that registers smells overlaps with that which is responsible for memory and emotion.” Thus, “scent and emotion are closely connected physiologically.” Gary Schwartz, a Yale University professor, has found that the aroma of spiced apple helps lower blood pressure. Other research indicates that the smell of “cypress often relieves anxiety, while basil, lavender and rose may ease depression.” The smell of other plants may be used to fight fatigue and insomnia. However, psychologists are still puzzled over why only odors associated with pleasant memories produce positive results.
Gray Hair and Red Ink
Roman Catholic officials are concerned about their aging priests. Figures released by the Vatican Bureau of Statistics show that the average age of some 400,000 priests worldwide is now 54.2 years—a rise of 2.6 years over the past 10 years. When divided by continents, notes the Dutch Roman Catholic newspaper De Bazuin, priests in Europe have the highest average age, 56.1 years, while those in Africa have the lowest, 43.1 years. Of most concern was the rise in the countries of France, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, where priests average over 60 years of age.
While Vatican statisticians were counting “gray” priests, Vatican bookkeepers were adding “red” figures. According to De Bazuin, the Vatican’s deficit for 1986 and 1987 amounted to over $50 million (U.S.). Giuseppe Caprio, secretary-treasurer of the Vatican, placed the blame on the devaluation of the lira and the cost of the bishops’ synods, increasing office personnel, and the pope’s travels.
“Phantom AIDS” cases, “in which sufferers are convinced they have AIDS and develop classic symptoms of the disease,” are increasing, reports The Star of Johannesburg, South Africa. It is claimed that campaigns to fight the disease and the life-styles that transmit it have this effect on some persons who have had extramarital relations or sexual partners in the “high-risk categories” and who are susceptible to phobia. Guilt, shame, and the stigma of the disease have made them so fearful that they even doubt the validity of tests that prove negative. “Fear of cancer can also produce phobia and phantom symptoms,” says a Johannesburg psychiatrist, but “a man who fears he has AIDS shies away from telling his wife, or anyone else.” Thus, he is left without support and is ashamed, and the symptoms he experiences “strengthen the conviction he has the disease.”
Soviet Library Fire
The library of the National Academy of Sciences in Leningrad, one of the world’s largest, with 17.5 million volumes, was hit by a devastating fire in February. Of the 12 million books stored in the building ravaged by the fire, reports The New York Times, “library officials said 400,000 books were destroyed, 3.6 million were damaged by water, 10,000 were damaged by mold and 7.5 million are in need of preventive care to block the spread of fungus.” Thousands of volunteers assisted in the job of sorting through the debris and in “drying millions of volumes damaged by water that was poured into the library for 19 hours by 40 fire brigades.” Some of the oldest collections, irreplaceable medical and scientific works from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, were among the books destroyed. However, the 1,500 books donated by Peter the Great when he founded the library in 1714 were not damaged.
A two-month-old native Canadian Indian baby girl was passed through the hand baggage X-ray device at the Winnipeg airport. According to The Toronto Star, a security guard insisted that a tikinagan—traditional native carrier—be put through the X-ray machine, later claiming that he did not realize a baby was wrapped up inside. The machine is designed to detect weapons, and it emits 3 units of radiation compared with 15 units used for chest X rays. The parents of the child were relieved that the low dose posed no great risk to the baby. The security check verified that the baby was unarmed.
Helping Others Brings Health Benefits
“Exercise regularly, eat a well-balanced diet and do something nice for someone. That’s the advice you’re apt to get from your doctor in the near future,” states the magazine American Health. Why? Evidence has been mounting that altruists—those who help others—derive definite health benefits from doing so. “The researchers found that doing regular volunteer work, more than any other activity, dramatically increased life expectancy (and probably vitality),” reports the article. “Several studies have shown that people need other people for their health’s sake.” The heart, nervous system, and immune system are all benefited by doing good to others. On the other hand, hostility—which cuts people off from one another—multiplies the risk of heart disease. “The notion that altruism is good for people could have a profound social effect,” the magazine observed. “Good Samaritans might cease to be a rare breed.”
The Position Sensitive Atom Probe, developed at the Metallurgy Department of Oxford University, England, uses a laser to peel off successive layers of atoms from source material. These atoms are then propelled to a detector arrangement where each atom is identified by weight and can be mapped in three dimensions by computer. In this way, the effects of trace impurities in metals can be understood more clearly. The creation of “‘designer’ steel from scratch” to meet specific needs is now a distinct possibility, reports The Daily Telegraph of London.
“A mouse specially developed by researchers at the Harvard Medical School through techniques of genetic manipulation” has been patented. As reported in The New York Times, it was the first time the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a patent “for a higher form of life.” The mouse’s attributes? Half of the genetically altered females develop breast cancer, which scientists say makes them ideal for use in studying cancer and testing new drugs and treatments.