Watching the World
Many wives in the area of Kobe, Japan, are disgruntled over their husband’s behavior during and after the earthquake that devastated that region early in 1995. “Cracks have developed not only in our house but also in our relationship since I now realize that I cannot trust my husband,” said one wife who was quoted in the Asahi Evening News. The husbands are in trouble for being insensitive, for not giving comfort when it was sought, and most of all, for trying to save only themselves. One wife “was shocked that her husband ate all the riceballs handed out to them, without leaving any for her,” reports the Hyogo Prefecture Women’s Center. Another wife told the center: “I lost total confidence in my husband after he called out the names of our children but did not mention my name.” The center added, however, that about the same number say their relationships were strengthened by the quake.
The Return of the Almost Extinct
An “Italian miracle”—that, according to the Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera, is how some are describing the way several animal species have returned from the brink of extinction. Largely because of protected areas in the Alps and the Apennines, such animals as deer, chamois, fallow deer, and roe deer are on the increase in Italy. The Apennine wolf, which is enjoying a great increase in numbers, is now spreading from Italy into the French Maritime Alps. There are, however, still species in danger, such as the otter and the monk seal, but experts are convinced that serious conservation programs “cannot fail to bring long-term, real, and positive results,” says the Corriere della Sera.
The Perfect Winter Coat
Scientists attempting to spot polar bears from airplanes have a very difficult time—and not just for the obvious reason that the bears are white and dwell on snowscapes. According to Popular Science, scientists had what seemed a clever solution to that problem: they used sensitive infrared film, reasoning that it would easily detect the body heat emanating from these massive creatures. But the film came back blank! It seems that the polar bear’s coat is so effective an insulator that very little heat at all escapes from the animal. The magazine notes too that the hair of the coat seems to be good at conducting the sun’s ultraviolet rays, drawing them in to what may be “solar cells” in the bear that somehow manage to convert such light into heat.
Why do so many fans faint at rock concerts? A neurologist at University Hospital in Berlin, Germany, recently investigated that phenomenon. At a Berlin rock concert attended primarily by young women, some 400 fainted during the performance. According to Discover magazine, the neurologist found that 90 percent of the fainters had been standing in the front rows. To obtain these choice seats, the girls had waited for hours in long lines, and many had not eaten recently or slept the night before. Other factors—their own screaming and the press of the crowds from behind—put pressure on the chest, which reduced blood pressure. This, in turn, deprived the brain of its supply of blood. Fainting ensued. While the neurologist recommended that rock fans eat and sleep beforehand, remain seated, and stay calm and away from the crowd during the show, he acknowledged that few teenage fans would be likely to comply.
Harried suburban parents have found a new way to get others to watch their children so they can be free to do some shopping. They leave their kids in a toy store or a multimedia computer store. Children, who are fascinated with the high-tech machines, play with demonstration models until parents return. Not surprisingly, though, salespeople are less than thrilled by the trend, reports Newsweek magazine. They complain that at best, children keep the display models from potential customers; at worst, they break them. Others have found that some parents return and complain if no one has kept track of their children or taken them to the bathroom! Thus, some stores are fighting the trend—either making display computers less accessible or calling security if they find children who are unattended.
Dunes in Danger
“Israel is running out of sand.” So reported New Scientist magazine recently. Why the unlikely-sounding shortage? Well, sand is a key ingredient in concrete, for which the country’s booming construction industry has an insatiable need. So for the past 30 years, with very little government regulation, developers have been carting off sand by the truckload from Israel’s great coastal sandbank, which once stretched from Jaffa to Gaza. And thieves steal a million tons of the sand each year to sell on the black market. Ecologists worry that the dwindling, fragile ecosystem of the sand dunes, on which only a few species of plants and animals are able to survive, is being ruined. And developers are beginning to wonder where their sand will come from when Israel’s supply runs out.
Japanese Health Suffers Western Influence
The people of Japan have the longest life expectancy in the world, but the influence of Western life-styles may be eroding that status. New Scientist reported recently that of 2.1 million people given a physical exam in 1994, only 18 percent were given a clean bill of health. Ten years earlier, that figure was 30 percent. According to one of the authors of a report by the Japan Hospital Association, the culprit is the high fat and cholesterol content of Western-style foods, along with an increase in smoking and the consumption of alcohol. The largest health declines were seen in highly industrialized regions, such as the Osaka-Kobe area. In contrast, the healthiest region is in the north, in the rural parts of the island of Hokkaido.
Where the Time Goes
Where has the day gone? Many ask that question rhetorically, but a recent study endeavored to answer it scientifically. A research concern in Illinois, U.S.A., conducted a three-year study of the daily activities of some 3,000 people who were asked to keep ongoing records of how they were spending their time. The group ranged in age from 18 to 90 and covered a wide range of backgrounds. The leading time consumer was sleep. This was followed by work, which took up an average of 184 minutes per day. Watching TV and videos came next, with 154 minutes. Household chores took 66 minutes, traveling and commuting 51, grooming 49, and child and pet care 25. Near the bottom of the list was worship, which took an average of 15 minutes per day.
More Churches for Sale
Investors are rushing to get their hands on seldom-used church buildings in Australia’s northern state capital of Brisbane in Queensland, according to real estate agents. Two factors are said to be responsible: declining church attendances and a quest by investors to buy “something unique.” The Courier-Mail newspaper reports that more than a dozen churches are currently up for sale and that some have already been converted into homes and offices in Brisbane. The newspaper quotes a director of commercial sales as saying: “Quite a few” of the churches have been “used as restaurants, galleries, antique stores, offices, or homes.” A real estate agent said: “I wish I had more of them to sell.”
Secularized to the Bare Bones
The German state of Bavaria is staunchly Roman Catholic. In fact, Bavarian school regulations make it compulsory that a crucifix be put in every classroom in all state-owned schools. However, the Federal Constitutional Court has now declared this regulation invalid because it is out of harmony with the Basic Law of Germany, which guarantees freedom of religion, reports Süddeutsche Zeitung, a German newspaper. A “black day in the history of our people,” bemoaned Archbishop Meisner of Cologne, according to the Westfälische Allgemeine Zeitung. Some were more surprised by the controversy than by the decision itself. After all, German society “has been secularized down to its bare bones,” writes the Hamburg paper Die Zeit, and “pays homage to materialism, consumerism, and pure self-realization.”