Watching the World
Lamenting the Loss of Manners
‘Rudeness, loutish behavior, slovenly or aggressive dress, swearing, cheating, and the use of brute force have made life unpredictable, uneasy, and unpleasant,’ reports The Times of London. High on the list of boorish behavior in some lands is the deliberate neglect of personal appearance. “Leather jackets, guerrilla headbands, pierced noses, studded leather boots and aggressive tattoos are declarations of war,” says Athena Leoussi, of Reading University. Such clothing is a clear sign of contempt for other people, according to Leoussi. The Times says the ‘decline in civility, restraint, and order threatens society perhaps even more than crime.’ What, then, is the remedy? Manners must be “moulded within the family structure,” says the paper. “They cannot simply be explained to children, but must be taught by example.”
Cellular Phone Hazard
A recent study in Japan has confirmed that radio waves emitted from cellular telephones can cause serious problems with hospital medical equipment. “In one test, a heart-lung machine stopped when a cellular phone was used 45 centimeters [18 inches] away,” says the Asahi Evening News. Researchers also found that alarms went off on liquid transfusion pumps and pumps that supply anticancer drugs when a cellular phone was used within two-and-a-half feet of the equipment. X-ray machines and tonometers were also affected. Based on these findings, the Posts and Telecommunications Ministry recommends that cellular phones not be taken into operating rooms and intensive care units. According to one survey, about 25 medical institutions in Tokyo already regulate the use of cellular phones, with 12 of them banning cellular phones altogether.
Nuns Learn Karate
Faced with a growing threat of violence against women, a group of nuns at St. Anne’s Provinciate in Madhavaram, Tamil Nadu State, South India, have begun receiving karate training. Shihan Hussaini, president of the All India Isshinryu Karate Association, says that the nuns have done much better than other women he has trained over his 24 years as a karate instructor. ‘I suppose it has got something to do with the latent energy and discipline they have,’ he says. One instrument the nuns are taught to use is called the sein ko. It is shaped like a crucifix, and by “using this instrument, it is even possible to kill an assaulter,” claims Hussaini.
Sunlight Cleans Water
“Canadian scientists have discovered that ordinary sunlight breaks down potentially harmful mercury compounds in water,” reports The Globe and Mail, of Toronto. Researchers from the University of Manitoba and the Freshwater Institute of Winnipeg found that exposing lake water contaminated with methylmercury to sunlight for only a week resulted in a lowering of the level of methylmercury by 40 to 66 percent. “Until this experiment, scientists had believed that microbes alone broke down methylmercury in lake water,” says the Globe. The report also notes that sunlight seems to “operate 350 times faster than the previously known microbial process.”
The number of children with ulcers and gastritis has doubled in ten years, reports the Brazilian newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo. These findings, based on a study by São Paulo University, point to emotional stress as one of the main factors. “Social pressures are reflected in the child’s emotional makeup, . . . to the point of causing disease,” says gastroenterologist Dorina Barbieri. The newspaper went on to list a number of factors that contribute to childhood stress, including family conflicts, accidents or deaths in the family, perfectionism, an unbalanced diet, the spirit of competition, and a lack of leisure time.
Staying Smart Longer
Want to maintain your wits well into your senior years? “Don’t neglect your education, stay physically active and protect your lungs,” states American Health magazine. “There are things we can do to increase the likelihood of maintaining mental ability,” claims Marilyn Albert, a Harvard Medical School neuropsychologist. Dr. Albert speculates that education somehow “alters brain structure” to protect mental skills from diminishing with age. In addition, it is thought that physical activity may improve blood circulation to the brain and supply it with more oxygen. Albert therefore suggests: “Take a daily walk, read at least one new book a month, and if you’re a smoker, give your lungs (and brain) a break, by quitting.”
Buffalo Pox Hits India
Buffalo pox, caused by ‘a virus that belongs to the same group as the smallpox virus,’ has been detected in the Beed district of western India, reports The Times of India. Although the pox is less virulent than smallpox, scientists are nonetheless concerned about its spread. “The virus should be watched very carefully,” says Dr. Kalyan Banerjee, director of the National Institute of Virology. “We cannot say how serious it is.” Of major concern is the likelihood that the pox will spread in remote rural areas where medical facilities are few. Buffalo pox in humans causes high fever, swelling of the lymph nodes, multiple pockmarks on the body, and general weakness.
Another False Alarm
“The search for extraterrestrials scored a major breakthrough last year,” reported New Scientist magazine. Researchers working for the SETI Institute, based in Mountain View, California, “picked up regular signals that provided indisputable proof of intelligent life.” After further investigation, however, the team found that the radio signals “were not coming from ET [extraterrestrials] but from the microwave oven downstairs.” This is not the first time that the SETI Institute has been disappointed, notes New Scientist. Researchers scanning the sky in Australia found that “most of the false alarms were signals from satellites.” A spokesman for the SETI Institute recently admitted to the American Astronomical Society that all the radio signals detected by SETI in 1995 were “coming from our own technology.”
A new waterway stretching over 2,150 miles [3,450 km] southward from the Brazilian city of Cáceres to Argentina’s River Plate is being proposed. It would unite the Paraná and Paraguay rivers. The waterway, or hidrovia, will bypass thousands of kilometers of poor roads, making it easier to transport soybeans, cotton, grain, iron ore, lime, manganese, and other freight to foreign markets. The hidrovia is a joint project involving Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and landlocked Bolivia. According to The Economist, “developers see this as a South American Mississippi, ferrying goods to and from the heartland of a demi-continent that is ready to boom.”
The Value of Pi
Pi, as many learned in school, is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Most people can work satisfactorily with the approximate value of pi, 3.14159, but pi is not an exact number, so the decimal value of pi has no end. In the 18th century, a value accurate to 100 decimal places was obtained, and in 1973 two French mathematicians achieved a million decimal places. Now, Yasumasa Kanada, of Japan’s Tokyo University, has calculated the value, by means of a computer, to more than six billion decimal places. The figure has no imaginable use, as “just 39 places of decimals are sufficient to calculate the circumference of a circle girding the known universe to within the radius of the hydrogen atom,” notes The Times of London. Professor Kanada said he enjoys calculating pi “because it’s there.” But don’t try to recite his result. “At one digit per second, without stopping, it would take about 200 years,” says The Times.