Watching the World
Rats to the Rescue
Metal detectors, long used to detect land mines, “are slow and tedious as they react to every metal fragment, which is then checked,” reports The Citizen newspaper of South Africa. “Enter the Gambian giant pouched rat, the latest weapon in the war to remove more than 100 million landmines scattered in some 60 countries that kill or injure an estimated 50 people daily.” The large rodent is being deployed along with metal detectors and dogs to locate antipersonnel mines that remain in Mozambique long after the end of the civil war there in 1992. “Landmines,” says the report, “are an insidious legacy of that conflict that maim and kill Mozambicans to this day, including rural children who were born long after the guns were silenced.” The Gambian giant pouched rat, named after the large pouches inside its cheeks for carrying food, is found in much of Africa, is easily tamed, and is a favorite pet.
Up or Down?
Does it make any health difference whether you exercise by hiking up or down a steep incline? Researchers say that in some ways it might. A study was conducted on a mountain in the Alps where for two months 45 volunteers hiked up the 30-degree slope and rode a cable car back down. Then, for two months more, they did the opposite. While hiking in either direction helped lower bad cholesterol, the study suggested that “hiking uphill was more effective for lowering levels of fats called triglycerides, [while] hiking downhill was better for reducing blood sugars and improving glucose tolerance,” says Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter. Downhill exercise, therefore, may be good for diabetics and a bit easier for those just starting to exercise. For city dwellers, this can be accomplished in taller buildings by taking the elevator up and then walking down the stairs or by exiting a car at the top of a hill and meeting the car at the bottom. However, be aware that downhill exercise puts greater pressure on the knees.
Ocean Floor Teeming With Life
An international project called Census of Marine Life is conducting an extensive study of the ocean, including the ocean floor. So far, “knowledge about sea life is almost exclusively limited to life near the surface, down to a depth of 200 meters [650 feet],” explains the Spanish newspaper El País. Since most of the ocean floor ranges from three to seven miles [5-11 km] beneath sea level, 95 percent of the seabed remains unexplored. To carry out this difficult part of the census, biologists will use sophisticated devices to locate and photograph species in their natural location, since the characteristics of some of these life forms change noticeably when the creatures are taken to the surface. One team of 50 biologists expects to find millions of new species in the deep sea. Project manager Pedro Martínez Arbizu points out that 500 species were found in one ten-square-foot [1 sq m] section of ocean floor off Angola, Africa. Of these, “90 percent are new to science and must be described and named,” he said.
Chocolate Deadly to Dogs
Chocolate “causes vomiting and convulsions in dogs” and “can kill [them] if eaten in sufficient quantities,” warns BBC News. Chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical that is toxic to dogs and affects their heart, kidneys, and central nervous system. The report says that “[7 ounces] [200g] of dark chocolate could be fatal for a dog weighing [55 pounds] [25 kg], such as a female Labrador.” A mere ounce [30 g] of unsweetened baking chocolate can kill a small dog. However, artificial dog chocolate purchased from pet shops is safe.
When Faced With Car Theft
Auto theft has become a big business in Mexico City, reports El Universal. Each day an average of 80 cars are stolen and then resold. According to one prosecutor, men traveling alone appear to be the preferred victims, as women are thought by the thieves to be more inclined to scream or to be accompanied by children, complicating the theft. Youths between the ages of 18 and 25 make up 85 percent of the perpetrators caught. Methods of theft commonly employed include holding up the driver when stopped at a traffic light, colliding with the car to obligate the driver to get out, or accosting the driver when he is opening his garage. The newspaper recommends that drivers not offer resistance but, rather, stay calm—especially if weapons are used—and memorize as much information as possible about the criminals. To facilitate recovery of their vehicle, victims should know their license plate number and car color and report this and other pertinent information to the police at once.
Parents who may have wished to restrict driving by their teenage children can now find support in recent research by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. This study “suggests that the region of the brain that inhibits risky behavior is not fully formed until age 25,” reports the international edition of The Miami Herald. Previously, it was thought that brain maturity was attained at least by the age of 18, when senses and reflexes reach their peak. However, statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety show that “teenagers are four times as likely as older drivers to be involved in a crash and three times as likely to die in one,” evidence of their susceptibility to distraction and their tendency to take risks while driving.
Odontologists at the Fray Antonio Alcalde Civil Hospital in Guadalajara, Mexico, warn that tooth whiteners can cause injury and pain, reports Milenio newspaper of Mexico City. They can cause “superficial-to-deep wear” on teeth and may not even be effective in whitening them. According to these experts, healthy teeth can have a variety of hues ranging from orange to gray. A white color does not necessarily mean that a person has excellent teeth, says specialist Rocío Liliana Hernández, although people have been encouraged to believe that white teeth are the “prettiest and healthiest ones.”