Watching the World
◼ During 2007, Arctic sea ice shrank to “the lowest levels since satellite measurements began.” The ice measured 1.65 million square miles [4,280,000 km2], a 23 percent drop beyond the previous low, recorded in 2005.—NATIONAL SNOW AND ICE DATA CENTER, U.S.A.
◼ With 90 guns for every 100 citizens, the United States is the most heavily armed country in the world. The country owning the “second largest civilian gun-arsenal” is India, with “just 4 guns per 100 people.”—TIME, U.S.A.
◼ Born at 21 weeks and 6 days, a baby weighing just under 10 ounces [283.5 grams] at her birth, in Miami, Florida, U.S.A., is “possibly the most premature baby on record to survive.” “Babies born at less than 23 weeks and 14.11 ounces (400 grams) in weight are not considered viable.”—REUTERS NEWS SERVICE, U.S.A.
Freshwater From the Sea
In an effort to deal with water shortages on islands in the Aegean Sea, Greek scientists have built the “world’s first autonomous, floating, ecological desalination platform,” reports the Athens News Agency. Powered by wind turbines and onboard solar cells, the platform produces enough potable water for the daily needs of about 300 people. The unit is fully operational under adverse weather conditions, can be remotely monitored and operated, and can be moved to wherever it is needed.
Ancient Bones Revealed
“In Siberia’s northernmost reaches . . . , the changing temperature is thawing out the permafrost to reveal the bones of prehistoric animals like mammoths, woolly rhinos and lions,” says a Reuters news report from Cherskiy, Sakha, in Russia. Since collectors and scientific institutes are willing to pay huge sums for good specimens, prospectors, helped by local tribesmen, are scouring the tundra for valuable ones. Says the report: “The permafrost is thawing and breaking up so rapidly that in certain places . . . every few meters bones poke out through the soil.”
Confiscated Alcohol Put to Good Use
Until just a few years ago, Swedish customs officers used to pour alcohol confiscated from smugglers “down the drain.” Now such contraband is “helping fuel the country’s public transport system,” says an Associated Press report from Stockholm. Nearly all the 185,000 gallons [700,000 L] of liquor seized in 2006 was converted into biogas, an alternative fuel, and “used to power buses, trucks and a biogas train.” This fuel “is good business,” explains the report, “because the material to make it is free.” It is also good because using it helps reduce Sweden’s greenhouse emissions.
“Epidemic of Shyness”
“E-mail, text messaging and iPods are causing a global epidemic of shyness,” reports Australia’s Sunday Telegraph. According to psychologist and researcher Robin Abrahams, shyness in social situations now affects about half the population, which represents a significant rise over past levels. “Technology is enabling us to opt out of difficult situations and causing people to become more insular,” says Abrahams. “People . . . e-mail or text one another rather than talk.”