Watching the World
Introduce Your Children to Reading
“It has been noted that the children of good readers follow their parents’ example,” states neurolinguistics specialist Beatriz González Ortuño, as reported in the Mexican newspaper Reforma. Since children have a great capacity for learning, it is good to encourage their interest in reading even before they can identify vowels. For example, stories can be read to them that will help them to develop their imagination. The newspaper gives the following suggestions for introducing children to reading: “Sit down together. . . . Allow them to turn the pages, to interrupt when they wish, and to ask questions. . . . Ask them to talk to you about the objects and characters that appear in the story. Answer all their questions. . . . Relate the book to the life of the children.”
Elephants and Chili Peppers
Elephants in Africa’s game parks have long been the cause of conflict between conservationists and farmers. Fences, fires, and drums have all failed to keep elephants within park boundaries. Roving elephants have repeatedly destroyed crops and have even trampled people to death. At last, however, a deterrent has been found—the chili pepper plant. Where these are cultivated along park borders, reports South Africa’s newspaper The Witness, elephants draw back in disgust because they are “repulsed by the plant’s odour.” Relieved park rangers now no longer have to “push elephants back inside the park,” and damage to the crops of local farmers has been reduced. The chili peppers may also prove to be a lucrative source of income.
Text Messages Disturb Sleep
“Text messages disturb young people’s sleep,” reports the German health newsletter Apotheken Umschau. During a study conducted at Leuven University, Belgium, 2,500 youngsters, aged 13 to 16, were asked how often they were awakened by incoming text messages on their cellular phones and how tired they felt at various times. Ten percent reported being awakened by messages at least once a week. The sleep of 3 percent was interrupted in this way every night. According to one of the researchers, the “findings suggest that mobile telephones may be having a major impact on the quality of sleep of a growing number of adolescents.” The newsletter recommends: “Parents should make sure that their child’s mobile phone is switched off at night.”
How Fish Swim Upstream
According to a study published in Science magazine, brook trout and other varieties of fish exploit turbulent flows swirling around stationary objects in the water to minimize effort and give themselves an energy-saving boost against the current. By altering their body position and synchronizing movements with the eddies they encounter, says New Scientist, trout save so much energy that they do not have to use their main swimming muscles. “It’s a very low-energy way of moving through a turbulent environment,” explains one of the authors of the study, George Lauder, a biomechanician at Harvard University. In effect, says New Scientist, “the fish were bending their bodies into wing-like hydrofoils to catch the eddies, like a sailboat tacking upwind.”
The Elderly Not a Burden
“Instead of focusing only on the costs of an older population, it is important to take into account the positive contributions and savings generated by the unpaid work of older people,” states a report published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies. “Much of the unpaid work of older people provides support that would be difficult to provide using market-based services.” The study revealed that “Australians aged over 65 years contribute almost $39 billion [$27 billion, U.S.] per year [to society] in unpaid caring and voluntary work.” Such volunteer activities include caring for children and nursing sick adults, as well as domestic work. Such unpaid labor, the authors point out, “can act as a social ‘glue’ that helps bind society together.” Its value cannot be measured only in dollars and cents.
Oldest Surviving Printed Book
The British Library is now home to what is believed to be the oldest surviving printed book in the world, reports BBC News. A Buddhist text called The Diamond Sutra bears the date 868 C.E. and was found in 1907 in a cave in Dunhuang, China. “It consists of a scroll of grey paper printed with Chinese characters, wrapped around a wooden pole,” says the report. The book and other items found with it are thought to have been “part of a library which was walled up in the cave around the year 1000AD.” The scroll predates the introduction of movable type into Europe by hundreds of years, but as the BBC report notes, “paper making and printing were already well established in China at the time.”
Noise Slows Reaction Time
“The louder the noise, the slower you react,” says The Toronto Star. These are the results of a study conducted at Memorial University, Newfoundland, Canada, by researcher Duane Button, who had people perform physical and mental tasks while listening to noises at various levels. He found that exposure to office background noise of 53 decibels slowed a person’s reaction time by 5 percent, while industrial-strength noise of 95 decibels slowed it by 10 percent. Although the differences in reaction time are counted in mere fractions of a second, the report points out that “those fractions make a big difference on the road.” Even a delayed response of .035 of a second, Button says, can be a significant factor in either having an accident or not having one.
Church Doors Closing
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, U.S.A., has announced that it will close 65 of its 357 parishes—almost one fifth of the total. Some 60 churches and 120 related buildings will be sold. According to The New York Times, this restructuring is “caused partly by declining attendance and increased financial problems that were worsened by the sexual abuse crisis among clergy members.” The newspaper quotes R. Scott Appleby, director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at Notre Dame University, as saying that “the scandal has put a drain on the financial resources of the archdiocese” to such an extent that it cannot “keep parishes afloat.”