Watching the World
Procrastination and Health
“Procrastination can make you sick,” says a study mentioned in the Vancouver Sun newspaper. As presented at a recent conference of the American Psychological Society held in Toronto, Canada, a study of 200 Canadian university students “found that procrastinators put themselves under so much pressure by delaying action that they suffered more stress-related illnesses than others. . . . With the exam date looming, stress levels among procrastinators soared. Their happy-go-lucky attitude was replaced with higher rates of headaches, back pain, colds, sleeping problems and allergies. They suffered more respiratory problems, infections and migraines.”
A Rock-Climbing Fish!
A team of Brazilian ichthyologists, scientists who study fish, have observed a species of the South American darter that routinely performs the seemingly impossible feat of climbing up a wet, slippery, five-story cliff beneath a waterfall, reports Natural History magazine. “The researchers observed the waterfall-climbing abilities of the inch-and-a-half-long [4 cm] fish in the swift freshwater streams of Espírito Santo in eastern Brazil.” Using their two large pairs of fins, the darters clung to the base of the waterfall and slowly inched themselves up the 50-foot-high [15 m] rock face, “with strong lateral movements,” resting at regular intervals. “The scientists think this behavior helps maintain populations in the isolated uplands,” says the report. However, darters are not the only fish with rock-climbing skills; other species include tropical gobies and Asian loaches.
“Researchers have genetically engineered the world’s first tomato that can grow in salty water—an advance that could help solve one of the biggest problems in agriculture,” says washingtonpost.com. The salt-tolerant tomato has been engineered with a gene from a plant related to the cabbage. The inserted gene enables the tomato plant “to shunt salt into storage cavities, allowing the plant to thrive in what otherwise would be marginal cropland.” According to the report, “the genetically engineered tomato can grow in soil irrigated by water that is about 50 times saltier than normal.” It is hoped that such salt-resistant plants will be able to grow in soils that are not regularly flushed by rainfall. The report adds that “another potential use of the modified tomatoes (or other crops made similarly salt resistant) is to reclaim damaged soil by soaking up the salts.”
Calls from suicidal children to helplines of the British charity ChildLine doubled from 346 in 1990/91 to 701 in 1998/99, reports The Guardian of London. “Extremes of despair” were “caused by bullying, sexual and physical abuse, bereavement and exam stress.” According to the charity, “the commonly held view that suicide attempts are merely attention seeking is dangerous. There is no truth in the myth that those who talk about suicide don’t do it. Many suicidal children who called ChildLine said their distress was increased by parents’ or carers’ apparent lack of concern.” After a first attempted suicide, “families are so relieved their child has survived . . . that they assume the problem has gone away. Then, tragically, it happens again,” usually within a few months of the first attempt. Although suicidal girls outnumbered boys by 4 to 1, the boys were far more likely to kill themselves. Most suicidal child callers were aged 13 to 18, but the youngest were only 6.
A Singapore firm is producing a device to deal with mosquitoes without insecticides. It is a 15-inch [38 cm]-tall black plastic box that “radiates heat and carbon dioxide much as a human body would,” reports The Economist of London. Because mosquitoes find their victims by homing in on body warmth and carbon dioxide in the breath, the device “tricks mosquitoes into thinking they are about to get a meal.” The box is heated electrically, and it releases carbon dioxide from a small cartridge. Glittering lights lure the insect into a slot in the box. A fan then blows it downward into a pool of water, where it drowns. The device can trap 1,200 mosquitoes in a night and can be adjusted to target the nocturnal Anopheles mosquito, which carries malaria, or the diurnal Aedes mosquito, the carrier of yellow fever and dengue. A further advantage is that harmless insects such as butterflies are not destroyed.
Men Encouraged to Eat Fish
Men who eat large amounts of fatty fish, such as salmon, herring, and mackerel, are two to three times less likely to develop prostate cancer than men who rarely eat fish, say researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. The 30-year study of 6,272 men took into account risk factors such as smoking. The researchers concluded that “so-called omega-3 fatty acids [found particularly in oily fish] apparently impede the growth of prostate cancer.” The same fatty acids “also reduce the risk of heart attack,” says the report. Hence, experts advise people to eat fish “once or twice a week.”
Rice Bran Saves Trees
Rice bran, a substitute fuel in northern Peru’s brick factories, is helping to prevent many endangered carob trees from being cut down as firewood, reports Peru’s newspaper El Comercio. The use of rice bran, an agricultural waste product, by 21 brick makers has also helped to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. In addition, by plastering the walls with a paste composed of sand, clay, and molasses—which improves insulation and thus reduces heat loss—the efficiency of the ovens has been increased by 15 percent. Experiments are also being made to include the ashes of rice bran in the brick mixture, with the hope of strengthening the finished product. “This use also reduces pollution and problems of storage of residues,” says El Comercio.
Mental Health and Children
“Statistics show one in five children will develop a mental-health problem by age 11,” says The Gazette newspaper of Montreal, Canada. “Good mental health means balancing the social, physical, spiritual and emotional aspects of one’s life.” According to Sandy Bray, a community-education coordinator for the Canadian Mental Health Association, we should be as concerned about our mental health as we are about our physical health. Bray states: “If we continue to leave mental health last on the list of priorities, that’s when we tend to get depressed, anxious and stressed out.” Parents are encouraged to be more proactive in keeping their children mentally healthy, by scheduling family time into their lives and by eating meals together. Other suggestions to help all to maintain good mental health include getting sufficient sleep, eating well, keeping fit, making time to do the things you enjoy, spending time with friends, laughing, volunteering, giving and accepting compliments, really listening to others, and not being too hard on yourself when you make mistakes.
The Heavy Cost of Overfishing
“Mankind brought about a marine apocalypse on a scale never previously imagined in which thousands of species became extinct through overfishing, a study has revealed,” states The Times of London. “The human race’s efficiency at hunting large marine animals and shellfish has disrupted food chains and destroyed ecosystems to such an extent that the seas have been changed forever,” according to the research project. The report mentions that when Captain John Smith sailed into the waters of Chesapeake Bay on the eastern coast of the United States in 1607, a cannon that fell overboard was “clearly visible in over 30ft [9 m] of water.” The researchers attributed this once clear water to “vast oyster reefs [that] filtered all the water in the bay every three days, controlling levels of microbes and algae.” At that time “grey whales, dolphins, manatees, river otters, sea turtles, alligators and giant sturgeon were numerous” in the region. Now it is home to “a fraction of the species” once supported.