Watching the World

Lobsters Navigate Home

“Spiny lobsters have an uncanny ability to find their way home, even after being blindfolded, driven in circles and plunked in unfamiliar waters,” states Canada’s National Post newspaper. The researchers captured dozens of lobsters off the Florida Keys, placed them in dark tanks, and released them up to 23 miles [37 km] from where they were caught. Though their eyes were covered, the lobsters always gravitated toward their place of capture. The researchers suggest that this is the most advanced form of navigation yet found in an invertebrate. “No matter what we did, the lobsters figured out the direction that they needed to walk in order to go back home,” said Dr. Kenneth Lohmann, who headed the research. “It’s really a rather remarkable finding if you think about it​—these little crustaceans being able to somehow determine their position under conditions in which humans would be completely lost.”

 No Crime Committed

“Escaping from prison is not a crime in Mexico,” reports The Korea Herald. “Mexico’s legal system recognizes that all people have a fundamental desire to be free. And it does not punish them for pursuing it.” Prisoners are charged only if they break laws while escaping, injure someone, damage property, bribe someone, or conspire with other prisoners. There is a potential hazard though. Prison guards are authorized to shoot when anyone attempts to escape. This has led to the use of some very ingenious escape methods. In 1998, for example, a convicted murderer dieted until he weighed only 110 pounds [50 kg] so that his wife could carry him out in the suitcase she used for taking home his dirty laundry. He was apprehended nine months later but escaped again and has not been seen since.

European Union Expansion

“A half-century after the Cold War divided the Continent in two, negotiators reached a deal . . . to unite Western and Central Europe,” states the Paris daily International Herald Tribune. By accepting the invitation to join the European Union in 2004, the ten invited countries​—Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia—​will add an additional 75 million people. Thus, “a single market of 450 million people” will result in a combined economic output of $10.7 trillion. This roughly equals the United States’ output of $11.5 trillion. “For the first time in history, Europe will become one,” declared Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission. Among the numerous difficulties facing the expanded Union will be the challenge of handling business in 21 official languages.

Western-Style Weddings in Japan

Although a mere 0.8 percent of Japan’s populace claim to be Christian, Western-style wedding ceremonies​—replete with white wedding gown, flower bouquets, and an aisle to march down—​are gaining popularity, reports The Japan Times. One magazine’s survey of 4,132 couples who got married in 2001 showed that 61.2 percent had Western-style weddings, 20.1 percent had Shinto weddings, and 0.9 percent had Buddhist ceremonies. For Western-style weddings, wedding companies usually hire “nonclergy foreigners with Caucasian faces,” as these are often preferred by their clients. “Many young couples think a foreigner performing the rites can add a more sophisticated or even solemn atmosphere to their weddings,” said a wedding company spokeswoman. These “weekend pastors” simply administer the wedding vows and recite Bible passages before an audience.

Dangerous Herbs

“The popular belief that because plants are natural they do not in any way harm the body is false,” reports the newspaper El Financiero of Mexico City. According to Abigail Aguilar Contreras of the Mexican Institute of Social Security, self-medicating with herbs can be dangerous. “Improper use of medicinal plants can harm the body and even cause death, as they contain active substances or drugs,” the paper states. An example is yellow oleander, also called friar’s elbow, which is used for weight loss. This herb can cause diarrhea and vomiting and can damage the heart. Therefore, one may wish to consult a skilled herbalist before deciding to use herbs for curative purposes.

“Stock Trading Addicts”

“Stock trading addicts” are now commanding the attention of one German therapist, reports the Hamburg newspaper Die Welt. According to addiction counselor Joachim Otto, the addicts were lured by the “euphoric appeal of quick profit.” They engaged in stock trading “for fear they would otherwise miss the chance of a lifetime” but then lost control and got hooked by “the terrific speed of transfers, the risk, the permanent state of excitement.” Now many have large debts. Without the knowledge of their wives, some have gambled away all their savings or mortgaged their home. Most go for therapy only when their families cannot stand it any longer.

Twins Born in Different Years

“Twins Caleigh and Emily Johnson have a lot in common but not their birthday​—they arrived in different years,” reports New York’s Daily News. “Caleigh was born at 11:24 p.m. Dec. 31. Emily came into the world at 12:19 a.m. Jan. 1.” Their mom, Dawn Johnson, of Barnegat, New Jersey, was elated. “Even though they’re twins, I wanted them to have their own separate identities,” she said. “They proved it right from the start.” The twins, slated to be born on February 2, arrived a month early.

Internet Language Invades Classrooms

“The breezy abbreviated language of Internet chat rooms and instant messaging is invading high school English classrooms,” says the Toronto Star newspaper. Some educators believe that the “new technologies are influencing not just the way their students write, but the way they think.” Students have adopted a new language of English abbreviations. Such abbreviations are regularly used to speed up conversations when chatting on line or when sending notes by cell phone. Now this hybrid of written words and abbreviations is showing up in homework assignments.

New Findings on Coffee

“Decaffeinated coffee is no healthier than conventional coffee and may be just as likely to keep drinkers awake all night,” states The Times of London. Research by scientists at University Hospital, in Zurich, Switzerland, suggests that because both forms of coffee affect the cardiovascular and nervous systems in almost identical ways, caffeine may not be the problem. Lead researcher Dr. Roberto Conti admits: “Until now we have attributed the cardiovascular effects of coffee to caffeine, but we found [that] non-coffee drinkers given decaffeinated coffee also display these effects. This demonstrates how little we know about the effects of one of our most popular beverages, and the most abundantly consumed stimulant worldwide.”