Watching the World
Ancient Egyptian Formula for Toothpaste
“The world’s oldest-known formula for toothpaste, used more than 1,500 years before Colgate began marketing the first commercial brand in 1873, has been discovered on a piece of dusty papyrus in the basement of a Viennese museum,” the Electronic Telegraph reports. “In faded black ink made of soot and gum arabic mixed with water, an ancient Egyptian scribe has carefully described what he calls a ‘powder for white and perfect teeth.’ When mixed with saliva in the mouth, it forms a ‘clean tooth paste.’” This document of the fourth century C.E. lists the ingredients as rock salt, mint, dried iris flower, and grains of pepper—all crushed and mixed together. The discovery created a sensation at a dental congress held in Vienna. “Nobody in the dental profession had any idea that such an advanced toothpaste formula of this antiquity existed,” said Dr. Heinz Neuman, who tried it and found that his “mouth felt fresh and clean.” The article states: “Dentists have recently discovered the beneficial properties of the iris, which has been found effective against gum disease and is now in commercial use.”
Extending the Shelf Life of Fruit
“The contents of your fruit bowl could soon stay fresh a lot longer—thanks to a substance hailed as one of the health-giving components of red wine,” reports New Scientist. “Dipping apples in a solution of trans-resveratrol, an antioxidant found in grapes, extended their shelf life from two weeks to three months. Similarly dipped grapes fared less well, but their shelf life still doubled to two weeks.” The researchers found that only small amounts of the antioxidant were needed to prevent tissue damage and ward off the yeasts and molds that wilt many fruits. “In subsequent work, the team has protected other produce, including tomatoes, avocados and green peppers,” the magazine said. “They are now looking into cheaper methods of producing trans-resveratrol.”
Health Hazards of Video Games
Parents may not realize how dangerous video games can be to their children’s health, reports El Universal newspaper of Mexico City. According to Antonio González Hermosillo, president of the Mexican Society of Cardiology, up to 40 percent of children who constantly play video games will develop high blood pressure. Why? Because in addition to lack of exercise, the children come under stress from being so highly involved in situations that are perceived as dangerous, such as attacks, virtual fights, and other conflicts. “The specialist warned that this will make cases of cardiovascular disease, the primary cause of death in Mexico, shoot up in the country,” said the paper.
“There is something fundamentally flawed about the way in which our world is being managed,” says Dr. Jacques Diouf, director general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Speaking to the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, U.S.A., Diouf said: “One of the great successes of the twentieth century was a rate of growth in food output that considerably surpassed the unprecedented rate of population growth. . . . We have the capacity to produce enough food for everyone on the planet to be adequately fed.” Nonetheless, 800 million people in the developing world alone do not get enough to eat, and some 6 million children under the age of five die each year from undernutrition and hunger. “Many of them die from diseases such as diarrhoea, malaria or measles, but could survive if they were better nourished,” said Diouf. “The world hunger problem is clearly political, not technical.” He added: “Unless action on the political level is taken, there is no guarantee that things will be different in the future.”
Born out of Wedlock
In the European Union, “25 percent of all children are born out of wedlock,” reports the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia. As traditional values change, “births out of wedlock are increasing all over Europe.” According to the Statistical Office of the European Communities, Sweden, Denmark, and France head the list with 54 percent, 46 percent, and 39 percent respectively. Finland and Great Britain follow next, both with 37 percent of children being born out of wedlock. The same tendency is observed among Mediterranean countries, where strong family traditions used to prevail. Recent figures for Spain, for example, show that 19 percent of the children are born to unmarried mothers, and in some regions, such as Catalonia, the figure is 22 percent—a 100-percent increase in just ten years.
Earth Is Half Wilderness
“Despite a century of mounting environmental threats, 46 percent of the Earth’s land area remains largely intact wilderness,” reports the publication World Watch. A study involving 200 scientists worldwide “found that [26 million square miles] [68 million square kilometers] of land met ‘wilderness’ criteria, meaning that they have at least 70 percent of their original vegetation, contain fewer than  people per [square mile] [five people per square kilometer] outside urban areas, and have not been reduced to fragments of less than [3,900 square miles] [10,000 square kilometers].” The 37 wilderness areas contain just 2.4 percent of earth’s total population—144 million people, not counting urban centers—yet are equivalent to the land mass sum of the six largest countries combined: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Russia, and the United States. However, World Watch states that “more than one-third of the wilderness is Antarctic ice or Arctic tundra, and only 5 of the 37 areas are conservation-priority areas—meaning that they each contain more than 1,500 endemic species and harbor a high concentration of biodiversity.”
Western Europe’s Jail Capital
“Britain is now the prison capital of western Europe, with an average incarceration rate of 139 for every 100,000 of population in England and Wales,” states the Guardian Weekly. “The prison population has risen from 42,000 in 1991 to 72,000.” British courts are not only sentencing more people to prison but giving them longer sentences as well. In 1992, 45 percent of convicted adults were sent to prison, compared with 64 percent in 2001. Incarceration levels, however, are much higher in some other countries. In fact, about half the estimated 8.75 million people in prison worldwide are found in just three countries: the United States (1.96 million), China (1.4 million), and Russia (900,000).
The Perils of Being Overweight
“People who are overweight at 40 are likely to die at least three years sooner than those who are slim, meaning that being fat during middle age is just as damaging to life expectancy as smoking,” reports The New York Times. “This study is saying that if you are overweight by your mid-30’s to mid-40’s, even if you lose some weight later on, you still carry a higher risk of dying,” said Dr. Serge Jabbour, director of a hospital weight-loss clinic. “The message is that you have to work early on your weight. If you wait a long time, the damage may have been done.” Losing weight can also prevent cancer deaths. After a 16-year study of 900,000 people, the American Cancer Society came to the conclusion that “excess weight might account for 14 percent of cancer deaths in men and 20 percent of those in women,” said the Times. Studies have linked excess weight to many cancers.