Watching the World

Staggering Diversity in the Oceans

“International marine biologists are now discovering over 30 new species each week,” says the German newspaper Leipziger Volkszeitung. This announcement came as part of the first progress report on the Census of Marine Life, a ten-year project begun in 2000, which involves some 300 scientists from 53 different countries. The researchers believe that “there are likely more than two million animal and plant species in the oceans,” says the paper. “More than 95 percent of the animal species in the oceans may still be unknown.”

 Lost but Usually Found

During 2002, people brought more than $23 million in lost cash to the Tokyo, Japan, Metropolitan Police Lost and Found Center, reports The New York Times. Of this, 72 percent was returned to the owners. The large lost-and-found center also houses hundreds of thousands of other items, including cell phones, keys, eyeglasses, toys, sports equipment, and​—most common—​umbrellas, 330,000 of which were turned in during 2002. “Children are taught from early on to hand in anything they find to the police,” states The Times. From two hundred to three hundred people come to the center every day to pick up their possessions. Some lost items, such as crutches and wheelchairs, are puzzling. “I wonder what happened to the owners,” says Hitoshi Shitara, a longtime official of the lost-and-found system.

Taming Tardiness

A national punctuality campaign has been launched in Ecuador. According to the Economist magazine, it is estimated that besides the inconveniences caused, tardiness costs Ecuador $742 million a year​—4.3 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. “More than half of all public events start late,” states the report. The punctuality campaign is meeting with some success. “Stragglers are barred from entering meetings,” says The Economist, and “a local newspaper is publishing a daily list of public officials who turn up late to events.”

Young People and Computer Use

According to a report by the U.S. Department of Education, in that country “about 90% of people ages 5 to 17 use computers and 59% of them use the Internet​—rates that are, in both cases, higher than those of adults,” explains The Wall Street Journal. Computer use begins early. “About three quarters of children already use computers by the age of five, and a majority use the Internet by the age of nine,” the report shows. While more than half of young people go on-line to communicate with friends or play games, “almost three in four use the Internet for help with school assignments,” comments the Journal. “Girls, who not long ago used computers and the Internet at lower rates than boys, have essentially eliminated that difference.”

Healthful Greek Diet

“Scientists at Harvard and the University of Athens Medical School tracked the eating habits of 22,043 Greeks for nearly four years and found that a Mediterranean diet cut the risk of death from cancer and heart disease by 25% or more,” reports Readers Digest. “Greeks eat lots of nuts, fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereal and olive oil, ample servings of fish, moderate levels of dairy and alcohol, and some meat.” The health benefits of a traditional Mediterranean diet have often been noted.

Desperate Street Children

Poverty has driven more than a million Polish children to street life, states the magazine Wprost. Usually they are between 8 and 15 years of age, and “they have already become family breadwinners,” paying the rent and providing for hungry siblings​—even giving money to their alcohol-addicted parents. Although initially they may earn money legally, most turn to “theft, drug and alcohol trafficking, extorting from their peers, and prostitution.” According to Marek Liciński of the Powiślańska Social Foundation, “the biggest problem these children face is neither violence nor crime; it is that they have no place on earth to call their own nor anyone they can count on.”

Foods for the Skin

Foods are becoming increasingly popular ingredients in cosmetics and wellness treatments. Besides chocolate, basic foodstuffs like olive oil are being used. Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung reports that “a relaxing cocoa bubble bath by candlelight, followed by a massage with an emulsion of hot cocoa and then a chocolate-fondue compress around your body,” is believed by some to help prevent skin from aging. Is it true? “Although it is theoretically conceivable that cocoa extract in creams may help slow down aging, this has not been proved scientifically,” says Professor Volker Steinkraus of the Institute of Dermatology in Hamburg.

Women Seek Out Pornography

“In recent years, the accessibility, affordability and anonymity of the Internet have made pornography undeniably attractive to millions of women,” says the Plain Dealer newspaper of Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A. “Nearly one in three visitors to adult Web sites is a woman.” One 42-year-old mother started viewing pornography “to try to understand what it was that captivated her ex-husband. Soon, she was spending up to 30 hours a week surfing the Web for arousal.”

The Deceptive Nature of Sleep Debt

“People who get by on a modest sleep deficit are often not aware of their shrinking thinking capabilities and don’t feel particularly drowsy,” reports the magazine Science News. A two-week study of 48 volunteers, aged 21 to 38, showed that in just a few days, the constant sleep shortage reduced their mental abilities, including alertness and reaction time. All had previously averaged between seven and eight hours of sleep per night, but for the study they were now divided into four groups. Members of three groups were allowed to sleep for eight hours, six hours, or four hours a night. The other group was allowed no sleep at all for a three-day period. Tests showed increasing losses in abilities for both the six-hour and four-hour groups, but there were no losses for those who slept for eight hours.