Watching the World

Sizzling Sunbathers

Most sunbathers do not apply enough sunscreen to reach the sun protection factor (SPF) listed on the product’s package, reports the Medical Journal of Australia. According to Dr. Stephen Taylor, “most people, for cosmetic and economic reasons, only apply enough sunscreen to achieve an SPF of about a third or even a quarter of the level.” So, how much sunscreen is enough? Dr. Jeffrey Schneider, writing in the Archives of Dermatology, recommends the “teaspoon rule.” An average-size adult should apply more than half a teaspoon of sunscreen to each of the following body areas: head and neck, right arm, and left arm. In addition, the front torso, back torso, right leg, and left leg should each receive more than a teaspoon. “Using the proper amount of sunscreen,” says Schneider, “provides greater sun protection than using a lesser amount . . . of a sunscreen labeled at a higher SPF.”

 Champion Jumper

“The insect world has a new high jump champion,” reports The Times of London. The tiny froghopper can jump higher than two feet [70 cm]. That would be the equivalent of a human leaping over a skyscraper more than 600 feet [180 m] high! Using high-speed photography, Professor Malcolm Burrows of Cambridge University, England, observed that the muscles in the bug’s hind legs act like a catapult, releasing explosive energy at takeoff. Burrows estimates that when the froghopper jumps, it endures more than 400 times the earth’s gravitational force, “which is 130 times that experienced by a Space Shuttle crew at launch,” says the paper.

Sleep​—How Much Is Enough?

“Adults who get 7 hours of sleep on weeknights are less likely to die over a 10-year period than those who spend more time in bed,” reports USA Today. Researchers in Japan followed over 104,000 adults for about ten years, considering their sleep patterns, general and mental health, and life-style. The scientists found that “less sleep, even as little as four hours a night, didn’t significantly increase deaths for men and only lowered survival for women if they averaged less than four hours.” These findings are backed by two other major published studies and numerous smaller studies. However, sleep specialists also found that “those sleeping four to 5 1/2 hours did poorly on tests that measure memory, clear thinking and the ability to pay attention.” Psychiatrist and sleep researcher Daniel Kripke says: “People should get as many hours [of] sleep as they need to feel rested.”

Many Youths Face Grim Future

“Nearly half of all people are under the age of 25​—the largest youth generation in history,” states the UN State of the World Population report for 2003. What are the prospects for these young people? According to The Independent of London, “Dr Thoraya Obaid, head of the UN Population Fund, said the biggest young generation in history faces unprecedented dangers from Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases, early marriage and pregnancy, broken homes, drug use, violence and sex slavery.” For example, half of all new HIV cases involve those aged 15 to 24. It is estimated that among adolescents, one new infection occurs every 14 seconds. Death during pregnancy and childbirth is twice as likely for teenagers as it is for adults. And as many as four million youths are believed to be caught up in sex trafficking every year.

More Mothers at 40

The average age at which Italian mothers give birth to their first child is increasing. In 1980 the birthrate among 20-year-old Italian women was 74.3 per thousand of the population, whereas in 2000 the figure had plummeted to 20.7. During the same period, the birthrate among 40-year-olds rose from 12.2 per thousand to 16.1. The statistics, provided by the Italian National Statistics Institute (ISTAT) and published by Corriere della Sera, highlight the tendency to wait longer before having the first child. According to ISTAT, “people wait for job security and to settle down in life, but they also wait to safeguard their own independence. Whatever the case, a child is seen as a tie and a hindrance.”

Confession on the Decline

“Today, private confession on a regular basis is down to less than 25 percent,” says Catholic University sociologist William D’Antonio. “The major reason, experts say, is a changed sense of what constitutes a sin,” reports the international edition of The Miami Herald. Monsignor Thomas Kane, 76-year-old pastor of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Rockville, Maryland, adds: “A kind of moral relativism has taken over. . . . Nothing is really wrong. If I have a good reason to do it, it’s not a sin.” Moreover, there is a “widespread rejection among Catholics of the church’s teachings on birth control, homosexuality and divorce,” the paper states. Therefore, “Catholics are increasingly inclined to look to their own consciences in deciding whether they have sinned.”

Looming Water Crisis

“Over the next 20 years, the average supply of water world-wide per person is expected to drop by a third,” says UNESCO’s Director General Koichiro Matsuura. The world’s water resources are expected to decline, not simply because of the steadily rising world population, pollution, and environmental factors. The crisis is imminent because the “political commitment to reverse these trends has been lacking,” says UNESCOPRESS. A report entitled Water for People, Water for Life, produced by 23 United Nations partners, says: “Inertia at leadership level, and a world population not fully aware of the scale of the problem means we fail to take the needed timely corrective actions.” Says Mr. Matsuura: “No region will be spared from the impact of this crisis.”

Caution Against Prenatal Ultrasound

A growing number of expectant mothers in the United States are having “keepsake videos” made of their unborn children by using high-resolution ultrasound technology, reports FDA Consumer magazine. Ultrasound imaging (sonograms) involves bouncing high-frequency sound waves off internal structures to produce images on a computer. These images are then captured and reproduced as keepsake videos or portraits. Companies providing prenatal images have been popping up all over the country in shopping centers and strip malls. However, unlike personnel who perform ultrasound procedures in a doctor’s office, machine operators who provide prenatal portraits may be untrained and unlicensed. Thus, exposure times may be longer or at higher energy levels than those experienced during medical procedures. According to FDA Consumer, ‘it’s risky business taking pictures of unborn babies when there’s no medical need to do so.’