Watching the World
Sleep Helps Us to Solve Problems
“Many people have found that a problem unresolved at bedtime seems much simpler in the morning, as if the brain had been quietly working on it overnight,” notes The Times of London. Scientists in Germany say they have now uncovered evidence that this is so, publishing their findings in the journal Nature. They taught 66 volunteers two rules to solve a mathematical problem but did not reveal a third rule that led to a shortcut to the correct answer. Some of the volunteers were then allowed to sleep, while others were kept awake all night or all day. “Sleep worked wonders,” reports The Daily Telegraph of London, commenting on the same study. Those who slept “were twice as likely to work out the third rule as those kept awake.” To make sure that the results were not due to the sleep group being rested and refreshed, the scientists carried out a second experiment. The two groups were presented the problem in the morning after they had slept or at night after they had been awake all day. This time there was no difference in the performance of the groups, showing that “the effect is not that of having a fresh brain but of having a brain that has reorganised itself during sleep,” states The Times. “Thus,” concludes researcher Dr. Ullrich Wagner, “sleep acts as a creative learning process.”
Consumerism and Children
American children and adolescents today are “the most brand-oriented, consumer-involved and materialistic generation in history,” says Juliet Schor, a Boston College sociologist who has studied the impact of consumerism on children. Symptoms of consumer involvement include “high concern about appearance and clothes, an obsession with celebrity and wealth, watching increasing amounts of TV and spending more and more time on-line and playing video games,” states Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. Professor Schor found that children who obsess about things they want to buy fantasized more about becoming rich. “They also became increasingly self-critical and unhappy with how their lives compared with the representations on TV and in ads.” On the other hand, children who were not as materialistic were found to have less depression and anxiety, fewer psychosomatic complaints, more self-esteem, and better relationships with their parents, reports the Globe.
Self-Imposed Gambling Ban
“It is estimated that the number of gambling addicts in France is between 300,000 and 500,000,” declares the French daily Le Figaro. There is, though, an increasing awareness among problem gamblers of the need to break the habit. The newspaper states that 28,000 people in France have voluntarily banned themselves from legal gambling by asking the police to bar them from gambling establishments for a period of at least five years. The French police report that each year they receive between 2,000 and 3,000 requests of this kind and that the number has increased sixfold in ten years. Many pathological gamblers would like to have their addiction considered to be “as real a public health problem as tobacco, alcohol, and drug abuse are,” says Le Figaro.
Ginger Eases Morning Sickness
“Ginger root provides relief from morning sickness in the first months of pregnancy,” says the Australian newspaper. Research conducted by the University of South Australia found that taking approximately one gram of ginger a day reduced morning sickness among newly pregnant women. Ginger is a traditional treatment for morning sickness in many places. However, its effectiveness was not established scientifically. The study found that ginger works just as well as a daily dose of vitamin B6, another commonly prescribed remedy.
Blood Transfusions Increase Mortality Rate
A study published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) found that patients with an acute coronary syndrome who were routinely given blood transfusions had an increased risk of dying compared with those who did not receive transfusions. “The increased risk of death associated with transfusion was present after adjustment for demographic characteristics and in-hospital events such as bleeding and invasive procedures,” states the report. The doctors who conducted the study sum up their findings by saying: “We caution against the routine use of blood transfusion to maintain arbitrary hematocrit levels in stable patients with ischemic heart disease.”
Division Among Anglicans
Philip Jensen, the Anglican dean of Sydney and one of Australia’s most prominent prelates, recently denounced the Archbishop of Canterbury as “a theological prostitute who was taking his salary under false pretences,” reports the Australian newspaper The Age. Jensen condemned the leader of his church for holding liberal views on the issue of homosexuality. Notes The Age: “The Anglican Church worldwide is deeply divided over homosexuality, with many African and Asian branches severing relationships with the church in Canada for blessing homosexual unions and in the US for appointing an openly gay bishop.”
A Billion Children Suffering
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, more than half the world’s children—over a billion—are suffering from extreme deprivation, reports The New York Times. Much of the progress made during the past 15 years has been offset by wars, AIDS, and poverty. Since 1990, wars—55 of them civil wars—have claimed an estimated 3.6 million lives, nearly half of them children. In many of these conflicts, children are abducted by rebels, raped, or used in fighting. Malnutrition is rampant; health care is often nonexistent. The number of children orphaned as a result of AIDS reached 15 million in 2003. Over two million children were employed in the sex industry. And, says the report, while annual military spending has reached $956 billion, combating poverty would only cost between $40 and $70 billion.