Watching the World

“Up to half of all couples admit that they commit ‘financial infidelity’​—lying to spouses about expenditures they’ve made.”​—THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, U.S.A.

“An overwhelming 84 percent of Greece’s land is at risk of desertification and another 8 percent is already arid.”​—KATHIMERINI (ENGLISH EDITION), GREECE.

Lateu, on Tegua Island, in Vanuatu, Oceania, may be the first village to have been abandoned​—or more precisely, relocated—​because of the changing climate. Homes there had repeatedly been “swamped by storm surges and aggressive waves.”​—VANUATU NEWS, VANUATU.

Centenarians on the Increase

Living to age 100 is not so very unusual these days, says New Scientist magazine. Worldwide, there are now some 200,000 people who are centenarians. In addition, according to that magazine, 66 of them have reached their 110th birthday, becoming supercentenarians. New Scientist recognizes that validating extremes of longevity is at times difficult, but “the lack of reliable records also means that the actual number of supercentenarians alive today could be as high as 450.”

Mystery Killer Identified

“DNA collected from teeth in an ancient Athenian burial pit has helped identify” an ancient killer, says Canada’s Maclean’s magazine. In his History of the Peloponnesian War, Greek writer Thucydides mentions a plague that swept Athens in about 430 B.C.E. and gave rival Sparta the advantage in a war between the two cities. Thucydides’ description of the pestilence was not specific enough to identify it. Now, however, analysis of dental pulp, which can preserve pathogens for centuries, has reportedly enabled researchers to identify the mystery killer as typhoid fever.

Robot Jockeys for Camels

The sport of camel racing, popular in countries of the Persian Gulf, was threatened when human rights groups criticized the use of children as jockeys. Yet, to optimize camel performance, say the experts, jockeys should weigh under 60 pounds [27 kg], ruling out the use even of teenagers. The solution? Robot jockeys. Swiss designers have come up with a 59-pound, remote-controlled android, which can be strapped into a special camel saddle. So as not to spook the camel, the robot has a human form and voice. It is also capable of leaning, balancing, using a whip, and steering its mount. Camel owners are enthusiastic about its use.

Seed Sprouts After 2,000 Years

The ancient Judaean date palms, prized for their beauty, shade, and medicinal properties, were destroyed by the crusaders during the Middle Ages. But now, “Israeli doctors and scientists have succeeded in germinating a date seed nearly 2,000 years old,” reports The New York Times. “The seed, nicknamed Methuselah, was taken from an excavation at Masada,” the cliff fortress conquered by the Romans in 73 C.E. An expert on arid agriculture, Dr. Elaine Solowey, who germinated the seed, notes that it will take years before the young plant produces any fruit, and that only if it is female. “If it’s a male,” she says, “it will just be a curiosity.”