Watching the World

The year 2006 “will most likely go down as the sixth warmest year on record.” The ten warmest have all occurred within the past 12 years.​—WORLD METEOROLOGICAL ORGANIZATION.

Beijing’s Public Security Bureau has announced a “one dog” per household policy in an effort to curb rabies. Some 2,660 people died of rabies in China during 2004.​—XINHUA ONLINE, CHINA.

Hotel guests who touch doorknobs, lamps, telephones, and TV remote controls in hotel rooms expose themselves to a “one-in-two chance of contracting a cold virus.”​—MACLEAN’S, CANADA.

Counting Insects in the Amazon

Entomologists​—zoologists who specialize in insects—​have so far identified some 60,000 species of insects in the Amazon rain forest. According to Folha Online, the number of species that are yet to be identified is estimated at 180,000. Presently, there are 20 entomologists working in the area. Recent statistics reveal that these specialists identify and describe an average of 2.7 species per year. At this rate it would take some 90 generations of entomologists working 35 years each, or a total of about 3,300 years, to complete the identification process!

Energy Poverty

“An estimated 1.6 billion people​—about a quarter of humanity—​have no access to electricity, and 2.4 billion rely on charcoal, dung or wood as the principal sources of energy for cooking and heating,” states Our Planet, a magazine published by the United Nations Environment Programme. “The smoke from these traditional fuels kills about two and [a] half million women and children a year.”

Suffering Online

Online community Web sites allow people to establish relationships with a number of strangers via the Internet and reportedly to feel more popular. Such sites are also “a paradise for liars,” racists, busybodies, and the prejudiced, says Folha Online. Some site users fake their own profiles. Others bully those who are overweight, are short, have frizzy hair, and so on, causing them great emotional pain. According to Brazilian psychologist Ivelise Fortim, this occurs because “what happens on [Web sites] is more important to the victims than what happens in daily life.”

Ancient Astronomical Calculator

In 1901, sponge divers salvaged a corroded artifact from an ancient Roman shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikýthēra. The item has now been identified as an amazingly sophisticated, second-century-B.C.E. astronomical calculator. Scientists who recently studied the “Antikythera Mechanism” using high-resolution X-ray tomography found that it was composed of at least 30 bronze gear wheels, originally housed in a wooden case. The device could accurately track the positions of the sun and the moon and predict lunar and solar eclipses. According to Nature magazine, the mechanism is “technically more complex than any known device for at least a millennium afterwards.”

[Picture Credit Line on page 21]

AP Photo/​Thanassis Stavrakis