Watching the World

▪ A comprehensive study of the health of reef-forming coral species indicates that 32.8 percent of those classified are at “elevated risk of extinction” as a result of climate change or local human interference.​—SCIENCE, U.S.A.

▪ Of the more than 2,000 children with breathing problems examined at a hospital pediatric unit in Athens, Greece, some “65 percent were found to have been exposed to [tobacco] smoke by one or both of their parents.”​—KATHIMERINI—​ENGLISH EDITION, GREECE.

▪ “The soaring price of oil, the increasing cost of living, . . . the shadow of economic recession . . . , and the recurrent natural disasters that highlight our vulnerability: we obviously have no appropriate short- or long-term responses to any of these serious issues.”​—LLUÍS MARIA DE PUIG, PRESIDENT OF THE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE.

▪ In Poland, 17 percent of the boys and 18 percent of the girls have tried drugs by age 15.​—ŻYCIE WARSZAWY, POLAND.

Conflict Between Lions and Humans

As the human population in Africa increases, wildlife habitat decreases, resulting in “frequent and often violent contact,” says the Cape Town journal Africa Geographic. Lions, in particular, “appear to have identified humans as prey.” In Tanzania, for example, lions have killed at least 70 people each year since 1990. In some cases, reports the journal, lion prides are even “specialising in humans, seizing people from the front porches of huts and tearing through thatched roofs and loose mud walls.”

Ancient Egyptian Granaries Unearthed

University of Chicago archaeologists working in southern Egypt have unearthed seven ancient grain bins, the largest known in that land. Artifacts found nearby enabled archaeologists to date the silos to between 1630 and 1520 B.C.E. If the dating is accurate, the bins existed in the days of Moses. The circular, mud-brick bins, 18 to 21 feet [5.5 to 6.5 m] in diameter and probably at least 25 feet [7.5 m] tall, were part of a local administrative center. The university’s report on the find says that such centers “functioned as places where the agricultural wealth of the Nile valley was mobilized for the state. Grain as currency provided the sinews of power for the phar[ao]hs.” The report added that “because grain was a form of currency, the silos functioned as a bank and a food source.”

Paper as Strong as Iron

Researchers at the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology have developed a method of producing paper from wood cellulose that preserves the natural strength of its fibers. The normal mechanical processing of wood pulp in papermaking damages its tiny cellulose fibers and greatly reduces their strength. But the Swedish team succeeded in breaking down the pulp with enzymes and then gently separating its cellulose fibers in water, using a mechanical beater. When the undamaged fibers are drained, they bond into networks, producing sheets of paper with a yield strength greater than cast iron and almost as great as structural steel.