Discovered: Two new owls; tobacco use still hugely prevalent in developing world; microthrusters pack macro power; panfried meat linked to prostate cancer.
Studying tobacco use in developing nations. At this point, the fact that smoking causes cancer and other serious health problems is not news. But the statistic that approximately half of men in various developing nations smoke is. The World Health Organization's new study, the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), estimates tobacco use among three billion of the world's inhabitants. The high smoking rate in many low-income countries "demonstrates an urgent need for policy change in low- and middle-income countries," according to lead researcher Gary Giovino. "Numbers were highest in Russia," reports CNN, "where 60% of men and 22% of women used tobacco; China, where 53% of men and 2% of women were tobacco users; Ukraine, where 50% of men and 11% of women used tobacco, and Turkey, where 48% of men and 15% of women used tobacco." [CNN]
Tiny thrusters pack a huge boost. The kinds of rocket thrusters that lift spaceships into the stratosphere are typically many stories tall. But now, engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created a microthruster, no bigger than a penny, that can launch tiny satellites into space. Designer Paulo Lozano says, "They’re so small that you can put several [thrusters] on a vehicle." With a few of these minuscule but mighty thrusters on board, a vehicle could "not only move to change its orbit, but do other interesting things—like turn and roll." Compact "nanosatellites" could be outfitted with these microthrusters could be used as "galactic garbage collectors," fetching old junk satellites and pulling them lower to incinerate in the Earth's atmosphere. [MIT]
More wise birds. Birdwatchers in Southeast Asia, be on the lookout for two new species of owl. Michigan State University's Pam Rasmussen helped identify the newcomers, the Camiguin Hawk-owl and the Cebu Hawk-owl in the Philippines. It took her many years to confirm the discovery. "More than 15 years ago, we realized that new subspecies of Ninox hawk-owls existed in the Philippines," says Pasmussen. "But it wasn’t until last year that we obtained enough recordings that we could confirm that they were not just subspecies, but two new species of owls." Listen to a sample recording of the newfound birds here and here. [Michigan State University]
Panfried meat may increase risk of prostate cancer. If we're learned nothing else from fast-food advertisements, at least we know that there's nothing more manly than biting into a thick, juicy slab of meat. Well, men might want to rethink their protein sources, because researchers at USC's Keck School of Medicine have connected panfried meat with increased prostate cancer risk. The study shows that contracting advanced prostate cancer is 40% more likely for men who regularly eat red meat cooked at high temperatures, especially in pans. "The observations from this study alone are not enough to make any health recommendations," says lead researcher Mariana Stern. "But given the few modifiable risk factors known for prostate cancer, the understanding of dietary factors and cooking methods are of high public health relevance." [USC]