Skip to Main Content


May 28, 2007
Volume 85, Number 22
p. 48

Spring Babies

Genius: Not a spring baby.

It's a widely held belief that the birthday tells a lot about a person. Take this reporter, for example. I was born in March, which makes me a Pisces. Miss Cleo would say it means I'm easygoing, likable, and imaginative, but also rather dramatic (no comment on that one). Researchers at the University of Indiana School of Medicine might add, however, that a March birthday also makes me terrible at math.

Before snuggling up with your significant other at the beach this summer, consider this: a recent study of more than 1.5 million children between eight and 15 years old showed that those conceived during the months of June, July, and August have lower math and language scores than their peers conceived during the rest of the year.

A possible culprit? PESTICIDES. Pesticide use is at its highest level in the summer, and pesticides are already known to cause thyroid problems in pregnant woman, which is thought to affect the intelligence of the fetus.

"The fetal brain begins developing soon after conception," says Paul Winchester, professor of clinical pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine, who studied the findings. Although the results do not prove a pesticide/IQ connection, "they strongly support such a hypothesis," he says.


It sounds like a bad joke. What do you get when you cross a melon and cucumber? Apparently, a purple-striped, acorn-shaped, rather bland superfruit.


Officially known as the PEPINO, but dubbed the "melumber" and even the "cucumelon" by people who like to squish names together, it sold out in England within hours of its release. And at a completely ridiculous ??5.00 a pop (almost $10!), that's quite the marketing accomplishment.

So why all the fuss? According to the Daily Mail, pepinos are high in potassium; loaded with vitamins A, B, and C; and, at 23 calories per serving, are a dieter's delight. The fruit is native to South America and is grown in Peru and Chile. The pepino doesn't take well to traveling, however, and prefers a sunny, frost-free climate, where it is sheltered from strong winds.

These conditions may be hard to find in England.

Powered by Beer

In what is sure to bring new meaning to the college drinking game "power hour," Australian scientists have tapped into an unlikely alternative power resource—BREWERY WASTEWATER.

According to the U.K.'s Daily Telegraph, the project, a joint initiative between the University of Queensland and beer maker Foster's, has lead to a prototype fuel cell in which microbes feed on sugar, starch, and residual alcohol in brewery wastewater. The wastewater is turned into watts, and by-products include clean water and carbon dioxide.

JÜrg Keller, a professor and director of the university's Advanced Wastewater Management Center, speculates that the prototype could be scaled up to fuel cells that generate 2 kW of power-enough to power a home-and would eventually be fed by wastewater from all of Foster's breweries and wineries.

This week's column was written by Faith Hayden. Please send comments and suggestions to