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Questions that have always intrigued you about the world will appear in this, your section,
and be answered by other readers. Please address your answers and questions to ‘Curiosities’.

Does anyone know what happened to the proposal by an African scientist to provide refugee camps in Zaire with efficient small ovens that could be mass produced from scrap metal in a nearby town and that would reduce the burning of wood by a huge percentage?

I have not heard of such ovens specifically in relation to refugee camps in Zaire but work is being carried out in Kenya by Doctor Daniel Kammen of Princeton University and Monique Nditu of the African Academy of Sciences into the use and supply of similar ovens. Their work is based on the thesis that people in Majority World countries rely on wood for over 50 per cent of their energy needs, and their forests are coming down as their populations rise. Solar power, wind power and other renewable energy sources seem like the obvious solution to the problem, but they have rarely been put to the test. Three years of successful fieldwork in Kenya has examined whether solar ovens and windmills can both fulfil the Kenyans’ energy needs and fit in with their society. A major goal of this project is to develop a training centre for research into renewable energy and the environment that will serve researchers and community groups from all over Africa. Workshops are held in which Kenyans adapt and construct solar ovens and, in follow-up studies, chart the impact of the ovens on household economies in local villages. These highly successful workshops have spread to other Majority World countries.

Volunteers and funding for the project comes from Earthwatch.

Diane Collins
Bracknell, England

I note that Scientific American magazine has an article entitled ‘Cookstoves for the Developing World’ in the July 1995 issue (pp 72-75). Perhaps the scientist the questioner seeks is within that article?

Lance Read
Vancouver, Canada

Given that the profit from slave labour in today’s terms is a staggering $187 billion, are there any legal precedents for this money to be repaid in some way as a legacy to the living descendants of such slaves?

Many societies from before – and including – the Romans have been involved in the slave trade. Therefore, allowing for inflation, the sum of $187 billion seems a bit low. I would suggest the effort put into worrying about slaves in history should be redirected towards the problem of slavery in today’s world.

Richard Rouse
Bristol, England

Anti-Slavery International combats present-day slavery. Its address is:
Stableyard, Broomgrove Road, London SW 9 9TL Tel: 0171 924 9555. Fax: 0171 738 4110

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awaiting your answers

Is it ‘proven’ that long-lived creatures carry the same, unaltered DNA throughout their lives – or is this just an assumption?

Mary Morgans
Southport, England

How would the introduction of a single European currency affect countries of the South?

Isabel Milner
London, England

How much energy is needed to manufacture an average-sized car?

Leigh Cavanagh
Staines, England

How are features added on to a globe? I can think of no convincing way that complex images could be printed directly onto a sphere without distortion or numerous joins.

Paul Fitzgerald
Manchester, England

Is there an organization that collects medical goods (not drugs) past their expiry date?

Felicity Roberts
Kidderminster, England

At work we use the term ‘Spanish custom’ when highlighting the use of a procedure that has not been documented in one of our many rule books. Where has the term come from?

Louise Funnell
Bristol, England

If you have any questions or answers please send them to Curiosities, New Internationalist, 55 Rectory Road, Oxford OX4 1BW, UK, or to your local NI office (see inside front cover for addresses).


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©Copyright: New Internationalist 1996

New Internationalist issue 276 magazine cover This article is from the February 1996 issue of New Internationalist.
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